Chuck & Jann Perkins - Two Ski Bums
In July of 2023, Chuck and Jann Perkins made a generous million dollar donation to the U.S. National Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame with the hopes of commiting to the longevity of skiing history. This webpage shares the incredible story from their own words.
Chuck was born in 1932 and Jann was born in 1937, so now they are two "old" ski bums.
Chuck and Jann have been skiing all over the United States and Europe. Chuck has helicopter skied in British Columbia, and he has even been hang gliding on skis off cliffs in Europe.
Jann never had skis on her feet until she was 20 years old, and Chuck took her to the top of the Mad River Glen Ski Area in Waitsfield, Vermont. The Mad River slogan is "ski it if you can.” Jann's equipment in the early 1960's was a used pair of 205cm wood skis with bear trap bindings, wood poles, and lace leather boots. Eventually Jann became proficient with modern equipment, and they have skied all over the world.
Chuck and Jann opened The Alpine Shop in South Burlington, Vermont in 1963. Skiing has always been their vocation and avocation. The alpine shop is now 60 years old, and it is one of the oldest iconic ski shops still in existence in the United States.
Chuck and Jann commissioned the 10th Mountain ski trooper sculpture from World War II to be made and brought to Stowe in 2005. The ski trooper is the second one in the world. The first ski trooper resides at Vail Mountain Ski Area because Pete Seibert who started the Vail Ski Area was a 10th Mountain trooper.
Chuck and Jann were married on August 18, 1956. They have a son and daughter, and they have four grandchildren. Chuck and Jann have been married for 67 years.
Chuck and Jan were inducted into the New England Ski Representative Hall of Fame in 2014, and the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame in 2017. Chuck and Jann have also been nominated for induction into the National U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, and they will be honored in 2024.
This fun bronze sculpture of Chuck and Jann was created in 2021 by famed sculptor George Lundeen and his partner Joey Bainer of Loveland, Colorado.
You can enjoy the sport you love so much more when you appreciate the history of the sport by the knowledge ski museums provide us with.
Why is it so important for everyone who can financially afford it to donate to a ski museum?
Why have we contributed to ski museums and still feel it is so important?
In 1988 a small weekly ski newspaper in Vermont called the Vermont Ski News was owned by a man named Roy Newton. Roy would visit ski shops in Vermont selling advertising in his newspaper. One day Roy came into our shop very excited and said, "Chuck l just registered the name Vermont Ski Museum and I need a board of directors. I need you to help me and be on my board." That day in 1988 changed our lives. Our Vermont Ski Museum had a very humble beginning. Our Vermont Ski Museum was in a small shed behind the Brandon Inn in Brandon, Vermont. To get into the museum we had to walk a wood plank to stay out of the mud and duck into a rather low entrance. In those days we were just trying to have help in finding museum pieces. With no funds and only a labor of love we gathered wonderful items. Roy was so excited one day when Marilyn Cochran gave us a sweater. It was worth its weight in gold.
Our first fundraiser was a wet tee shirt contest in Killington. We were given a new pair of skis to raffle off. We felt rich because we made $250.00 - wow! We were thrilled and on our way. Roy was really running the show and using his own personal funds to keep the museum going. Finally, Roy was in debt, and he called Chuck and told him he could no longer financially continue. Chuck and a small group of Stowe skiers started the For-Runners Club, and they bought out Roy’s debt and moved the collection to Stowe.
We were fortunate that the village of Stowe gave us a beautiful building that had been a previous church and meeting house that had been relocated to our present location in 1863. Our charge for the building was a 50-year lease for one dollar a year. The only problem was our new venture was an empty building that was condemned.
How could we get started on our museum with only a dream and no funds?
Chuck and I had just sold a beautiful 1840 brick house on the mountain road in Stowe. To start the renovations, we used all the proceeds from the sale of our property to get started.
We started our renovations in the year 2000 with the help of other local skiers and business people who stepped up with financial donations for a window, a door, or anything they could contribute. In the year 2002 the Vermont Ski Museum was a beautiful reality, and we opened our doors to the public. We have become a crowning jewel in Stowe Village and a treasure for all of Vermont to enjoy.
A Humble Beginning as Snow Farmers
The Alpine Shop is one of the oldest (1963) and largest (18,000 sq. ft.) ski shops in the United States. It is also one of the only ski shops in the United States still active for over 60 years.
Our adventure started with us borrowing every cent we could to purchase a piece of land on Williston Road in South Burlington, Vermont in 1962 with an old building on it. In those days, Williston Road was almost in the country, but the city was starting to expand in that direction. The property had location, location, location. The property is also located between the University of Vermont and Burlington International Airport. Our store is located within what is now referred to as the “million-dollar mile.”
We sold the old house on the property for $100.00 to a person for lumber for a camp he was building, and we started to build our new store.
Our original building was 40 ft. wide by 30 ft. long and we lived above the store. We had our business on the main floor and our repair shop was set up in the basement.
We designed our building to look like a European Swiss Chalet. We had very little funds available so much of our construction was done by us. We tore down three barns for our interior barn board walls. We designed every railing, shutter, picket, and letter for our building and signs, and we cut them all out of plywood with our $14.95 Sabre saw.
Our shop floor was done in brick that we salvaged from the University of Vermont furnaces that were being discarded. We cleaned and installed the floor ourselves.
Our upstairs apartment above the store was our home, office, and our nursery. We opened our store November 4, 1963, and our son Chuck III was born November 25,1963.
In those days a new mother did not get two months off with pay, I had two days off and I was back at work with a baby along with me.
Life was a challenge.
Our hours of operation were seven days a week from 9am to 9pm. Our equipment was limited. The cash register we could afford was purchased used from an old gas station and it still had the buttons for gas, lube, etc.
Chuck and I were the only employees. One day we both worked 12 hours and we sold 3 pairs of one-dollar sox. I was sure we would fail, but Chuck was always more positive than I, and he said we would be fine. He said if all else failed we could be a convenience store and sell bread, cigarettes, and beer. Thank heaven we never had to resort to that.
As I write the story of our life in the ski industry and reflect on the humble beginning so many of us had in the early sixties in the ski business, most of us were poor and struggling to do what we loved. Every one of us from Warren Miller, Jake Burton, C.B. Vaughn, Chuck and I, and so many more young dreamers.
I have to smile as we are planning a donation to a ski museum for over a million dollars, when in the early 1970's of our life in the ski business we were terrified that we would have to go bankrupt.
We had overextended ourselves for a lot of money in those days. In the seventies we had three large ski shops, and we were in the winter season when there was very little snow. In fact, we drove our car through Smugglers Notch on Christmas Day where the road closes each fall at the first snowfall and never reopens until after the spring melt.
Most of our merchandise bills were due December 10th . We were in deep financial trouble and I was terrified. If it had not been for one of our clothing representatives who called me one night and recognized my voice, this story might be very different. His first words were, "Talk to me Jann, you have got to talk to someone." I started to cry and told him how terrified I was. He told me to go home that night and to figure out every bill we owed, and plan how much we could pay on our past due bills. He told me that the next morning I was to call every supplier credit manager and tell him our problem and tell him how much I could commit to repay our debt. I did this and they all agreed to help me. Our business was saved with a very valuable lesson learned. We might not be here today without the advice I was given that night. I will always be forever grateful for his concern.
It is interesting that most people assume that anyone who owns a business has endless resources and should be giving to all their causes. Little do they know that many ski business owners or ski museums are facing continual financial challenges. We have been involved with both for many years and we know firsthand those challenges.
Here we are 60 years later giving this donation. We are amazed at how fortunate we are to be able to make a difference.
Life is truly what you make it.
Our Ski Related Involvement by Years of Service
1963 - We built The Alpine Shop and opened it for business in November of 1963. We only had ski clothing and no equipment.
1964 - In 1964 we started to carry hard goods. Burlington had other ski dealers who had stores in town, so it was difficult to get new lines. Head skis were not available to us; however, Hart Skis sold us their line of skis and we became a full -service ski shop. We started to establish our sales and repair staff.
1965 - We were off and running, HEAD Skis sold us their line of skis. It was a great day! It was imperative to be a HEAD Ski dealer, only the best shops were able to carry that prestigious line. If you were a HEAD dealer almost any other prestigious wholesale company would sell you their products.
1966 - Business was growing, and we required more room, so Chuck built our first of many future additions to our store. The new room was 40 ft. by 40 ft. with a large cathedral ceiling addition with a new flagstone floor and a huge stone fireplace. We collected every rock from a farmers' stone wall we rented a truck, the farmer loaned us his tractor and a trailer, and we started to load rocks. When the trailer became heavy and the tractor front tires would no longer stay on the ground, I became the ballast standing on the front wheels of the tractor and holding on for dear life. All this time our two-year old son was playing in the farmer’s field in his playpen.
1967 - The ski industry had started to explode with new skiers entering the sport. Ski areas were expanding, and it was a very exciting time. It was also a very exciting time because our daughter Peg Was born. Little did we know then that our daughter Peg and her husband Scott Rieley would take over The Alpine Shop business in 1993. We started the shop and ran it from 1963 to 1993 when the next generation took the helm. We decided it would be fun to open an additional ski shop in the town of Essex Junction, Vermont about 5 miles from our original shop. Essex Junction was also on the main road to Smugglers Notch Ski Area. We located a house on the main street with nice lines that could resemble a chalet without too much difficulty. The house was the old Mattie Gile house, and one night Chuck knocked on her door and asked if the house was for sale. Old Mattie was lonely, and she asked him in. She just wanted to chat and not sell. Not long after, we read that she had passed away and the house was for sale by bids. Chuck was one of the bidders and we would have gotten the house, but he lowered his bid at the last minute and lost the opportunity. As luck would have it, the person who bought the house found he could not do what he wanted with it. He came to us as the next highest bidder, and we then purchased the building for $5,000, which was more than we wanted to pay. The building was small and required a large addition. Chuck had to dig the dirt in the old cellar that was only four feet high by hand to add the additional basement onto. When the construction was complete, Chuck received a national historic plaque for the renovation.
1968 - The Swiss Chalet Ski Shop opened to the public. We chose a different name than The Alpine Shop to provide a new business identity. The different name gave customers another place to shop, and many did not even know both shops were affiliated. We had different management running the shop and we stayed in the background. Finally, we sold the business to our manager, and we retained the real estate. The manager ran the business for a few years until he became financially over extended, and he had to close his business. We then leased our building to key bank who has been our tenant for over 25 years now.
1971 - Chuck was asked to be on a panel of ski shop owners the Yamaha Ski Company took to Las Vegas for a meeting to gain retailers input into their new equipment. The Alpine Shop was one of the 13 largest Yamaha Ski dealers in the United States. Yamaha awarded all of us dealers to a three-week all-expense paid trip to Japan. We left on Friday the 13th with 13 in our party on Japan airlines. We were able to visit the Yamaha Ski factory, the Yamaha music camp, the president’s home for tea, and take on a tour of the site of the 1972 Olympics in Hokkaido.
1973 - Alpine Sports and Marine is born. We had the opportunity to purchase a large building and land adjoining our Alpine Shop. Because of the building's proximity to our ski shop it was important to control this piece of real estate. What to do with it was our next big question!!! We had an opportunity to purchase a boat business that was for sale and if we did this and moved the business to our new building location, we could keep our ski mechanics working year-round. Our employees could go from ski & binding repairs in the winter to boat rigging & repairs in the summer. We expanded our cross-country ski equipment, cross country clothing departments, and camping clothing and equipment there. Although it was fun, we found that our ski employees did not want to rig and repair boats and our boat employees did not want to mount and repair skis. We finally closed the business and have retained a long-term lease on that property that does not conflict with our business for many years.
1976 - Chuck always loved adventure, real estate, and taking chances and most realtors in town knew that. One day a friend that was a realtor stopped to talk to him about a property owner who was dying and wanted to sell two properties in prominent locations in downtown Burlington. One thing led to another, and we purchased both properties. We leased the Church Street property on the Main Street and chuck thought it would be fun to remodel the other building located on a prominent city corner. We gutted a four business, two apartment building into a large open building and our whole family worked on this project. Our two kids would come over after school and help us open walls with their sledgehammers, a fun but dirty project. Finally, The Alpine Shop downtown was ready to open for business. We ran that shop for quite a few years and finally closed the business. Our new tenant was a fledgling startup company named "Ben & Jerry's." Ben was the spoke person; Jerry was the ice cream maker. They were our tenants for 16 years as their business grew.
1986 - Our Alpine Shop hosted the grand opening of the new Bogner Skiwear collection "Fire and Ice" with a huge cocktail party at our main store. The evening continued with a complete Bogner fashion show and a full house for the premier showing of the film. "Fire and Ice" in an area theater featuring John Eaves and Suzy Chaffee. Suzy came from California to be a part of the festivities with her brother Rick Chaffee and their whole family.
1988 - The Vermont Ski Museum was first established in Brandon, Vermont. Chuck was one of the first original board of directors. We are not only the oldest and longest serving directors of the Vermont Ski Museum, but we are also still very active in our museum’s projects both financially, as well as being active on the museum’s committee projects.
1990 - We were one of the first North Face ski shops in the U.S. We were one of the North Face and Gore-Tex dealers who participated in the funding of the North Face with an expedition map of the route they took. Chuck and I visited Antarctica for the first time in 1994 on an expedition.
2000 - Chuck and a group called 'The Forerunners Club" were responsible for bringing the Vermont ski museum to Stowe, Vermont.
2001 - We designed the Vermont Ski Museum retail museum store, as well as purchased and financed the merchandise with helpful input from the New England Ski Museum and the Vail Ski Museum.
2002 - The Vermont Ski Museum building opened and was dedicated as the "Charles N. and Janet B. Perkins Building". We provided significant financial funding for the museum restoration and for all outdoor museum signs both past and present. Our first main outdoor sign was of Andrea Mead Lawrence. Chuck and I were the financial sponsors for the Vermont Ski Museum’s first hall of fame inductee - Andrea Mead Lawrence.
2003 - We commissioned and financed the making of the larger-than-life size 13-foot-high bronze 10th Mountain trooper designed by 10th Mt. Trooper Donald Traynor. Don spent the last years of his life on the project to be sure that the men who served in the 10th Mountain Division would never be forgotten. We worked for two years with Don's widow, Jean, from Springdale, California. Jean gave our museum Don's clothing, equipment, and pictures from the war. In honor of the 10th Mountain project, chuck and I also financed the Vermont Ski Museums 10th Mountain permanent collection now located in the museum. Chuck and I were the sponsors for the induction of the 10th Mt. soldiers from Vermont into our Vermont Ski Museum Hall of Fame.
2004 - Chuck was nominated to the board of directors for the international ski history association, "ISHA". We are life members of that organization. Chuck and I were the financial sponsors for inducting the Cochran family into the Vermont Ski Museum Hall of Fame.
2005 - Chuck and I were responsible for hosting a memorial service on our land sponsored by the 10th Mountain Division for the 20th anniversary gathering of the International Federation of Mountain Soldiers. For our service to the 10th Mountain Division, Chuck was given the honor of becoming an honorary member of the 10th Mountain Division.
2010 - At Stowe Mountain Ski Area's request, we placed our 10th Mountain Trooper on loan to them at a prominent location in the Stowe Mountain Ski Area village. A wonderful memorial service was conducted, and Minni Dole's son was a guest speaker at the event. Our sculpture remained at that location until Stowe Mountain Resort planned for an expansion of their village. They wanted to place the sculpture in a shed for a few years until they could complete their renovations. We did not want the sculpture placed in a shed, so we had him brought back to his present prominent location at our Stowe house on the mountain road. We are able to give tours and lectures about the sculpture both outside and inside at our 10th Mountain personal home museum. We provide on-going memorial services for deceased soldiers that wish to have their memorial services held at the sculpture.
2011 - In 2011 the Vermont Ski Museum received a new name, and we became the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum. Chuck and I financed the new signage for the front of the museum.
2013 - The alpine shop celebrated 50 years in business. Chuck and I were the financial sponsors for the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame inductee C.B. Vaughn’s induction into our museum’s hall of fame. C.B. was the designer of C.B. sports. C.B. started his company in 1969 by selling his warmup pants from his old station wagon. We were one of his first dealers and his clothing line at that time became one of the largest ski clothing companies in that era.
2014 - Chuck and I were inducted into the New England Ski Representatives, Hall of fame in Providence, Rhode Island. We were co-financial sponsors for the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum’s new year-long exhibit, "slope style". Our display was featuring the fashions on snow from 1930 to 2014, featuring over 30 life size models wearing ski outfits from each era.
2015 - Chuck and I donated $15,000.00 as a matching gift fund raiser for the museum in one of our many financial challenges to stay solvent.
2016 - Chuck and I were inducted into the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and our induction was very special to Chuck and me. We had in attendance over 50 former employees and their spouses from as far back as 1964, along with some of our very special New England Ski reps and their spouses. Some of those reps were also our former alpine shop employees in their college years.
2017 - Chuck and I hosted a large cocktail party and gathering for the International Ski History Association and the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame members at our Stowe home when they gathered in Stowe for their yearly gathering.
2018 - Chuck and I were honored with an award given by Minna Case of the group "Tour of Honor". This is a nationwide motorcycle group touring the country and honoring veterans and first responders. We have had numerous members from many states visit our home museum and learn about the history of not only the 10th Mountain Division, but what an impact that division had on our sport. The group also has continued their tours each summer and we host the bikers with tours of our personal museum where the sculpture resides.
Chuck and I were awarded a framed picture of the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum for our dedication to the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum.
Chuck and I were the financial sponsors as well as hosting a cocktail party at our Stowe house museum for the new Vermont Ski and Snowboard exhibit named "Peak to Peak". This is a history of the 10th Mountain soldiers of World War II and the 10th Mountain soldiers of today. The total display was in collaboration with the 10th Mt. Museum at Ft. Drum, N.Y., the main headquarters for the current 10th Mt. Regiment and the Vermont National Guard Mountain Warfare School. The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum provided the original equipment and clothing for a wonderful display. The Ft. Drum Museum provided the equipment and clothing of today’s troops. Our grand opening evening at the museum featured speakers from an original 10th Mt. Trooper, followed by our museum historian, and speakers from Ft. Drum and the Vermont Warfare School. They gave the guests not only information, but product demonstrations as well. The mannequins on display have the name Perkins engraved on their uniforms. Chuck was also awarded some engraved Perkins name plaques. We had the "Peak to Peak" evening photographed and we presented a book to both the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum and the Fort Drum Museum. At the showing of the movie "Climb to Glory" about the 10th Mountain Division, we were awarded the book "Our Legacy" by the Fort Drum 10th Mountain Division for our work and commitment to the division.
2019 - Vermont Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame: November 2, 2019, was the date of our Vermont Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame benefit. We were the financial sponsors for the award for Tim Kelley who was inducted for the first tracks award. Tim is the son of Lindy Cochran, one of the original Cochran skiers. December 2, 2019, was the 100th birthday of Klaus Obermeyer with a party at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colorado. We received a personal invitation to this party because we were one of the original sport Obermeyer skiwear dealers in the United States. There were two parties that day, the private party at 1 pm that we were invited to and attended. The second party was for Aspen locals to attend with no invitation necessary.
2021 - February 25th, 2021, Climb to Glory: Our U.S. army is alive and well! We hosted Sep Scanlon, Executive Director of the Ft. Drum, N.Y. Military Museum, and a group of his 10th Mountain Division Soldiers from Ft. Drum, New York for an evening and dinner at our Stowe home. The troopers were training on Mt. Mansfield for the weekend, and they ended their time in Stowe having their pictures taken at our 10th Mountain trooper. Each trooper with us had served both in Iraq and Afghanistan. These were the finest young men we have ever had the privilege to meet.
2022 - Our Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum auction schedule is very important to us financially. Chuck and I provide the financing twice a year for the costs of putting on our semi-annual ski auctions that help provide the museum with much needed income to produce our programs.
2022 and ongoing - In 1993 we gave our alpine shop business to our daughter and son-in-law who continued the business for 17 years. They then sold the business to Becky and Andy Kingston who were our tenants for 12 years. In 2022 the Kingston’s decided to move The Alpine Shop business into a mall location and become not only ski but more sporting goods.
Our new ski beginning - our alpine spirit is born.
We established our ski business in 1963 as two young, poor, ski dreamers. Sixty years later, at an age when most people are no longer alive or even taking nourishment, we are still young at heart ski bums.
Chuck is 91 years old, and I am 86 years old. We have been married 67 years and our new ski project is under way.
Our beautiful iconic alpine shop building is now being transformed into our new personal ski museum.
We are in the process of creating the history of our iconic building and our life in the ski industry into our personal museum.
Watch for updates as we progress.