about the Museum

Collecting, Preserving and Celebrating

 

Since 1988, the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum has been dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the rich history of skiing and riding in Vermont.  Here's the museums story:

The Beginning:

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Roy Newton is a Vermont editor and publisher who currently lives in Castleton, VT and publishes the Lakeside News and Rutland Sun. In the 1980s he was the publisher of the Vermont Ski News. Newton traveled around the state collecting news, soliciting ads, and distributing the paper.

One day driving towards Burlington from Montpelier, he decided Vermont, with all its skiing history, should have its own ski museum. He came to this decision with such conviction that he turned his car around, returned to Montpelier, and registered the name Vermont Ski Museum with the state.

That was in 1988. Newton set the museum up as a nonprofit, which meant it required a board of directors. He called upon some of those who had supported his Vermont Ski News as advertisers which included Chuck and Jann Perkins, founders of the Alpine Shop in South Burlington.

Newton in his travels around the state began collecting retired ski gear, equipment, machinery, signs, library materials and other skiing memorabilia, but where to store them? Newton was also working at the Brandon Inn and secured the use of a shed behind the inn. So the first physical museum was located in Brandon down a muddy alley behind the Brandon Inn. Visitation was by appointment only and the collection was not stored in an organized fashion.

The Perkins remember that board meetings were informal, usually over lunch somewhere in Killington. Fundraising was always a challenge. They ran various events around the Killington area including a wet T-shirt contests at the Wobbly Barn. Eventually they were able to secure a location for the museum on U.S. 4 between Rutland and Pico near the Cortina Inn. While this seemed like a good location, traffic whizzing by wasn’t that interested in stopping for a museum.

The Perkins lobbied for the museum to move to Stowe particularly if a location in the village was available. It would be easier for the museum to attract pedestrian traffic than automobiles traveling 50 miles per hour.

 

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The Meeting House: The Town Meeting House in Stowe was built in 1818 and is the oldest active public building. The Meeting House originally occupied the lot on North Main Street where the Stowe Community Church now stands. The meeting house was to be used as a church for all religious groups and as a town house for various civic meetings. For more than 40 years various denominations worshipped in this common church building until they erected their individual churches.

In 1861, the Universalists obtained the land where the Meeting House sat. To make room for their church (which would become the Stowe Community Church in 1920), the Meeting House was moved by a team of oxen to its current location on South Main Street. By the 1890s it was used as the Town Hall and gymnasium.

When the Akeley Memorial Building was built in the early 1900s it became the Town Hall, but the old Meeting House remained the home for various town services. This included the Stowe Fire Department, which used the building until 1973.

The Stowe Water and Light Department, which was the last remaining town agency in the old meeting house, left the building in 2000. The town of Stowe was left with the decision of what to do with the old Meeting House. The building was condemned and costly repairs would be required to restore it for useful purposes, but it was an historic part of Stowe.

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The Museum Moves to Stowe: A group of Stowe business owners, including Chuck and Jann Perkins, saw the old Town Meeting House as an opportunity. In order to preserve an historic building, why not use it to preserve a significant segment of Vermont’s history? A museum would provide another village attraction that could draw visitors and help business. The group negotiated with Roy Newton and purchased his collection along with the associated rights.

Next they launched a $1.4 million campaign to save the condemned Town Meeting House and make it the home of the new Vermont Ski Museum. Managed by volunteers throughout the state, the campaign reunited Vermont ski racers, 10th Mountain Division members, area developers, self-professed ski bums and industry pioneers. The Perkins’s played a significant role in the campaign. As Chuck tells it, he had just sold one of their Stowe properties when he found out that the campaign had decided the renovated museum building would be named for top level donor. Chuck came home and told Jann, “I gave the money from the house away.”

Snowboarding Gets Added: In 2011, the Vermont Ski Museum became the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum to properly reflect what had happened on the slopes over the past 30 years as snowboarding went from a backyard fad to a full-fledged sport.

In 2012, the museum welcomed its first snowboard inductees into the Hall of Fame: Jake and Donna Carpenter, owners of Burlington-based Burton Snowboards.

The Museum Today: The museum’s mission is “to collect, preserve, and celebrate Vermont’s skiing and snowboarding history!”

Since 2002, the museum collection has more than doubled. There are approximately 8,000 individual items preserved by the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum. Ski equipment includes about 275 pairs of boots, 400 pairs of skis, 100 pairs of poles, 55 pairs of climbing skins, 60 loose bindings for both cross country and downhill skiing, and lots of the carrying equipment — bags, boot trees and ski racks.

Mechanical equipment, the smallest collection at about 75, includes large items necessary for the operations of ski areas such as snow making equipment, lifts, communication equipment, and race timing devices. Most of this is the first timing equipment ever used in Vermont, perhaps in the United States, including the first electronic eye that starts and stops timing based on motion.

 
 
 The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum in Stowe today.

The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum in Stowe today.

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