Charlie Wise was introduced to skiing after his father attended
the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics and "decided I should learn to
ski. I was taught how to herringbone up the hill but not how to
turn," Charlie said of learning on a Long Island golf course in the
Later, while stationed outside Denver in the Air Force, Charlie
recalled a first trip to Winter Park. "We took chairlifts one and
two up the hill. Then I had to ski down, but I still had no idea
how to turn but I soon learned," he said of becoming an avid
While attending Hofstra College, Charlie skied at Mount Snow and
worked on the Ski Patrol, which is how he met his wife Joan. Joan
had encountered a problem with her bindings and Charlie came to her
assistance, pulling out a screwdriver and tightening them so her
boot would stay attached to her skis, they recalled.
Joan remembered having to get from her college campus to Boston
with suitcases and ski equipment to catch a bus to Mount Snow,
noting it was a lot to juggle.
Charlie related a ski patrol story of sleeping on top of Mount
Snow one Easter Eve and finding the spring snow "as hard as a rock
the next morning. John Plausteiner said to us, 'Come on fellows, it
cuts like butter' with his Austrian accent. He had sharp edges and
hopped down the trail," Charlie related, still marveling over the
unforgettable "it cuts like butter."
A favorite memory from the 1950s' Mount Snow days was of staying
at a place called Braun's Rest in Wilmington for $2 a night plus 25
cents for kitchen privileges.
Joan and Charlie married in 1960 and since "we both liked to ski
so much we decided to give ourselves a wedding present of a
vacation home." After checking out Sugarbush and Stratton, they
drove up the Access Road, saw the view of the mountain from the
corner by Bigelow's Lodge, and decided "Killington was
They bought a lot on Telefon Trail from Oren Bates with Joan's
brother (the late) Walter Findeisen purchasing half and each built
an A-frame. In 1962 Charlie, Joan and baby Christopher moved in
when Charlie found a teaching job in West Rutland.
Having also bought a piece of land on the Killington Road,
Charlie put up a Stanmar ski lodge and they went into the ski lodge
business, operating as the Little Buckhorn from 1963-1967 while
Walt and his wife Judy built and ran The Timbers. Charlie
also worked in the Killington Ski Patrol, earning "50 cents an
hour" on weekends. Summers, he built spec homes and did other jobs
until selling the lodge and joining Martin Real Estate in
1967. He formed Wise and Company in 1976, built an office
building on the Killington Road in 1982, and expanded his rental
and real estate sales business to include property management. He
retired in the 1990s, and the building that housed Wise Vacation
Properties until recently, is now for lease or sale.
Joan stayed busy raising Chris and Suzanne, who went on to race
for Dartmouth and Middlebury Colleges respectively, and worked
part-time as a reading teacher at the elementary school, where she
still enjoys "the challenge of her job," she noted.
Of life in town Charlie said, "The mountain was the community in
the early days. In summer there were the Saturday night chicken
suppers at the Happy Valley Camp run by the Priors with the "boom"
fires made of piled brush and gasoline. Everyone attended
"Sue Smith and I started a nursery school/kindergarten for our
kids in the basement of the White Church," Joan added of the days
when young mothers pitched in to create the services that would
provide better lives for their children.
The 1960s were also "the years of swimming in the Ottauquechee
swimming hole and softball games with various local teams and a
swimming pool and tennis court at High Ridge." The volunteer fire
department was formed, and Charlie recalled helping Red Glaze's
crew build the firehouse.
One early and difficult fire occurred on the cliffs above the
Inn at Long Trail. "We carried water up with Indian Packs, but
eventually they had to close Route 4 so we could use fire hoses,"
Charlie recalled. The fire had been started by kids using
firecrackers and although they got it out, it kept starting up
again and took several days to permanently extinguish, he said.
"In our first year as Vermont residents, Claus Bartenstein
knocked on the door and asked if Charlie would be on the Select
Board to replace 'Cap' Wilson who had resigned. They wanted one of
the new people on the board," Joan recalled, adding, "That was the
start of Charlie's civic career and commitment to the town."
He served on a variety of town boards and commissions as well as
school committees, including chairing the Woodstock Union High
School Board of Education, for many years. For the young man from
New York City, this was a much desired and rewarding aspect to the
move, Charlie noted, adding, "My Dad said 'in New York, you can't
fight city hall,' but in Vermont you can make a difference and do
good for the community.'"
Both Charlie and Joan found that living in Killington provided a
good family situation. "The family experience was good
because you knew other pioneer families and because we all
socialized and got along," they noted.
Joan added that skiing was a good experience for their children,
who learned at age three and went through the recreational and
competition programs. "They developed a degree of self reliance and
independence along with body awareness and good nutrition due to
race training," she said.
"It afforded them the opportunity to do something that
they could do well at. That was important for the sense of self
worth it could give a child," Charlie added.
An avid outdoorsman, Charlie also took them on summer
hiking/camping trips to places like Mount Washington and
Tuckerman's Ravine, where he had skied and camped in his college
With all the good things to come out of the struggle to begin
life in a new place, Charlie observes, "The thing that stands out
about Killington is that it worked. The ski area was successful and
grew. Killington did a good job, one I felt good about and was
proud to be a part of and to be in the same town with. It wasn't
Mascara Mountain or a New York mecca. It wasn't built by money, but
by people working hard."
"The town was a great place to raise kids," Joan added, noting
the opportunity it afforded people to participate and contribute.
"It was unbelievable to be in on the beginning of things, and we
were all in it together… there was a wonderful camaraderie."
Both agree that the one change they regret is the loss of the
day-long town meeting that afforded more discussion and
"There is a set agenda now [for the night meeting] and
attendance is less than it was for the day meeting," they
While some retirees have chosen to move south or winter in Florida,
the Wises still find Killington a great place to live. Having put
down roots in the area, they live in a beautiful and peaceful
environment and still enjoy the outdoors.
"Long Island changed, but in Vermont the things we came for
endured," Charlie concluded, while Joan added, "We still ski and
appreciate the mountain."