Life at Browns

Browns The Legend

Riding is our passion. It drives us. First tracks. The perfect run. For all of us at Browns Ski Shop it’s a spiritual feeling. Everything we do is driven by our love of riding – to search out the best from around the world so that we can offer you the best to share in our passion.

The Boys

The Boys

Browns Ski Shop was born in 1980 from a passion for skiing. Nigel & Derek Brown were two young Queenstown racers competing on the World cup Circuit in Europe. Starting a ski shop was a natural extension of their enthusiasm & knowledge of skiing. Pretty soon Browns Ski Shop was to become a shrine to the big alpine where like-minded people worked & shared vital knowledge.

Browns Ski Shop today continues their legacy, with a single focus amongst our staff – to make our customers’ winter dreams come true & help them have the BEST winter holiday EVER.

Our premise is to help people get the most out of their winter holiday & there is just about nothing that we will not do to help customers experience this fun pastime that we are all so passionate about.

Queenstown has long been the home of alpine skiing in New Zealand. Due to the extensive terrain, spectacular views and international atmosphere, winter sports have boomed here and the Browns’ name has always been a part of this.

During the winters of the late 1950’s Betty and Doug Brown would travel from Invercargill so Doug could hit the slopes, where he had been skiing since the late 1940’s, when the ski-fields were “just a couple of rope tows”. He taught every one of his four sons to ski on Coronet Peak.

Derek recalls working in the early years when the doors opened at 7am and closed three hours later so they could go race training and then re-open at 3pm.

Browns Ski Shop Frontage

Shop Front 1980

During these early years, Browns Ski Hire was at the mercy of Mother Nature: “If the season started before the tenth of July it was a fantastic season.”

In 1987, the world of retail opened up when Browns began selling clothing, and the business rapidly gained a reputation as being the best bootfitters in the industry.

In 1991, Browns Ski Shop and the whole of Queenstown experienced the snowmaking boom. “That really was key for Queenstown and fantastic for us because it spread the season out from June to October.”

By 1997, Derek and younger brother Julian had decided it was time to sell and were keen to hand the Browns legacy to people they knew and trusted. Kris Vermeir and Paul “Haggis” Vaitkus, both long-term employees of Browns, were approached to initially take on the business in a 50/50 arrangement.

A great deal of thinking took place before Kris and Haggis made up their minds: “The main concern was finding the money, but when Derek decided to leave money in the business, that was an opportunity which very seldom comes along and we dove in.”

At first Kris and Haggis felt the strains of being a co-worker one minute to co-owners the next. “Now most people working for us only know us as the owners, but those first few years were very weird.”

In 2003 Browns Ski Shop was approached by Qualmark to become the first accredited ski shop.

The Browns brand has continued to grow and in 2007 opened its first retail shop in Newmarket, Auckland.

Alpine Sports In 2005 Browns looked to become a player in the summer market and become a true year-round operation by purchasing Alpine Sports, also another long term Queenstown business.  Alpine Sports specialises in hiking, camping and tramping equipment and expertise.

Vertigo BikesAlso in 2005, Browns purchased 50% of Vertigo Heli-Adventures Ltd.  Vertigo Bikes operates out of the Ski Rental shop in the summer, and is one of the best known bike shops in town, featuring in the Lonely Planet guide.  Vertigo is a strong brand, based on expert knowledge, an excellent workshop operation, and holds concessions for the Skyline Gondola track and various cross country routes, such as the Skippers Canyon Pack Track. They also operate a heli-biking trip down the back of the Remarkables.

“Looking back….it’s been a huge learning experience for myself and Haggis. Browns set the bench mark for ski retail and hire and we need to keep doing that. The ‘Browns Ski Shop’ brand means a lot to us – its strength is a rarity in this industry.”

“The Browns Ski Shop brand is what it is today as a result of a bunch of passionate people working together, with customers and industry partners, making decisions, mistakes and improvements, since we first opened our doors back in 1980.”

“At the end of the day it’s the personalities that have really made the place. We’ve had so many amazing snowboarders and skiers work here over the years – we always seem to end up with a really interesting and lively crew. And people keep coming back so there must be some kind of magic here. “

Browns Ski Shop are involved in several sponsorship programs for young kids such as the Wakatipu Ski Club Lesson Program where up to 200 kids take to the slopes to learn to ski & ride over a 6-week period each year.

We also sponsor a small ski area in India, Gulmarg, with the help of a few friends & each year we send up some of our gear to help the young kids learn to ski & further themselves in what is growing into a burgeoning snow industry.

Believe it or not at Browns life is not just about the bottom line - Our word is our bond – we will do what we say we will do. Our truth & integrity are non-negotiable.