How It All Began

Brian Stearns, the President and Owner of Alpine SnowGuards, has been diligently writing blogs and conducting in-depth technical research of our new testing facility, announced to the public just after the 1st of the year. His passion for all things roof-related dates back to his youth in the 1970’s, as illustrated in the below editorial he wrote in the fall of 1999, when Alpine published a quarterly newsletter (the kind that was actually sent in the MAIL!), called Slate Roof Quarterly.

No further lead-in necessary ? We hope you enjoy!


Back in the late 1970’s I was finishing up high school and looking forward to college. And, like most other teenagers, I was desperately in need of money. One of my teachers, moonlighting as a building contractor, offered me a summer job framing houses. The second summer I worked for him; we framed a house on which the owner was planning to install a salvaged slate roof. During that project, I began to ask a few questions about the use of slate.

It seems that in the process of building his own house, my teacher, Chuck, had located a pile of old barn beams. After making a deal on the beams, he inquired about the future of a pile of roofing slate that had been removed from the same barn. As I understand it, the farmer gave him the roofing slate for free. My guess is that he figured anyone who was foolish enough to move that pile of stone deserved it.

My teacher built a post and beam saltbox, and I recall that the main body of the house had different colored slate than the two adjoining smaller wings. I don’t recall the exact details, but it seemed to me that in order to finish the roof with salvaged slate, Chuck simply jumped in his truck and drove to a couple of nearby farms inquiring about other piles of salvaged slate. At that time, it seemed like every farm in the Champlain Valley of Vermont and New York had a pile of old slate lying around that had been rescued from a dying barn. It didn’t take long for my friend to see the opportunity of turning “one man’s trash” into his treasure. Not only did Chuck get the contract to build the house – he also sold the slate for the job.

Summer ended, I returned to college and the slate was installed on this project while I was away. Towards the spring of my second year at school, Chuck happened to be at my college for a seminar. He was all fired up about hiring me to drive around the state buying up as much salvaged roofing slate as I could find. The truth is, I was pretty certain he had gone off the deep end. Here I was at a school for engineering, and I was being offered the opportunity to roam around the countryside removing slate from old buildings, slate out of barnyards and slate out of cellars. The only real specific goal was to return each day with at least one full pickup truck load of material.

Had I been financially independent, I would have called him a nut and walked away. Instead, I was given a priceless gift. By removing the slate from old roofs, I was able to see firsthand how original craftsmen had installed it at the turn of the century.

As I was salvaging and returning home at the end of the day with truckloads of slate, Chuck was busy selling it. Several of the people buying the material asked him if he would be interested in installing it. He respectfully declined and said he chose to stay in the supply business. I, on the other hand, saw an opportunity to travel the country, make a good living and capitalize on a trade that had been forgotten.

Some of you may have noticed that a company called Etals Publishing published The Slate Book, of which I co-authored. “Etals” is “Slate” spelled backwards. It just seemed fitting to acknowledge the accomplishment of writing The Slate Book in the same way in which this business evolved: by backing into it.

The first slate roof that I installed was on a doghouse for Chuck’s family pet. The last one of significance was on a historic building on Broadway in Manhattan. Chuck went on to develop his supply business which has evolved into today’s New England Slate Company. The owner of the house I worked on during my second summer with Chuck installed the roof himself because, as he put it, “anybody who’s willing to work can do it.” He now owns a business called Vermont Specialty Slate.

Stay tuned – next week we’ll turn the focus back to the research we’ve been conducting on our testing facility!

We keep snow in its place


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Alpine SnowGuards designs, engineers, and manufactures snow management systems from our facilities in Morrisville, VT. We work closely with leading roofing contractors, engineering firms, developers, solar installers and roofing manufacturers to ensure we deliver quality products that do what we say they’ll do. Alpine SnowGuards can help a building qualify for LEED® credits.