History of Helm of Sun Valley

It all started in 1940.


Helm of Sun Valley on Saratoga Ave in San Jose

 Chuck Helm Sr. Opened his first ski shop in 1940 at Sun Valley, Idaho. Following the success his son had with the Helm of Sun Valley store in Sacramento, Chuck Sr. closed the shop in Sun Valley and followed his family west and opened locations in San Mateo and San Jose in 1965. In 1975 Chuck Sr. Retired. The San Mateo and San Jose locations were sold to managers, and Sacramento is currently still owned by the Helm family.

 After managing the San Jose location on Bascom, across from Valley Med Hospital, for a few years, Eric Plane bought that location from Chuck Sr. In 1975. In 1983 Eric moved in to the current San Jose location on Saratoga Ave, and that summer began selling Patio Furniture to compliment our winter business with something to keep the doors open in the warm months. Over the years, the Plane family opened additional locations around San Jose, Los Gatos, and Santa Cruz. After 46 years, in 2021 Eric decided it was time to retire and like Chuck Sr. did for him, Eric sold to one of his managers.

Kris Eckhardt worked for Helm and the Plane Family for 18 years before buying both San Jose and Capitola locations. Kris’ love for the outdoors grew through the Boy Scouts of America in local pack 318 and troop 373. At age 11 he went on his first ski trip to Dodge Ridge with the troop and loved skiing right away. In 1995 Kris earned the BSA Eagle Award. That same year he began a new adventure working at Mel Cotton’s Sporting Goods eventually managing the service, rental, camping and paddle sports departments.

In 2003 Kris began working at Helm of Sun Valley. Thanks to Anne and Eric’s encouragement, Kris transitioned into sales and bootfitting. Kris formed a passion for bootfitting quickly and was fortunate to hone his skills under the legendary Winston Yamate. Kris is a Dark Arts certified master bootfitter through Master Fit University, and has trained every bootfitter at Helm since 2005.

Disc Golf came to Helm in 2008 when Tom Schot rented some space at the Saratoga Ave. store for his World Disc Sports store. As a kickoff event Eric and Tom gave all of the employees of Helm their first 3 discs and took us all to the local course. Kris was hooked and still loves to play when he gets a chance.

 Starting in 2023 Helm added Camping and Backpacking equipment to our mix. Kris and general manager Paul are excited to bring our experience from scouts and expertise from working at Mel’s and Herb Bauer’s in Fresno, respectively, to our customers camping needs.

 During his stewardship of the Helm of Sun Valley brand, Kris is committed to maintaining and building the highest level of service Helm is known for with all of your outdoor adventure and recreation needs.