Ski Empire: Boyne Mountain celebrates its 60th anniversary
March 22, 2009Ski Empire
By Carina Hume 3/23/09
A passion for skiing, a little bit of luck, and the determination and money to make it work. Thats what Everett Kircher possessed. A former Detroit car dealer, Kirchers vision of a ski club in Northern Michigan began with a one-dollar purchase of 40 acres near Boyne Falls.
Sixty years later, Boyne Mountain is a mega-resort anchoring nine sister resorts in locations as far away as British Columbia, and the Kircher name has its place in skiing history.
In 1947, Everett Kircher and partnersJohn Norton and Jim Christianson formed the Boyne Ski Lodge company. With the purchase of a chairlift from Sun Valley, Idaho, the ski club would introduce the first chairlift in the Midwest, hoping ski enthusiasts would travel north instead of west for their fun.
Everett Kircher bought a used lift in 1948 in Sun Valley and installed it on the Hemlock slope, explains Ed Grice, Boyne Mountains general manager since 2005. That lift was the first chairlift in the world transporting skiers at Sun Valley.
Detroit Youth Hostelers helped clear trails during the summer, including Hemlock, Aurora, McLouth, Victor named after Victor Gottschalk Everetts first ski instructor and Boynes first director of skiing, and Pierson after Michigan Senator William Pierson who donated the original land. The resort opened during the holidays of 1948, with a grand opening on January 9, 1949.
As the ski clubs success grew, Kircher moved to Northern Michigan full-time and became sole owner of the former hobby turned full-time business. General managers Chuck Moll and Art Tebo each spent years as Kirchers right-hand man.
Boynes successful ski school taught enthusiasts the most modern techniques, thanks to well-known instructors, Stein Eriksen the worlds first ski superstar and Othmar Schneider.
In 1964, Boyne installed the very first four-place chairlift the Meadows lift which was finally replaced this season with a higher-speed conveyor-load lift. In the 1970s, Boyne added golf to its offerings and patented the Highland Snow Gun, still one of the premier guns used for snowmaking today. The areas first high-speed chairlift was installed in 1992 and the Disciples Ridge expansion added 12 runs and another chairlift in 1995.
Boyne Mountains formal 60th anniversary celebration in January included nearly 600 people, authentic German food and music, old-time period skiwear, Little Traverse Figure Skating Club skaters, a torchlight parade and fireworks.
At the anniversary celebration, one of the neat things to see were the several generations whove been enjoying Boyne the grandchildren, parents and grandparents all together, says Grice.
We had folks from all around the Midwest, and (filmmaker) Warren Miller from Montana as our special guest. Many of Millers skiing movies were filmed at Boyne Mountain and his friendship with Everett continued until Everetts death in 2002.
Everetts son Stephen became Boyne Resorts president of eastern operations that year, and his wife Molly has commemorated Boynes 60th anniversary with a book: Boyne: People, History, Memories.
The book is filled with pictures and text depicting Boynes history, as well as the history of skiing through the present day.
Its just phenomenal how neat this book is and the history it shows, says Grice. [Molly] didnt have a lot of time to put it together; we had a lot of archival material and she just started going through boxes picture by picture. The book shows how the sport has evolved from being only a handful of ski resorts in use to where we are today.
OPPORTUNITIES AT BOYNE
As for Boyne celebrations, Grice has one of his own. He began his career at Boyne Mountain nearly 35 years ago as a dishwasher and busboy, and worked his way up. Ive worked in hotel maintenance, bartending and all the different things there are to do in the resort business, he says. He appreciates learning from really a great businessman who invented many things when remembering Everett.
Being around here as many years as Ive been, theres a great deal of pride to see how [Boynes] grown. Its neat to see what it means to the community, to jobs we supply to the area, to recreation opportunities we supply to local kids in schools. Since Boynes infancy, weve done Thursday afternoon ski programs for Boyne Falls students.
Expansion and improvements are always in the works at Boyne Mountain, as evidenced by openings of the Mountain Grand Lodge, Solace Spa and the Avalanche Bay water park in May 2005. Next up is Helga House.
Were always looking at improving what weve got, says Grice. [Helga House is] going to be our teaching center for children; not only ski school, but an adventure camp for children in summer.
Grices philosophy about working at Boyne is simple:
Were here as caretakers; we need to make it better for the next generation, the people who take over, also for our customers. We need to continue to improve, meet goals, set new goals so people can continue to enjoy Boyne for generations.
El Niños effect on the countrys weather has proved challenging for a ski resort these last 10 years. Weve had a kind of a one-two punch, says Grice, referring to the economic downturns combined with Michigans unreliable weather patterns. Weve also had some very unfavorable winters of trying to do business in the state of Michigan. But Grice is confident that Boyne Resorts continue to satisfy.
In spite of the economy were still having a very good year; we see that as continuing, says Grice. We always see opportunities for another chair lift here or ski run there or condo here; we think that were pointed in the right direction, and our customer base by how popular we are is telling us that.
Boyne is the total experience, in our minds, says Grice. We have our tag line for Boyne, What are you up for? and that can be skiing, golf, the water park at Avalanche Bay Michigans largest indoor water park Solace Spa, hiking, biking, après-ski nightlife. Theres something for everybody here; thats been our goal, and weve been achieving that.
For more information about Boyne Mountain, call 231-549-6000 or visit
www.boyne.com. To purchase Boyne: People, History, Memories, visit www.skigolf.com or any Boyne Country Sports location.