Celebrating 75 Years of Boyne Mountain

Welcome to a journey through time and snow, as we embark on an adventure to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Boyne Mountain Resort. Nestled in the beauty of northern Michigan, Boyne Mountain has been a winter wonderland and year-round retreat for generations of adventure seekers.

Join us as we take a nostalgic trip down memory lane, honoring the past, celebrating the present, and eagerly anticipating the future of our beloved mountain paradise. From its humble beginnings to becoming one of the Midwest's premier resorts, Boyne Mountain has woven itself into the fabric of countless family traditions and outdoor enthusiasts' hearts.

Through this blog series, we uncover stories, milestones, and the magic that makes Boyne Mountain an enduring symbol of the Midwest skiing experience. We hear from those who have grown up on the slopes, explore the innovations that shaped our destiny, and discover the timeless allure of winter enchantment.


1940's

Plans Underway for Boyne Ski Club

Everett Kircher had fallen in love with skiing. He bought his first pair of skis the same year Sun Valley opened. He took them to Lake Placid to try them out.

Sun Valley had a profound effect on Everett and his newly developing passion for downhill skiing.

Otsego Ski Club near Gaylord, Michigan, had a 250-foot vertical slope. It was the best ski facility Michigan could offer at the time, and it was the place Everett Kircher spent his weekends skiing.  It was the first ski club in the United States with its own lodging and facilities. But it wasn't much of a ski hill, and the experience was still very rudimentary. The rhetorical question for most of the skiers there was "Wouldn't it be great if Michigan had a real ski mountain?"

Later in the winter, Everett got together with two ski buddies, John Norton and Jim Christianson. They all wanted more challenging runs and they decided to get serious about finding a mountain-like slope in Michigan.

They spent long weekends through the summer of 1947 exploring the various sites.  The sixth site they examined was the final choice.  After settling on the site, the three partners each anted up $5,000 to buy the property. When they told Senator William Pearson*, the 88-year-old owner of the land, what they wanted to do with his property, he said,

"Anybody damn-fool enough to want to build a ski hill, well... I'll give you the property."

Detroit Youth Hostelers Help Clear Trails

The Youth Hostel movement began in 1909 by Richard Schirmann, a German schoolteacher, and Wilhelm Munker, a conservationist. The original idea for a hostel movement was for young people to have the opportunity to work and learn outside the city. Students were offered free or low-cost accommodations in return for working at various projects with informal education as the goal.

During the summer of 1947, the runs were being cleared for the Boyne Ski Club. There were no bulldozers at the time and the work had to be done by hand, using saws to cut down second-growth trees and teams of horses to drag the trees down the hill. The remaining stumps had to be removed by digging holes beneath them and loading them with dynamite! The jagged roots that were left had to be dug out by hand

The proiect was a perfect fit for the outdoor-oriented youth hostels of the time. So the Detroit Youth Hostel visited Boyne Falls in a coordinated, outdoor development endeavor. They were there to help cut the first ski trails for the Boyne Ski Club. In the winter, those same hostelers would return to ski on the runs they helped cut. The group, consisting of many women, camped at the base of Boyne Mountain and took part in clearing the land throughout the summer.

The First Chairlift

Averill Harriman, founder of Sun Valley Resort, wanted a better way to haul skiers up his mountain. One of his Union Pacific Railroad engineers, James Curren, a self-made bridge engineer who had learned his profession by observing and doing, came up with an idea. His inspiration was equipment used for loading bananas onto boats using hooks strung on a continuously moving cable. The hooks, he thought, could each hold a single-person chair. His superiors thought the idea was too dangerous, but Curren managed to slip his plan through to company headquarters and the "brass" in Chicago loved it and put a priority on its development.

Sun Valley's first two single-chair lifts were the first ever built in the world. They were installed in time for the 1937 winter opening season at Sun Valley. The single-chair lift that originally went up Sun Valley's Dollar Mountain is the one that Boyne later purchased for the opening of the Boyne Ski Club.

The First Boyne Lodge

The stories of the first chairlift and the clearing of the ski runs were dramatic compared to the construction of the first base lodge. Partner John Norton was an architect and a civil engineer, so he designed the new two-story, 40'×60' lodge and supervised its construction. The building contained the Trophy Room bar, Boyne's first après-ski location, and the site of many memorable parties. The lodge also had a cafeteria, restrooms, and a massive, Onaway limestone fireplace. Boyne Mountain Lodge's original fireplace, restrooms, and Trophy Room bar still exist today in the Clock Tower Lodge.

Opening Day

Finally, the runs were cleared, the first chairlift in the Midwest was erected, and the lodge was built, all in time to open for the holidays in 1948.

An opening ceremony was held on January 9, 1949. All the major Midwest newspapers sent reporters from Chicago, Toledo, Grand Rapids, and Detroit. Politicians, local celebrities, and others were there, including Don McClouth, the owner of Otsego Ski Club, for whom the run McClouth was named. A group of pro skiers staged a race, and everyone gathered at the base of the hill to attend the opening ceremonies.

WJR Radio in Detroit aired the opening ceremony remarks from Kircher and Pearson* live on January 10, 1949.

Snow Bunny Ball, The Original Carnival Weekend

Every year, we host our famous carnival weekend, which was once included in a Warren Miller ski movie. The annual party is a right of passage to spring in northern Michigan and a time when it's time to soak up the sun while enjoying the last of winter.
 
Carnival's origins go back to the early days of Boyne Mountain Ski Club when a group of skiers hosted the Snow Bunny Ball. It began on Friday night in the Trophy Room with everyone dressed in costumes. The next day, skiers had to wear their costumes on the hill, or they were rounded up and put in "jail" by ski patrol.

The Early Days

The atmosphere was like a club during Boyne Ski Club's early days. Everyone knew each other because the same people came to ski every weekend. The lodge was small and didn't have rooms, so people, like ski patrollers, resorted to sleeping on a cot in the ski shop. After the Hemlock Chalet was built in the early 1950s, they would sleep in two bunkrooms with up to eight people. But the parties during these years were so legendary that no one, living or dead, wants their name on today.
 
Breakfast and lunch were served in the cafeteria at the main lodge. Skiers went to Boyne City for dinner at the Dilworth Inn or one of the other local diners. Don Thomas, a former ski patroller, remembered that skiers would sneak in and raid the ski club's kitchen for snacks after late-night parties.

Boyne Innovates

When Boyne Ski Club began, Everett Kircher had decided that it would have a chairlift. He was trying to create the experience of skiing in the mountains at the Boyne Ski Club. So Everett purchased the world's first chairlift from Sun Valley and rebuilt it at Boyne Mountain. Elements from the original chairlift are still used today as the Hemlock double chair. Over the years, it has been reworked, but the original top and bottom terminals remain.
 
Then, in 1966, the world's first quad or four-person chairlift was unveiled at Boyne Mountain on the Meadows run. The lift was such an innovation that executives from Doppelmayr, the Austrian-based leader in chairlift manufacturing, flew to Boyne Mountain to see how it was designed.
 
Finally, in 1992, the Mountain Express chairlift was installed at Boyne Mountain. The high-speed chair became the first installation of a six-seat chairlift in the world.
 
Today, Everett's record-breaking spirit lives on as we bring the most modern lift infrastructure to the Midwest. In 2022, we installed Disciples 8, the first eight-seat high-speed lift in the Midwest. Now, as 2023 comes to a close, the finishing touches of the new Boyneland and Superbowl lifts are wrapping up.

Ready, Set, Snow

Once Everett decided to turn the Boyne Ski Club into a career, he started looking for ways to control the weather. Vic Chmielewski, the area manager at the time, went to the Catskill Mountains to learn about artificial snowmaking. Upon his return, he and Everett set out to make snow of their own. Basically, they sprayed water droplets into the air and mixed them with a high-speed current of freezing air that caused the water to crystallize into ice particles strong enough to keep their shape.
 
By 1957, Boyne Mountain was experimenting with all sorts of snowmaking equipment. Once Boyne reached the point of making snow as well as Mother Nature, their ideas were patented. They called these new machines the Boyne Snowmaker, and later versions were called the Highlands Snow Gun.
 
In 2007, Boyne Resorts unveiled new and improved versions of their snow gun technology called the Boyne Low E Fan. This new technology makes better snow, is easier to operate, and is less expensive to run due to faster snowmaking times.
 
"I have no idea how many thousands of hours I've spent with Vic and others on our staff, experimenting with nozzles, pressures, water volume, humidity levels, and all of the other things that go into making snow. A friend recently reminded me of how consumed I was with the effort. I was up on the mountain in near-zero temperatures and actually sweating as I adjusted air and water volumes while cursing if a gun dared to make slush." Everett Kircher

The Beginnings of the Ski Resort

With the decision to make the ownership of Boyne Mountain his full-time career, Everett started planning the first-ever expansion of the four-year-old ski club. 

In 1953, the original lodge was expanded by a 50' x 70' addition, including a new dining room, 24 guest rooms, and the oh-so-swanky Snowflake Room. As a nod to his beloved Sun Valley Resort, he added a heated outdoor pool. Boyne's outdoor pool was the first of its kind at any Midwest resort.

Skiers rendezvousing at the Snowflake Room started using the slang "Snowflaking" when they planned to meet there. For instance, "We'll be snowflaking at 4:30, see you then!"     

Boyne Mountain Skiers

Times change, but the good times still roll. Midwest skiing has always been equal parts ski and après - depending on who you ask.

Read on to learn how a weekend at Boyne Mountian played out in the 60s. Are you someone who would have been around during the early days?

Excerpts from an article in the Chicago Tribune, September 1965

Friday

Riders crowded into the aisles, clustered in loud and merry conversations. At 4am, when the bus arrived, the party was long over, with skiers sleeping up energy for the coming attack on the slopes.

Saturday

By 9am the cafeteria was swarming, and the Boyne hills were crawling with bright dots; the skiers were at play. Bars didn't begin to see customers until 2:30. By 4:30, there were wall-to-wall men leaning over the tables, sipping beer and watching the stretch pants walk by.

Later on, skiers were flailing their arms and hips at each other on the dance floor. Everyone in the bar was clapping, and no one was sitting at the table.

Sunday

At 4pm on Sunday, the bus collected skiers as they struggled off the slopes, wet, tired, and in wildly good moods. For two hours, everyone sang, ate, and exchanged cheerful insults. A girl who had just learned to ski said, "It's great... once you go 40 feet without falling, you're hooked!"

The darkness deepened, and skiers burrowed into their seats. The beer ran out. Silence fell over the cramped rows of curled and sprawled bodies. 

Pro Ski Racing at Boyne

In the 1960s, Everett Kircher called Sepp Reusch, president of Stowe and head of the National Ski Association, and discussed starting a professional ski racing tour. Everett knew that Olympic and high-ranking amateur skiers might be looking for paid work. Sepp thought it was a terrible idea, though. He said the sport was for the recreational skier, not the professional.

Everett, never to be deterred, called Friedl Pfeiffer, head of Aspen's ski school. Pfeiffer loved the idea and became the driving force behind the racing tour. They originally called it the International Professional Ski Racing Association or IPSRA. Pfeiffer and Kircher anted up $5,000 each to get it going.

It was the first professional ski race ever held in the United States, and it was at Pfeiffer's Aspen. Then, on March 10th, the greats raced at the Boyne Mountain event known as the Kircher Cup. The big winner at Boyne Mountain's first professional race was Boyne Mountain's own Director of Ski School, Stein Eriksen. Eriksen beat rivals like Othmar Schneider, who would take over Eriksen's job a year later, Austrian Anderl Molterer, known as the "Blitz from Kitz" and thought to be one of the best skiers at the time, and Ernst Hinterseer, an Austrian who was fresh from the 1960 Olympics.

Holidays at Boyne

Holiday celebrations at Boyne Mountain were (and still are) legendary and filled with stories through the decades. As early as 1949, the tradition of ringing in the New Year began at Boyne Mountain. There was a torchlight parade down Hemlock, a wild-game dinner in the dining room, and fireworks and festivities throughout the resort.

The same traditions have carried on, and today, New Year's Eve has some of the same elements as it did in the beginning.

The main dining room hosts a dinner, the ski instructors perform a torchlight parade, and fireworks and parties go on through the evening.

Famous Friends at Boyne

Bill Flemming, eventually a long-time broadcaster on ABC, was working at WWJ-TV Channel 4 in Detroit in the mid-1950s. At the time, skiing was sweeping the nation, but there was very little coverage and no reports on ski conditions in Northern Michigan. So Flemming started doing a little report on Thursday nights.

When Warren Miller, the famous ski filmmaker, came to Detroit to do the celebrated narration of his ski film for the American Youth Hostel program, he asked Flemming to emcee. In return, Flemming asked Miller to be interviewed on his TV show. When all this was happening, Jim Christianson, one of the original partners in the Boyne Ski Club, was working as the general manager of a Detroit-area educational television station. Christianson got wind of the whole scenario and asked Flemming to come up north to meet Everett Kircher.

Kircher, Flemming, and Miller formed an alliance through the years. All three wanted to promote the joys of skiing because they themselves were in love with the sport. When Miller came up to see Boyne Mountain, he left his mark on the place, literally. In the Eagle's Nest, drawn all over the wall, are Miller's famous cartoons. Miller would later film skiing at Boyne for his movies, and Flemming helped promote the pro skiing tour Kircher came up with.

When Ed and Bill Jans purchased Sun Valley in 1965, Miller sent a letter to Kircher asking him to advise them, saying, "As you know, they recently purchased Sun Valley. They wanted to know who was the most knowledgeable in artificial snow and general resort moneymaking. Your name immediately cropped up." Bill Jans founded Snowmass during the same time period.

Kids at Boyne

Skiing began as a way to travel and live in the snowbound countries of the world. It became a sport of daredevil ski-jumpers, Eastern elite college students, and the wealthy. Finally, it became a family sport, and the kids took it up earnestly. Everyone felt a special sense of pride watching their own children following in their footsteps, or ski tracks, as it were. And the story often continues to the next generation, as it has for so many at Boyne.

Skiing at Boyne Mountain has become a generational affair. Whether you signed up for Snowsports School or got lessons from family and friends, countless memories start here.

75 Years of Boyne Mountain

On this day in January 1949, a dedication ceremony was held for the first season at Boyne Mountain. The ceremony was broadcast live by Detroit-based WJR radio.

Our humble beginnings grew from a single lodge to a sprawling resort. Even so, our energy, grit, and passion remain the same. Today, we are proud to celebrate 75 years of growth and innovation.

From purchasing the first forty acres to becoming the longest-running ski company in the world - we would not be here without our guests and team members. Cheers to another 75 years. 

Pools at Boyne Mountain

Outdoor pools have been a staple of the Boyne Mountain experience since our beginning. Whether you're ready to apres, or relax your muscles after a day on the slopes, nothing beats a heated pool with snowflakes in the air.

During our first expansion in 1953, Everett Kircher decided to add an outdoor heated swimming pool as a nod to his beloved Sun Valley Ski Resort. 

"I had noticed how popular Sun Valley's outdoor pool was. I never considered an indoor pool at Boyne for even a minute. There's something magical about jumping into a hot pool outdoors in the dead of winter with the snow falling on your head. Then, climbing out, taking a quick roll in the poolside snow, and scurrying back into the heated water. Invigorating and a little daring for the faint-hearted! A million tiny needles prickle your skin when you plunge back into the heated water," said Kircher.  

Celebrating 75 Years with Local Art

Reliving 75 winters of unforgettable memories at Boyne Mountain. This year, we're raising a glass (or a mug of hot cocoa) to our rich history with a one-of-a-kind poster crafted by local artist Tanya Whitley.

Tanya is no stranger to capturing the essence of Michigan's spirit. Her work for Short's Brewing is a testament to her playful and evocative style. For Boyne's 75th anniversary, she's gone above and beyond, creating a nostalgic masterpiece.

But this isn't just a trip down memory lane; it's a toast to the future. It's a reminder that the spirit of adventure and community that has always defined Boyne Mountain is alive and thriving, ready to welcome new generations of snow seekers and adrenaline junkies.

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