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Boyne Falls, MI Jan. 17, 2002 (Boyne Mountain Resort Release)–Everett F. Kircher, a pioneer in the ski industry as an innovator of ski instruction, snowmaking and grooming, and founder of the nation’s largest privately held chain of ski resorts died Wednesday, Jan. 16. He was 85.
Skiers first took notice of Kircher in 1947, when the Detroit native moved to northern Michigan to build a ski resort. For just $1, he bought the land necessary to begin development of what is known today as Boyne Mountain. This was just the beginning for this young entrepreneur and inventor as he later purchased the Harbor Highlands Ski Resort, only 25 miles north of Boyne Mountain and known today as Boyne Highlands.
Since that time, Kircher has had many firsts including the world’s first triple chair, installed in 1964 at Boyne Highlands and the world’s first quad chair installed in 1969 at Boyne Mountain. In 1990, Kircher installed Michigan’s first high-speed detachable quad at Boyne Highlands. Boyne Mountain also unveiled America’s first six-person high-speed chairlift in 1992.
Kircher’s ski innovation also included the introduction of snowmaking. He invented the Boyne Snowmaker–the first efficient snowmaker widely accepted as the standard for marginal temperature snowmaking. It combines small amounts of air and electricity with large quantities of water to provide a high efficiency snowmaking system with energy savings, and minimum noise level. He also pioneered the design of much of the snow grooming equipment and techniques used today.
His unflagging interest in skiing technique resulted in bringing former Olympians Stein Erickson and Othmar Schneider to Boyne Mountain to head the ski school and to teach the “reverse shoulder” method to skiers visiting his resort.
“Everett was years ahead of everyone when it came to developing and operating a ski resort and attracting the potential skiing public,” said world-famous racer and instructor Stein Erickson.
A desire to keep his employees on staff during the summer between ski seasons led Kircher into the world of golf. A friend suggested that a golf course might attract summer visitors. That was all Kircher needed to hear. Using his fathers Ford farm tractor, he carved out a sporty nine-hole, par-three layout at the base of the Boyne Mountain Lodge.
After developing Boyne Highland’s ski facilities, Kircher became more serious about golf and the development of the Midwest’s first four-season resort. Architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. was hired to design the 18-hole Heather course that opened in 1970. By 1971, the Heather was ranked in the top 100 courses in the U.S. by Golf Digest magazine. It was the spark that ignited the golf boom in northwest Michigan, now referred to as “America’s Summer Golf Capital.”
Boyne now owns eight, 18-hole, championship courses and one 9-hole course between Boyne Mountain, Boyne Highlands and Crooked Tree Golf Club. The most recognized Michigan course is the prestigious 27-holes at Bay Harbor Golf Club on the shores of Lake Michigan near Petoskey. Other courses include an Arnold Palmer designed course at Big Sky Resort in Montana and an 18-hole course at Boyne South in Naples, Florida.
In addition to his four-season resort properties, Kircher also operates a highly successful scenic chairlift in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, overlooking the great Smokey Mountains National Park. The lift, which he engineered and placed in 1953, carries over 300,000 passengers annually.
Year after year, Kircher’s resorts earn countless awards and recognition. In 2000, Kircher himself was honored as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Skiers of All Time” by, SKI Magazine–placing him beside Olympic athletes, inventors and filmmakers such as, World Cup champion and Olympic gold medallist, Jean-Claude Killy and the popular filmmaker, Warren Miller.
Although Kircher is mostly recognized for his ski and golf know-how and successful Resort Empire he was also a sportsmen, jet pillot and world traveler. He said it best in his autobiography, “I’d rather be known as a great fly fisherman.”
One of the world’s best fly fishermen and much more, Kircher will be remembered for his dedication to making something good better and a legend from what was once a simple idea. Perhaps one of his greatest gifts he gave to the world was his inspiration to make a dream reality.
His life’s work will be retold through history, through generations of loyal skiers and golfers who visit Boyne resorts and through the many talented employees who make Boyne so successful.
He is survived by his wife Lois and his four children; John, who manages Boyne’s western operations in Utah, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia; Amy, who heads the golf and real estate operations at Boyne South; Stephen, who oversees the eastern operations including Montana, Tennessee and Michigan and Kathryn, who is principal of Boyne Design Group, an interior design firm for all Boyne Resorts. His five grandchildren Tyler, Andrew, Loren, Evelyn and Everett Henry also survive Everett Kircher.
His community activities include membership on the Michigan Economic Action Council (appointed by former Governor William Milliken) and the Little Traverse Hospital Board of Trustees. In the late 1970’s Kircher purchased Walloon Hills ski area and later donated the acreage and lodge to Challenge Mountain, a non-profit, volunteer ski area for the mentally handicapped and physically challenged
Details on visitation and funeral services celebrating Everett Kircher’s life will soon be announced.
From the Hill: by Jim Neff
Over the past 25 years as a Michigan ski writer I sat in Everett Kircher’s corner office at Boyne Mountain on almost a yearly basis as we discussed story ideas and ski history. It became such a ritual he often quipped that we could “take this show on the road.” Last summer we met in his office again, this time to record the whole Kircher/Boyne USA on video for a new Internet project called Michigan Skier TV. We didn’t know it then, but it turned out to be Everett’s last ski-relatedinterview. The session was turned into a four-part series and is now running on MichiganSkierTV, with two parts already online and two more to be aired later this season.