In 1948, Pappy Rogers, the general manager of Sun Valley, sold the worlds first chairlift to a young man from Detroit. It was not a particularly important event of the day, but Pappy wanted $5,000 for the already obsolete, wooden towered chairlift. Everett Kircher beat him down to $4,800 and then set to work.
He and Victor Gotschalk took the lift apart bolt by bolt, loaded it onto a truck, drove it down to Ketchum, put it on a train and shipped it to Michigan. There, Everett and Victor reassembled that chairlift and placed it on a hill that Everett had bought from a farmer for one dollar because the hill was too steep for growing potatoes.
In 1948, Boyne Mountain was only 402 feet high, but since then the mountain has magically grown to over 500 feet high. Thats because there is a sign painter in nearby Petoskey who gets a seasons pass each year by repainting the altitude sign. Every couple of years, he adds a few feet to the height of the mountain.
Everett was a man who always thought outside of the box and as a result, that old single chairlift spawned the only ski resort conglomerate in America that is still surviving. Today, the Kircher family owns and operates Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands in Michigan; Big Sky, Montana; Brighton, Utah; Crystal Mountain, Washington; Cypress Bowl in British Columbia; and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, as well as nine golf courses stretching from Florida to Michigan.
In the process of building this empire, Everett engineered and built the worlds first triple chairlift, the first quad chairlift and the first six-passenger chairlift. I always told Everett that the reason he invented those things was so that more people could be hanging up in the air at the same time from a slow moving cable and fewer people would be wearing out his expensive, man-made snow.
Unfortunately, no machine has ever been invented that can work as well as some of the parts of the body and we all know that at any age, much less age 85, a kidney dialysis machine is a very poor substitute for kidneys.
We lost Everett last week and when I say "we," I mean the skiing world lost Everett. He finally gave up after a stroke, heart surgery and four years on that kidney dialysis machine. However, last November he shot a good-sized deer with a bow and arrow.
He was one tough guy. He was a world class fisherman and once caught a 55-pound salmon on a lightweight fly rod. He hunted all over the world and also piloted his own jet airplane.
He is also the guy who messed up my life almost 50 years ago, when he first invited me to Boyne Mountain to film Stein Eriksen skiing down under that obsolete chairlift. It was Everetts hospitality, a state-of-the-art ski resort and free lift tickets that allowed me to feature Boyne Mountain in my ski movies for many years. He helped make my films better because he always had some new invention around his resort that I could film and share with my audiences.
Everett finally gave up the fight and was taken away from us on January 16 th to handle a much more important job. No one knows what it is yet, but we will. He and his creative brain were needed a lot more where he is now than by his wife, his four kids and his five grandchildren, not to mention the several million people who learned to ski at the many resorts that his family still operates.
It has only been a week or so and Im sure that the guy who always covered his hills with powder snow for my cameras, while inventing and building things before anyone else in the ski industry, is already inventing and building things somewhere else with a small group of movers and shakers. Everett will get them all organized and pick which lifts to ride, which slopes to carve up, where to eat lunch, what to order and will already have decided what each of his new restaurants should charge.
He will also decide which slopes to cover with a blanket of new power snow that will be shot out of an even better snow gun that he will have recently invented and he will probably be put on the selection committee for new members in their club.
Everett, you have run off to ski in untracked powder snow somewhere and leave the rest of us behind to solve the latest income tax problems, Afghanistan, Enron and other suddenly very unimportant problems.
We already miss you a lot and we always will.