Boyne Mountain, the Midwest’s largest ski resort, has a further distinction: it is virtually a museum of lifts. The collection started in 1948, according to lift historian Kirby Gilbert, when Boyne’s shrewd, machinery-savvy owner Everett Kircher bought the original 1936 Dollar Mountain chairlift, the world’s first, from Sun Valley. He had it dismantled and then moved it by rail car to his brand new Boyne Mountain ski resort in northern Michigan.
Three years later, Kircher converted the lift from a single to a double chair. You can still ride it up the Hemlock Run, as former President Gerald Ford used to do when he was a Michigan Congressman in the 1950s. The top and bottom terminals are the originals made for the world’s first chairlift.
One day in 1962, as Kircher was planning his new Boyne Highlands ski area, he and his wife found themselves squeezed on a double chair with their six-year-old son John, who today is president of Montana’s Big Sky ski resort. Why shouldn’t there be a three-seater chairlift? Kircher asked. And so the Riblet company made one for him. You can still ride it today on the Heather Run at Boyne Highlands.
The triple chair was so popular that Kircher decided to ratchet the chairlift up by another seat, and a year later the Heron company installed the world’s first quad lift on Boyne Mountain. It’s still in service on Boyne’s Meadow run.
Not to be outdone, even by himself, Kircher in the early 1990s learned of a six-seat chairlift in Quebec, and for the winter of 1992-93 the Doppelmayr company built the first six-seater in the U.S.A. at Boyne Mountain. Today, you and five friends can ride it up the McLouth slopes.