Tag Archives: John Kircher

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Ski Woodies

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Don’t worry dear readers. I know it’s a low snow season. I’m perfectly and painfully aware of the meager snow depths in the mountains. I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. Instead, I wanted to share with you how some of us at Crystal are managing. According to John, when the going gets to tough, the tough get woodies. (I mean wooden skis of course, get your mind out of the gutter.)

Nothing a good boot fitter can't handle

Nothing a good boot fitter can’t handle

Last week a customer offered a pair of beautiful wooden skis in exchange for a lift ticket. John took one look at those skis and said, “you got a deal.” Fortunately for John, he just happened to also have some leather boots that fit into said wooden skis. After a quick hot wax in the shop, John went straight up the gondola. Just because those skis had been sitting above someone’s mantle for the past fifty years didn’t mean he needed to start out slow. What could go wrong?

Old meets new on the Mount Rainier Gondola

Old meets new on the Mount Rainier Gondola

John dropped right into Green Valley and made it look easy. While those woodies track well, they sure don’t like to turn. Although, it may have been the leather boots. John says he wants to take the woodies for another spin today. So you might see him out there once it softens up.

On another note, the forecast is holding some promise in the coming week. Our best day for snow looks like Monday, With low snow levels, we should pick up a few inches of snow. It stays cold through Tuesday, so we can make snow near the base area. If you’re just not feeling the low snow this season, and you’re a Crystal pass holder, you can go ski at any of the other resorts for free. Check it out here.

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Boyne Mountain Skiing, Circa 1979

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My husband, John Kircher, was steeped in the ski industry early on at Boyne Mt. in Northern Michigan. His father built the ski area, and John’s first home was one of the hotel rooms at the base of the lifts. Not long ago videographer Barry ZeVan sent me some vintage footage from Boyne Mountain. The hotel that John first lived in is shown here.

I especially love the ballet and the mogul skiers in the video. In 1979, I was only nine years old and any kind of skiing was good skiing. But I was especially taken with ballet skiers. It sounds ridiculous now, but I often practiced lifting one ski and trailing it behind me like a ballerina. More often then not, this move resulted in a face plant, with snow smeared under my goggles and down my pants. In the end, I was relieved when this trend ran its course.

Check out this great vintage footage of John’s home, his father, Everett Kircher, and the ski area where it all started.

For more information about the making of this film, contact Barry Zevan at bnz1(at)aol(dot)com.

Being Mrs. Crystal

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Last season, while sitting in the gondola and enjoying the close eavesdropping that the new cabins allow, I tried to hold my tongue. Those that know me can attest to how difficult this is. They talked about the plans of Crystal, questioning the future the old Chair 1, now that it was out of service. Sitting in my ski patrol uniform, I might be considered an authority on the subject. So I spoke up.

“Actually,” I injected. “They’re taking the chair down this summer.” I decided to use the collective “they” pronoun this time. Sometimes I say “we” and at other times I use “they”, depending upon how much anonymity I want to maintain.

The other riders looked at me and smiled. One of them, a local that knows me, smiled too. “Well you would know,” he said. Then he looked at the others. “She’s Mrs. Crystal.”

I laughed. “Not really,” I said. Sometimes it’s easier to just be a ski patroller than the wife of the owner.

John and Kim Kircher, Crystal Mountain, The Next 15 Minutes

Mr. and Mrs. Crystal

I walk the fine filament between ski patroller, ski journalist and the wife of a ski area owner, and while these hats don’t usually clash, sometimes they don’t overlap.

Recently my post about mandatory helmet laws was picked up over at Teton Gravity Research and sparked a bit of a debate. A link to a post I’d written at Mountain Riders Alliance added fuel to the fire. A few of the commenters wanted to discredit my opinions because I was married to the owner of a “corporate” ski area. Since MRA is “creating sustainable mountain playgrounds,” using low-impact, privately owned guidelines, the commenter suggested that my association with Boyne Resorts discredited my opinion. Obviously, I disagree. In fact, I think my unique position in the industry—at once an employee, a journalist and an owner—gives me a valuable perspective.

When I first met John, I had been working as a ski patroller for almost 15 years. I didn’t have a cell phone, nor did I even own a purse. Instead, I spent the summers living out of the back of my truck, working for Outward Bound and the winters at my parents cabin at Crystal.

People often ask me how I met John, but what they really want to know is how he fell in love with someone like me.

Obviously, I can’t answer that.

John and Kim Kircher, Big Sky

John and Kim at Big Sky

I can say that we’re right for each other. Even before we celebrated our first wedding anniversary, John was diagnosed with a rare cancer, hoping for a liver transplant to save his life. Since cancer patients are not usually candidates for transplantation, this posed a real problem. That catch-22 acted as a crucible, simmering our relationship into something solid and golden.

My book touches on this, demonstrating how our lives in the mountains gave us the strength to get through our ordeal. Our adventures were dress rehearsals for the real thing, and when he got sick, I relied on them to buoy me.

Currently, I am writing magazine articles that incorporate both sides of my life–the hard-working ski patroller and the hostess to the mountain. They aren’t all that different really. Sometimes I see myself as merely the most enthusiastic and invested employee at Crystal. Other times I gladly don the role of Mrs. Crystal, showcasing this mountain that has been my teacher and my shelter.

You see, it’s a little complicated.