Kircher is disdainful of those who hope for fast profits on a limited investment. "They come here and watch me sit around the dining room or go skiing with the boys, and they think it's all a snap. So they say to themselves, 'I can build a place like Boyne Mountain for $50,000. There's plenty of higher ground around here, and I'm at least smarter than that dunce Kircher.' So they go off and lose their $50,000 and wonder why it didn't work out. And in the meantime maybe they build close by here and people ski at their place but sleep in my beds, and I lose money. You don't take profit from the beds or dining rooms or bars. You make it on the lifts, and anyone who sleeps here but slips off to another place to ski is costing me money."
Kircher has aimed his appeal toward two groups: the family and the single male and female, tying them together with a single motive, to give them a reason to ski. "Sex," he says, pounding on the oaken table in his office. "Sex brings the girls north looking for guys. And vice versa. You can call it anything you like, but it's just plain sex. I've often wondered just how much the improvements we make affect this boy-meet-girl urge. But skiing must have something to do with it. Otherwise," he chuckled, "they would keep coming after the snow melts."
While there is snow, real or manufactured, the female trade clearly has the upper hand. Stein Eriksen, the demigod of all skiers, was the original bait for Kircher's hook. (He was ski pro at Boyne in 1953-54, 1954-55 and the first six weeks of last season.) "Stein knew what they wanted," Kircher said recently. "They wanted him bareheaded in a bright sweater. Sometimes these girls make me laugh. They all dream of falling in love with the ski instructor. This is the image they want."
This season, Eriksen's place will be taken by blond, blue-eyed, 33-year-old Othmar Schneider, an Olympic gold medal winner in 1952. "Stein is the captain of a pro racing team, and he's going to be on the road quite a bit this year," said Kircher. "Also, he has his ski school at Aspen Highlands. He was spreading himself too thin. Schneider is probably the second-most-popular instructor available and, besides that, he's more the executive type. We have him on a full-time, long-range contract."
Full day of fun
Inside or out, the activity at Boyne moves at quickstep. In a normal day one may take a lesson in the morning, ski all afternoon, take a dip in the heated pool, have cocktails and dinner, then ice skate, take a sleigh ride or watch movies. On weekends Kircher opens all three bars, each directed to different economic groups—from the Scotch-on-the-rocks trade to the pitcher-of-beer mobs.
Kircher has an ingenious, not to say disingenuous, explanation for Boyne's drawbacks as a ski hill. The most dangerous run, Hemlock, is a Sunday stroll for most experienced skiers. But Kircher argues that what the hill lacks in height it makes up for in ease of repetition. "Skiing," he insists, "is measured in vertical feet, whether it's here or Colorado or Europe. In Switzerland you can ski 10,000 vertical feet in a day, but it takes two trips up the mountain. Here our longest run is 485 vertical feet, but because our lifts can handle 5,800 people an hour you can make 30 runs a day, and that's 15,000 vertical feet. If you took six Boyne Mountains and stacked them atop each other, they'd equal Aspen. You can't ski all of Aspen in one run. So here you get the same effect, top to bottom, as making six stops out there."
Kircher spends some $30,000 a year in the manufacture of snow. A few years ago he spent $3,000 a month in an unsuccessful attempt to "seed" the clouds with silver iodide crystals, as they passed over Lake Michigan, hoping they would drop their pay load on his ridge. They unloaded more frequently on other resorts in the area, however, and he cut off his involuntary charity. He switched to giant air compressors that run at his whimsy, day or night.
It is not uncommon for the snow makers to grind away in the midst of a heavy snowfall. "Skiers use an enormous tonnage of snow just pushing it to the sides of the slope," Kircher said. "This little bank runs out of snow about mid-March, and we have to keep going until Easter. We're playing poker with the weather, and it's holding a big handful of thaw. We can't take any chances."
Kircher was born in St. Louis, the son of an auto mechanic. The family moved to Detroit when he was 2. After two years at the University of Michigan, he quit in 1939 when he became bored, restless and broke. He loafed for a year, then bought a house-trailer sales business on a $3,000 loan from his father. A year later he branched into the auto business, becoming the youngest Chrysler dealer in history, and "fed the car business" with the profits from the house trailers.