The Michigan Ski Hall of Fame was created to recognize those individuals who have contributed significantly to the growth of skiing and snowsports in the state of Michigan. Also check out the US National Ski Hall of Fame at 610 Palms Ave., Ishpeming, MI 49849.
- 2003: MSIA inducted its first members, Everett Kircher and Bill Pearson
- 2004: MSIA inducted Don Thomas and George Petritz
- 2006: MSIA inducted Al Almon and James Dilworth
- 2012: MSIA inducted John and Joan Bintz and Joseph F. Kosik Sr.
John and Joan Bintz inducted in 2012
John and Joan Bintz were pioneers in the ski industry, bringing the sport to many people in Mid-Michigan. According to Mark S. Graves, a reporter for The Township (Saginaw) Times, “Skiing grew in the area mainly because of the far-sightedness and back-breaking efforts of John and Joan Bintz, who created a ski resort called ‘Bintz Apple Mountain.’”
Originally apple farmers, the Bintz family was looking for a way to save their struggling business. Frank A. Cooper wrote in the Farm Journal, that 26-year-old John Bintz refused to believe that the small family farm was doomed. Fresh out of the Armed Services in 1958, John decided that it needed some hard, smart retail selling. He and his wife, Joan, began a plan. They constructed an old-fashioned cider mill, a bakery, general store and a gift shop. These improvements kept the Bintz family busy for a good portion of the year, but they still needed a “winter crop.” So, thinking out of the box, they set out to create a ski hill.
Located in Freeland, the original ski hill and the resort buildings were constructed by the Bintz family. In the spring of 1960, John Bintz used a D-8 tractor and an earthmover to start constructing Apple Mountain. The first part of the hill project was finished for the 1961-62 winter, with a 30-foot vertical drop.
“This was the first total man-made ski hill constructed to my knowledge,” Joan Bintz told The Township Times. “We built the buildings and the hills ourselves. We started out by employing a used tractor and 80 acres, which we bought from John’s mother and then about 220 more from various sources. We did not inherit any of the land,” she added.
The hill was expanded again in 1964 and the vertical drop increased to 150 feet for the 1964-65 season. The last major change in the hill came in 1968, when more dirt was added to increase the drop to 201 feet. When the ski area opened, it accommodated less than 100 downhill skiers. Still the couple continued on with their plan. By the 1981-82 winter they were welcoming between 20,000 and 25,000 skiers.
Without Bintz Apple Mountain, thousands of people – especially school-age kids – would have never learned to ski. Partnering with the Saginaw News, John and Joan brought skiing to the Saginaw Bay area and taught thousands of kids to ski. Between 1961 and 1994 almost 800,000 students went through the Apple Mountain learn-to-ski program. Apple Mountain was also the first ski area in the state to offer skiing as a college course, which was run through Delta College.
Through the years, Apple Mountain has seen some additional major improvements. Today, there is a state-of-the-art conference center, an elegant restaurant and an 18-hole golf course.
Most of the land surrounding the Saginaw-Midland-Bay City area is pretty darn flat. To have the guts to build a mountain out of the proverbial molehill in the middle of farmland is pretty remarkable. Back in the 1970s, there were over 60 ski areas in Michigan. Many of them are now closed. However, the one ski area that was totally man-made - from the flat ground up - is still doing a brisk business of introducing the Saginaw Bay area residents to the sport of skiing.
Joseph F. Kosik Sr. inducted in 2012
Without a doubt, Joseph F. Kosik Sr. has been one of the most prolific and influential builders of the ski industry in the Midwest. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and a veteran of the Unites States Air Force, Joe Kosik acquired his love of skiing while stationed in Germany.
His dream was to bring skiing close to his home in Metro Detroit. In 1957 he put this dream into action with the formation of Mount Grampian in Oxford, a town approximately 40 miles north of Detroit. In its heyday, Mount Grampian had a poma lift, eight rope tows, a ski jump and lights for night skiing.
Clearly successful with Mount Grampian, in 1959 Joe set his sights on another area in southeast Michigan – Alpine Valley Ski Resort on M-59 in White Lake. There he expanded the ski area by adding numerous chairlifts. He then moved on to Wisconsin in 1964, where he built a second Alpine Valley. Never resting, in 1970 he began the tedious process of developing Devil’s Head Resort in Merrimac, Wisconsin. Once completed, the resort consisted of a 92-room hotel, four chairlifts, a rope tow, ten runs, and a variety of bars and restaurants. At the same time, Joe Kosik’s company, JFK Investments, purchased Mt. Holly Ski Area in Holly, Michigan and within the first three years, added four chairlifts.
Now firmly committed to bringing skiing closer to population centers in the Midwest, he purchased a partially developed ski area in southwest Michigan, designed and built it from the ground up and in 1982 Bittersweet Ski Resort of Otsego opened with three chairlifts and three rope tows. Developing a loyal skiing clientele in that area was challenging, but nothing that Joe Kosik couldn’t handle. In order to entice more skiers, he purchased busses and provided transportation from local schools, which proved to be a big success.
In 1988 Joe Kosik purchased Pine Knob Ski Resort in Clarkston, Michigan from the Nederlander family. With a willingness to make improvements and now with years of successful ski area operation under his belt, Pine Knob soon became one of the popular destinations for skiers across the Metro Detroit area.
Through the years, Joe Kosik has continued to make improvements to the ski areas he owns and operates. In 1997 a high-speed detachable quad chairlift was installed at Mt. Holly, the first of its kind in the lower part of the state. Last year a new high-speed detachable quad chairlift debuted at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. Bittersweet Ski Area is also benefited from a new triple chairlift, which was installed last year.
As a conservative estimate, the ski areas that Joe Kosik has owned and operated have introduced over three million people to skiing and snowboarding in Michigan and Wisconsin. It is easy to see that his efforts have greatly benefited the ski industry in Michigan and across the country, as these new skiers purchase equipment, take vacations venturing out to slopes farther from their home, and come back to teach their children and their children’s children about the love of skiing.
Al Almon, Inducted in 2006
Al Almon, Michigan Ski Hall of Fame Al Almon helped improve ski instruction, creating uniform teaching standards throughout Michigan and the US. He taught thousands of people to ski plus he taught numerous ski instructors the correct and safe way to teach. He developed Michigan’s first ski instructor certification program.
Al was born in 1915 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and started skiing at the age of eight at Mt. Royal Mountain Park. He was selected for the Canadian Olympic Team in 1936 as a ski jumper. In the early 1940’s, he became an instructor at Mt. Tremblant in Quebec, where he won the coveted Gold Maple Leaf timed race and the heart of Stephanie Kearns, who was also a ski instructor. They married in 1943.
Except for serving in the Canadian Air Force during World War II, Al spent his career in the ski industry. While working at Mt. Tremblant, Al met Donald McCloth, the founder of Otsego Ski Club, who asked him to come to Michigan and help run Otsego. Al and Stephanie went there in 1945 and ran the ski hill and taught skiing for three years. Their love of the sport shaped their career. Al opened another ski area 10 miles south of Gaylord in Waters, Michigan, which he called Ski Village. During this time, he started the Canadian Ski School, which became the first ski instructor certification program in Michigan. He developed a unified teaching method that simplified learning to ski and focused on safety.
Al ran Ski Village from 1948 to 1955, teaching thousands of people how to ski. “Ski Village was ‘the place’ for beginners to learn to ski and ski properly,” emphasized Don Thomas, former owner of Don Thomas Sporthaus.
Ski Village was a smaller ski area that served as a beginner hill. Back then, there were no snow grooming machines. Every morning, Al and his crew would put on snow shoes and walk up and down the slopes to pack the snow down.
Al opened Mt. Frederic in 1955 and ran it and Ski Village both until closing the smaller area. Mt. Frederic was a popular ski area, complete with a restaurant and bar. Unfortunately, the lodge was burnt to the ground by arson in 1966. After that devastation, Al closed the ski area and decided to quit active ski instructing altogether.
He went into sales and became Michigan's first ski equipment manufacturer's representative. He sold Cubco Ski Binding, Sun Valley Ski Clothing, Cortina sweaters, Tyrolia after-ski boots and Beconta, Hart and Griswold skis to ski shops in the states of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. When he was 60 years old, he switched from ski rep to ski retailer, taking a position at T.W. Ellis of Boyne, (now Boyne Country Sports). He worked at the Boyne shop for over 20 years and also ran its demo program.
James (Jim) Dilworth, Inducted in 2006
Jim Dilworth, Michigan Ski Hall of FameJames Dilworth influenced ski areas around the world with his understanding of snowmaking. He built and patented the world’s first fan snow making gun. Although he died young, at the age of 59, he made major contributions to snowsports. Virtually every ski area in Michigan uses some derivative of the gun he helped to develop, thus boosting the Midwest's winter economy by insuring plenty of snow. In addition, Jim was area manager at Boyne Highlands and then general manager at Nub's Nob Ski Area.
Jim Dilworth was born in Boyne City and enjoyed sailing in the summers. He graduated from Boyne City High School in 1946 as valedictorian and president of his class, then received a bachelor's of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Michigan in 1951. He became a registered professional engineer in eight states. Out of college, he married Marydell (Dee) Saunders of Grand Rapids in 1952. He went to work for the Charlevoix County Road Commission from 1952 to 1957. He also worked for the US Forest Service in Cadillac, was superintendent for Kendall Construction from 1959 to 1961 and served as vice president for Norton-Kobbins Consulting Engineers from 1961-1963.
In 1963, Jim conducted a topographical survey for Boyne USA at what was to become Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs. Boyne owner, Everett Kircher, asked Jim to work for him. Jim agreed, helping first with construction, and then as area manager for 14 years. While at the Highlands, he built and patented the first fan snowmaking gun in the world.
In 1977, Walt Fisher purchased Nub's Nob and recruited Jim to come across the valley and be the general manager. Even after Jim took the position at Nubs Nob, he kept a good rapport with Boyne USA to share common concerns of the ski industry. At Nub's, he refined and improved the snowmaking gun, resulting in another patent.
Jim's snowmaking knowledge was experienced worldwide, most notably in Sarajevo, where he was the snowmaking consultant for the 1984 Winter Olympics. He worked with ski areas worldwide as a snowmaking and ski area design consultant, independently and as an agent of Snow Machines Inc. of Midland. Jim Bartlett, current Nubs Nob general manager, recalls putting in snowmaking systems for Jim from Alaska to Argentina.
Bruce Firestone, CEO at Mt. Holly Ski Area said, “Jim seemed to have a knack for allowing all parties to give their ideas toward a good end, regardless of the project. He revolutionized snowmaking to the point that his ideas are still used today. Skiing in the Midwest is partly what it is today because of Jim's contributions.”
Jim had been a member of the state's Board of Area Ski Safety since 1981. He also served on the boards of the Central Area Ski Association and the Little Traverse Conservancy. In Petoskey, Jim served terms on the City Council, the City Planning Commission, the Bear River Commission and the Emmet County Planning Commission.
George Petritz, Inducted in 2004
George Petritz, Michigan Ski Hall of FameThe Petritz family has been involved with Crystal Mountain since it was first established in 1955 as a small community ski area called “Buck Hills;” first as volunteers for the ski area, and later as owners of the resort. Today, Crystal Mountain has evolved into one of the most revered four-season resorts in the Midwest.
After being operated by volunteers for a few years, a group of investors purchased the Buck Hills ski area, formed a corporation and renamed it “Crystal Mountain.” Six years later, in 1966, Crystal Mountain was transferred to a group of three investors headed by George Petritz, whose initial intention was to sell the Resort, he once told a reporter. “But it wasn't long before I began to like it; I stayed with it,” he added. Petritz eventually took on sole ownership of Crystal Mountain in 1981.
Though his family couldn't get enough of it, George Petritz was self-admittedly not much of a skier. Where he shone, though, was in his treatment of people. Petritz' philosophy in operating the Resort was a simple one: “We believe that our customers should be treated as family members,” he once said. “As if they are guests in our own home.”
His philosophy in employee relations was very much the same.
The experience of surviving over two years in a WWII Japanese prison camp played an integral part in shaping George Petritz, as during that time, George learned firsthand the importance of attitude. It was in prison camp where George first heard about Thomas J. Watson, the founder and chairman of IBM. As IBM's chief, Watson greatly valued the input and effort of his employees, and told them so. “He believed it was not who's right, but what's right,” George recalled. “I'd always heard that a man was known by the company he keeps. In Watson's case, he believed that a company is known by the people it keeps.”
At Crystal, this philosophy allowed George to attract and retain a high quality staff, several of whom are still on staff today. George Petritz has since retired, however Crystal Mountain continues to prosper under the leadership of daughter, Chris MacInnes and her husband, Jim MacInnes - who together joined the Resort in 1985, along with the entire Petritz family, who are current owners and manage the resort. Together, the family has created a master plan to see the Resort's development well into the 21st century.
A far cry from the days of Buck Hills, today Crystal boasts 36 holes of golf, the new Park at Water's Edge pool and water playground, 45 downhill slopes, award-winning lodging, and an IACC-approved conference center for up to 300 people. This summer, the nationally acclaimed Crystal Mountain Golf School opened a second location at Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center, in Plymouth, Michigan.
Crystal's growth is visible to the eye. What lies unseen is what took root at Crystal years ago and what still exists today: George, and his wife, Althea's, giving nature and genuine concern for the well-being of employees and guests alike, and belief in the business tenets of Thomas Watson. As always, George credits the Crystal staff, the “human capital,” as primarily responsible for what Crystal has become. “If anyone had rested on their laurels, we couldn't have made it,” he observed. “It's not like a production line. It's got to come from within.”
Little did George and Althea Petritz know, in the early days of Buck Hills that they'd one day be considered the patriarch and matriarch figure not only for their family of six, but for a family of nearly 500. But to Crystal Mountain's employees, that's just who they are.
Don Thomas, Inducted in 2004
Don Thomas, Michigan Ski Hall of FameFew men have had the good fortune to transform their passion into a successful career. Don Thomas is one of those fortunate people. It is his love for the sport of skiing that led him to the decision to open a ski shop run by a skier, a novel idea back in 1953. Last year, Don Thomas Sporthaus celebrated its 50th anniversary. Don Thomas Sporthaus is recognized as the oldest running ski shop in America, owned and operated by the original founder.
Don Thomas grew up in Detroit. The sport of skiing in those days meant strapping wooden skis onto boots and heading for a local park. Nevertheless, skiing for Don would be forever a lifetime affair. Over the years Don has dedicated his career to keeping the sport of skiing alive and helping others to enjoy the sport. His friends include world-class skiers, celebrities, governors, corporate heads, and high school coaches.
Passionate about skiing and the people he has met along the way, Don Thomas can always see an opportunity to connect with people and support the sport. One such connection put Boyne Mountain into international news. Don introduced his good friend and Olympic champion, Stein Eriksen to another good friend, Everett Kircher, founder and owner of Boyne Mountain. Stein became Boyne's ski school director and Boyne Mountain became the mecca for the new age skiers in the Midwest.
Don Thomas saw an opportunity and in November of 1953, opened a 500 square-foot ski shop in Ferndale, Michigan. Don laughingly recalls, “I was painting the walls and waiting on customers at the same time. We didn't even have a cash register for the first two years.” That novel idea for a ski shop proved to be a success.
Over the decades Don Thomas Sporthaus moved several times to accommodate the ever-increasing business. For the last 40 years the Bloomfield Plaza in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan has been home for the Sporthaus.
The 10,000 square-foot store continues to sell fashion skiwear, ski equipment, and snowboards for the entire family as well as swimwear, sportswear, active wear, and patio furniture. Come early fall, two of the three floors in his store are dedicated to snow and skiing, fashion-forward skiwear, cutting edge ski equipment and accessories.
Don Thomas has never forgotten what brought him past his celebrated 50th anniversary year. He has always given back. He helped start Ski Prix, a highly successful fundraiser for the U.S. ski team. Over the years, he has worked with thousands of Michigan teens and their high school ski teams. In 1964, Don started Blizzard Ski Club, Michigan's first teaching program for junior skiers. After a successful beginning, the program grew to launch 3,000 skiers each season.
Don Thomas has been a leader within the ski industry. He is a founding member of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, (MSIA). In 1999 Don Thomas was awarded the “Lifetime Achievement” award by the Michigan High School Coaches Association. Area high school kids named a ski race event in his honor.
In 1966 the National Ski Industry recognized him as their first “Midwest Retailer of the Year.” In 1999 the Midwest Reps Association awarded him with the first “Retail Pioneer” award for dedication, commitment and innovation to the sport of skiing.
In 2004, the Don Thomas Sporthaus was recognized as a Ski Magazine “Gold Medal Ski Shop.”
So it is no surprise that for 50 years Don Thomas Sporthaus has represented what is best about the sport of skiing.
Don Thomas and his wife Edna have raised two sons and one daughter. Don and Edna are grandparents to seven skiers!
Willard (Bill) Pearson, 1925-2001, Inducted in 2004
Bill Pearson, Michigan Ski Hall of FameBill Pearson did a great deal to promote excitement for the sport of skiing in Michigan. He opened Bill & Paul's Sporthaus in Grand Rapids in 1961 out of a passion for the sport and a need in west Michigan for a store that would serve the growing sport of skiing in the area.
He was a competitive ski jumper in the 1950s and 1960s and built ski jumps and organized the first ski jumping tournaments in the Grand Rapids area. In the late 1960s, he sponsored Warren Miller movies through his store. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he organized group ski trips to Italy, France, Austria and Switzerland.
Pearson's vision put him in the driver's seat for many associations that would bring people together with a common mission: to increase awareness for the sport and introduce more people to skiing. Pearson was a founding member of the Michigan Ski Industries Association, (MSIA), which is now Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. He was a board member for the association for five years. He also founded the Grand Rapids Ski Club, the Metro Ski Patrol of West Michigan and was a founding member and past president of Ski Merchandising Corporation (SMC), one of the largest retail ski buying groups in the U.S. Pearson was named Ski Industries of America Ski Retailer of the Year for 1969 and SIA Nordic Ski Retailer of the Year for 1992.
He helped establish the first PSIA Certified Nordic Ski School in West Michigan and served on the PSIA-Central Board of Directors in which he held the position as a Nordic Education Chairman and PSIA Nordic examiner. He helped establish the first Cross Country Ski Touring Center in the Grand Rapids area, the first ski instruction program with the Grand Rapids Public Schools and he helped establish and instructed the first West Michigan Nordic Ski, organized the first downhill ski school in Southwest Michigan, and was one of the first coaches and competition coordinator for Central USSA Region III in the 1950's. He organized fundraisers to help send Michigan skiers to national meets.
Pearson was born in Norway, Michigan and grew up and lived in Michigan all his life. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and graduated from Michigan State University in Lansing with a degree in Business Administration.
Everett F. Kircher, Inducted in 2003
Everett Kircher, Michigan Ski Hall of FameEverett Kircher, was a pioneer in the ski industry as an innovator of ski instruction, snowmaking and grooming and founder of the nation's largest privately-held collection of ski resorts.
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. He later purchased the Harbor Highlands Ski Resort, just 25 miles north of Boyne Mountain, better 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 four-place chair installed in 1969 at Boyne Mountain.
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 in use 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 between ski seasons led Kircher into golf. A friend suggested that a golf course might attract summer visitors. That was all Kircher needed. Using his father's Ford farm tractor, he carved out a sporty nine-hole, par-three layout at the base of the Boyne Mountain Lodge.
After developing Boyne Highlands ski facilities, Kircher became more serious about golf and the development of one of the Midwest's first four-season resorts. 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. Year after year, Everett Kircher's resorts earn countless awards and recognitions. 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.
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.