Crystal Mountain sold; resort says skiers will benefit

John Kircher has been the CEO and president of Crystal Mountain since 1997.
John Kircher has been the CEO and president of Crystal Mountain since 1997. Staff file

Crystal Mountain Resort has a new owner, and it is a familiar face.

John Kircher, the ski area’s CEO and president for 20 years, acquired the state’s largest ski area on March 31, resort officials announced Tuesday.

Kircher acquired the ski area, valued at $40 million, from Boyne Resorts, a company co-founded by Kircher’s father. He said he swapped all of his shares of Boyne for all of the company’s shares of Crystal Mountain.

The change means Crystal Mountain will be able to spend more of its revenue on improvements, resort spokeswoman Tiana Anderson said Tuesday.

It means Crystal won’t have the backing of the corporation during lean snow years, but Kircher said this is not a concern.

“Crystal has been doing really well,” he said.

Kircher plans to invest $5 million in upgrades this summer, when the resort intends to dramatically upgrade its snowmaking capabilities. Replacements of beginner and intermediate lifts — Discovery and Gold Hills — are planned for 2018.

$40 million Estimated value of Crystal Mountain Resort, according to a statement issued by the resort.

Kircher would like to add mountain biking to summer operations, Anderson said.

The ski area plans to extend operating hours on its busiest weekends and holidays.

“This will allow families to arrive a little later and still get a full day of skiing or snowboarding in without the early-morning rush to get here,” Kircher said.

The resort has ordered eight new cabins for its Mount Rainier Gondola for next season. The cabins are scheduled to arrive in October, increasing the number of cabins to 36.

“We should see Crystal reach its full potential in the next five to 10 years,” Anderson said.

With the ski season scheduled to end Sunday, it’s too soon to know how next season’s daily lift ticket prices might be affected, Anderson said.

But season passes for next season are selling for $695, down $155 from this time last year.

At Boyne, Kircher led the acquisition of Brighton Resort in Utah and Cypress Mountain — a venue for the 2010 Olympics — in Vancouver, British Columbia.

He also oversaw operations at those resorts. Kircher will now focus entirely on Crystal.

“Sometimes it is (bittersweet) with all the history,” Kircher said of moving on from the family business. “But I’m excited. I’ve been here for 20 years and it’s just as much fun running one ski area as it is a multi-ski area operation.”

Numerous ski areas around the nation have changed ownership during the past year, including Stevens Pass and the Summit at Snoqualmie, now owned by a New York-based real estate company.

Having a local owner “runs totally counter to the corporatization trends in the ski business,” Kircher said in a statement. “The number of large resorts that are locally owned and managed can be counted on maybe one hand. It’s a small fraction of the business. Crystal has done very well over time, and now we are free to reinvest our dollars with complete concentration here to make Crystal Mountain the best ski and summer resort in the Northwest.”

Kircher’s wife, Kim, is Crystal’s ski patrol director.