The Story Of Crystal Mountain

Below is a brief history of Crystal Mountain. If you wish to skip ahead to specific subjects you may get there using the links provided below.

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  • The Early Years-Buck Hills

    Celebrating more than 55 years of fun, family-owned Crystal Mountain owes its establishment to a man by the name of Ward Creech and a group of dedicated local citizens, each of whom had an immense passion for skiing. And it was this passion led to the development of Buck Hills ski area in Michigan's Benzie County.

    On Mother's Day in 1955, Creech set out to find the best location for a local ski area. After much searching, Creech selected the range of hills located near the village of Thompsonville - the Buck Hills Range.

    Through their combined efforts Buck Hills ski area was established, and the first skiers took to the new slopes in December of 1956. It was truly a group effort, as almost everyone in the community assisted in one way or another - from clearing the mountain of forest growth to constructing the warming hut. One gang of volunteers would even groom the slopes by sidestepping in their skis up and down the slopes to pack the snow. In its early years, Buck Hills featured two rope tows and a small warming hut.

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  • The Birth of Crystal Mountain

    In 1958, Toledo resident Ed Abbey and a group of investors, some of whom were summer residents in the Crystal Lake area, became interested in Buck Hills as a commercial venture. In 1960 the group purchased the ski area, and under Abbey's leadership, formed a corporation and renamed the ski area "Crystal Mountain". There were 96 original shareholders, and with the new name came, a poma tow, the first double chairlift and six electric rope tows. The Lodge, which housed a large lounge with a fireplace, 21 lodge rooms and a large outdoor heated pool - was also built.

    While winter business was quite profitable, the summer months proved a serious challenge in terms of generating income and the corporation had difficulty obtaining the four or five million dollars needed to support year-round activities. So, in 1966, Crystal Mountain was transferred to a group of three investors headed by George Petritz, a local businessman. Petritz' 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. Six years after acquiring Crystal Mountain, Petritz became general manager; he eventually took on sole ownership of Crystal Mountain in 1981.

    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."

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  • A Master Planned, Year-round Resort

    Throughout the seventies and eighties, there were numerous additions and improvements - more slopes, more lifts and more lodging. Golf also entered into the picture, with the construction of the resort's first nine holes in 1977, and an additional nine holes two years later. Looking ahead, Petritz, along with his daughter, Chris MacInnes and her husband, Jim MacInnes - who together joined the Resort in 1985 - created a Master Plan to see the Resort's development well into the 21st century, and with it, a desire to create one of the Midwest's finest destination resorts.

    Enter the nineties. Crystal Mountain was quickly making its mark, hailing recognition from the likes of Better Homes & Gardens magazine and the Chicago Tribune for its niche for family vacations. Golf, too, became a focus, with the addition of another nine holes in 1993.

    In 1994, Crystal opened the 10-acre golf practice center-the backdrop to The Crystal Mountain Golf School, one of the Midwest's finest instructional programs. The Crystal Mountain Golf School started as a seven-session program that year. Today, there are more than 80 golf schools and instructional programs. Among other kudos, it has been named a Top 25 Golf School in the Nation by GOLF Magazine, and One of the Top Five Instructional Programs for Women by Golf for Women magazine.

    Golf still in the forefront, in 1998, the final nine of the Mountain Ridge course was completed, which, along with the original Betsie Valley course, give Crystal Mountain its current total of 36 holes of championship golf. Accolades for the course poured in from state, regional and national media.

    Nineteen ninety-eight also brought with it more additions to the winter side of the business. This was the year that Crystal Mountain, with the addition of the Crystal Clipper high-speed detachable quad chairlift (currently the fastest lift in northern Michigan) and the eight new "Ridge" slopes, really made its presence known in the Midwest ski industry. And it became clear that there was no stopping the family-owned resort.

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  • Emergent Directions

    With the checklist complete on the Resort's initial master plan, a new plan was in order. Enter, stage right, "Emergent Directions." When launched, Emergent Directions included in its plans a new golf clubhouse, a pedestrian-friendly village with quaint eateries and shops, more ski slopes, a tubing area, additional lodging and dining, a outdoor pool and water playground, and an additional golf and residential development.

    Much of Emergent Directions has already been completed. During the summer of 2002, the first step in the plan was completed in the construction of Kinlochen, which houses the new Golf and Nordic Pro Shop, the 100-seat Thistle Pub & Grille restaurant, and 12 one-, two- & three-bedroom condominiums on the upper two levels of this three-story, 29,000-square-foot building.

    In December of 2003, Ermergent Directions' second step was completed in the addition of the 11 new "North Face" slopes and the new North Face quad chair. With the new North Face slopes, Crystal now touts nine lifts, a total of 45 downhill slopes and over 40 kilometers of cross-country trails - clearly one of the largest & fastest growing resorts in the Midwest.

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  • Crystal Makes a Splash

    Ever changing, the summer of 2004 brought with it the completion of yet another piece of the plan and a major milestone in Crystal's history with the Grand Opening of Water's Edge. Water's Edge is comprised of two elements: The Park at Water's Edge and The Cottages at Water's Edge:

    The Park at Water's Edge is a one-acre water playground complex that encompasses a 4,500 sq. ft pool. At one end, the pool features a zero-depth entry; at the other, three, 75-ft lap lanes. In addition, the shallow end will feature an extensive water playground, featuring multi-platforms, a tumble pail, bubbler jets, arching jets, a crawl tube, water cannon and a 23' lily pad walk with an overhead net, basketball hoops and a water volleyball net. The area also includes a large 15-person hot tub, a climbing wall, a gatehouse with snack bar and locker rooms, extensive sun decks and a sand play area.

    The development's second element, The Cottages at Water's Edge, are located on both sides of The Park at Water's Edge. These single family, two- and three-bedroom/two-bath dwellings recall the character of early 1900s northern Michigan cottages, yet with all the modern conveniences.

    On top of the 36 holes of golf, the new water park and playground, and the 45 downhill slopes, Crystal's amenities include over 40 km of cross-country ski trails, lodging for over 1,200 people, indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness center, a tennis court, mountain biking trails, two year-round restaurants plus several seasonal dining options and an IACC-approved conference center for up to 300 people. Crystal is also home to the Michigan Legacy Art Park-a collection of sculptures representative of Michigan's history and culture, set along a woodland trail.

    Every year, Crystal is heralded by local, state and national media as one of the Midwest's most family-friendly destination resorts.

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  • All in the Family

    George Petritz retired from Crystal Mountain in 2000 and passed away in December 2010 at the age of 93. Crystal Mountain continues to prosper under the leadership of Jim MacInnes, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Chris (Petritz) MacInnes, Chief Operating Officer, who, along with the Petritz family, are current owners and manage the resort.

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