A Gatlinburg Institution
In the winter of 1953, local innkeeper Rel Maples contacted Everett Kircher and asked him to build a chairlift on a mountain behind his property in Gatlinburg, Tennessee after reading an article in AAA magazine about Kircher's chairlift expertise gained from operating a ski area in Michigan. After meeting at the proposed site, Mr. Maples agreed to lease the land to Kircher to construct and operate a chairlift himself, and Gatlinburg sightseeing history was made.
Kircher purchased a ski lift from Sugar Bowl Ski Area in California, dismantled it, and transported it to his father's Studebaker dealership in Rochester, Michigan where the work of engineering and rebuilding the lift began.
Kircher's father made the trip to Gatlinburg to scout the area and coordinate labor, and Kircher soon followed after closing Boyne Mountain Ski Area in Michigan in the spring. A survey of the site lead to the construction of a road to the top, and the difficult process of pouring footings for the lift towers before the team was finally able to erect the lift structure and hang the chairs. It was the first chairlift ever built in the South, and opened to the public in 1954.
The SkyLift soon became one of the most popular attractions in Gatlinburg and part of the fabric of the community. To thousands of visitors, the SkyLift has been a must-do part of their annual trips to Gatlinburg, and with many making a tradition of riding the lift every year and collecting a new family photo from the photography service which captures every chair. The tradition lives on today with the opening of the Gatlinburg SkyBridge in May of 2019.