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If you’ve ever been to Gatlinburg, you’ve probably seen the brightly colored chairlift along the Strip. But do you know why there is a chairlift in the mountains? There’s an interesting history behind the SkyLift in Gatlinburg TN, and we want to share it with you! Keep reading to learn more about the history of the SkyLift in Gatlinburg TN.
Constructing the SkyLift
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, chairlifts were considered unusual contraptions. There weren’t many around at the time, and if they were, they were at ski resorts. A man named Rel Maples owned a plot of land in Gatlinburg and had read about a chairlift that was built by a man named Everett Kircher in AAA magazine. He was so impressed with the chairlift, he reached out to Kircher and asked him if he would build a chairlift on his property in the Smoky Mountains.
Maples and Kircher came up with an agreement that Maples would lease the land to Kircher to construct and operate a chairlift on the property. Kircher went to California and purchased a chairlift from Sugar Bowl Ski Area. He dismantled it and brought it back to his father’s Studebaker dealership in Rochester, Michigan. They got to work on engineering and rebuilding the lift.
John Kircher, Everett’s father, went down to Gatlinburg to scout the area and oversee labor. Kircher came after he closed their Boyne Mountain Ski Area for the season. A road was constructed to the top of the mountain so their construction team could start on the chairlift. Footings were poured for the lift towers, and once that was completed, the lift structure was put in place, and the chairs were hung. The SkyLift in Gatlinburg TN was the first chairlift built in the area, and it opened to the public in 1954.
Changes Over the Years
The original chairlift was a single seat chairlift. A few years after it was constructed, they updated the seats to accommodate two people. In the late 1980s, the Gatlinburg SkyLift was completely rebuilt and new chairs were added. When the wildfires happened in 2016, the top terminal was destroyed. According to an interview with Stephen Kircher, Everett’s son, there was a plan in place to create the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park we know today. Since the 2016 wildfires destroyed part of the attraction, they went forward with their plans and built everything at once instead of in phases.
In May 2019, the SkyLift in Gatlinburg TN reopened with the SkyDeck, SkyCenter, and SkyBridge, as well as a new and improved chairlift. You can enjoy riding to the top of Crockett Mountain on the chairlift today, walk around the SkyDeck, and cross the SkyBridge, if you dare.
Currently, there is a new attraction at SkyLift Park that will open sometime this spring called the SkyTrail. This is a scenic walkway that connects the SkyDeck to the other side of the SkyBridge with a walking path. Guests will be able to take a leisurely walk through the forests of the mountains. At the back of the ravine, there will be a Lookout, which is an elevated platform where you can see amazing views of the Smokies.
Now you know all about the history of the SkyLift in Gatlinburg TN! We know you’ll want to visit this attraction when you’re in Gatlinburg. Want to know what else you can do when you’re in town? Check out these other attractions in Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains!