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.