John Bintz was a struggling apple farmer near Freeland in 1958 after he returned from the armed forces. He added a cider mill, bakery, general store and gift shop to his orchard to draw traffic, but he needed a “winter crop.” He and his wife, Joan, decided to build a ski hill; no small feat as the land around Freeland was notably flat.
In 1960, John used a D-8 tractor and an earth-mover to start building a hill. Bintz Apple Mountain opened for the 1961-62 season with a whopping 30′ vertical drop. For 1964-5, they expanded the hill to 150′ of vertical and in 1968 raised it to 201′.
In the early days, the lifts had the capacity to handle almost 100 skiers, but by the early 1980′s they were welcoming 20,000 to 25000 skiers per season.
In 2012, John and Joan Bintz were inducted into the Michigan Ski Hall of Fame. Much of the information above was gathered from their site.
The ski area is still in business, but is now operated under the name Apple Mountain.