Junior Bounous loves to ski at 98 years old - Junior Bounous loves to ski at 98 years old

98-year-old Utahn Junior Bounous Skis Like He's 20. His Secret? 'Don't Stop'

Junior Bounous skis Snowbird like a teenager.

By Logan Stefanich, KSL.com
December 10, 2023

Junior Bounous is the OG Utah skier.

SNOWBIRD — Watching Junior Bounous get around on foot, one would never guess that he's 98 years old.

Watching him effortlessly ski down the steep and challenging terrain found at Snowbird Ski Resort, he could easily be mistaken for someone in their 20s and the prime of their physical abilities.

"Skiing is easy. All you're doing is letting gravity take you downhill," Bounous said.

Bounous is widely regarded as a skiing pioneer, often dubbed "the Godfather of Powder Skiing" and the visionary responsible for Snowbird's vast network of ski runs, mapping out and cutting them to form the iconic terrain that so many skiers and snowboarders flock to every winter.

Born in Provo in 1925, Bounous began cutting his teeth on the wooden planks at the age of 10 after his mother gifted him his first pair of skis. Like many aspects of his life, his entry into the sport was an unconventional one.

Instead of going to a ski area and taking lessons — lessons weren't really a thing at that point, he said — Bounous honed the skills that would carry him into a lifelong passion and decorated career at an orchard on his family's farm.

"I had to learn to turn to miss manure piles and where the cattle and horses were, and so I developed a left turn ... and that stuck with me all my life. My left turn was always better than my right," Bounous said.

When he reached high school, rope tows started popping up all over Utah County, including one at Timp Haven, now known as Sundance Mountain Resort.

It was there where Bounous learned to avoid obstacles other than piles of frozen manure.

"It had scattered aspen trees, and in these aspens you had to turn. You couldn't go straight (or) you'd run into a tree. So being forced into turning early was to avoid things," Bounous said through chuckles.

Essentially, he's a self-taught skier.

Junior Bounous, 98, finds a bit of fresh powder off th eedge of a groomed run while skiing at Snowbird. Bounous is widely regarded as a skiing ioneer and at 98 years young, he's still hitting the slopes regularly. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

Between the early days on his family farm and now, Bounous created quite the name for himself. A friend of ski legend Warren Miller, Bounous appeared frequently in Miller's films, including the 1974 film "The Color of Skiing."

The walls of Bounous' room in The Lodge at Snowbird are lined with pictures from his glory days (though, who's to say they're over?) and magazine covers of well-known ski publications he's appeared in and on. His career has taken him to mountains all over the U.S. and it was Alta Ski Area where he got his start in 1948, becoming one of Utah's first certified ski instructors, joining forces with Alf Engen at the Alta Ski School.

After a stint at Sugar Bowl in California, Bounous returned home to Utah in 1966 to become ski school director and part owner of Timp Haven/Sundance Mountain Resort — a position he held until 1970 when Snowbird hired him to design the layout of the mountain's ski runs and serve as the ski school director. Eventually, he assumed the role of Snowbird's director of skiing and in 1996 was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. Six years later, in 2002, he would carry the Olympic torch.

For any snow sports enthusiast or ski history aficionado, watching Bounous ski at Snowbird is a treat. It's a front-row seat to a near-century of expertise and achievement in skiing. Think of watching Michael Jordan play at Madison Square Garden, or whatever your personal equivalent of that is.

It's also evident that although Bounous has long since retired from instructing skiing professionally, he's still a teacher at heart, finding time to give brief lessons or tips to anyone who wants them. He's also somewhat of a celebrity, often getting approached by friends he's made over the years, always making time to talk with them.

Junior Bounous, 98, skis at Snowbird on Thursday. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

But he also skis — and does so hard, by any standards, but especially for being 98 years old. To this day, Little Cottonwood Canyon is still his favorite place to ski in the world.


"(It's) the most challenging. But it was the most rewarding," Bounous said. "Little Cottonwood Canyon, in a sense, is where I grew up."

It's also home to some of the best snow in the world.

"Powder was my love ... the most enjoyable thing. I haven't skied powder since yesterday," Bounous joked as flakes fell outside of his room at Snowbird.

The other love of Bounous' life was his wife. Maxine, who was also among the first certified ski instructors in the country. Together, they shared their love and expertise of the sport with as many people as they could, including their two sons.

Junior Bounous, 98, poses for a portrait after skiing at Snowbird on Thursday. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

In the early summer of 2020, Maxine died and Bounous lost his wife of 70 years. The time that followed was dark.

"I almost stopped skiing when she passed away. I thought if Maxine quit skiing, I would quit skiing. I was prepared, I thought, for Maxine's passing. She had had Alzheimer's for 18 years," Bounous said. "I wasn't prepared for her passing. I thought I was."

He didn't leave his house for a month after losing Maxine.

His son Steve Bounous, a former U.S. Ski Team member, knew how his mom's death was impacting his dad and decided to take action, bringing his father back to the place that had given him so much throughout his life and vice versa.

"He made me hike in the flowers at Alta and Snowbird that summer. He made me put on my skis. I had lost this ability to ski. It was gone out of my body, I thought," Junior Bounous said.

That year, his son retired from his coaching position with Snowbird's ski racing team and took his father skiing day after day after day, reinvigorating his love for the sport.

Junior Bounous, 98, still shreds the slopes at Snowbird Ski Resort. (Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

"He became my personal coach," Bounous said.

But Bounous wasn't going to just start skiing again. In 2021, with the help of his family, he broke a Guinness World Record and became the world's oldest heli-skier at 96 years old.

If you ask him the secret to his success and longevity in what is certainly a physically and mentally demanding sport, Bounous will tell you it boils down to two words: "Don't stop," he said.

"I haven't stopped," Bounous said. "My grandkids set my goals, not me. They want me to ski the number of days to fit my age."

Perhaps even more inspiring than Bounous' skiing ability at 98 years old — Steve Bounous once told the Deseret News, "Once he gets on snow, he's 30 years younger" — is his outlook on life. It's an outlook that encourages service to others, perseverance and an almost childlike wonder of the world.

"I've been in this canyon (Little Cottonwood Canyon) 60 years and is there ever a day that I haven't enjoyed driving up this canyon in snow chains, whatever the weather? No," Bounous said. "There's never a day that I haven't enjoyed coming up the canyon. If I ride the tram and look at the view, it's the same feeling today as I had 50 years ago."

Related Links:

Snowbird Ski Resort Information