Book Review: Junior Bounous and the Joys of Skiing, by Ayja Bounous


Ayja Bounous has crafted a well-written and comprehensive biography of an iconic American skier and teacher, and a tender tribute to her grandfather.

Junior Bounous was born in 1925 in Provo, Utah, in the Wasatch Mountains, and taught himself to ski at age eight on self-fashioned skis. He became a renowned powder skier and was a favorite model for photographers like Fred Lindholm, appearing frequently in ski periodicals and Warren Miller films.

Bounous’s astounding ability to convey the secrets of navigating powder to other skiers brought students from afar to wherever he was teaching, and they returned year after year.

After explaining how he got the name “Junior,” Ayja Bounous recounts her grandfather’s life-changing encounter with Alf Engen at Alta, their instant rapport and how he fully absorbed Engen’s teaching philosophy. Bounous would later infuse Engen’s methods into the Professional Ski Instructors of America’s American Teaching System.

We learn how, with Engen’s urging, Bounous earned his Forest Service certification to teach skiing at age 23 and then became a full-time ski instructor at Alta, teaching there from 1948 to 1958. In 1958, he was lured 600 miles westward to Sugar Bowl, California, becoming one of the first American-born ski school directors in the country.

The author describes how her grandfather later returned to Utah, in 1966, to become part owner and ski school director of the Timp Haven ski area (on Mount Timpanogos). In 1968, Robert Redford acquired the resort and renamed it Sundance (after his character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Redford prevailed upon Bounous to stay on as ski school director, and the actor thereby became a Bounous-trained powder adept.

In 1970, Bounous was approached to design the trail system for the nascent Snowbird ski resort, which opened in 1971. He then served as ski school director there until 1991, when he was named director of skiing. At Snowbird, Bounous also inaugurated both a children’s and a disabled learn-to-ski program.

Bounous’s partner through all these adventures, from 1952 onwards, was his wife, Maxine (née Overlade), who became a master powder skier in her own right and for her off-piste speed became know as “Fast Max.” A BYU graduate, she became indispensable as an editor when SKI and Skiing magazines published Bounous’s ski tips and PSIA’s instructional ski books included his contributions. Together, they raised two boys (one, Steve, raced for the U.S. Ski Team).

This biography recounts the couple’s full life of world travel and recreation in the off-season, too. They visited more than a dozen countries, from a memorable journey to Bounous’s ancestral hometown in northern Italy to the South Pacific, and from Nepal to New Zealand.

Somehow, the couple also managed to fit in month-long trips with friends and family on Lake Powell, on a houseboat or camping with a ski boat. Bounous loved exploring the many canyons and hidden rock arches that line the immense reservoir. Both would waterski and wake surf well into their 80s. And they botanized with passion, seeking out the myriad wildflower species of the Wasatch Mountains and discovering how the schedule and abundance of their flowering depended upon the snowpack of the previous winter. Junior Bounous is still skiing at the age of 98.

Junior Bounous and the Joys of Skiing, by Ayja Bounous. Printed by Paragon Press, Inc. (2022), softcover, 283 pages. $38