Ski industry icon Junior Bounous, 96, is a mover and shaker whose passion is to keep people skiing throughout their lives. In a nutshell, he tells seniors: Just “keep moving.”

Junior’s career spans nearly eight decades with a list of accomplishments and awards longer than both my arms: Intermountain cross country and national gelande jumping champion, national race course setter, ski patroller, founding member of Professional Ski Instructors of America, father of today’s American Ski Teaching System, an advisor to ski manufacturers, a ski trail designer for resorts, and the director of skiing in California and Utah including Sundance and Snowbird. In 1996, he was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame.

Snowbird’s Pipeline

Junior takes his own “keep moving” advice. To celebrate his 80th birthday he skied Snowbird’s treacherous Pipeline chute, a couloir lined with jagged rocks and with no room for error.

And he keeps on moving. On a bright spring day in 2021, he heli-skied from the 11,489’ Twin Peak summit, the highest point in the Little Cottonwood Canyon range, making him — at 95 years and 244 days — the Guinness World Records’ oldest heli-skier. Getting out of the helicopter was difficult because his knees don’t bend as well as they used to.  “The skiing was the easy part,” he said.

Follow the legend

A role model for seniors, Junior continues to ski for the joy of it.

A few days ago my senior ski friend Beth Tait was skiing at Alta when she saw a yellow helmet. Junior always wears a yellow helmet. As she got closer, she saw it really was Junior. He was talking with skiers around him, and she joined in. Later, Beth followed him, trying to ski as smoothly and fluidly as the 96-year-old.  “Junior is an incredibly athletic skier not to mention his heartwarming personality,” she said.

From barrel staves and manure piles to Alta and Snowbird

Junior was the youngest of six children in an Italian farming family in Provo, Utah. His first ski experience was on the farm at age 8 when he attached barrel staves to his feet and skied down a slope trying to miss the manure piles at the bottom.

Alf Engen (l) and Junior Bounous Source: J.Willard Marriott Digital Library

Fast forward to 1948, when, at age 22, he became one of the first certified instructors in Utah, and he began a long-lasting relationship with his cherished mentor, Alf Engen. For the next 10 years, Bounous was Engen’s primary assistant in Alta’s Alf Engen Ski School known worldwide for teaching students how to ski powder. His skiing and teaching careers kept accelerating.

When Snowbird was on the drawing board, founder Dick Bass recruited Junior to lay out the trails, and when it opened in 1971, he became its Ski School Director inspiring generations of skiers.

Junior’s top tips for Seniors

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Junior in the air in 1957. Photo credit: Harriet Wallis

Balance and coordination are major factors for senior skiers. “Older people have trouble with their eyes and ears, but you can extend the life of both senses if you practice,” he said.

He advises cross training. “Stay active. Do not confine yourself to just skiing. Play golf, ride a bike, take a walk. Do whatever you enjoy – but do it. It will help you get out of the bathtub, get out of the car, and go up the stairs.”

He also recommends improving balance by skiing slightly different terrain and snow conditions. Don’t get stuck skiing only on bluebird days or just on your favorite trails. “It boils down to just doing it. Stay active in as many ways as possible,” he said.

Take Junior’s advice: Just do it.

However, “Many older people drop out because they no longer have anyone to ski with. They’re physically capable, but they’ve lost the social fun of skiing. Find somebody to ski with,” he said.

Help Us Compile SeniorSkiing.com’s list of senior ski groups

To help seniors find someone to ski with, SeniorsSkiing is starting a list of senior ski groups around the country. If you know of a senior ski group, please use Leave a Reply at the end of this story. Include as much information as possible about the group.

19 Comments

  1. You rock Junior!
    I am 73 and have not been on skiing in 30 years. This article may change that. But I would really like a similar aged friend to ski with me but can’t find any takers.

  2. Anthony Summit says:

    Though not nearly as accomplished as Junior, he espouses the same thing I do. Keep moving. He is a role model for me. I am 75 turning 76 this season and I am expecting to ski at least 70 days covering over 1 million vertical feet.

  3. Dear Harriet,
    Thank you for keeping Junior in our sights–and in our hearts–as inspiration. Keep on writing, as he keeps on skiing, with grace and aplomb.

  4. Junior,
    Thanks for everything you’ve done for skiing and particularly Snowbird. Looking forward to my 41st consecutive trip to the ‘Bird later this season…my favorite place to ski on Earth. All the best, John

  5. Harriet, you always write such interesting and insightful articles and I love reading about the different characters that have contributed to the sport. When I was younger and saw an older person out on the hill I didn’t think much about it, but have learned to appreciate the history that each one of us seniors carries. I don’t know about looking at different terrain, I just want to remain upright and vertical while enjoying shushing down the mountain. I’m content with that for the remainder of my ski days.

  6. Johanna Rase says:

    this was soo much fun!! love all these people!! My husband and I are 76(me) and 70. skied all our lives(Vermont-Montana and beyond) .We would love to join the SeniorsSkiing. Please sign us up- Johanna Rase
    Deer Lodge Montana 1/21/22

  7. doug kilbourn says:

    our Ed Hunter at Mt Norquay in Banff Alberta is also 96 and also keeps moving and motivating.
    awesome to see and be motovated as a fellow senior skier

  8. Great article about a true ski legend. He was well known as the MAN when I taught skiing in 1973 and still is! Amazing!

  9. We’ll be 80 this year and we plan on skiing at least 24 days. We really enjoyed this article. John & Sheron Mohan.

  10. Richard Kavey says:

    Hello Harriet,

    Thanks for your wonderful article on Junior! I got to know Junior through a mutual friend, Olle Larsson. What a wonderful human being and a great skier. One morning in the 1990’s first Tram Junior led me on a nonstop down Chips. It is an understatement that Junior’s speed through the slow skiing sections was not slow, and in a tuck. I felt protected from Red Coats with the excuse “I was just following Junior”. I have never taken a faster run down Chips! If I am correct, Junior had a very successful record in Alpine Ski Racing – he was at the top of US racers which you do not mention.

    Now, one important correction. Dick Bass did not found Snowbird! Ted Johnson did! Ted Johnson built and founded Snowbird, and later sold it to Dick Bass. I am astounded by how many people get this wrong.

    All the best,

    Dick

  11. Lowell Nelson says:

    I was fortunate to be on the second tram open to the public at Snowbird and greet Dick Bass in the lobby of the Cliff Lodge.
    Several years later my wife and I were doing a final run from the top of Snowbird and happened upon Junior, then in his 70s. His skiing was fast and flawless

  12. Very impressive on the accomplishment of being the Guiness Book of Records Heli Ski Icon. He took the place in the book of records from my friend Stan Friedberg- who just turned 95 and regularly takes heli- ski trips with his son Steve. If Stan had to lose that record, Junior was the one to do it. Congrats to both guys.

  13. I am 82 and just came back from skiing 6 straight days at Snowmass. I love to ski and carve fast down blue slopes (easier ones). I agree with Junior’s cross training advice. I bike, hike, walk, and sometimes walk/run (bad right knee from too many marathons). I will look for Junior’s yellow helmet at Alta in late February.

  14. John Farley says:

    Excellent article! I am one of those who does not get as much exercise outside the ski season, but this inspires me to try to improve in that regard. Last year I discovered slot canyon photography, so that is one thing to motivate to get out and hike more.

  15. David Collins says:

    Great article. I have not skied with Junior but back in the 70’s was fortunate to have skied and taught with one of Junior’s friends from Alta,
    Tom Jacobson. I am 77 and get out as many days a week as possible. Finding someone to ski with is always a challenge .

  16. Great advice from a legend. At 77 I agree, skiing is the easy part, getting in/out of the car and walking to the slopes is the hard part.

    • Up until my old ski boots broke, getting into my ski boots was the most difficult part of a ski day. (Wasn’t aware of the “Bootster” back then.) No longer an issue with my new boots.

  17. Wonderul article on a senior that refuses to act his age. Good for him. I am doing the best I can to do that as well.
    at 83, member of the Sun Peaks Antiques, we have 128 members, our own logo and ski, ski, ski all winter long at our beautiful big mountain here which is actually 3 mountains in one ski resort. We uinvite skiers tha visit from far coners of the globe and they are now repeat visitors, made friends here we love the include all that have gray hair, white hair or no hair.

  18. Check out the 70plusskiclub.org. They run about 10 trips a year throughout the US and Canada. If you are a member you can get discounted lift tickets at various resorts.

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