On a day of crisp, clear blue skies last April, a helicopter owned by Powderbird Helicopter Skiing dropped Junior Bounous atop the American Fork Twin Peaks at 11,489 feet, the highest point on the ridge of Little Cottonwood Canyon. .
When he set off down the mountain he skied straight into a Guinness World Record.
No one his age had ever done something like this. Bounous was 95 years and 224 days old on April 5 – 230 days older than the current heli-skiing record holder, a Canadian named Gordon Precious, who registered at 94 306 days when he raced in 2019.
Bounous accepted the high-five of members of his family, who made the historic race with him. It was a feat for the ages, literally.
But in truth, the pursuit of a world record was just an excuse to accomplish something much grander.
In the early summer of 2020, with all that was going on, Junior lost the love of his life, his nearly 70-year-old wife, Maxine, whom everyone called Fast Max.
The nickname was well deserved. Maxine Bounous, like her husband, knew how to ski like the wind. She and Junior, who both grew up in Provo, were among the country’s first certified ski instructors. They pioneered the art of powder skiing, under the tutelage of no less than Alf Engen, and taught skiing at Timp Haven / Sundance, Alta, Sugar Bowl and Snowbird, where Junior was the first director of the ski when the resort opened in 1971.
Everywhere, Junior has gone – a man who was inducted into the US National Ski Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 2002; a man who has been featured in many Warren Miller films; a man who has ski trails named after him in Sundance, Alta and Snowbird; a man who has been nicknamed “the godfather of powder skiing” – Maxine was there with him.
Losing her left a broken heart and an insurmountable void. Life wasn’t going to be easy without her.
Junior’s son Steve knew it. He knew his father was going to need help negotiating his grief. They needed a plan. And of course, the plan involved skiing.
âThe idea was to give my dad something to work on and look forward to,â says Steve, a former member of the US ski team, reflecting on his efforts to help his dad get out and get moving in the fall. latest.
As soon as the snow cleared in November, just before Thanksgiving, he brought Junior to the Alta trails.
The long summer had indeed taken its toll. A few runs on Sunnyside have wiped out the godfather of powder skiing.
But it was a start. The fresh air, the movement, the joy of skiing, everything began to work its magic methodically.
Then, shortly after 2020 turned into 2021, the idea of ââusing a world record for extra motivation came into the picture.
Ayja Bounous, Steve and Suzanne’s daughter, was researching her grandfather’s life – for a biography she was writing about him – and found that there really was a record of “the oldest heli-skiing.” of the world”.
And Grandpa was older than the man holding him.
The Bounous family contacted the people at Guinness to see how we qualified for the record. It turned out that there was a lot of documentation to be done. Suzanne rolled up her sleeves and went through the paperwork. It took a while, the heli-skiing season was drawing to a close, but eventually they were able to set a date to go.
On Tuesday April 5, the Powderbird helicopter took off from its Snowbird helipad and delivered Junior, Steve, Suzanne, Ayja and her sister Tyndall, along with a few friends and photographer Sam Watson, to the top of Twin Peaks.
The hardest part was getting Junior out of the helicopter. At 95, his legs don’t bend like at 35.
âSkiing was the easy part,â he said.
After gently slipping their way across the corn snow in the record books, the group took on another race, another and another. As an added bonus, the helicopter came a long way back, giving Junior a close loop around Mount Timpanogos.
It was more than adequate. In 1961, just 60 years ago, Junior and Maxine, along with Jim McConkey and Elfriede Shane, skied Mount Timpanogos for a Ski Magazine photoshoot (you can see them on the cover of the January 1962 issue ) after being transported to the summit by helicopter.
By 1961, commercial helicopters had barely seen the light of day. It is believed to be the first heli-skiing flight in history.
âBeyond Belief,â was Junior’s description when he landed after his record-breaking flight. âI stand here and I feel so sentimental that it’s almost hard to talk about it. It was such a special day that was never planned or expected.
One that was more about where he had been than what he had just done.
âIt was the most incredible experience watching him ski like this after one of the most tragic events of his life,â said his granddaughter Ayja. âYou could just say he was on cloud nine. We all felt that, just looking at him.
Ayja is sure her grandmother was there too, and as happy as her husband.
âSkiing and the mountains were what they shared from the start,â she said. âI’m sure she was watching from somewhere, delighted to see him bounce back the way he did, do what they both loved so much.
After heliskiing, the new world record holder continued his momentum. Junior skied until May, accumulating 72 days for the year. It wasn’t the 160 days of skiing he averaged over his career, but he has 95.
What’s next on the horizon?
âWell, he might do it again next year,â Steve suggested. âHe could beat his own record. Once on the snow, he is 30 years younger. At least.