68 episodes

Ski Utah's new Last Chair will take you inside Utah's resorts for the story behind the Greatest Snow on Earth®. In a weekly series of audio features, host Tom Kelly will bring you behind the scenes with resort leaders, athletes and fascinating figures who are the stories inside Utah skiing and snowboarding. Whether you're a passionate local snow rider, or a guest to the Utah mountain landscape, you'll learn about mountain life through the stories of the men and women who shape the Ski Utah experience. Each Last Chair episode is 30-40 minutes, with insightful questions and fun anecdotal facts. As a career communicator, Kelly weaves stories with ease bringing listeners inside the mountain tales of Utah skiing and snowboarding.

Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast Ski Utah

    • Sports
    • 3.5 • 6 Ratings

Ski Utah's new Last Chair will take you inside Utah's resorts for the story behind the Greatest Snow on Earth®. In a weekly series of audio features, host Tom Kelly will bring you behind the scenes with resort leaders, athletes and fascinating figures who are the stories inside Utah skiing and snowboarding. Whether you're a passionate local snow rider, or a guest to the Utah mountain landscape, you'll learn about mountain life through the stories of the men and women who shape the Ski Utah experience. Each Last Chair episode is 30-40 minutes, with insightful questions and fun anecdotal facts. As a career communicator, Kelly weaves stories with ease bringing listeners inside the mountain tales of Utah skiing and snowboarding.

    SE5EP10 - Devin Logan & Caroline Claire: Kindred Spirits

    SE5EP10 - Devin Logan & Caroline Claire: Kindred Spirits

    Olympians Devin Logan and Caroline Claire are kindred spirits, finishing each other’s sentences and sharing a common passion for hucking themselves off jumps and poofing through powder pillows in the Little Cottonwood backcountry. So how did the two Long Island girls, seven years apart in age, find each other and make their way to Utah? The duo are now telling their story through the lens of filmmakers Sarah Beam Robbins and Iz La Motte in Kindred, set to premier this fall. Last Chair caught up with them on a bluebird day at Alta to hear their story.

    • 54 min
    SE5:EP9 - Junior Bounous: Living the History of Skiing

    SE5:EP9 - Junior Bounous: Living the History of Skiing

    The red tram pulled out of the station, heading up to Hidden Peak on its seven-minute run. Perched along the front left window was the legendary Junior Bounous, looking down and surveying the ski runs he plotted out 53 seasons ago. From his base at the Lodge at Snowbird, the 98-1/2-year-old Bounous still gets out to Snowbird and Alta two or three days a week. In this historic interview, Ski Utah’s Last Chair spent a day at Snowbird with Bounous, who regaled us with stories of his nearly a century in the sport.

    Born into a fruit-farming family in Provo, he was 11 when he received skis as a present. He soon found his passion. His life chronicles the history of skiing in Utah, from working with Ray Stewart at Timp Haven to his mentorship under the legendary Alf Engen and spending the summer of 1971 designing the runs at Snowbird for visionary Ted Johnson.

    Under the guidance of Alf Engen in the 1940s and ‘50s, Bounous learned how to convey the love of skiing to others. He became transformative as a snowsports educator, helping to standardize teaching in an era where European instructors brought differing ideologies to education. Few have introduced more individuals to the joys of skiing than Junior Bounous. And it was Junior who helped introduce the world to powder skiing.

    There’s a buzz in the tram line when Junior makes his appearance. Knowledgable Snowbird skiers recognize him instantly. And he’s quick to strike up a conversation.
    Atop Hidden Peak, he pauses by the memorial bench dedicated to his ski mate and wife of over 70 years, Maxine. He still soaks in the panoramic view from Mt. Superior across the valley the the terrifying crease of the Pipeline Couloir on Twin Peaks, which he skied with his friend Jim McConkey.

    While recording Last Chair in Bounous room at the Lodge at Snowbird, it was mesmerizing to soak in the memorabilia on the walls. One framed article from SKI Magazine stood out from an early-’60s photo shoot by the legendary Fred Lindholm of Junior, Maxine (she’s the one way out front in the key photo), and friends skiing a massive powder bowl on the flanks of Utah’s Mount Timpanogos. Junior vividly recalls the helicopter dropping them off and then going back to Salt Lake City, leaving them a five-mile hike out after what was a glorious descent.

    Skiing has brought immense happiness to the son of a fruit farmer from Provo. That joy has manifested itself in sharing the sport with others. As we skied down Chip’s Run, Junior had no issue taking the steeper drops versus cat tracks, simply checking surface conditions first. He happily posed for pictures. At one point, a ski patroller jokingly told him to slow down. It’s been 53 years since he built these trails, but you could still see the pride in his eyes. And he never stopped smiling all the way down.

    Linking turns for Ski Utah photographer Chris Pearson, you could hear him singing with the rhythmic, melodic tones of his signature ba-dump … ba-dump … ba-dump, ba-dump, ba-dump with each pole plant.

    If you want to bring some simple joy to your own skiing, listen to this episode of Last Chair. This is why we started skiing in the first place.

    Here’s a sampling of skiing according to Junior:

    The Origins of Powder Skiing
    “Powder skiing really did start at Alta. However, we saw in European films as skiers going through powder in the early days, and most of it was a straight line and very little turning. Alta became known for skiing waist-deep powder and making turns. Now, the evolution took time because we were on stiff, narrow skis. Today, there are thousands of skiers with powder snow skis that were not in existence then.”

    How Junior Was Tabbed to Design Snowbird
    “Ted Johnson and I were friends from Alta's early beginning. He had asked me if I wanted to invest with him, and I said, ‘No, I don't have $20,000.’ I was in the national gelande contest at Alta, and Ted was there. And he said, ‘By the way, Junior, could we get yo

    • 1 hr 14 min
    SE5:EP8 - OurSundays: Finding the Joy in Skiing

    SE5:EP8 - OurSundays: Finding the Joy in Skiing

    A big part of the history of skiing is the fellowship of ski clubs. And before you write it off as a thing of the past, meet the OurSundays Ski & Board Club. This started out to be a podcast on diversity, exploring OurSundays’ affiliation with the National Brotherhood of Snowsports. But it quickly became a celebration of why we all love to ski and ride – a culture shared by all. 

    Domeda Duncan and Mark Giles are two transplants to Utah. Domeda skied as a child in Detroit. The closest Mark came to the sport was on a jet ski in Florida. But as new Utahns, they both wanted to explore winter in the mountains on skis. After all, wasn’t that what Utah was about?

    Ski Utah’s Discover Winter program provided that opportunity.

    Born out of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, Discover Winter is now in its third season. Ski Utah made a unique decision to focus its diversity program on adults. Domeda and Mark are prime examples of how it has worked. 

    If you’re a longtime skier or rider, chances are that as much as you love the sport, there are aspects that you take for granted. Hang out with the OurSundays gang, and they’ll remind you that, at its core, skiing and snowboarding are about social engagement. It’s the sizzle of the bacon alongside the buttermilk pancakes in the Brighton parking lot as the first rays of sun glint off Milly. Or it’s karaoke after a joyous day on the slopes. As Domeda says, it brings out the best in all of us.

    The new OurSundays club is now a part of the National Brotherhood of Snowsports, a nationwide organization of Black ski clubs that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Formed by Hall of Famers Ben Finley and Art Clay, it blossomed over the years with its Black Summit, widely known as the most fun week in skiing. Domeda’s own roots in the sport trace back to the Jim Dandy Ski Club, one of the founding programs of NBS.

    Industry leaders, like Ski Utah, have long grappled with how to make the sport more inviting for people of color. We could all learn a few things from OurSundays. Listen in to this Last Chair conversation with Mark Giles and Domeda Duncan. It’s an enlightening look at why we all love the culture of skiing and snowboarding. 

    And if you run into Domeda on the slopes, ask her for that buttermilk pancake recipe. Now settle in for this episode of Last Chair.

    • 51 min
    SE5:EP7 - 2034 Winter Games: Will the Olympics Return to Utah?

    SE5:EP7 - 2034 Winter Games: Will the Olympics Return to Utah?

    The spirit of the 2002 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City still resonates across the state. This July, there will be more cause for excitement as it’s anticipated that the International Olympic Committee may name Salt Lake City-Utah as the 2034 host for the Winter Games. To learn more, Last Chair gathered in the Governor’s Mansion to hear from Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, and SLC-UT 2034 Board Chair Catherine Raney Norman.

    One of the key assets of Utah’s candidacy is its robust winter environment as home to the Greatest Snow on Earth™. Every venue from 2002, across all sports, has been in continual use. Resorts, including Park City Mountain, Deer Valley Resort, and Snowbasin Resort, are expected back again.

    Through its candidacy, Utah has enjoyed strong public support – over 80%! Elected officials from small venue communities, up through the state legislature and governor, have forged a strong partnership to bring the Games back, with the accompanying benefits of bringing communities together.

    Both Governor Cox and Mayor Mendenhall have been visionaries who are looking to the benefits to their state and community. Governor Cox grew up on a farm in Fairview, Utah, and talks about the small ski hill near his home. Mayor Mendenhall reflects back on her memories of growing up near Little Cottonwood Canyon and working the switchboard at Snowbird. Both are now outdoor enthusiasts who embody the spirit of the state.

    With a background in air quality and environment advocacy work, the mayor started as an activist and learned quickly that she could be more impactful as an elected official. After six years on the City Council, she ran for mayor and won. She was just inaugurated for a second term. “Being the mayor is just the greatest gig – especially in Salt Lake City in the state of Utah at this time. We have so much good happening. And the Olympics in 2034 is one of those big things.”

    Now in the third year of his first term, Governor Cox has announced he’ll run again in 2024. “It's been a wild ride from the farm to the governor's mansion in Salt Lake City. But we feel very fortunate to be able to serve the state.”

    Catherine Raney Norman is a four-time Olympic speed skater who still holds some U.S. records. She grew up in Wisconsin, but has long lived in Utah. She and her family are enthusiastic skiers. In her role as board chair, she has brought a distinct athlete vision to her leadership.

    Here’s a sampling from a riveting conversation on Last Chair with Utah leaders about the benefits of the Games and how they view the importance to the state and its communities.

    Governor Cox, thank you for the invitation to the mansion. Tell us a bit about it?
    This is the Kearns mansion – Thomas Kearns was a young man who came out here to seek his fortune. He hit the motherlode – a silver mine in Park City. He came down with his amazing wife, he married a seamstress from Park City, and they built the first orphanage in Utah, which is amazing – St. Ann's orphanage, same architect, beautiful building. Then, he helped build the Cathedral of the Madeleine. They were so generous. This house was built in 1902.

    Catherine, you not only competed as an Olympic athlete, but you also rose up early on as a leader amongst your peers.
    I've spent a lot of my pre-post and athletic career advocating for athletes across the Olympic and Paralympic Movement, and have been so fortunate to stay involved in sport in many different ways, from coaching to administration to fundraising, and to now being able to help serve our community and our people here in Utah as the chair of the Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games.

    Mayor, there are 11 Utah ski resorts within an hour’s drive of downtown Salt Lake City. What do you see as the assets of your city as a ski town?
    I think it's something you have to experience. People come here to ski, and they end up not leaving. They say,

    • 47 min
    SE5:EP6 - Craig Gordon: Helping Others Understand the Danger

    SE5:EP6 - Craig Gordon: Helping Others Understand the Danger

    The Christmas blizzard of 2003 still ranks as one of the biggest winter storms in Utah’s history – legendary enough to have its own Wikipedia page. It dumped four feet of snow in the valley and upwards of twice that in the mountains, closing resorts. But it also brought tragedy. On Dec. 26, 2003 an entire mountainside of snow broke off the flanks of Mt. Timpanogos, roaring down out of the clouds towards a dozen skiers, riders, hikers, and snowshoers. Five were buried, with three not making it home that evening.

    Just three years into his forecaster career with the Utah Avalanche Center, skier Craig Gordon was deeply troubled by what he had seen. The victims simply didn’t know that their playground for the day, just above the Aspen Grove trailhead, was in a massive avalanche run out. So he decided to do something about it, creating the now ubiquitous educational program Know Before You Go.

    What Gordon and others realized was that we all live amidst snow-filled mountains, but there was no way to get the message of snow safety to youth and teens. In its first season, Know Before You Go reached over 10,000 students in local middle and high schools across Utah. Today, it’s the staple introductory snow safety program not just in Utah but across the nation and even the world.

    It’s just one of the many programs Utah Avalanche Center manages to help keep us safe. Whether you’re an avid backcountry enthusiast or limit yourself to in-bounds action, UAC has education and information to help keep you safe.

    A New Jersey native who found his way out to Utah to attend college and soon found himself working in snow safety at Brighton and as a heli-ski guide. He joined UAC in 2000. Today, he’s part of a deeply experienced team and is known around the state as the guy who makes avalanche safety education fun.

    This episode of Last Chair is quintessential Craig Gordon – complete with stories, humor and emotion. Dig in … it’s a fun one! Here’s just a sampling.

    Craig, how do you view the services that Utah Avalanche Center offers?
    We're best known for our forecasting – we're your one-stop shop, Utah Avalanche Center.org. But forecasting is just a segment of education. And to me, really, the forecasts are an educational tool. Any time I have the opportunity to share knowledge and to throw an anecdote or two and maybe throw some institutional knowledge and wisdom in, along with some tongue-in-cheek humor, yeah, now, this is sort of where the rubber hits the road. To me, it's all about education. And the more well-informed our user public is, the more they can get out of the Utah Avalanche Center forecast. The forecast is really designed in sort of a tiered approach, from beginner to intermediate, novice to expert to uber expert. You can gain something out of reading the forecast day-to-day and reading it each day. You get to know the characters in the snowpack. And you know, the last thing you want to do is open up the middle of this book, this novel and try to figure out who the characters are. So I always advise people, even on the days that you're not planning on going out, definitely take heed, check out the forecast, and see what the snow is doing. And then, when you do get a day off, or you're making your travel plans, you'll be that much better informed. So, really, to me, education is where the rubber hits the road. For us, that's the big ticket item. And that is not only in our forecasts, that is in our outreach and our classes, our backcountry 101, our basic avalanche classes, our rescue classes. It all revolves around education.

    The Christmas storm of 2003 brought snow, but it also brought tragedy.
    Yeah, oh my gosh, that time frame right around Christmas of 2003 brought an epic storm by all standards – historic storm rolls bigger than last year. As a matter of fact, this the Christmas storm of 2003 has its own Wikipedia reference. The storm rolls in right before Christmas and just blasts the Salt Lake Vall

    • 51 min
    SE5:EP5 - Evan Thayer: Bringing Us Utah Powder

    SE5:EP5 - Evan Thayer: Bringing Us Utah Powder

    It’s early season at Alta. OpenSnow forecaster Evan Thayer has left his meteorological screens in the hotel and is bashing his way down some fresh powder under the Collins chair. Life is good. If there is anyone we tens of thousands of Utah skiers owe a ‘thank you’ to, it would be Thayer, a weather nerd who hadn’t really planned his career path this way, but is thankful his former powder alert email list has turned into life as Utah’s snow forecaster.

    The tools we have today to forecast weather are quite remarkable. The data availability and the scientific knowledge to analyze it are stunning. And that’s what Thayer does every morning, beginning at 4:00 a.m., crunching numbers, studying maps and putting out a meaningful forecast by the time we’re packing the SUV with skis at 7:00 a.m.

    Thayer is making his third appearance on Last Chair here in season 5. He was the episode 3 guest in the debut season of the podcast back in December 2019.

    In this episode, Thayer dives back into his past, growing up with a passion for weather going to CU-Boulder to study and ski, and finding his way to the Greatest Snow on Earth here in Utah.

    It’s an insightful episode that explores his past and the popular weather app OpenSnow.
    Well, Evan, how was your birthday at Alta?
    Every early season I like to do a little staycation in Little Cottonwood Canyon. So I had a little birthday staycation at Gold Miner's Daughter. I knew there was a big storm coming. I knew I could get a room for a reasonable rate. And rather than deal with getting up early and getting up the canyon, it's kind of nice to wake up to fresh snow up there in Little Cottonwood Canyon, roll out of bed, get some breakfast, and just trundle out to the lifts.

    Were you a weather nerd as a kid?
    I was always a weather nerd. I was the kid who, back in the days prior to having internet, would set a cooking timer so I could run inside from playing with my friends and see the local on the eights on the old Weather Channel because that's when you could see the local radar.

    You were in the early group of forecasters when OpenSnow was formed. How has it evolved?
    It's grown a lot. It started as mostly three regions, and now we have, I don't know, 15 to 20 forecasters around the world writing daily snow forecasts. We've grown the product itself to have all sorts of different maps and overlays and different features you can use. Last year we launched Forecast Anywhere, which was a huge undertaking, but it allows a user to click on any point in the world and get the same quality forecast that you would get for, say, Park City or Alta. For any point in the world. You can see an hour-by-hour forecast for the next ten days.

    How has that expanded the usage?
    We have evolved as an app where I think traditionally it was all about powder – it was all about skiing. And if you ask me what I care about, what's the most important to me? I'll still say powder and skiing. But people are using the app now for all sorts of different things in the summer. They're using it for their hiking trips. We have trail estimated trail conditions that tell them whether it's a muddy trail, a snowpacked trail, or a dry trail. So if you're planning biking trips, hiking trips or backpacking trips, you can use it for that. We have smoke overlays. So in wildfire season, and how that's going to affect the air quality. We are working to forecast that to make sure you have, again, all the information you need to get out and enjoy nature.

    OK, what about the whale?
    That's a great question. The whale is unknowable. All I know is that they installed that on April 1st, 2022, after that moment, it started snowing and it felt like it never stopped. So I can't explain it. So I'm not going to question it. I'm just going to accept that there's a higher power in that whale and just go with it.

    How can you take advantage of modern forecasting along with the depth of knowledge of weather gurus like Evan Thayer? Take a list

    • 36 min

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5
6 Ratings

6 Ratings

David in Seattle ,

Worth hearing

Definitely an interesting show about the Great Salt Lake. Good interview & guest.

Park City ROCK ,

great insight into a man with a passion for the sport

Tom does such a great job interviewing people and knows how to get the best out of those he he is chatting with... I learned so much about John Cumming as a complete human being, and was so impressed with his passion for nature, the sport, and his deep feelings of stewardship as an employer.. my family has gained much joy from John’s efforts, our 40 years in park City have been great because of his works... may John continue to maintain that work / life balance and thanks Tom for another inspiring podcast

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