Maxine Bounous, one of the first American ski instructors, dies at age 94
(Photo courtesy of the Bounous family) Maxine Bounous skis Alta in this 1955 photograph. Bounous, a Provo native, became one of the first women in the United States to be certified as a ski instructor. She died June 23, 2020 at age 94.
Maggie Loring fondly recalls a cover of an early edition of Ski Magazine she has hanging in her office. On it, Junior and Maxine Bounous are skiing down the face of Mount Timpanogos. It had to be one of the first descents of the second-highest peak in the Wasatch Mountains and commemorates perhaps the world’s first heli-skiing expedition. Still, that wasn’t why it was preserved in a corner of Loring’s mind.
What Loring remembers is that Maxine, who stood just under 5 feet tall, was in the lead.
“I like that image of her kind of being in front but nobody really noticing,” said Loring, the first female ski school director in Snowbird’s history.
Maxine Bounous was never afraid to be the first. She was among the first females to graduate from BYU, she was the first female employee at Ironton Steel Corporation, and she became one of the first ski instructors, male or female, in the United States. The Provo native and resident was also a champion of women’s rights and continued to push boundaries almost right up to her death on June 23 at the age of 94.
(Photo courtesy of the Bounous family) Maxine Bounous, right, and her husband Junior, left, are shown in this undated photograph. Bounous, a Provo native, became one of the first women in the United States to be certified as a ski instructor. She died June 23, 2020 at age 94.
“I do remember, vividly, watching her and Junior ski a steep groomed run at Alta just a couple of years ago,” Nathan Rafferty, Ski Utah’s president and CEO, said in an email to the Tribune. “I was watching from the lift and thought it was pure magic. Must have easily been 150 [years] between the two of them.”
Maxine found her two true loves at almost the same time. While a student at BYU in 1947, she and a girlfriend decided they wanted to learn how to ski. So, they joined the Timpanogos Mountain Ski Club, of which Junior was also a member. He offered to give them lessons at Timp Haven, now known as Sundance. As family legend goes, Maxine didn’t have ski boots, so Junior lent her his and taught her in his socks in the snow.
Maxine received less recognition throughout her life than Junior, who was inducted into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1998. Yet she hardly lived in her husband’s shadow.
(Photo courtesy of Scott Nelson | Snowbird) Maxine Bounous, a Provo native, became one of the first women in the United States to be certified as a ski instructor. The BYU alumna nicknamed "Fast Max" was one of 10 "Outstanding Woman in Skiing" inducted into the University of Utah Marriott Library Ski Archives in 2004. She died June 23, 2020 at age 94.
At Timp Haven, she developed a fifth-grade learn-to-ski program for Utah County schools. It served as a precursor to Ski Utah’s Passport program for fifth and sixth graders statewide. She also received her level III ski instructor certification, where her gentle demeanor and small stature made her especially effective with fearful students.
And of course she could ski. Her nickname was “Fast Max,” but she was known as much for her grace as her speed.
“She skis anywhere, anytime, in any condition,” Joann Givan, who taught skiing alongside Maxine at Snowbird when it opened in 1971, said in a 2001 interview with BYU’s The Daily Universe.
Maxine was one of 10 honored as an “Outstanding Woman in Skiing” by the University of Utah Marriott Library Ski Archives in 2004. That same year, she was also among the honorees at the annual North America Veteran Ski Instructors Reunion at Deer Valley.
“She’s sort of one of those gals that you just go, ‘Yeah, we’re standing on her shoulders.’ You know, those of us who are trying to make it in the ski industry and just as women in general,” Loring said. “She was capable and she just pulled it off and she just, you know, was able to do things and start paving the way for the rest of us.”
Maxine was buried at Provo Cemetery on Monday. She is survived by her husband Junior, also 94; their two sons, Barry and Steve Bounous; their wives, Debra and Suzanne; and six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. The family expects to hold a celebration of life in her honor in the mountains, “the place she loved most,” according to her obituary
, at a future date.