Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast

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Bundle up for the Last Chair Podcast, highlighting the best snow on earth and Utah's ski resort industry. Host Tom Kelly sits down with resort management in order to give you and insiders look into what is needed to create the best skiing experiences anywhere.

Episode Date
SE3:EP15 - Ruby Forsyth: Finding Joy in Skiing

When Utah nurse Melody Forsyth learned her baby-to-be had Down syndrome, she and her family thought it would change their lives. And it did - for the better. Ruby, now six, has led the Forsyth family into a world of outdoor recreation, including skiing. Watching Ruby ride the Chickadee lift at Snowbird and ski down with her Wasatch Adaptive Sports guide is a life-changing experience seeing the joy that skiing brings to this young girl and her family.

Before Ruby was born, Melody, her husband Vic, and three children weren’t exactly outdoor enthusiasts. But upon learning her soon-to-be-born Ruby would have Down syndrome, the family felt they would lose the future possibility for outdoor recreation. So with Melody pregnant, the family took off into mother nature, visiting parks, hiking and exploring Utah’s mountains and deserts.

When Ruby was born a few months later, they never stopped. Today, they’re often tabbed as Utah’s ‘Adventure Family,’ on a mission to explore every national park in America and finding a passion for outdoor adventure around Ruby.

Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition that impacts an estimated one in 700 newborns in America. Our genes are responsible for inherited traits, which are carried in chromosomes. Normally, each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. Those with Down syndrome have a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. The impact of that varies from individual to individual.

At first blush, you might think Down syndrome would be limiting. But when you meet Ruby you quickly learn that she is a young girl on a mission! At just six, she navigates the rental shop with ease and knows exactly where she wants to stand in the bus to get the best view. One can only imagine what she’ll experience when she works her way up to the Snowbird tram!

Ruby’s genesis to snow was a product of the newfound active lifestyle of her family, led by Melody. But it also came to fruition through Wasatch Adaptive Sports at Snowbird, a program that has been introducing aspiring outdoor enthusiasts since 1977. According to program director Eileen May-West, children with Down syndrome are regular participants in the program.

What’s so heartwarming about Ruby’s tale is that it isn’t just HER story. It’s the story of an entire family and about the love they have been spreading to motivate others. What Melody thought would be a story of limitations, actually turned out to be a story of possibilities and access. It’s a story about the opportunities we all have as humans to enjoy our world.

When you see the smile on Ruby’s face as she comes tearing down Chickadee, you are reminded of the joy that sliding on snow brings to all of us.

Here’s a preview of the conversations. Listen in to the full Last Chair podcast to learn more. 

Eileen May-West, Wasatch Adaptive Sports

You really cover a wide gamut here at Wasatch Adaptive Sports, don’t you?

Our youngest student since I've been here was two and our oldest is 98. Yah, we serve anyone with an adaptive need. A lot of times that is physical mobility, requiring adaptive equipment. But a lot of times it's someone with Down's syndrome or autism who just needs some specialized instruction or a big bag of tricks from their instructor to have them find success in skiing. We have a lot of students with Down syndrome and people of all abilities, ages and really scenarios that we teach to ski. Ruby is one of our family here and we're happy to have her.

With that wide range of individuals, what are the common motivators?

I think the number one tool any instructor, especially in adaptive, can have is fun and being able to know your student. So it’s getting to know Ruby - what she likes, whether it's Frozen or whatever characters are fun things that motivate her. And at the end of the day, just making sure whatever she did, whether it was straight gliding down the magic carpet that she wants to come back and do more, and over time it might take longer, but we can really usually get anyone there.

How important a role do parents play?

A lot of times parents are involved, just like Melody is, especially with kids. You know, no one knows that kid better than their parents do. So we definitely lean on them to help us, give us tips that they've already figured out over six and seven years. But, at the end of the day, the biggest feedback is smiling. And if we're moving away from smiling, we go back to where we can find it.

“At the end of the day, the biggest feedback is smiling.”

- Eileen May-West, Wasatch Adaptive Sports

What motivates you and your instructors?

It's the joy we all feel on the mountain. Everyone on our staff and within our organization feels that joy. It's added so much to my life and everyone should have the opportunity to access that. And that's really the biggest piece of meaning for me is every single person should be able to enjoy why people live in Utah.

Melody Forsyth, Ruby’s mom

So, Ruby looks like she’s pretty comfortable on skis?

Yeah, she's been doing awesome. This is her second season with Wasatch Adaptive and she's been doing just awesome and blossoming into a little skier.

What was your perception when you heard that your unborn child had Down syndrome?

I didn't know anybody with Down syndrome. Our perception was that we wouldn't be able to do anything as a family. I thought that Down syndrome would prevent us from doing anything fun or going anywhere, that we would be stuck at home with a child that had a disability. Obviously, you know, everything has changed for us. It changed our whole outlook on life. It changed our whole lifestyle. It changed the way we live, the way we plan family activities, the way we spend time as a family. It was just completely a total mind shift for us.

How does Down syndrome impact Ruby?

Everyone with Down syndrome is different. Somebody once said, ‘if you know somebody with Down syndrome, you know, one person with Down syndrome because there's just a wide difference in their abilities. Ruby is still non-verbal at this time, meaning she makes noises, she can make sounds. She has a couple of words. Luckily, one of her words is mom. So she will say mom, but really doesn't communicate any other way except through a communication device that she will use. She can point to pictures. As a family, we kind of just know what she wants. We know she'll go get it, but she can't actually communicate.

How did she get started skiing?

I just saw that there were programs like Wasatch Adaptive for people with disabilities and we'd already started doing other activities where we were surprised by what she was able to do. So it was kind of like, ‘well, why stop there?’ Let's try this out just because we'd heard really good things from other people that had been involved or had been teachers here involved with the program at one point in their life. And they're like, It's such an amazing program. And they just really get the kids. They work with them so well that it was like, well, let's give it a try. Let's see how she does.

With your family’s newfound love of the outdoors, Utah is a pretty great place to be, isn’t it?

We travel all over the state because there are just so many cool things to do as a family. You can put in a ton of activity level or just have fun exploring. You're just letting kids hang out, just doing whatever they're doing. There are so many things for families to be able to do and get out there and spend time together. That's our bonding, that's our activity - what we plan together as a family. It brings us together.

Melody, as a mom, what has Ruby brought to your life and that of your family?

She's made me a stronger person and has opened the world to me. She has taught me to not put limits on myself as a plus size person ... I think I still … it's like, that's why I didn't ski either, because I'm like, fat people don't ski because that was the narrative. I told myself, ‘that's not for me. People my size don't do this.’ And so as I saw her doing it, I'm like, ‘well, I don't want her to grow up feeling that way or ever thinking, ‘oh, because I have Down syndrome, I can't do this.’ I want her to try things, see if she likes it, see if she can do it. Because she set that example for me, I'm like, ‘well, now, I can't set these limits on myself and I need to push myself as well. Let's give it a try.’

Ruby’s eyes lit up as she rode the Chickadee lift and gazed out across the valley to Mt. Superior. A smile crossed the face of her instructor Catherine from Wasatch Adaptive Sports. But, most of all, joy emanated from the heart of Melody, Ruby’s mom, down below thinking about the joy that skiing - and all that Ruby does - has brought to their family. 

Listen in to Last Chair to hear more about Ruby and how she’s changing not only her life but all those around her.

Wasatch Adaptive Sports

Since 1977, Wasatch Adaptive Sports at Snowbird has been bringing the joy of skiing and snowboarding to children, adults and veterans - and their families! Its programs empower students to achieve their unique goals in recreation while maximizing independence and providing access to the physical, mental, and social benefits associated with movement. Its programs require no initial fees, with full or partial scholarships available for those in need. Wasatch Adaptive Sports is based in Creekside at Snowbird, with a summer program based out of Murray.

Apr 12, 2022
SE3:EP14 - SOS Outreach: Diversity and Inclusion in Sport

Visit any western resort town and you’ll find a robust LatinX community, sometimes making up 30% of the population. It’s a robust part of community culture. But oftentimes, it’s a segment that doesn’t ski. SOS Outreach, a nonprofit serving 15 resort and urban communities nationwide including Utah, is seeking to change that. Today, Last Chair will visit an SOS Outreach ski day at Park City Mountain to speak with leaders, mentors and participants about the engaging program.

SOS Outreach was formed nearly 30 years ago and has operated in Utah since 2015. Its mission is to bring together underserved youth under a mentorship program and get them on snow, with supporting partnerships for equipment and lifts. And while the program introduces youth to the joy of the sport, it also brings life lessons of character and values.

Central to its cause is inclusivity - ensuring that underserved youth in resort towns have a pathway to the sport. It’s especially important for the LatinX community where their parents and most of their peers have little or no past engagement in the sport.

SOS Outreach event manager Abbey Eddy recalls a story of a 12 year old Mexican boy who was driving with his father and admiring the mountains. “‘Those mountains, they’re not for us, son,’” said Eddy of the father’s reply. “You just hear that and you realize that there's a whole population moving here for a different reason than most people think. And traditionally, like myself, it's white people that move here to ski. But there's a large population. It's about 20 percent of our Park City community that moves, not necessarily to ski, but to work and for other opportunities that primarily is our LatinX population.” 

On the March Saturday, Last Chair visited an SOS Outreach program at Park City Mountain, it was an industry day where representatives of the mountain and other businesses were there to introduce youth to potential career opportunities in the sport they loved. Earlier in the season, Olympians Steven Nyman and Brita Sigourney were a big hit with SOS participants.

At the base of the First Time lift, the group of around 100 skiers, riders and mentors gathered for a briefing. Some of it was the logistics of the day. But more was focused on life skills and leadership as program manager Palmer Daniels deftly brought the group together with volunteer mentors to talk about values.

This episode of Last Chair takes us inside a segment of our population that is a vital part of our resort communities. Listen in to learn more about SOS Outreach from leader Abbey Eddy, and especially mentor Justin and program participant E. And as you listen, imagine the big smiles on their faces as they headed up the mountain.

Here’s a sample of the conversations. Listen in to the full Last Chair podcast to learn more. <<LINK>>

Abbey Eddy, Individual Giving & Events Manager 

We ski because it’s fun. But SOS Outreach brings more than fun, doesn’t it?

It's really an incredible organization that we can have this national reach with the same mission across the board to make sure that we're increasing diversity in our snowsports communities, increasing access and also being really intentional with our programming and our curriculum so that we're helping kids to transition the life skills that they naturally learn from being on the mountain into using them into their everyday lives and strengthening our mountain communities as a result.

What’s fascinating to me is that SOS Outreach works in both mountain communities and metro areas.

It's an incredible scene. We have these more rural mountain community programs, but then our urban locations are powerful and impactful. It's really a different challenge. In mountain communities, kids are looking at the mountains every day but might not be able to access them. And then in a place like Detroit, you're working with kids that have never seen skis before. And so opening their eyes to even the sport of skiing and snowboarding, it's opening their world into something totally new, different, exciting and impactful.

How is this population different within the community?

For a lot of our Latinx families that have moved here - their parents don't ski. Then you don't have that same comfort level with the sport of walking through the village. How do you carry your skis and what equipment do you need? There's a lot that goes into skiing. It's more than just having a lift ticket, but having to have all the right clothes and the right boots and socks and. And again, this clunky gear and how you're managing all of those different pieces just to get to the base of the lift can be challenging. And when your parents aren't helping you with that process of getting from the parking lot to the lift because they haven't done it before. We're really intentional with making sure that our mentors and adults and volunteers from the community are helping provide that kind of coaching and assistance to the youth so that they feel more comfortable and confident when they are putting their skis on at the base of the lift there.

One word to describe what SOS Outreach means to the community?

That's a really hard one, can I use three words? One phrase: spread the love. We say it at every ride day. It really encompasses what we do and the impact that we have.

Justin, SOS Outreach alumni and current member

Justin is a first generation college student in his family, attending the University of Utah majoring in biology. He’s been skiing for a decade and now serves as a mentor for youth.

What was the thing you first loved about skiing?

I enjoyed the speed mostly. I'm a little speedster. I like to go down the slopes - I'm obviously careful with other people around me - but I like to go fast.

What does it mean to you to be a first generation skier in your family?

It's a privilege to have the opportunity to ski. It just gives you the freedom to do whatever you want. It relieves stress from your work, house and school. It's awesome.

What motivated you to become a mentor?

I became a mentor because I wanted to have an impactful meaning to my community. Mostly, my Latin American friends, I just want to show them that you can totally have fun. And I know life might be stressful for your parents and yourself, but it's good to go outside and enjoy.

What does skiing bring to you?

It's my only sport that I really love and enjoy. And that brings me happiness and joy. It's fun to hang out with your friends when you're skiing, too.

E, SOS Outreach Skier

E is a junior at Park City High School who has been skiing since fifth grade. Her big smile and joyous approach to skiing is contagious within the group.

E, how did you get started skiing?

SOS was one of the ways, back then when I was in fifth grade. I didn't have the opportunity or enough money to actually go into skiing. But SOS helped with that and it's been affordable. I have been able to go out and ski even more than I would have had.

Did your family ski?

I am the first person in my family to ski. They kind of find it cool, like they kind of want to try it out now because they see how much I loved it. But when it first came about, they were like, ‘oh, it's so weird. Why do you want to do that?’

What have you learned in SOS Outreach programs?

Oh, not only are people there to help mentor you, but they help you be safe, they teach you all these valuable lessons about how to be a great person overall. And it's like community service. It's really big for them because I wouldn't find the essence of community service unless it was like SOS trying to get me to reach out for that.

Do you remember your first black diamond run?

Oh, I was so scared my first time! Like, I looked down and I was like, ‘oh no, I can't do this. I can't do this. Like, this is too much for me.’ But one of the mentors with me guided me down the mountain. ‘It's going to be alright, if you fall, it's going to be OK, and no one's going to judge you for falling.’ And after that, I was kind of like, ‘OK, maybe it's not that bad.’

How has skiing helped you as a person?

Yeah, it's a lot. I feel it does talk about a lot of my personality or who I have become as a person. Skiing has made me open up more to people. Skiing has showed me it's OK to be afraid of something. It's OK to know where your limits are, but don't also be afraid to push them sometimes and be a better person at that.

Abbey Eddy

Before heading up the mountain, how do you engage your message of personal character and values?

We do what we call a Circle of Love. And in that Circle of Love, we talk about our core values of the day. Today's core value is wisdom. And so we share opportunities of making sure that kids see examples of wisdom that they can share with their groups and then just trying to get everyone hyped up and excited. And again, remember, they're part of this SOS community when they're out there and that they know that this is a place for them to really be intentional with creating that inclusive environment. and that Circle of Love does that. 

What you see on an SOS Outreach ski day are a lot of smiles - from the young adults from the LatinX community learning a new sport to the volunteer mentors giving their time. As SOS’ Abbey Eddy says, it’s all about ‘Spreading the Love.’ Listen in to learn about SOS Outreach and the impact it’s having on ski towns. 

SOS Outreach

SOS Outreach believes that no matter what social, societal, or economic barriers exist - that every child deserves the opportunity to thrive. Today, SOS Outreach is celebrating over 25 years of pairing youth with mentors to engage them in skiing and riding while, at the same time, teaching them valuable life skills and values. SOS Outreach has programs in 15 communities nationwide - both resort towns like Park City and urban centers including Detroit, Portland and more. One of the keys to SOS Outreach’s success has been the thousands of mentors who volunteer to help provide a personal experience in the mountains for youth.

Apr 01, 2022
SE3:EP13 - Bill Jensen: New Look at Sundance

Visitors to Sundance Mountain Resort this winter have found a wonderful new experience at one of Utah’s great hidden gems. Working with the experienced Sundance team, legendary ski industry leader Bill Jensen has helped them transform the resort with new lifts, terrain, snowmaking and much more. Jensen, a longtime visionary who has led some of North America’s most notable resorts, talked to Ski Utah’s Last Chair about his storied career and the fun he’s having coaching the team at Sundance.

After stewarding Sundance for over a half-century, film legend Robert Redford sold his interest in December 2020 after carefully curating potential buyers to ensure his legacy would remain. The new investors included Broadreach Capital Partners and Cedar Capital Partners. But what was most important for skiers and riders was the inclusion of Jensen as a partner.

While he didn’t discover skiing until he was 19 in southern California, Jensen quickly grew passionate about the sport, starting his career at Mammoth Mountain as a liftie. In the decades since then he’s hopscotched around in leadership roles from Vail to Whistler to Telluride and Intrawest. In 2019, he was inducted into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.

In his new role, he fell in love with Sundance the day he hiked up to the top of Ray’s Lift and then up to Mandan Summit. His vision came clear in an instant when he soaked in the view of Mt. Timpanogos from Mandan.

This winter skiers were treated to a host of positive upgrades:

  • The new high-speed Outlaw Express taking skiers from base to Mandan Summit in just seven minutes.
  • New beginner and intermediate terrain off Mandan offering stunning new views and options. Check out Broadway!
  • A new beginner area with three magic carpets. 
  • A new return lift, Stairway, from the back mountain along with a new run allowing Bear Claw to base skiing or riding.
  • The new Lookout restaurant with stunning views of Timp from the base.
  • New snow guns as part of an upgraded snowmaking system, including a water holding pond.

While he’s been the top executive of the biggest ski resort companies in North America, he remains a true mountain guy always anxious to take visitors up on the mountain. Here are a few teasers from the interview. Check out the full conversation on Last Chair, available through all podcast platforms.

Bill, you had a bit of a non-traditional introduction to skiing.

Unfortunately, later than most people I know. Born in Hawaii and grew up in Southern California. When I was 19, for some reason I walked into a Sports Ltd. store in Woodland hills. They were showing the K2 Performers video. I saw skiing for the first time and was fascinated. I just went, ‘wow, this is incredible.’ So I went skiing that winter one day, and that was it.

I’ll bet you were pretty excited to get a job as a liftie?

It just connects you to people, and, candidly, it was fun! So that's where it all started. It was all happenstance. I had no idea that a ski area was even a business. I just saw it as some great recreational fun pursuit. And I just - I fell in love. You know, I always say, I love skiing, but I became passionate about the ski industry and the business and that's where things unfolded.

You’ve lived in some great ski towns: Mammoth, Sun Valley, Whistler, Vail, Breckenridge. What has attracted you to those towns?

In small towns, you get to know a lot of people. And I also like the fact that people depend on each other, whether it was helping them split their firewood or snow removal or whatever. You built relationships and,in ski towns, there's a common denominator that everybody loves snow and they love sliding on snow, whether they snowboard or ski now. But, you know, I just felt very comfortable in that environment. Living in a ski town, to me, just fit my ... who I was and my persona. I really like small mountain communities.

What did it mean to be honored in the Hall of Fame?

It's touching. It's gratifying. It wasn't something that you aspire to. I really believe in the sport. I believe that the skier is important and I've worked hard over my career to mentor people and bring new people into the business and see their careers grow. And that has been the most fulfilling part of my career.

When you visited Sundance in 2020, what stood out to you?

You know the word, and I don't want it to be overused, but just the sense of arrival and walking through the base - there's something magical about this resort and part of it is the environment it sits in, Mount Timp and the views. It is truly one of very few unique ski areas that have this setting. And because it was Robert Redford's business, it really was a family business, is what I would call it. And you can sense that in the culture, the staff and the people who are here. My sense is everyone feels a bit of a sense of ownership of Sundance and how it's played a role in their lives.

What was the vision for the new alignment of Outlaw Express to Mandan Summit?

When you're on the top of Mandan, it feels like you can just reach out and touch it (Timpanogos). It made a lot of sense for us to actually implement that lift alignment and put it all together. It was a bit more expensive than just putting something back in the place of Ray's lift. But I think for the long term and summer and everything else, it was the right decision. I think the view of Timp from the top of Mandan is probably the signature view!

As a resort leader over many years, any memorable powder stories?

So, Whistler Blackcomb in 2010 at the Olympics. One of the sayings in the ski industry is if you want it to snow, hold it downhill. It snowed to beat the band and the downhill was canceled. And up on the high alpine, I'm not exaggerating, there was 30 plus inches of fresh snow. And because the Olympic Committee was controlling access, there were very few people there.

And as the head of Whistler-Blackcomb at the time, you can be sure he was there!

Bill Jensen may be new to Utah, but he does have a favorite Utah craft beer! Learn about that and more in a fascinating discussion with one of America’s visionary ski leaders about his newfound passion working with the team at Sundance. And while he’s going to leave it to the Sundance staff to announce future plans, he at least gives us a few hints. Take a listen!

Chad Linebaugh: Blending Art, Nature and Skiing at Sundance Mountain Resort

Learn more about Sundance in this earlier episode from 2020 with President Chad Linebaugh.

When you look at Sundance Mountain Resort, you need to view it as much more than a ski area. Today, Robert Redford’s Sundance is a wonderful blend of art, nature and skiing. Sundance may be a small ski area, but it skis big. President and General Manager Chad Linebaugh will take you on a tour of his favorite Sundance runs in his conversation with host Tom Kelly, plus some little known facts about the famous actor.

Mar 14, 2022
SE3:EP12 - Lexi Dowdall: Utah Snow in Watercolors

Utah’s 15 resorts paint a majestic portrait amidst the winter landscape. So what if someone painted them all, with watercolors based in snow melt from each resort. That’s what passionate Utah skier Lexi Dowdall has set out to do with her Paint by Powder Project!

Dowdall is a snow-loving outdoor enthusiast who actively seeks out the Greatest Snow on Earth in every corner of the state. But her skiing career got off to a rocky start. At her first lesson as a little girl, she became frightened of a yeti-like skier with a snow-encrusted beard. So she watched Sleeping Beauty in the lodge at Solitude instead. Not so today as she crushes the powder every chance she can - all with a big smile on her face.

The artist in her came from her grandmother, a sculptor and painter in Sedona. She says today, “Art is in my nature. But I spent a long time ignoring that fact.” Her grandmother focused her art on her surroundings, the towering vermillion monoliths in Sedona. So Lexi looked around herself at the Utah ski resorts she loved and decided to make that her palette.

In 2019, she took a rudimentary watercolor kit along on a rafting trip through the Gates of Lodore. A year later, she used the platform of COVID to start focusing on painting Utah’s ski areas. Looking out to the street one day, she saw her boyfriend’s pickup truck bed filled with fresh Alta snowfall he had trucked down to the valley after a huge snowstorm. And the idea struck her - why not blend her watercolor paints using snowmelt from each resort.

And the Paint by Powder Project was launched!

This episode of Last Chair is a really fun podcast with an exuberant powder-loving artist, Lexi Dowdall. She’ll win your heart with her stories of her continual discovery of the outdoor world around her, and how she’s sharing it with others.

She also personifies the ‘support a cause’ energy that is ingrained in all of us as skiers and snowboarders. And, she’s doing something about it. She is a passionate volunteer with Wasatch Adaptive Sports at Snowbird, and she’s donating proceeds of the Paint by Powder Project to Protect Our Winters.

In her day job, she’s the director of freeride for the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association (IFSA), helping young freeride skiers overseeing event series’.

Here’s a little teaser of the Last Chair episode with Lexi Dowdall.


Lexi, how did skiing get in your blood?

I'm a fourth or fifth generation Utahn. I grew up here. My parents were big skiers. My dad was a ski bum who came here after college and never really left. So my mom always says we never had a choice and being skiers, it was that worked out so well.

What has inspired you growing up in Utah?

I come from a very creative family and we're always doing stuff yet scrapbooking or making terrariums, or we were just crafting all the time. And I may be biased, but I think Utah is the most beautiful state. We have just such an amazing diversity of landscapes and vistas and state parks and national parks. It's hard not to be inspired by the vistas that we're surrounded by out here.

Why watercolors?

It's an enigma. It's very simple, but it's difficult to master. And I would say I'm very much a type A kind of control freak kind of person. So watercolor has helped me to be a lot more open to outcome. You literally have to go with the flow. So that's a neat thing about watercolor is you can have an idea of what you want to accomplish. But in the end, the water and the paint are going to force your destiny and you don't have as much control over it as the acrylic or oil.

And why mountains?

I just knew I wanted to paint mountains - that's where I'm happiest, that's where my soul is alive. So it's funny. I still feel like I don't really know how to paint mountains or snow, but you know, I'm practicing as much as I can, and it's just going to be a work in progress.

And why snow?

Snow is water. I thought I could incorporate snow from each mountain into my watercolor painting, and you know, I'm really working on my technique with painting mountains. I thought, ‘oh, maybe this snow will make the painting a little bit better, and I can channel the energy of the mountain as I paint with its snow.’ So that was kind of how it got started.

When you collect snow in milk jugs at resorts, do people look at you strangely?

I had this very awkward interaction with a Powder Mountain patroller. I tried to explain what I was doing, and he was just very confused. But I will say the fastest response time was Deer Valley. They were on the scene in probably 34 seconds. ‘Ma'am, are you OK? Do you need assistance?’ I was fine. But again, I needed to explain what the heck I'm doing, and it was just all pretty comical.

Like many of us, you’ve also been moved by Protect Our Winters.

Yeah, if we don't start to make some pretty massive changes, we're not going to have a ski industry. The gauntlet of this fact is what kind of spurred me to action because I was just the thought of not being able to ski here in the winter was truly sobering. So I'm just hoping to galvanize folks around here. We need to vote. We need to change the legislation. There are lots of things we can do on an individual level that will help our air quality and contribute, in small ways, to the overconsumption that our society subscribes to. But the most important thing we need to do is change the legislation and vote climate. Protect Our Winters provides a ton of resources about that and ways to get involved and panels and discussions with legislators.

We had a lot of fun with Lexi on Last Chair. Regular listeners will know that we often talk about our sponsor, High West. Lexi took that one step further. And, she also explains the concept of ‘interlodge’ to us and how it can work to a skier’s advantage when you’re stuck up Little Cottonwood for a few days. Tune in to learn more …

Kapowder Ink

Lexi Dowdall’s watercolor paintings offer a unique look at Utah’s 15 ski resorts from the viewpoint of a passionate skier. Her colors bring out the vibrancy of the sport, with snowmelt from each individual resort making its way back onto the canvas of the resorts we all love. You can learn more about Lexi’s Paint by Powder Project, and acquire a print yourself, at her Kapowder Ink website. You’ll have a wonderful and unique look at Utah ski resorts, and you’ll be helping to support Protect Our Winters, a cause important to skiers and snowboarders.

Mar 04, 2022
SE3:EP11 - Lee Cohen: Utah's Ski Photographer

Cohen grew up in the east, hopping around small New York ski hills like Stony Point and Silver Mine. His father took him on trips to Vermont, skiing Stratton, Stowe, Killington, Mt. Snow and more. Mondays were a day off for his father, who owned a bakery, so it wasn’t unusual for young Lee to play hooky and head off to Hunter Mountain or other day destinations.

Along the way, he started thinking about skiing out west. A friend brought back a trail map from Aspen Highlands. Then in eighth grade, he went with a friend’s family to Austria, skiing from village to village in Kitzbühel and experiencing his first powder day at Kaprun. A few years later, it was off to the Rockies, poaching slopeside lodging in tents and snow caves as he and buddies traveled around the west, eventually visiting Utah. He was hooked.

In the early 1980s, Cohen got a camera and just started shooting his buddies. They traveled the west chasing powder. He still recalls vividly the record-setting winter of 1983-84. Photography was different then. There were no iPhones, digital cameras or autofocus lenses. It was all film, so you never really knew what you had until the film was processed. But he worked hard at it, figuring out his formulaic system. Soon, editors soon took notice.

Photography was fun. It was an art form. And he was getting good at it. In December 1985, he made his first commercial sale, an image of a local skier who played hooky from school to ski High Rustler after a 42-inch storm. Soon his images were adorning the covers of SKI, Powder, Freeze and more.

The next decades saw his work burgeon. His 2012 book Alta Magic captures the real spirit of the Wasatch in a magical collection of images and essays. Today, he still enjoys returning to old haunts - both in-bounds and in the backcountry - with willing ski models, including son Sam, and always looking for that new combination of sun, sky and snow to produce exhilarating images.

While both photography and skiing have evolved greatly in his 40 years in the Wasatch, Cohen still has the touch. In the Alta marketing office, he proudly shows off his recent cover of SKI. 

Here’s a sampling of our conversation with photographer Lee Cohen’s. Listen in to the full  episode of Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast, to learn more. <LINK TO PODCAST>

As you drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon, what are some of your landmarks?

I enjoy the whole ride. I like seeing the ridge of Monte Cristo and Superior when I first start getting above White Pine. That's unbelievable to me. Then it's Snowbird on the right and then there's Alta. High Rustler is one of the all time runs to be looking at from the bottom of any ski area.

Do you recall your first trip to Utah?

I don't even remember how I first heard about Alta, but I had this whole magical powder thing like it was fully in my head even before I'd seen the place. And then we got to ski here and I was sold by. We were here for about 10 days, and by the time we left, I knew I was coming back for good as soon as I could.


“I always think I can get a better one, even in a spot that I've gone to before that. I'm always thinking I can get the best one ever today.”

You really mapped out the perfect career for yourself, didn’t you?

I got into ski photography because I loved powder skiing. That was perfect since, here I am, at Alta - the bastion of powder skiing. But at some point along the way, I feel like I get pigeonholed as the deep powder photographer.

How do you make locations look different each time you shoot there?

I find that you can always make a place look different. You shoot it with a different millimeter lens or from a different spot. If you shift your location even just a few feet, you're making it look different. And change lenses - it's way different. Just try to change your approach and make the same old thing look different.

Any simple tips for recreational photographers?

Concentrate on following your subject. Try to set up your shots to make the odds be in your favor and and have the light working in your favor, either being side lit, front lit, backlit. If you're shooting in the storm, go out when there's a lot of snowflakes falling.

“Ski with style  - form is everything.”

What are some secrets to great powder shots?

The biggest thing that I would say to my skiers skiing powder is, don't lay it over because you want to. In Utah, it's deep enough. You don't have to fake it. Just try to ski with form and style. Don't bring your hands too high. Don't make your hands too low, no higher than like a little below your shoulders and alternating pole plants in the powder. Ski with style  - form is everything.

Nikon or Canon??

I think they're all great. I've been a Nikon person my whole life. I love my Nikon equipment. It's burly. It can take a beating. Like, I'm not like the most careful person, so I'm a little abusive of the equipment and it's done me well.

Do you ever get nostalgic for the old days of film?

Some of the best times of my life as a ski photographer, and for my skiers, were the old days. We would be over the light table at my house, just foaming at the mouth, like we crazed out of our minds. Oh, my God, I knew that one was going to be like that. Yeah, that was a very exciting time in photography for me.

Learn more about Lee Cohen's career as Utah's ski photographer in this episode of Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast. 

Feb 25, 2022
SE3:EP10 - Utah's Olympians - Utah Goes to the Olympics

“I'm so thankful for the people in town who founded the Youth Sports Alliance after the 2002 games,” said Fisher. “It was a community effort to get all of the youth from Summit and Wasatch counties out using these amazing Olympic venues and getting as many kids out and active in our community playground. The legacy absolutely still lives on.”

And it has worked. Some, like nordic combined skier Jared Shumate and cross country skier Rosie Brennan grew up in [service name="park-city-mountain"]Park City Mountain[/service]. Others, like freeskiers Izzy and Zoe Atkin, moved to Park City because of the great sport opportunities. Some, like Olympic gold medalist aerials skiers Ashley Caldwell, Chris Lillis and Justin Schonenfeld, were brought together by the world-acclaimed freestyle training facility at the [service name="utah-olympic-park"]Utah Olympic Park[/service] that opened in 1993.

But while Utah takes great pride in its Olympians in Beijing, Fisher is quick to point out the broader value of sport. 

These athletes are phenomenal PR stories for us, she said. “But for me, it's really about the 1,500 kids that we get out and get active every year. It's really important for every kid. A lot of their parents work in the service industry and they don't have the opportunity to use these amazing Olympic venues, to get out, to learn how to ski, learn how to snowboard. The most important legacy of our program is that these kids can grow up and feel part of the community because they participate in things that are so important to the community.”

Jared Shumate

Now a nordic combined Olympian, Jared Shumate grew up in Park City and tried a myriad sports through the Youth Sports Alliance’s Get Out and Play program. 

“Growing up in Park City, every day on my way to school, just looking out the windows, I could see the Utah Olympic Park not knowing when I was three years old that I'd be going to the Olympics for that sport. So who knows, maybe it's been in me since I was a little kid.”

Rosie Brennan

Rosie Brennan did just about every outdoor winter sport before her mom made her choose. They had had a great time watching cross country skiing during the Olympics at Soldier Hollow during the 2002 Olympics, so that’s what she chose. Today, she’s one of the top-ranked skiers in the world and competing at her second Olympics.

“Sport has brought me, honestly, just about everything. I am so thankful for the opportunities that I've had. It's putting a challenge out there and working hard towards it. Oftentimes you come up short and have to learn how to take that shortcoming, process it, figure out what went well, what didn't go well and then work up the courage to take what you learned and apply it again.”

Brendan Newby

Halfpipe skier Brendan Newby was born in Ireland but grew up in Orem. When he was four, his father took him to Brighton. Young Bubba, as he is known to friends today, was hooked. He made his first Olympic team for Ireland in 2018 and is back again, along with countryman and fellow Irish snowboarder Seamus O’Connor, another Utah transplant.

“Utah is probably one of the most fun places to grow up. I'm a mountain biker and dirt biker as well, and I can basically go 20 minutes in any direction and have insanely good stuff to ride. If you want to be a winter sport Olympian, Utah is kind of the place to do it for literally any sport because of the 2002 Games and because the [service name="utah-olympic-legacy-foundation"]Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation[/service] has kept up all of the facilities so well.”

Izzy and Zoe Atkin

The young Atkin sisters, Izzy and Zoe, were passionate about winter sport. So a family move to Park City when they were young gave a dream playground and a strong club program to build their skills. Skiing for their mother’s homeland of Great Britain, in 2018 Izzy won Olympic bronze in slopestyle skiing. This time, she’s bring along younger sister Zoe who competes in halfpipe skiing.

“It's just a really great place to be because everyone loves just to be outside and to do what they love to do like skiing and snowboarding, being outdoors. A lot of people have that athlete mindset. I went to the Winter Sports School - a whole school of winter sports athletes. It was great to be in that community. We all pushed each other. Everyone just kind of has that drive to be outside and have fun, but also to push themselves in sport.” - Zoe Atkin

“Yeah, (PyeongChang 2018) was incredible. It was the first experience I'd ever had like that -  to have all those incredibly driven athletic people in one bubble and getting to know other people's stories, how they got to where they are today. That mindset in the village is super motivating. It was just an amazing experience for me to even go there.” - Izzy Atkin


Nick Page

Still a teen, Nick Page grew up in Park City skiing moguls with Wasatch Freestyle. In Beijing, he led Team USA finishing fifth as his family watched from home. He and friends like Olympic teammate Cole McDonald are the future of freestyle skiing - just fun-loving young athletes who love ripping around the mountain.

“I think a big part of (the Utah sport culture) comes from the Salt Lake Olympics, and all the infrastructure that's been left in place for us to keep using. At [service name="deer-valley"]Deer Valley Resort[/service], we ski on Champion, the Olympic run. We train at the Utah Olympic Park. I know the Oval down in Salt Lake gets so much action. We're able to repurpose all that from 2002 and put it all back into the community to build these current level athletes, which is really special. I don't think that's something that always happens once a city has an Olympics.”

Check out this episode of Last Chair to hear from Utah’s own Team USA athletes, and learn more about how sport is positively impacting kids in the state.

Park City Nation 

As the home of the most concentrated collection of Olympic venues in the state, the Park City Nation boasts 54 Olympians in Beijing from a half-dozen nations. Since the 2002 Olympics and Paralympics, the Youth Sports Alliance has introduced thousands of boys and girls to sport through its Get Out and Play and other programs. While every four years it gives locals a source of Olympic pride, what’s even more beneficial is the positive impact that sport has in providing life skills to kids of all ages and backgrounds.

Youth Sports Alliance

Formed following the 2002 Olympic Games, the Youth Sports Alliance introduces kids to sports and inspires them to keep moving throughout their lives. It provides a wide range of after-school programming to keep kids active through Get Out and Play and other programs, while also serving as a pipeline to winter sport clubs and competitions. One of its most valuable assets is the Stein Eriksen YSA Opportunity Endowment, a $2-million need-based scholarship fund for competitive athletes.

Feb 18, 2022
SE3:EP9 - Fraser Bullock: Utah's Olympic Legacy

The 2002 Olympics transformed Salt Lake City and its neighboring venue communities into a stage that welcomed the world. For 17 days, the Games captivated spectators and television viewers as athletes dazzled fans and shed tears of joy. The Games also brought a richness to Utah communities that is very much still alive today.

When now Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who headed the 2002 organizing committee, needed a right hand man, he tabbed his colleague Fraser Bullock for the job. It was a crazy adventure managing thousands of staff, tens of thousands of volunteers and global entourages of teams across more than a dozen sports.

In this episode of Last Chair, we reminisce on 2002 memories and look into the future with Salt Lake City-Utah already America’s Choice.

Before we get into the Olympics, let’s talk skiing.

My favorite sport is being on top of a mountain, looking at the beautiful views and just letting it fly down the slope. Doesn't get any better than that.

What was the key to assembling a strong team to run the 2002 Games?

When I first started, the team was 225 people and there were some really, really capable people that were there already. But we needed to grow to 50,000 at Games time, including volunteers and contractors. One of the things that I have realized during my career, it's all about the team. You have to have incredible capability. You have to have a team orientation of working well together. You have to have unity.

You went on the torch relay not that long after 9-11. What did that mean to you?

I went just a few days before Christmas and I was able to go to Philadelphia, and this was right after 9-11, and Washington, DC and then New York. All very significantly impacted by 911. And we would go down the streets and see thousands of people gathering and cheering us on, and we'd pass by a firefighter station and and and just thank them for their service. But then going to the White House and being there with President Bush. And then up to New York and having the torch run through Manhattan with tens of thousands of people is something I'll never forget.

Many say one of the keys to the success of the 2002 Games was the people of Utah.

Yeah, it really is. Our secret sauce of how our games became seen as so special is because of the people we have here, the welcoming attitude, the friendliness, the hard work. It is a state of volunteerism in helping and we just tapped into that potential and magnified it and showed it to the world.

The legacy of 2002 is still felt today. A full third of Team USA in Beijing makes Utah home!

Its legacy at its best - because the athletes are the heart of the Games. They're the top priority and we kind of live a little bit vicariously through them. But this legacy continues forward because now this next generation that is competing in Beijing. It's so exciting to read about their stories that they're the kid that grew up down the block. That's amazing. But then it also lays the foundation into a potential future Games and can we continue that legacy or even better, expand that legacy?

Where do we stand on a future Games in Utah?

We're in the midst of putting a plan together for a future Games. A lot of it's done. But we are the choice of the USOPC for a future Games. Now we just need the IOC to select us. Ideally, 2030, if we can make all the pieces come together to work for that. But regardless of which year will be pushing hard? Very much this year, and we think the second half of the year will have a lot of interesting activity.

What other international cities are you watching?

I have the philosophy of cheering on any city that's willing to step forward in this important Olympic movement. So when I hear their names, I'm saying, good for you and we wish you the very best. We want the IOC to make the best selection, and we think that we are a marvelous selection. 

Feb 08, 2022
SE3:EP8 - Alf Engen: Legend of Alta

The legend of Alf Engen goes back to the 1920s when Alf brought his brothers to America from Norway. In the midwest and later out in the mountains, they found a home in America as skiers. Alf became a great ski jumping champion and world record holder at Ecker Hill, near Park City. He spent time at Sun Valley but ultimately settled in Utah. In the 1930s, he was hired by the U.S. Forest Service to scout potential ski areas as the sport was booming. That led him to the mining town of Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Years later, Alf Engen would become intimately connected with Alta as its director of skiing. He became a figurehead for the sport and a friendly face who floated through powder on the flanks of High Rustler. He introduced thousands to the sport through his engagement with the Alta and Deseret News ski schools. He would later turn the reins over to son Alan, who succeeded him in the role.

Father and son both became iconic figures in Utah ski history, both inducted into the Intermountain and U.S. Halls of Fame. Alan became an instrumental figure in archiving the history of skiing in Utah with his books, the 1998 For the Love of Skiing, and 2002 First Tracks.

"As I was growing up, I saw my father and uncles as living day representatives of winter legends of Norse mythology. I imagined all of the Engen brothers with their great physical strength, competitive drive and love of winter as evolving into skiing icons. And in truth, they actually have." - Alan Engen

This episode of Last Chair offers fascinating insights into the legend of Alf Engen and the lore of skiing in Utah. Here are a few snippets of the interview with Alan Engen. Listen in to Last Chair to learn more. <add direct link to podcast when you have it posted>

Alan, as the son of Alf Engen I suspect you began skiing at an early age in Utah?

I'll tell you a little story that comes from my mother, not me. But my mother was always fond of telling how I came into this world. The doctor who delivered me put tongue depressors on the bottom of my feet and then proudly handed me over to my father. So, that being the case, I've added a little extra to the story by saying I came pretty close to being born on skis.

Growing up in Utah in the ‘40s and ‘50s, how did you see skiing grow?

I knew that skiing was growing. I was going up to Alta just about every chance that I had to ski and I could watch the traffic and I could see more and more cars coming up to Alta all the time. So I knew the sport was on the map, but I didn't know exactly how it was going to grow. And I think my father played a big role in helping to develop that growth through the Deseret News Ski School. Because it was a free ski school, it was a community outreach. And that brought in virtually thousands of people that got their first start of skiing through the Deseret Ski School.

Your father was a competitive athlete and later an instructor. How did that influence you?

I taught, but I taught as an amateur, not as a professional. And I grew up in competition. Dad told me at a very early age, he said, ‘Alan, you don't have to follow me in competition if you don't want to. But, I'll give you one piece of advice. If you want to be an instructor, be an instructor. If you want to be a champion skier and in athletic competition, do that. But don't try to do them both at the same time because the temperament isn't the same.

How did your father Alf Engen get connected with what was to become Alta?

Dad was hired by the Forest Service in the mid-1930s to go up and start taking a look at potential ski areas. One of the first that he talked about was Alta, because it had been around for a lot of years as a mining town. They knew it had plenty of good snow, but they wanted to see whether it would actually be good for a ski area. And dad skied up over Catherine's pass from Brighton into Alta. And stayed with a couple of miners by the name of the Jacobsen brothers. That was the only way dad could get into Alta at that time. He did it in the middle of the winter, so he had to hike in. That was a powerful skier. He had strong legs so he could go through that deep snow all the way over Catherine's Pass. He dropped into the Albion Basin. It was a great place for a ski area, but the miners had denuded all of the tree coverage that held back the avalanches and dad. He went back to the Forest Service and said, ‘You know, yes, let's go ahead and develop the area. But for gosh sakes, we've got to put new trees in there, so it'll hold back the avalanches.

How did Alta’s signature run, High Rustler, come to be attached to your father?

In the early days of Alta, in the 1940s, the run itself, the mountainside, was actually used and skiers would come up and they would hike up. They even put a little tow in there. But it eventually developed into a place that was very prominent at Alta. People would see it firsthand when they would come in. And in the 1980s, as a tribute to my father because it was such a prominent run, they renamed it Alf's High Rustler.

Did you take a lot of pride in following in his footsteps?

Well, I don't think anybody really follows in my dad's footsteps. He said some pretty deep tracks for me to follow, but I always had him as my idol. I truly felt that of all of the athletes I had the privilege of knowing in my lifetime, I thought my father was the one that I'd like to most closely emulate.

Alf Engen Ski Museum

Today’s Alf Engen Ski Museum, located at the Utah Olympic Park just off I-80 in Park City, is considered one of the finest ski museums in the world. In addition to showcasing Alf’s hundreds of trophies, it features an in-depth history of the sport, especially in the Intermountain West. The museum is free and features a host of interactive exhibits that are especially fun for kids. 

“When we were talking to dad a little bit about having a ski museum, he says. ‘you gotta make it interesting for the kids,’” said Alan Engen. “He said, ‘build it around the kids so the kids have an interest and they can see what is happening with the ski sport and they will want to become a part of it.’”

Jan 12, 2022
SE3:EP7 - Katharina Schmitz - Future of Ski Lifts

What do ski lifts mean to skiers? Ask Doppelmayr USA President Katharina Schmitz and she’ll tell you ‘freedom.’ In this episode, Last Chair host Tom Kelly chats with the leader of Utah-based Doppelmayr USA to explore the evolution of ski lifts and future trends, not only at resorts but as a vital form of mountain and urban transportation.

Doppelmayr, which is located not far from the Salt Lake City International Airport, has a  history in Utah going back to the 1970s. One of its predecessor companies, CTEC, was founded here. It later morphed into Garaventa, and then became a part of Doppelmayr, an Austrian company with a history going back 125 years.

Utah is a big customer itself for the company, with over a hundred lifts in the state including the Garaventa-built Snowbird tram, now over 50 years old and still one of the most iconic ski lifts in the world, and the brand new Outlaw Express high-speed quad that opened at Sundance just before Christmas.

In many ways, the future of lift technology is already here with products like Doppelmayr’s revamped detachable technology in D Line lifts, which are soon to come to Utah. Its tri-cable 3S line, featuring high-capacity, long span gondolas like the new Eiger Express in Switzerland and Whistler/Blackcomb’s Peak-to-Peak Gondola, may also find a future home in the state.

A passionate skier herself, Katharina Schmitz grew up in Austria, coming to America with her engineering degree to forge a career in the automotive and aerospace industries, before landing in Utah with Doppelmayr in 2018. 

It’s a fascinating interview that will explain current trends in uphill transportation, showcase future innovations and even take a look into the proposed Little Cottonwood Canyon gondola and how Doppelmayr’s triple-cable 3S technology could make a difference. She even speaks to the growing importance of WiFi in lift cabins!

Katharina, tell us more about Doppelmayr.

We have around 3,500 employees, about half of those are in Austria. The rest of us are scattered throughout the world across about 50 subsidiaries. The North American market is a key part of that, so we typically make up around 15 percent of the group's revenue. In really strong years, we were a little bit closer to 20 percent, so we certainly have a lot of attention from our group's headquarters and a lot of support as well.

Why is Utah a good home for a lift company like Doppelmayr?

Having a very business friendly environment certainly is a factor now. In addition to that, having several world class resorts right in our backyard is a real benefit. It helps us to collaborate closely with customers, not only in Utah but throughout the West. And having a Delta hub here is really nice to visit the rest of our customers throughout the country.

The history of aerial tramways in Utah goes back to hauling mining ore in the 1800s. How has the ski lift industry evolved from there?

Yes, it started with material transport and Doppelmayr still has a material transportation segment. But the core market for us is transporting people. We have seen a lot of evolution from the first surface lift in, I think, 1937, that Doppelmayr built in Austria that really started the company's ropeway business. Then if you look from there and how fast we came to the first detachable around 1970 or so, the innovation since then has just been mind blowing. So I think it shifted the profile as to what ropeways are used for or used in.

What’s the coolest lift installation you’ve seen in the world?

I have a personal favorite, which is the Stoosbahn in Switzerland. It is a funicular and it has barrel shaped compartments that have a leveling floor, so you always stay horizontal. It's the steepest funicular in the world and it is the most unique ride. You're going up this amazing incline and then through a little tunnel and come out on the other side. It serves as public transport, as well as access to a smaller ski area that's car free. And it's just an amazing installation, a really fun ride.

In your three seasons here in Utah, any favorite runs?

Well, I'm not as territorial since I'm not native Utahn, but I very much enjoy long runs. So I really do like some of the runs up at Snowbasin - off John Paul or Needles - that are just making for a good, long, fast run.

With the move from quads to six-packs and now to eight-packs, what are the important factors?

Terrain and alignment certainly are the big and obvious ones. Capacity is a big topic these days. And how many people do you want to move up the mountain per hour comes with a few different factors. Lift speed is certainly a factor, but also how many carriers you have. While you typically want to go up the mountain fast, you want to be really slow going through the terminal. And so we found in recent years that having slower carriers through the stations, having longer loading intervals really helps with keeping the lift running and not having any misloads as you go. So that also explains a little bit why you see lifts with, let's say, six or eight seater chairs so you can have fewer carriers, longer loading intervals, and you would still have the same capacity doing that.

So it’s not just about capacity?

In essence, with an eight seater, you would have a higher ultimate capacity. Most resorts don't strive for that per se. They're trying to get a certain capacity. And then it's a question on how comfortable you want your load interval to be. Increasing the load interval is a big topic and it ties into one of these other big factors - the level of skier that really uses that lift. If you have a beginner area, that's maybe one of the most important factors is making sure you can load them. If you have, you know, an alignment where it's all expert skiers, that's probably not your concern and you'll be looking for some other factors.

I recall the old Park City gondola being a great place to develop a relationship with a 25-minute ride. Modern lift technology has really changed that, hasn’t it?

<laughing> Yes, you have to be efficient about your conversation, that's for sure.

Jan 06, 2022
SE3:EP6 - Kristen Ulmer: Embracing Fear

A New Hampshire native, Ulmer discovered skiing as a young girl, skipping school to hit the slopes at lunch time. Friends told her about skiing in Utah. Her mom found a $40 one-way airline ticket. And she headed west, making Salt Lake City her home. She spent every waking moment skiing the bumps at Snowbird.

Her breakthrough came after an all-day drive out I-80 to California, sleeping overnight freezing in her car in a ski area parking lot, then hucking herself off a huge cliff doing a trick she had never attempted. She didn’t know it at the time, but she had found fear, embraced it and danced with fear to become one of the world’s most well known big mountain skiers and film stars, with her image beaming from the covers of ski magazines.

Today, Ulmer is a thought leader, high performance facilitator, and fear/anxiety expert who draws from her tenure as the best woman extreme skier in the world, studying Zen and from facilitating thousands of clients.

What is it about fear that oftentimes defines what we do, or don’t do? What does it take to become fearless (Ulmer says it isn’t possible, so don’t try). And how can we improve our lives, and our skiing, if we simply embrace fear?

Ulmer still lives in the Salt Lake City foothills and channels her energy into helping others. Her book, The Art of Fear, is a fascinating look into how you, as a business leader, skier or everyday human, can embrace fear. Her on-snow camps (which, by the way, sell out) counsel skiers and riders on how they, too, can embrace fear to improve their skiing.

She’s worked with the likes of free solo climber Alex Hannawald to big wave surfer Laird Hamilton. But she also loves working with everyday skiers and riders - just like you and I!

Kristen Ulmer is one of the truly fascinating figures in the landscape of Utah skiing. This episode of Last Chair is a fascinating insight into a Hall of Fame skier whose understanding of embracing fear has shaped her life and the lives of those around her.

How did you get into skiing?

I grew up in New Hampshire in a small town - Pat's Peak ski area, 700 vertical feet. I grew up in a house that was built in 1786 and it hadn't been remodeled. Now think about that for a sec. I just went skiing with my girlfriends because that's what they did. And then right around age 15, 16, I became really into skiing and I would skip out of school to go skiing during lunch breaks. And then I finally got caught my senior year. I almost didn't get to graduate because I had so many detentions from skipping school to go skiing. But I skied in jeans until I was 20 years old.

What motivated you to get into skiing as a career?

I had absolutely no goals whatsoever, and this is probably one of the strangest things about my ski career. I also was like the last person to be chosen for elementary and high school, not just soccer, but sports teams - like I was not athletic at all, and I just was obsessed with skiing when I moved to Snowbird in Utah. I started hanging out with a bunch of people that were competing in moguls, and I just wanted to hang out with them and go on road trips. So that's why I started competing.

What does it mean to be fearless?

People misunderstand people they admire who do incredibly scary things, whether it be skiing or people who run the world or, you know, businessmen and women - people that take incredible risks in any way, shape or form. We have this perception and this ideology that these people are fearless and that is not the case. Nobody's fearless. When I first became a fear expert, I Googled it and I realized that there's no other people out there that are willing to call themselves fear experts because we assume that people that are fear experts, A, are fearless and B, can teach other people how to be fearless. And I am neither of those. Nobody's fearless. It's not only impossible, but it's undesirable.

Did you feel fear when you hucked that first cliff in front of the cameras?

Well, you'd think that fear would be going through somebody's mind. It never even occurred to me to be afraid that day. And you know, it's a pretty big cliff - your first cliff. And to do a back scratcher, which you've never done, mind you, in front of a whole bunch of very famous skiers that were in all the magazines and, you know, film stars like, you'd think that I would have been a little bit afraid, but I wasn't.

Learn more about how you can embrace fear. Check out more with Kristen Ulmer on Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Dec 15, 2021
SE3:EP5 - Tony Gill: Joy of the Backcountry

Cruising through knee deep powder in the peace and solitude of the Utah backcountry is  pure joy. It’s alluring. It can also be dangerous if you are not well prepared. Journalist Tony Gill grew up skiing on 300-foot ski hills in the midwest. Today, you’ll find him on his telemark skis in the Utah backcountry. He’ll talk us through the joy of having a powder slope to yourself, as well as how to best prepare.

Dec 06, 2021
SE3:EP4 - James Niehues: Man Behind the Maps

We’ve all fantasized about our trips to the mountain by poring over detailed trail maps, plotting out each run of our ski vacation. The man behind those maps, James Niehues, has become somewhat of a cult hero in the sport after three decades documenting hundreds of resorts worldwide, painting each and every tree and showcasing perspective to make mountains bigger than life. Last Chair caught up with him at his art studio to learn more about his fascinating career and new book, Man Behind the Maps.

As a graphical designer in the ‘90s, Niehues was looking for a change in direction. He had grown up in western Colorado, not really as a skier but someone who appreciated the sport. He had left an advertising business in Grand Junction and moved to Denver. He had followed the work of Hal Shelton and, more currently, Bill Brown and the captivating trail maps they developed. So he tracked down Brown, got a test assignment and ultimately took over as the ski map painter of the time.


As he neared retirement a few years ago, friends urged him to document his life in a book. A fundraising campaign got the project off the ground. And the result is a keepsake every skier is going to want to have.

Last Chair caught up with Niehues in his studio, finishing up on projects and trying to keep up with the fan mail his book Man Behind the Maps has generated. In the interview he details his life as an artist and walks through the dramatically detailed process of creating a trail map painting from aerial photography to projecting onto canvas, airbrushing shading and painting in every tree - starting with the shadows!

It’s a fascinating look into an unlikely sport hero who has brought so much joy to tens of millions of skiers worldwide in his career.

Nov 28, 2021
SE3:EP3 - Zane Holmquist: Active Lifestyle Chef

From wild game chili to Stein Burgers and Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes, Chef Zane Holmquist has served it all. The Stein Eriksen Lodge VP of food and beverage, who grew up in Utah, oversees one of the most highly acclaimed dining rooms in skiing, but is just as much at home on his mountain bike, skis or in triathlons around the world.

Nov 05, 2021
SE3:EP2 - Jeremy Jones: Passion for Protecting Winter

Growing up on Cape Cod, it may seem unusual that young Jeremy Jones gravitated towards sliding on snow. But family ski outings led to his passion for snowboarding. Today, Jones is one of the world’s most well known names in big mountain snowboarding. 

But as he saw his season shortened and glaciers receding, he decided to fight back. He started Protect Our Winters in 2007, uniting skiers and snowboarders in the fight against climate change. Today, POW has become a driving force for systemic change.

While Jones finds his true home in the mountains, he has become comfortable in Washington, speaking to Congress and advocating for legislation. His background in storytelling and film has led him to pushing his message out in features like the 2020 release of Purple Mountains.

Here’s a sample of what you’ll learn in this episode of Last Chair with Jeremy Jones.

Jeremy you’re one of the planet’s most well-known big mountain riders. How did it all begin?

My parents fell in love with the mountains later in life, and they basically started dragging my brothers and I. We grew up on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We would go up to Vermont, where my grandfather had a house (Stowe). I think that it's probably just the creativity of it and that connection with nature and it's always changing, you know, just overtook my life and still has to this day.

What first triggered your awareness of climate change?

As a teen, I remember that we always had a newspaper at the table in the morning. I saw global warming in the paper and I was like, ‘I don't like the sounds of that.’ At that point I was snowboarding the golf courses on Cape Cod, and I'm like, ‘why doesn't it snow anymore? It always piqued my interest because I never liked the sounds of global warming.

How is Protect Our Winters making a difference?

At Protect Our Winters we only have so much energy, so we have to focus on the big levers. Large scale CO2 reduction needs to happen through policy. We're not going to recycle our way out of this climate mess is the reality. And that's why we focus our attention at Protect Our Winters on policy. It’s understanding who your elected officials are, what their stance is on climate.

Check out more with Jeremy Jones on Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Oct 21, 2021
S3:EP1 - Ted Ligety: Back Home in Utah

Over the past two decades, Utah native Ted Ligety has hopscotched across five continents every year, collecting World Cup crystal globes and Olympic gold medals. This winter, he's back home in Utah! Last Chair kicks off season three with an in-depth interview with Utah's own Olympic champion.

Check out these stats: 25 World Cup wins, five crystal globes, five World Championship titles and two Olympic gold medals. Not a bad career for the Utah native.

With a growing family (wife Mia and three sons) back home and his Utah-based global business, Shred, Ligety decided to retire last February. And he's anxious to make a few fun runs of his own on the slopes of Utah's Deer Valley Resort this winter.

This blockbuster season three opening episode of Last Chair will introduce you to the Park City native and take you inside his view of skiing. Here's some of what's in store on Last Chair.

  • Some of his own faves for skiing in Utah.
  • How an Olympic defeat in 2010 inspired him to the greatest years of his career. 
  • His favorite GoPro edit. 
  • From an athlete who's skied in over 50 countries, his global favorites. 
  • His best date night dinner back home. 
  • And, of course, his favorite High West whiskey.

How old were you when mom and dad trusted you to be on your own at the resort?
I think it was pretty young, probably like five or six years old. So I tell that to my wife, Mia, and she's like, 'No way! We're not leaving Jax to the mountain like next year or the year after. But yeah, like, I think when I was seven, maybe eight, I would take my younger brother - so pretty young age ripping around the mountains. And it was fun. I mean, it's such an awesome way to grow up and explore.

Ted, you weren't viewed as a future star as a junior racer. Did hard work make the difference?
One hundred percent! What was good about not being dominant at a young age was that I had to work harder. I had that work ethic instilled, had that hunger instilled in me. I was forced to take risks and explore and ask different questions than guys that were good. 

You're now a ski ambassador for Deer Valley, a role Stein Eriksen held for many years. What do you remember of him from growing up here?
I grew up skiing in Deer Valley and watching Stein ski, and it was funny. As a kid you would kind of make fun of Stein's style - he had a very distinct style. I skied with him on the NASTAR course once when I was probably like 14 years old. all of a sudden he was like, wham, right into amodern race stance and like beating all of us 13, 14 year olds. And he was probably in his 70s then. Stein was still a competitive guy even even later on. And, you know, he was an inspiration, for sure, growing up here.

Ted, what's the spirit that motivates you?
"I love just being out in the outdoors, being in the mountains, especially when there's snow on them. It's like a cleansing feeling being out there - this freedom to go fast, ski down a hill, the wind in your face. It's exhilarating. It's just magical being on the mountains,

Check out more with Ted Ligety on Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery and Saloon on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Ted Ligety by the Numbers
25 World Cup wins
Five World Cup crystal globes
Five World Championship medals

Growing up in Utah, Ted Ligety was influenced by great champions like Stein Eriksen. In 2013, he matched the record of three gold medals in one World Championship, a mark held by Eriksen, Toni Sailer and Jean-Claude Killy. A pretty prestigious group of champions for the kid from Park City. (Tom Kelly)

Oct 08, 2021
S2:EP16 - David Perry: A Sustainable Future

As skiers, we all have a responsibility to be good stewards of the mountains we ride. Sustainability is vital for our future. David Perry, one the ski industry's most knowledgeable advocates for preservation of our mountain resources, sees a true sustainable future - if we can all work together! Ski Utah's Last Chair takes a look into our future and the vital steps we must take now.

Perry has spent his entire career on the tops of mountains, from the Canadian Rockies to Colorado. Today he serves as executive vice president, environment, social, governance for Alterra Mountain Company, with resorts around the USA and Canada, including Utah's own Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort. His passion for being a good steward of our mountain landscapes runs deep.

While Perry works for Alterra, his impact is broad. In the highly competitive world of ski resorts, one topic brings all skiers and snowboarders together - preserving our environment for the future.

When did you really develop your passion for sustainability?
I really gained an education about what environmental activism was about when I got to Colorado and realized that, you know what, we've got this pristine natural environment and we're not treating it with enough respect. And we're also, frankly, the true canaries in the coal mine. We are the people in the high mountain places that are witnessing the impacts of climate change firsthand. And that's still the case today, because we know this climate is changing. It's been really difficult to get people's attention on sustainability. But ski area operators, skiers, snowboarders, mountain lovers - they know it's happening.

How is the resort industry working together?
Our industry association - the National Ski Areas Association - has a really robust roadmap for how to tackle environmental sustainability in our industry. A lot of work's been done. Alterra is a leader, Vail Resorts is really on board as a leader, as well as POWDR Corp and Boyne. We've rallied around a set of action steps that we should all focus upon.

What is the outlook 25 years from now?
There are two possible futures. The future I like to believe is possible is us coming together within a short number of years, reducing our CO2 emissions and our carbon footprint to a degree where we can slow, stop and then even reverse climate change in the coming years and decades. That's a global effort. But we need to do our part. There's also a picture of the future that I don't like to believe that we're going to allow to happen as human beings. We have the power to clean up our environment, to reduce - get off - our dependency on fossil fuels, reduce the carbon output, reduce CO2 in our atmosphere and stabilize our climate. It's in our hands.

In this week's podcast with Alterra leader David Perry, you'll learn about sustainability, plus a lot more about Perry's fascinating connectivity with the sport, the environment and Utah.

  • Who was his early mentor in the Canadian Rockies?
  • How does his hobby tie together his passion for mountain landscapes.
  • How did he lead a mutually beneficial effort for sustainability with a coal mine?

If you are a skier, snowboarder or just love life in the mountains, this episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery is an important listen for you. You can find Last Chair on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Areas of Sustainability Focus
The topic of sustainability is complex. What is the science? How does it impact our future? What can we do about it? David Perry identified several broad areas of engagement - for the resort industry and for each of us as skiers and snowboarders. Listen to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcastto learn more.

"Number one is energy," said Perry. How can resorts and all of us better use renewable energy? "The move to renewable energy to sustain operations, to run our lifts, our buildings, our snowmaking systems and everything on 100% renewable or create enough energy to offset your energy use. in Utah, Rocky Mountain Power is moving very aggressively to wean the power grid there off of fossil fuels, coal, natural gas fired plants and move to renewables - wind and solar primarily."

Climate Action and Advocacy
Sometimes we need to make our voices heard! "I call it climate action and advocacy," said Perry. "We as mountain enthusiasts and ski areas can use our voice to talk to others to say, 'we've experienced climate change firsthand and we're doing what we can in our town or in our environment to clean it up.'" How can skiers help? Talk to others, talk to your state and federal representatives. Talk with your action and your supporting words.

Good Stewards of Our Habitat
How do we protect our habitat? Are we good stewards of our natural resources? "It's everything from water resources to our forest health and habitat, making sure that we are operating our ski areas in our beautiful mountain places really responsibly," said Perry. Resorts watch for run off that can damage wildlife habitat, and monitor forest health for pine beetle epidemics or wildfire danger - impacts of climate change.

Recycling is a basic tenet of being a good steward. "Waste reduction, composting and recycling are really critical elements of living a sustainable lifestyle," said Perry. "But we as operators also have to provide that to make it seamless and easy to do. If you go from place to place and there's no obvious place to recycle your glass and aluminum and it all goes in the trash in the landfill, speak up saying, 'why do you not have recycling bins here?'"

Simple as it may sound, car pooling makes a difference. So does taking the bus or advocating for cleaner fuels for buses. "People today have to burn fossil fuels to get to our ski areas, to enjoy their favorite pastime," said Perry. "Are you willing to drive less? Are you willing to look at a hybrid vehicle, an all-electric vehicle as the grid is starting to support that."

Expansion of bus service, like was done in Big Cottonwood Canyon, will reduce car traffic. "It's essential we use our mass transit or shared transit options and we have to improve them," said Perry. "That's one way to reduce our fossil fuel burning habits. It's an essential sense of social responsibility."

Engaging Together
Each of us can do our own part by being good stewards of our landscape. Banded together, we can speak with a stronger voice. Perry is a supporter of Protect Our Winters, which has become a highly organized voice for the long-term protection of our outdoor resources. "Protect Our Winters is really committed to action on climate change," said Perry of POW, which was formed by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones. "It's grown dramatically and is a very professional nonprofit organization, is very well organized." Skiers and riders can join POW to support its efforts, and to better understand how they can carry the message to others.

Apr 08, 2021
S2:EP15 - Kym Buttschardt: Ogden’s Ski Town Renaissance

A group of skiers sat at the bar in the Rooster's B Street Brewery and Taproom, exchanging war stories about their big pow day up at Powder Mountain. On the brightly colored chalk board were the beers of the day, most brewed up in the huge tanks behind the taproom. It was a boisterous atmosphere with a nice blend of skiers, snowboarders and just plain locals all enjoying the lifestyle of the sport.

A century ago Ogden was the crossroads of the west as a vital rail junction. Today, it's revitalized as a ski town with 25th street downtown teeming with restaurants and bars, and the outdoor industry calling Ogden home. At the core of Ogden's energization is Kym Buttschardt of Rooster's Brewing Company, who lives and breathes her community.

Kym Buttschardt stands high atop Snowbasin with Strawberry in the background in a stunning alpine scene.

In the past quarter century, a renaissance has turned Ogden into a thriving ski town. Taking full advantage of the 2002 Olympic leadup, two pioneering mayors and business leaders like Buttschardt, rallied the town. New and innovative tourist-oriented businesses opened downtown. And Ogden became a calling card for leading ski and outdoor industry brands who moved their national operations to the outdoor-oriented town.

What was the catalyst for all of this? It's a community that thrives on outdoor recreation, from biking to hiking to kayaking and skiing. From the heart of downtown Ogden, you can drive to Snowbasin, Powder Mountain or Nordic Valley in about 30-35 minutes. Or, take the bus.

In this week's podcast with Ogden skier, entrepreneur and community leader Kym Buttschardt, you'll learn:

  • How a World Cup parade signaled big changes in Ogden.
  • Why the outdoor industry found such a home in the city.
  • Which of the original Rooster's brews is still available but only on draft? (think chocolate)
  • Her favorite ski run? (not for the faint of heart)

What did you find interesting about skiing when you started out as a young girl in Ogden?
Just the freedom of it - the total freedom of it. And just kind of the coolness and I still feel like that as a 50-something year old woman. I just still get such a rush from being outside and breathing the cold air or sitting in the sunshine.

How have you seen downtown Ogden evolve since you opened before the Olympics?
We were young, in our mid-20s. We were kind of one of the ones who planted our flag. And then what's happened on 25th Street since then is just beautiful to my heart. I love walking out, looking up at the mountains, looking at my neighbor restaurants and friends around there. There's something very special about it.

How did the community engineer this renaissance?
It really was a combined recruiting effort. We do a lot with a little up here in Ogden. Mayor Godfrey, at the time, had decided, with the input from residents, that the vision of our town was going to be an outdoor adventure place. The GOAL Foundation was born right after the Olympics, which is a big thing for us up here. It's a volunteer organization that can bring all those wonderful events and support them with volunteers. "We just got together with our friends and said, 'how are we going to make this happen?' And we did it together and keep doing it together today.

Join us for a beer in the ski town of Ogden in this episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcastpresented by High West Distillery on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Brewmaster Steve Kirkland was employee #1 when Rooster's first opened its doors in 1995. The Chicago-area native still wears a Bears mask but has long settled down in Utah, recognized as one of the best brewers in the state. He made a nice selection of six beers for Last Chair.

  • Bee's Knees Honey Wheat: A light-bodied, crisp ale, slightly sweet with a touch of honey flavor. 5% Alcohol by Volume.
  • Rude Ram Red: A bold, malty, ruby red ale with notes of roasted barley and caramel, perfectly balanced with Loral hops. 7% ABV
  • Snowbasin 80th Anniversary Pale Ale: A special edition beer released for Snowbasin, it's an easy-drinking, copper-colored pale ale with a hint of caramel malt and bright, hoppy finish. 5% ABV
  • Ogden Double IPA: A big beer weighing in at 8% ABV, this ale is dominated by hops both bitter and aromatic with finishing notes of pine and tropical fruit.
  • B Street Blackberry Cream Ale: A medium-bodied, 6% beer brewed with blackberry puree added right in the fermenter. This lends a hint of blackberry without overwhelming the palate.
  • Untamed Juicy IPA: A cracker-y malt base is complimented by the citrusy New Zealand Southern Cross hop that is added both in the boil and in the fermenter for an extra punch! 7% ABV.

GOAL Foundation: Get Out and Live
One of the legacies of the 2002 Olympics and Paralympics in Ogden is the GOAL Foundation. It was designed as a catalyst for Ogden's outdoor lifestyle, galvanizing the community and volunteers to support outdoor events. Nearly two decades later, it continues to thrive.

Mar 24, 2021
S2:Ep 14 -Sandy Melville: Silver to Slopes

A century and a half ago, Utah's mountains were the home of boomtowns as silver mining flourished across the Wasatch from Little Cottonwood to Big Cottonwood and over Guardsman Pass to Park City. Today, the same slopes that harbored valuable ore are the home of some of the worlds greatest ski resorts. In this episode of Last Chair, skier and mining historian Sandy Melville takes us on a virtual tour of the amazing mining structures that still exist at Park City Mountain.

The Bonanza Express base at Park City Mountain is a vital crossroads at the resort. Skiers glide down from the Payday and Town lifts, anxious to make their way uphill. At the same time, others are carving down from Pioneer and McConkey, all congregating at the high speed six-pack. Over a century ago, the location was a vital part of the local economy as hundreds of miners extracted nearly 500 tons of ore a day during Park City's silver boom.

For the next few hours, we'll ski back in time to the heydays of silver. Across the mountain west, it's not unusual to find old mines on ski mountains. But it's rare to find the 19th century structures so well preserved. Ski Utah's Last Chair podcast will provide you with a self-guided historical tour around the mountain. And watch for the return of the guided Silver to Slopes tour next season.

The mining history here was well over 100 years. And we're fortunate to have so many mining structures left on the mountain intact.

In this week's podcast with historian and ski guide Sandy Melville, you'll learn:

  • Craziest question from a mountain guest
  • How mining and skiing came together in the '60s
  • Sandy's favorite High West whiskey brand
  • What's the significance of 'apex law'?
  • What role did Dr. Snow play in mining to skiing history?

Join us for a step back in time in this episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Silver to Slopes Virtual Tour
It's easy to learn more about Park City Mountain's historical mining sites. Here's an easy-to-follow tour, with interpretive signs at each stop.

+View easy-to-follow tour map

Silver King Coalition Mine
Start at the Park City Mountain base on Payday Express, or downtown Park City on the Town Lift. From there, simply ski down to the Bonanza Express and you'll find yourself in the midst of the old Silver King mine, the most viewed mining site on the mountain.

The Silver King was one Park City's 'big three' mines with claims developed in the 1880s and incorporated in 1892. An aerial tramway was added in 1901 to transport ore down to the railroad. The shaft closed in 1953 as metal prices declined. In its day, it was a hugely profitable mine.

In the mid-70s the buildings of the Silver King Mine were used for several years as a training center for the U.S. Ski Team. The center didn't work out well, but the team has remained in Park City, where it still makes its home today. In 1987, the huge boarding house was moved 500 vertical feet uphill to its present location as Mid Mountain Lodge just above the Pioneer and McConkey lifts.

In a mid-60s view from the original Treasure Mountains gondola, the remnants of the Silver King mine sprawl around the area presently occupied by the Bonanza Express lift.

Silver to Slopes guide Sandy Melville displays two ore samples - one contains silver, one is, well, just a rock.

California-Comstock Mine
From the Silver King Mine, take the Bonanza Express six-pack up the mountain. Then ski down Homerun to Mid Mountain Meadows, skiing towards the historic Mid Mountain Lodge then hop onto Pioneer. From the top of Pioneer, ski down Keystone. Don't go too fast. About two-thirds of the way down, look down to the rising slope on the other side of Thaynes Canyon to see the California-Comstock Mine.

In the late 1800s, the two neighboring mines tended to have conflict on who owned what once they were underground. The Comstock Mine was incorporated in London in 1882. By 1890 it had a boardinghouse for 50 men on site. The California Mine was incorporated in 1897. By 1905, the two had merged. Unlike the Silver King, the mine location was quite a long ways away from the railroad, with travel on dirt roads. It was acquired by King Con in 1918 and then to Silver King Coalition in 1924.

Today, the remaining structure is one of the most photographed on the mountain. It's aging beams and gorgeous masonry was stabilized in recent years by Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History and Vail Resorts, as well as recovering a huge stone crusher

Thaynes Shaft 
Just a few hundred meters down the canyon is one of the most spectacular sites on the mountain, the Thaynes Shaft. To get up close, you can cut through the woods off Keystone or Thaynes Canyon just after California-Comstock.

The Thaynes complex is one of the newer of the old mines, with the shaft sunk in 1937 by Silver King Coalition to reach the Spiro Tunnel. The work was based on depression-era incentives from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was one of many mines in Thaynes Canyon that were productive, but its shaft was closed to mining in 1947.

To exit, just slide over the Thaynes lift or continue on down the canyon to either Motherlode or King Con.

The Thaynes Shaft was one of many mines in Thaynes Canyon, which connects the Jupiter, Thaynes, Motherlode and King Con lifts.

Skier Subway
One of the fascinating 'modern day' use of the Thaynes Shaft was its role in the famed Skier's Subway operated for four seasons beginning in 1965. Skiers would board mine cars at the Spiro Tunnel (at today's Silver Star base area), riding three miles into the mountain then riding the Thaynes Shaft elevator 1,700 feet up to the base of the Thaynes lift.

An innovative concept from the mining company to get skiers back to the new chairlift, it was fraught with problems and wasn't the most pleasant experience for skiers. Today you can visit the Spiro Tunnel opening at the Silver Star base and see the exit point next to the Thaynes lift.

Preserving Mining History
The preservation of mining history is an important cause in the Park City community. The silver mining heritage is an important piece of the town's history. At the Park City Museum on historic Main Street, you can relive the mining days and even see an actual Skier Subway ore car.

An offshoot of the Park City Museum, the Friends of Mountain Mining History has been a crucial advocate for preservation of the 20 historic mine structures on Park City's mountain trails. Vail Resorts and Park City Mountain have been valuable partners in the stabilization of the Thaynes conveyor, King Con counterweight, California Comstock mill, and the Jupiter ore bin among other sites.

Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History

Park City Museum

Utah's High West was the first ski town distillery when David Perkins opened it in 2006 in a series of historic buildings in Park City, right alongside the old Crescent tramway that hauled ore over a century ago. While High West is now available worldwide, there are a few brands you can only get in Utah. It's well worth a visit to the distillery to sample a little High West Bourye, which we did on Last Chair with beverage director Steve Walton.

High West's beverage director Steve Walton leads a tasting of Bourye, available only in Utah. As a podcast recording session isn't complete without a tasting

Mar 10, 2021
S2:Ep13 - Steve Sullivan: Stio - A Brand for the Mountain West

The outdoor adventure clothing brand Stio has been showing up more and more at Utah ski resorts. Founder Steve ‘Sulli' Sullivan grew up in neighboring Colorado but spent a lot of time in Utah's red rock desert and snow-covered mountains. Today, he puts his passion for the mountain west into the fast-rising  Stio brand. He spoke to Last Chair about his love for the outdoors and how it's embodied in his brand.

Sullivan was born in the midwest but moved to western Colorado when he was 10. His uncle loved to explore and took him on trips to nearby Moab to explore Canyonlands, getting engaged in hiking and mountain biking - exploring the mountain west landscape. He started hanging around his uncle's girlfriend's outdoor shop, getting a complete immersion in outdoor sport.

Working in ski, bike and outdoor shops growing up, at college in Durango and later in Boulder, helped develop his pathway. He put his own stamp on the business starting Cloudveil, and later Stio.

Today, Stio has a growing footprint in Utah with a concept store on Park City's historic Main Street, a partnership with Ski Utah and a thriving direct-to-consumer brand that provides him with a flow of customer feedback that fuels product development.

The Stio brand is all about outdoor empowerment. Our tagline is let the outside in. It's all about giving people a reason to be outdoors.

His interview with Ski Utah's Last Chair podcast provides real insight into the power of the mountain west culture into a brand that is rapidly gaining popularity. Here's just a sample. Listen to Last Chair to learn more.

How did you get into the outdoor clothing business?
One of the reasons I got into the apparel business was just going through my youth, always being cold and wet and wearing some old hand me downs. But I really learned a lot about the climate. And I became really fascinated about textiles and what different textiles could do to add to your enjoyment and performance in the outdoors.

How do the desert and mountains in Utah combine to form such a special lifestyle?
The desert is one of the great powers. The mountains, the desert, the oceans - I'm still entranced by it. I've always thought it was a really powerful place and a place of unbelievable changes in climate. I've done a lot of skiing in Moab in the La Sal's. It can be just absolutely superb spring skiing down there. I truly love the desert. I feel like it is one of those powers in the world, like the mountains. One of the coolest things about Utah is you guys have this unbelievable topography - the state is so diverse. It's just amazing. And you have the Wasatch and and the unbelievable mountains up near Salt Lake and then, you know, drive a few hours. And the next thing you know, you're in red rock country.

How would you define the mountain west culture?
There's just something different about living out here. There's something different about the people. There's something different about having to deal with the elements and the time spent outside, whether that's skiing or climbing or fly fishing or whatever it might be, kayaking, river running in the mountains. There's just a different culture out here. And it's a culture that is just so ingrained in my life and in our company. It makes a huge difference in the types of people that end up in the mountains are real. You have to deal with a lot of adverse weather and a completely different kind of change in seasons constantly. It's super ingrained in our brand because all of our employees live the outdoor lifestyle. 

There's plenty more in this episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast.

  • Sulli's favorite Utah resort.
  • Craziest outdoor activity he's ever undertaken (and there have been many).
  • What he does outside skiing (just about everything)
  • His fave High West brand.

Take a listen today. Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

About Stio's Roots
Stio was founded to inspire connection with the outdoors through beautiful, functional products infused with mountain soul. We draw inspiration from our everyday immersion in life here in Jackson Hole: days on local rivers, trails and Teton summits. Technical performance, quality and versatility are hallmarks you'll find in every piece of apparel we make, be it intended for epic alpine pursuits or the quieter moments of the mountain life.

Where to find Stio
Stio is a direct-to-consumer brand, available at

You can also visit Stio's shop on Main Street in downtown Park City, Utah.

Mar 03, 2021
S2:Ep12 - Jeremy Jones: Progressing Sport at Woodward

Growing up in the Salt Lake Valley in the '80s, Jeremy Jones developed a knack for searching out urban skate and snowboard venues to feed his passion. Today, the sport legend has found it all under one roof as snow manager at Woodward Park City.

Founded as a gymnastics camp in the hills of Pennsylvania a half century ago, today the  Woodward brand is bringing progression in sport for kids of all ages to snow-covered mountains across America. This episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast take you to the brand new  Woodward Park City  which features a mountain sports park with progressive features and a fun-packed, kid-friendly indoor action sports hub with skate ramps, trampolines and more.

My guide for the day and podcast guest was the legend himself, freestyle skater and snowboarder Jeremy Jones, whose persona and sport background is a magnet for young athletes. A Utah native, Jones grew up skating as a kid but quickly morphed into snowboarding when it got too cold in the winter. He was hooked. Jones can tell you pretty much any urban rail or feature down in the city. But now he oversees snow programs for Woodward Park City, creating the same environment he had to search out in the city as a kid - but all self contained in a fabulous new indoor and outdoor facility right on I-80 between Salt Lake City and Park City.

Since opening for the 2019-20 season, Woodward has been a hit for locals and Utah visitors alike. It offers a crazy mountain park with a well-conceived progression of features, an indoor action sports hub and a tubing park. You can buy monthly or daily passes, then just reserve a session of your choice.

What really struck me about Woodward Park City was its welcoming atmosphere. If you've never been to a Woodward facility, you'll feel comfortable from the start. A start park will greet you when you walk onto the mountain. And up top, there's a right to left progression across the hill with everything from simple rollers and snow-level rail boxes, to 50-foot jumps and big rails.

It's inspiring to see the kids just want it so much and feel the confidence to give it a try.

The day Jeremy and I rode at Woodward, rising star Brock Crouch was in the house. Olympic champion Red Gerard had been there two days earlier before leaving for a film shoot. "All the pros are hitting me up to ride Park City," said Jones. "And I love it - I'm just 'yes, please come, test it out, tell me what you think, how can we make it better?'"

Jones told the story of a few days earlier when Crouch high-fived a group of campers on the hill. "This one kid was just - he got juiced up and he's like, 'hey, Brock, come watch this.' And he had that moment in front of one of the best professional competitive snowboarders. There's nothing more powerful than that experience. And, you know, that's just Woodward!"

What is Woodward's approach to sport?
When you walk in, you have start parks and progression parks and you can level up before you even get on the chair. You're going over rollers and berms and getting a carpet experience up the mountain. And so you learn gravity without having to get on a chair. And whether you have a lesson or you're just showing up, you can walk in there and start snowboarding in a totally safe environment. Every single hill and pitch in that is low enough grade and mellow enough and feeding you into the hill. There's nowhere for you to go. It's not a catcher's mitt. You're actually working against gravity. And we build it so that that's in your favor.

How have you integrated the stars of the sport at Woodward?
Red Gerard and Danny Davis - they're great snowboarders, the best there is - they're different generations. Danny has Peace Park, which is a really cool product, and he's built that up himself. It was really authentic and he wanted to share that with Woodward. We also piggybacked off Red's Colorado house where he has a little rail park at the back of their family home - Red's BKYD. We brought that in because people want that element of accessible snowboarding, how you can go in the streets, you can go in your backyard, you can set things up and then come to Woodward and experience it at a really refined level.

Your kids are teens now - what do you do together for family fun?
We snowboard together and skateboard together. And play music together, they're just kind of becoming my little friends. My son has challenged me. He's been into things that I was never into - traditional sports like lacrosse, basketball, football. And so I've been so grateful for him because he's taught me to tolerate that more than I ever did. And he's taught me to actually love it because I watched him fall in love and I watched him progress and I became the student and he enjoyed that.

There's plenty more in this episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast.

  • Jeremy's sport heroes growing up in Utah.
  • How the sounds of a shopping mall inspired him as a kid.
  • Of the dozens of films in which he's appeared, which is his favorite?
  • Most renegade place he's ever ridden!

Take a listen today. Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.


Woodward Park City is one of a network of Woodward sport parks on mountains across America. It offers an innovative approach to sport for a new generation of ski and snowboard enthusiasts - locals and Utah visitors alike. Lessons, rental gear, food - it's all there.

What's Outside?
Beginners can kick off their experience in the magic-carpet-served Start Park. Off the Hot Laps Chairlift you'll find a right to left progression with multiple terrain parks, box and rail features, Peace Park, Red's BKYD and more. Oh, and don't forget the tubing hill!

What's Inside?
The indoor Action Sports Hub features 66,000 sq. ft. of fun with action sports concrete park, pump track, mini ramps, parkour zone, spring floor, Olympic grade trampolines and foam pits.

How to access Woodward? Visitors and locals can buy a membership or a daily pass, then reserve your session time for any of the facilities.

Where is Woodward?
Woodward Park City is located right on I-80 between Salt Lake City and Park City.

Feb 24, 2021
S2:Ep11 - Chris McCandless: Little Cottonwood Via Gondola

Chris McCandless grew up in Little Cottonwood Canyon, dropping powder lines as a kid and hiking Superior in the summertime. It's a place near and dear to his heart. Three or four days a week you might find him driving up the canyon where the decision of the morning is Alta, Snowbird or backcountry - all the way up just soaking in the scenery.

Chris is like many of us and certainly not immune to having those moments of solitude soaked up by traffic jams on SR210. But amidst a broad public discussion on mountain transportation today, Chris McCandless has a vision. His concept for a high speed 3S gondola to whisk skiers up the canyon and help alleviate traffic on the dangerous canyon road below is very real. And people are listening.

If you've ever skied in Europe, you quickly learn how mountain regions have created transportation systems that simply don't rely on cars. Lifts and tramways aren't just for skiers. They're for moving people on railways, gondolas and more.

McCandless is a skier's skier. The passion he felt as a nine-year-old in Little Cottonwood burns every bit as big today. He brought that same passion to public service, as a Sandy City councilman for 15 years and past head of the Central Wasatch Commission.

Today, he just wants to be a part of the solution for future generations.

This episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast will amaze you at how realistic the gondola project is over the next decade. Gondola? Railway? Buses? Highway? Watch for a Utah Department of Transportation decision soon! Here are a few tidbits. Listen to the podcast to learn more.

Skiing is really at your core, Chris, isn't it?
(As a kid) I lived in Sandy. Me and my friend, we'd go up there every weekend and build jumps on the rope tow. We'd wear out so many pairs of gloves and make my mom crazy. We would take shovels, build great jumps, try to impress people. I don't think we impressed anybody, but we thought we did. And that was the fun part of it with our amazing prowess and ski jumping. And it just led from there and never gave up. I'm still skiing as much as I possibly can. And it's been a great experience. The hope is that we can help perpetuate this experience into the future for all of the generations yet to come.

"People want something to happen. They want it to happen now. We've talked about this for decades. Let's get something done now to solve the transportation problem." Chris McCandless

How did you get inspired on this project back when you were on the Sandy City Council?
A lot of projects came across our desk at Sandy City at the time. It was fulfilling. I was part of the solution and I enjoyed that. I don't regret a single day of service. And that helped me formulate where we are today with trying to figure out a solution for the transportation problems that plague the south end of the valley as it relates to Little Cottonwood Canyon. Two to five hour transit transit times to get into and out of the canyon doesn't work. We're ruining our asset.

How will the gondola help mitigate traffic in the canyon?
The gondola has the capacity of about 4,000 people per hour, which is a peak hour need. If you're taking that number of people up the canyon, you eliminate 1,800 cars an hour out of that canyon. You have decreased the congestion. You've increased the enjoyment of not having to deal with the 'red snake,' as they call it, going either up or down the canyon. It's pretty brutal sometimes.

How will the system tie into the neighboring communities in the valley?
One of the parts that I really like is our trail systems going into the base station. We want to extend the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and bring trails in from Sandy and Cottonwood Heights and from our immediate neighbors and put it right through a project so people can ride their bicycle to the gondola station or just walk. It'll be an absolutely staggeringly beautiful walk just to get the gondola base station and then take that up the canyon. Quite a date night, I would say. But, you know, I'm a romantic at heart!

There's plenty more in this episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast.

  • What does he share in common with the lead character in Jon Kraukauer's Into the Wild?
  • How did he get up Little Cottonwood as a kid?
  • Why did he steal his brother's bindings?
  • His favorite line off the tram on a powder morning and why you want to be on first tram.
  • His favorite old guy rock band?

Take a listen today. Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distilleryon your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.


  • Gondola Car: Doppelmayr 3S, 28-passengers
  • Base Station: Le Caille (restaurant) with underground parking and bus interchange
  • 28 minutes to Snowbird
  • 35 minutes to Alta
  • Flies over 64 active avalanche paths
  • 57% of the nine miles of SR210 is threatened by avalanche paths
  • Helps mitigate the up to 7,000 cars a day in Little Cottonwood Canyon
Feb 16, 2021
S2:Ep10 - The Seeholzers: Family Story of Beaver Mountain

Mountain manager Travis Seeholzer and I slid off the Harry's Dream Lift at Beaver Mountain, looking out on the vast expanse of state and national forest between Logan and Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau. It's a magical view, with hoar frost on the trees and three to four inches of fluffy powder blanketing the mountainside.

You instantly know you're at a unique place when random skiing guests come up to say hi to the resort owner by name. It's a midweek morning and we have, essentially, a small private ski area with friends today.

It's a story that began in 1918 when Harold Seeholzer got his first pair of skis. In 1937, he and the Mt. Logan Ski Club started pushing their way up the canyon. Together with his wife Luella, Harold pioneered Beaver Mountain, which is still today a part of the Seeholzer family.

Skiing with Travis is a real treat - a nice pace as we arced turns on the groomers and dipped into the powder fluff on the edges. We skied two hours and did five runs. Mostly we talked, standing on ridgelines, stopping alongside groves of aspen and chatting with other skiers.

Beaver Mountain may have only 1,100 acres, but it skis big. A single lift ride gives you 1,700 feet of vertical with terrain that cascades over pitches and rolls down the mountainside.

Most of all, though, you feel like part of the family when you're skiing the Beav!

This episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast is unique in its exploration of a family ski area that provides the same spirit and joy today that is at the root of what we all enjoy as skiers and snowboarders.

the real appreciation and the joy is letting someone enjoy your mountain and hopefully appreciate all the work that you put into it." Travis Seeholzer

What's the character of Beaver Mountain as a local ski area?
I think we're pretty well loved in the community. People enjoy Beaver Mountain and feel some ownership in it - not necessarily because it's family run, but it is the local ski hill. Because it is a local family, they tend to feel more comfortable in claiming ownership.

Tell us about Harold Seeholzer, and the early days of Beaver Mountain? He was very quiet and soft spoken. He loved hunting and fishing and the winter and the snow. And I think his passion was instilling in his kids something quality that they could do to pass those years so that they didn't get in trouble. He said that more than once, something that was constructive and that they enjoyed and that they could enjoy as a family. Harold was a trapper and he knew Logan Canyon like the back of his hand. And then they kind of picked the spot. And I swear to this day, he was inspired.

Marge, what motivated your husband Ted to take the torch from his father Harold?
He loved the pride of what his parents had started. And to continue it on, I think he loved that. He was very proud of what his parents had started for us.

How would you characterize the family aspect of Beaver Mountain?
We're a pretty small community up here. And that's what I tell our employees every year. That's what makes it a really enjoyable job, as you do get to know the guests very well, because you see the same people every week. And for me, it's been year after year and, you know, a lot of history and second and third generation families that ski at Beaver.

There's plenty more in this episode of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast.

How did early skiers navigate Logan Canyon?
Beaver Creek vs. Beaver Mountain (this is a great story)
How long has Marge been selling lift tickets?
What's Travis' favorite run at Beaver Mountain?

Take a listen today. Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery and Saloon on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.


Beaver Mountain is truly a family affair! It's the longest continuously-run, family-owned mountain ski area in America, dating back to 1937 - all in the Seeholzer family. Present matriarch Marge, a second-generation in the Seeholzer ski area family, still runs the ticket office and always has a welcoming smile for guests who have been returning for decades. Marge and Ted's sons, Travis and Jeff, manage the resort with their families.

  • 1918 - Founder Harold Seeholzer buys his first pair of skis
  • 1937 - Harold and the Mt. Logan Ski Club open the road up to the nearby Utah State Forestry Training School
  • 1945 - Harold Seeholzer takes over management of the club's operation at Beaver Mountain.
  • 1949-50 - Rope tow and T-bars installed.
  • 1961 - Beaver Face chairlift installed.
  • 1968 - Founder Harold Seeholzer passes.
  • 1970 - Harold's dream of a chairlift to the top of the mountain is fulfilled with opening of Harry's Dream. His son Ted takes over and his wife Marge begins her long tenure in ticket office.
  • 2003 - Marge's Triple installed.
  • 2013 - Ted Seeholzer passes.
  • Today - The Seeholzer family welcomes guests just as it has for over 80 years.

Checkout the complete history of Beaver Mountain at

A great video capture Ted Seeholzer before he passed telling the story of Beaver Mountain.

Feb 09, 2021
S2:Ep9. Greg Schirf: Evolution of Ski Town Breweries

If you're a skier or snowboarder, there's a pretty good chance you've been in a brew pub be it for a draft beer, hamburger or a pizza. Today we take ski town brew pubs for granted. Where did it all begin? Well, right here in Utah!

Craft brewery visionary Greg Schirf started it all in 1985 with Wasatch Brew Pub in Park City. In this episode of Last Chair, Schirf walks through the evolution of ski town breweries sharing some laughs about his ingenious PR stunts and taking us on a tour from pale ale to IPA to Polygamy Porter.

Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Schirf knew beer - PBR, in particular. But a chance meeting with a brewing pioneer led him into a business that would change the face of ski towns across America.

We drink our share and sell the rest.

And it wasn't easy! There hadn't been a brewery in Utah for over two decades. But he did it. And there was no legal pathway to brew beer at a restaurant. So he got the law changed - in Utah!

Today, every major ski resort town has a nearby brewery. And it all stems back to the pioneering efforts of Greg Schirf in Utah.

Grab a beer, your headphones and enjoy this walk through brewing history.

Greg, you were a beer enthusiast but had no business background in brewing. What motivated you to start Wasatch Brewery?
There was a poem by Robert Frost (Two Tramps in Mud Time) that I had read that said if you can combine a vocation with an avocation, you know, you'll have a happier life. That was pretty simple, but it struck me as profound. I had a passion for two things: being an entrepreneur, starting a business, and then looking for the right marriage with that business.

When you first opened Wasatch Brewery in 1985, what was your beer lineup?
The first year or two, we brewed one beer. Every craft brewery started out with a pale ale. Today, that might be an IPA, but in the old days it was a pale ale. Wasatch Premium Ale, that was the beer we made.

In the mid-80s, there were few micro breweries. Who were your early mentors?
Tom Boane of Pyramid Brewing and Kurt Widmer of Widmer Brothers.

This is a fun episode of Last Chair, complete with a tasting of six legendary Wasatch Beers. We'll also learn about the value of working with politicians to change laws and more.

  • How did he learn about brewpubs (there weren't many in 1985)?
  • Why is serendipity his favorite word?
  • Which of Greg Schirf's legendary marketing campaigns is he most proud of?
  • What was the first beer he brewed?
  • How does foam work into the beer equation?
  • Which genre of beers dominates the brewpub scene today?

Take a listen today. Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery and Saloon on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.


Greg Schirf is one of craft brewing's true pioneers, a leader in the early days of the industry and a connoisseur still today. Last Chair had a chance to do a tasting at the original Wasatch Brew Pubwith Schirf. Listen to his podcast episode for the behind-the-scenes stories of each of these legendary Wasatch beers and the role they've played in the evolution of our beer palates the last 30 years.

Wasatch First Amendment Lager (American Lager)
A turn of the century pure malt, crisp lager. 1st Amendment Lager is made with European style hops and Munich malts. This beer has a wonderful, clean, crisp flavor certain to please all.

Wasatch Hefeweizen (Hefeweizen)
Has defining flavor notes of licorice, clove and banana. Add to this the tangy sweetness of wheat malt and flowery bitterness.

Nitro Polygamy Porter (Porter)
She's on Nitro! Meet the sister-wife of our classic brew. This nitrogenated version is as chocolatey and easy-drinkin' as the original but even softer and creamier. It's ok to love them both.

Wonderful Winter (Ale)
A rich amber-mahogany colored ale with caramel malt flavors and a large hop presence. Brewed with the finest Northwestern pale and caramel malts then generously hopped with Columbus and Amarillo hops. Expect a piney, floral character.

Snow Bank (Amber Lager)
When the snow starts to pile up, it's time to reach for the delicious malty notes of Snow Bank Amber Lager. A smooth malt backbone is balanced with heaps of hops for a crisp, clean refresher. Let it snow!

Our Share IPA (India Pale Ale)
This well-balanced, sessionable IPA brings notes of pine and berry, with a smooth malt backbone that will have you sharing this beer all year long.

Jan 29, 2021
S2:ep8. Lamont Joseph White: Skiing in Color

Over the past year, our nation has been gripped in a discussion on racism. As skiers and snowboarders, how does that impact us in a sport that's not exactly known for its diversity? How inviting are we to minorities? How can we all help to change? What does it feel like as a Black skier or rider? And what contributions do Blacks make to the lifestyle of our sport?

This episode of Last Chair takes a look at skiing and snowboarding through the eyes and art of a Black snowboarder, Lamont Joseph White.

Growing up in New York City, Lamont became infatuated with skiing. He was mesmerized by lift tickets hanging on the jackets of his friends. But as a young Black boy in Queens, it just wasn't in his family's realm. He eventually made his way onto the slopes and has remained a lifelong snowboarder. Today, Lamont splits his time between his homes in Park City and the artist community of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

His new collection, Skiing in Color, tells a vivid story of Black skiers and snowboarders - the colors, the styles, the clothing, the attitudes all reflect the presence of Black culture in the sport, seen through different eyes.

… you feel like people are wondering why you're there, like, what's your story?

As a skier or snowboarder, this is an important episode of Last Chair to absorb. Lamont talks about inclusion and how it's viewed by Black skiers and riders. But he also speaks about what they bring - blending their own culture into the lifestyle into the sport we all love.

What captivated you when you first came to the Utah mountains?
Oh, gosh. The snow itself, the terrain, just the whole atmosphere. When you get out to these resorts that are so full of experienced skiers - it's just such a full ski and outdoor environment in places like Park City and other resorts in Utah. It's really a whole different experience. And it hooked me. It hooked me all the way. I just fell in love with the whole atmosphere - the people, the mountains and everything just became super exciting for me.

As a Black snowboarder, how do you see inclusion? 
What comes along with that are sort of these moments of implicit bias and moments where you feel like people are wondering why you're there, like, what's your story? A little bit like I'm sort of like a mysterious guy sometimes when I show up. It's a common experience for us to have those moments, which is why feeling included becomes important. Feeling that our presence is normalized becomes important for us and that we're represented. So I know that. And a lot of times it's not spoken because we just want to go skiing.

What do black skiers bring to the sport? 
Every culture, when they show up into a space, they're going to bring some of whatever their culture is to that space. If you see me as a snowboarder who happens to be black, I'm fine with that. I don't mind if you see my color. And, by the way, we see color also. And I think that that's cool because there are things to learn from our differences, from our different cultures - whether it's food, whether it's music, whether it's style, whatever is in our lexicon. There are things to learn and enrich our lives by seeing those colors. I love the diversity and I love the representation. So let's all come together.

It's a powerful episode of Last Chair, one that every skier or snowboarder should take in. You'll learn more about a fellow snow rider who loves Utah powder just like you. You'll also find out:

  • What Utah run gets him fired up to ride?
  • His favorite High West whiskey?
  • And his childhood hero growing up in New York.

Take a listen today. Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Skiing in Color

Lamont Joseph White's Skiing in Color limited edition collection is available in canvas and giclee prints.
Skiing in Color - By Lamont Joseph White

Jan 19, 2021
S2:Ep7. Jim Steenburgh: Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth

Don't you just love it when you have to pick up your phone to call your boss back home. 'Hey, really sorry, but we just got snowed in with 60 inches of new snow. We can't get back to the airport. We're stuck up this mountain canyon.' Now that's a great ski trip!

For over a half century, Utah has been known to skiers and riders as the home of the Greatest Snow on Earth. But what's the science behind it? Do you know the three ingredients to creating great powder? And what role does Goldilocks play in all of this? Atmospheric science professor Jim Steenburgh is a good guy to know when you head to the mountains. He wrote the book: Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth. And he's ready to share some secrets with host Tom Kelly on Ski Utah'sLast Chair podcast.

Growing up near upstate New York's Tug Hill plateau (think Lake Ontario lake effect snow), Steenburgh was no stranger to snow. In fact, he'll tell you about his powder skiing experiences at tiny Powder Ridge there. But once he sampled Utah powder on a college trip with his father, there was no turning back. Lo and behold, a job offer to teach at the University of Utah set him up. Today, he's the guy you want in your ski group to tell you where to find the snow.

Water content, atmospheric flow, elevation, geography - it all plays a role in the Greatest Snow on Earth. Armed with extensive historical knowledge and real time meteorological data, Steenburgh's computer-like mind plots incoming storms to map out the best lines for the coming days.

And he loves to share! Well, to a point. Join Last Chair host Tom Kelly as he and Steenburgh navigate through deep powder in a fascinating and informative episode of the Ski Utah podcast.


Listen to the Last Chair podcast to learn the details.

What advice do you give Utah visitors in planning? or are good possibilities. Let the experts be the ones to guide you. Becoming an armchair forecaster, if you're not in Utah, can be challenging. It takes a while to get used to the meteorology around here. But looking at those forecasts is pretty important. If you're thinking about riding at a resort but going out of bounds, you know, you really want to be looking at what is happening with the snowpack and with avalanches on For me, it's one of those things where I try to look at it every day so I'm in tune with what's going on.

So, what's the analysis? Does Utah have the Greatest Snow on earth?
I often tell people there's not a scientific test for the Greatest Snow on Earth - it's in the eye of the beholder. I don't think there's any doubt, though, that that Utah has some of the Greatest Snow on Earth. There are really three kinds of key ingredients for great powder skiing or a great powder skiing climate. But Utah's climatology, especially in the Cottonwood Canyons, is really biased towards lots of pretty good powder days.

Want to know the three secrets?
Listen in to Ski Utah's Last Chair episode with Jim Steenburgh to learn more including:

  • His favorite Utah ski run.
  • How he became a ski racing fan.
  • His secret Utah backcountry line (well, sort of).
  • What tragedy was averted at the 2002 Olympic Closing Ceremony?
  • The deepest powder day of his life.
  • And why depth alone isn't necessarily an indicator of great powder skiing (think float).

Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery and Saloon on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Utah Powder Fun Facts (from Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth)

  • State Record 24-hour Snowfall: Jan. 4-5, 1994, Alta, 55.5 inches of snow with water content of 5.7%
  • 105-mm howitzers are among the tools used by resorts and highway crews to mitigate huge dumps of snow.
  • Avalanches were commonplace in the mining era of the 1880s, claiming many lives.

Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth

Weather, climate change, and finding deep powder in Utah's Wasatch Mountains and around the world.
© 2014 by the University Press of Colorado
Published by Utah State University Press

You'll want to grab a copy of the book before your next trip to Utah. You can pick it up off Amazon, or support a local Wasatch book store including Dolly's in Park City, as well as The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City.

Powder Skiing for College Credit

Only in Utah can you go to college to learn how to find the best powder skiing. Starting this spring, you can take ATOMS1000 at the University of Utah to learn the science behind the secrets. We suspect there will be field trips.

Jan 12, 2021
COVID-19: Innovating a New Approach to Service

Have you been skiing or riding this year? If so, you've experienced a new sensation - standing atop a snow-covered ridgeline, soaking in the alpine peaks and feeling a freedom from the COVID-19 restrictions that have ruled your life for eight months. Utah's resorts have been busy since last March, innovating ways to get open, stay open and provide a safe and meaningful experience for guests. In this episode of Last Chair, we visited some of Utah's iconic resorts to learn how they were managing?

It's pretty clear that the minds have been spinning. It's a new look at resorts from parking to passes to lunch. But what all resorts share in common is a passion for providing an opportunity for all of us to ski and ride - and to do it safely.

When you're driving up Little Cottonwood daydreaming about that ride up the tram and dropping your tips into the Cirque, the last thing you want to be thinking about is where you're going to park. Amidst the challenges of reduced capacity during COVID, Snowbird has a solution with app-based reserved parking. The Bird's Sara Sherman talks us through the simplicity of reserving your own spot. With no parking stress on your mind, you'll have more time to daydream about that first glory fun of the morning.

If you wanna ski, you gotta eat. Ski area parking lots are seeing a lot more tailgaters this year. Alta Ski Area has you covered with innovative new food trucks in both the Wildcat and Albion parking lots. Alta's Brandon Ott gave us the food truck tour with Last Chair checking out Base Camp Kitchenin the Wildcat lot. Wow, those were good burritos. Just grab one, stuff it into your pocket and dine on the Collins lift on your way up to Ballroom.

Snowbasin Resort is a big mountain, with a ton of terrain. While lodges are open to provide restrooms and food, skiers and riders need a little warmth after a couple hours of top-of-mountain runs. Taking some tips it learned from Southern Hemisphere resorts, Snowbasin has added a Yurt Village at the base of the Middle Bowl lift to provide skier's with a heated haven to warm up before heading back out for more. Snowbasin GM Davy Ratchford gave us an insider's tour as the Yurt Village was finished up in time for the holidays.

It's an innovative time for resorts. What we found was that resorts and guests are all assuming their respective COVID responsibilities and providing a truly liberating experience.

Check out this special episode of Ski Utah's Last Chair to learn more.

  • What app do I download to reserve a free parking spot at Snowbird?
  • What's the best burrito to tuck into your parka pocket at Alta's Base Camp Kitchen?
  • Where can you dine in a snow globe?
  • What's the best new spot to stay warm at Snowbasin Resort?

Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery and Saloon on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Dec 30, 2020
S2:Ep5. Jodie Rogers: From Turkey Chili to Gooey Warm Cookies

Imagine feeding thousands of skiers at a dozen locations across five mountains every day? That's the life of Jodie Rogers. An Australian skier who found Utah over 20 years ago, Rogers brings a jovial spirit to her role as director of food and beverage for Deer Valley Resort - staying on top of food trends, and making sure there's enough turkey chili at every lodge.

As skiers, it's easy to take lunch for granted. But at a resort that has historically been acclaimed as a leader in food and hospitality, Rogers leads a team that innovates how to bring culinary art to the slopes every day - breakfast, lunch and dinner.

From morning oatmeal and coffee at the Deer Valley Grocery ~ Café to the taco station at Silver Lake Lodge, gooey chocolate chip cookies, and melting Swiss raclette cheese in a stone fireplace at Fireside Dining, Rogers is at the epicenter of on-mountain cuisine.

How did she get from Australia to Deer Valley? What does it take to transform snow-covered, on-mountain lodges two or three times a day? Listen to Jodie Rogers as she takes you inside food and beverage on the mountain at Deer Valley Resort.


Childhood memory of skiing?
We drove six hours to the ski resort. I think I was seven years old at the time. We got in the back of this truck. So two families, about ten people. We put all the mattresses in the back with all the ski gear, everything we possibly could. Pillows, blankets, heaters, dogs, I think we had in there as well. And we drove the six hours to Perrisher in New South Wales. And that was my first experience of skiing in Australia.

None of us have lived this, so it's still so real to me. Everything about this is surreal, but it is also exciting. This team here has done the safest thing in educating themselves and setting up the protocols. The ultimate goal is to get everyone back in the healthy, fresh, crisp air that we have. We have been creative and we've had to really change everything in food and beverage.

What made the difference for you coming to Deer Valley?
My love of culinary and teaching, is what it came to when I walked into the kitchen here. I felt very much at home here. Deer Valley employees that have been here a long time - it's home, it's their family. That just always resonated with me. I loved to cook. I love to teach cooking. There were plenty of people here that wanted to learn and I felt respected and loved.

What inspires you about hospitality?
Food just tells a story. You can get so creative with it. It just excites me in a way that I can look and feel what that particular product wants to be. And then I can also take what I learned from the people around me.

Listen in to Ski Utah's Last Chair episode with Jodie Rogers to learn more:

  • Suggestions on the best grab-and-go items to tuck into your pocket for a chairlift picnic.
  • Her favorite ski run at Deer Valley.
  • Why St. Provo Girl is her favorite Utah craft beer.
  • And how many gallons of turkey chili Deer Valley produces every day!
  • Her COVID-management tips for visitors to Utah.

Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Dec 21, 2020
S2:Ep4. Chris Waddell: Tragedy To Opportunity

Like many of us, Chris Waddell loves the feeling of being atop Bald Mountain at Deer Valley Resort. The distant peaks of the snow capped High Uintas are off to the right. To the left is the panoramic ridgeline of Park City. Below him is a pristine piste that is ready to be carved.

But instead of standing on two skis to admire the view, he sits in a fiberglass monocoque called a monoski. As the term implies, below him is a single ski, firmly attached to his plastic cockpit. With a push, he's off, wind in his face, his upper body maneuvering the monoski as he puts down some of the prettiest turns in the mountain as skiers stand transfixed by the scene.

Lifelong skier and collegiate racer Chris Waddell was at the peak of his career when a skiing accident took away functionality of the lower half of his body. Just 362 days later, he was back on snow - this time in a monoski. One of the most decorated Paralympic athletes, Waddell today is an inspiration - like the rest of us, still aspiring for those deep powder Utah days near his adopted home!

Chris Waddell's story is not one of great tragedy at the age of 20, but more the inspiration he has brought as one of the world's great athletes.

A Massachusetts native, Waddell moved to Utah full time in 1999 to train for the 2002 Olympics and, like many others, to ski the greatest snow on earth. Last Chair caught up with him in his temporary Bear Lake house, still pensively waiting for renovations to his ski town home in Park City.



Chris how did you find your way into skiing?
I grew up in a town called Granby, Massachusetts, which was probably about 5,000 people in western Mass. We were the in-between of the Berkshires. Mount Tom was about ten minutes away - 680 feet of vertical, about half the height of the Empire State Building. And I saw the kids racing. I was six years old or something and I said, 'I want to do that.

What was your pathway as a ski racer?
I didn't go to a ski academy, I went to a prep school, which meant that we might get to train for an hour a day or something like that. And it was a much shorter season. And I felt like I'd never given myself the chance to see how good I could be as a ski racer. So going to Middlebury, in a lot of ways for me, was going to be my Olympics. It was going to be how I proved how good I could possibly be. And so I spent the whole fall really trying to somehow write a new narrative. And and so my goal every day was to push myself in dry land training to the point where I wanted to quit. Because if I quit and then moved a little bit beyond that, then it was new territory.

But that suddenly changed in an instant!
The first day of Christmas vacation, I went home. My brother and I went to Berkshire East and met up with a bunch of the buddies. We all skied with a group. It was a warm, sunny day. It was like a spring day, 20th of December, slushy snow, which was completely unheard of. And we took a couple of runs, as the coach said, and I was testing a new pair of skis - hadn't been on them yet. And we were going to run slalom and we came down and went back to the race track and he wasn't there. So we decided we'd take one more run. And it was just kind of a strange thing. You're trying to find that sense of harmony, I think, in your skiing. Right, because you hadn't really been on snow that long and just trying to find that right feeling. And that's what I was doing and came over a little little knoll and then made a turn and my ski popped off in the middle of a turn. And all I remember is my ski popping off.

How did your friends respond?
I was in shock. But my friend, a guy named Jim Schaefer who actually now owns Berkshire East, was the first one to me. My brother was there soon afterwards and I was just kind of lying on the ground and they were doing their best. It was obvious to them that I'd hurt myself pretty badly. So they were trying to keep me from moving and everything until the ski patrol could come up. I fell in the middle of the trail and didn't hit anything but the ground. It was just one of those weird falls. I probably had taken what I thought were much worse falls and had no problem. But this time, whatever I did, I did it in exactly the right or the wrong way, however you want to look at that.

What was the outcome of your accident?
I broke thoracic 10 and 11. So there are 12 thoracic bones, there are seven cervical bones. And for me, I broke and really pulverized those two vertebrae. The doctor said it looked like a bad car accident. I was probably going 20 to 30 miles an hour, which doesn't seem fast when you're skiing, but when you fall, it can be fast. So that's what I broke. It corresponds to about belly button (level) as far as sensation. And I have the muscles just below the sternum and sort of corresponding back muscles. So when I started skiing in a monoski, I was in the most disabled of the three classes because I didn't have the ability to lean over onto my legs, like I'm sitting in my wheelchair to lean on to my legs and then sit back up. I don't have the muscles to do that. So once I'm leaning on my thighs, then I really that's where I am until I push myself up with my arms.

Despite your prognosis, how did you retain your passion for skiing?
I was back on snow within the year, 362 days after the accident. I thought about skiing. I did a fair amount of mental imagery when I was training for skiing. And there was nothing I could do while I was lying in the hospital bed. And I thought over and over about skiing. I thought, OK, I'll get back. I won't be healthy for the season, but maybe I'll be able to ski like maybe forerun the Middlebury Carnival, which was always the last race of the year. That's what I initially thought. Nobody told me that I was paralyzed.

What was the catalyst to get you back on skis?
I did believe that I, as an athlete, would be able to create a miracle and recover completely. But at the same time a friend of mine asked me if I would be willing to be in a movie about adaptive skiing, a documentary movie about adaptive skiing. And he asked me about this while I was in the hospital. I said, yes, sure, I will do that. A friend of his was making that movie. And so that to me was the plan.

Had you had any contact with adaptive skiers in the past?
Tom, you knew (Olympic disabled champion) Diana Golden, right? Diana was an amazing person. I saw her at a giant slalom at Burke Mountain the year before my accident. I saw Diana at this race and my first thought was: really? There's a woman with one leg who's coming to this race. But then I watched her ski. To me, she captured what it meant to be an athlete. As ski racers, it's really easy to have all of your excuses before you go through the starting gate. She was somebody who just said, 'look, I'm not going to make any excuses. I don't have time for excuses.' She laid herself bare effectively and just said, 'I'm going to fall down, but I'm going to get back up.' In watching her, I thought, that's the best encapsulation of what it means to be an athlete. I remember thinking, I want to be like Diana, I want to do what she did.

Your pathway to success was very quick.
I actually graduated on skis from Middlebury -- full cap and gown procession. Then I hopped on a plane and flew to Durango for my first first really full-fledged team camp when I was a full time ski racer. So I made the team (2002 Paralympics), which was touch and go.

Early in your career, who helped to inspire you?
Jack Benedick was tougher than nails. I loved Jack. He scared me at times. And he said, 'you're on this team to win medals.' And I thought, 'OK, well, this is it. Like, I've been taking my lumps the whole season. Now I get to go beat up on some people. This is good.' And so I went into Albertville thinking, this is the fun part. This is going to be great. We raced as a team.

Your accomplishment in 1992 was stunning - winning all four medals in your class at the Lillehammer Paralympics just like Jean-Claude Killy.
Jean-Claude Killy was my hero in a lot of ways, I was born in 1968 when he won. He was my father's hero. And I thought, 'OK, this is it. I have a chance to do it.' I had said early on, I don't want to be limited by the disability. I don't want to be defined by the disability. I said I was going to be the fastest monoskier in the world. And to me, that's the definition of skiing. I needed to prove on the biggest stage that I could be the best in the world. In the downhill in Lillehammer, I realized that goal. I was the fastest mono skier in the world in the downhill. Lillehammer was really the pinnacle of my skiing career, realizing that goal and being the fastest in the world.

What prompted you to move to Utah?
I moved to Utah in October of 1999. I thought, 'OK, with these games being here in 2002, I need to be part of that.' I need to be part of the buildup to the games.

Did you see motivational speaking as a natural calling for you after your athletic career ended?
That's a really good question. It is funny, because if you ask me when I was in college, if I would be doing this stuff that I'm doing, I would tell you that you are absolutely crazy because I hated getting in front of a group. I mean, this is the sweaty palms, the shaking knees, the shaking voice. I hated it. Absolutely hated it. And there are a lot of things that I ended up doing that were in some ways, in some ways were vehicles for being able to tell the story that if I didn't have a story, I might not necessarily have done these things.

Do you think the Olympics and Paralympics can return to Utah in 2030 or 2034?
My experience in 2002 was the greatest experience that I've had in the Paralympics. The interaction with the people in Utah was just different than anything else I'd really seen. And we have the Greatest Snow on Earth. We have mountains all within an hour's drive of the airport. We have so many athletes who live and train here. It's a culture of sport. There are a lot of cities that are not interested where the people aren't really that interested in hosting the Olympics and the Paralympics. But the people here in Utah are. And I think it could be a great celebration of sport.


Listen in to Ski Utah's Last Chair episode with Chris Waddell to learn more:

  • Which of his global accolades means the most to him.
  • Challenges at writing children's books.
  • His attempt at becoming a comedian.
  • His views on polygamy.
  • Recognition by the Dalai Lama.
  • His view on moguls vs. powder.

Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Dec 07, 2020
S2:Ep3. Nikki Champion, Utah Avalanche Center

Imagine boots on snow for 12 months a year? From the towering peaks of Denali and Rainier, to the powder-filled backcountry of Utah's Wasatch Range, that's the life of Nikki Champion. It's a long way from the young girl who was chasing gates as a ski racer in Michigan. Today, she's a vital link in helping keep Utah's backcountry safe as a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center.

As her name implies, Nikki truly championed her own path - moving from Michigan to Colorado to attend college and quickly discovering her passion for snow. She learned about snow science, taking her zest of knowledge to Montana. Seeking mentors for her burgeoning career, she headed for Alaska. Today she summers in Alaska and Washington state as a mountain climbing guide but spends winters here in Utah where she's up and at work by 3:00-4:00 a.m. on every forecast shift.


Utah Avalanche Center

Know Before You Go Online Education

Utah Avalanche Awareness Week - Dec. 6-12
Watch for daily on-snow and online classes.


Nikki, you returned to Utah in October and quickly found people heading to the backcountry. Is it looking like a busy season?
It sure seems like it. I've been out three days so far this year, and almost every single day the outer parking lot looks like the lifts are running. And we had a record showing at USAW (Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop) - close to a thousand people for each open night which is awesome.

Before we get to skiing, how did you find your way into mountain guiding?
I'm going on my sixth season with RMI. I used to work up in Alaska as a guide up there doing some ice climbing, glacier travel, things like that. And seven years ago I came down to the lower 48 and I climbed Mount Rainier for the first time. And while I was there, I saw all the guides climbing and I was like, 'that looks pretty fun, I think I could do that.' So the next season, I applied and I got the gig. I've entered the rotation in which I spend every May through October climbing primarily in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. So our normal rotation looks like a May on Rainier, a June on Denali, July and August back on Rainier and in the North Cascades and then off in September doing a lot of North Cascades work until I wrap up and head back to Utah.

In Nikki Champion's year, how many months are you touching snow?
Oh, gosh, probably 12 months a year. Sometimes I try to take October off and warm up. Previously I would try to kind of take some time off and go somewhere tropical and only wear sandals for a month or so, give my feet a break from the ski boots and the mountaineering boots. But somehow snow still seems to sneak into every month of my life.

Was the summer climbing impacted by COVID?
Yeah, the guiding industry seemed to be hit pretty hard by COVID this year. The whole climbing season got canceled on Denali for guide services as well as public climbers. So we were unable to do a season up there and I was actually unable to climb on Rainier until September this year. So a much different summer for me.

As a young girl, how did your life on snow begin?
I was pretty fortunate. I was actually born in Colorado, in between Denver and Steamboat. My parents got me on the skis when I was about like one and a half or two. They had me skiing with like a hula hoop out front of them so I could hold onto it. So I started skiing really young, which I thank my parents for. We moved to Michigan when I was about four, so pretty young. I began alpine racing really young as well, which took me all over the state of Michigan and out west as well to train. So it kind of came as no surprise to anyone that when I started looking at colleges when I was 18, I was looking for something out west, ideally Colorado or Montana - somewhere that had the mountains.

You learned snow science during college in Colorado and Montana, what led you to Alaska?
I kind of finally stumbled into finding out how that snow science was what I wanted to pursue. I started teaching avalanche classes in Montana. I began doing my own research outside of just helping field assistants. And I started working in the Sub-Zero Science and Engineering Lab in Bozeman, which is like a cold lab where you get to create snow. After I actually graduated, I wanted to start exploring more options for forecasting and even more seeking out new mentorship opportunities. The Chugach was a really unique situation in which it had three female forecasters, it was the only forecast center in the country that had that. So I wanted to go up to the Chugach. I was fortunate enough to land the internship up there.

Did that experience introduce you to new things that you hadn't encountered down in the lower 48?
It was new opportunities. I hadn't worked directly with the Forest Service on the forecasting side of things before. I had worked primarily as an avalanche educator with the Forest Service Avalanche Center as well. It was a new type of snow pack. So the Chugach, up in Alaska, is in Girdwood, an hour outside of Anchorage. It's a really unique snow climate in which it can represent all three of what we've identified as snow climates: the inner mountain, which is what we are here in Utah, Continental, which is more of what you think of Colorado, and then a coastal snow climate, which is traditionally Washington. The Chugach, year-to-year, has represented all three. So I was able to see a lot more rain than I'd ever seen before down in Montana and or in Utah or Colorado, as well as different problems like glide avalanches, and also just not seeing as much sun - that plays an impact on the snow.

What is snow science?
Snow science is a really fickle science, and something we're continuing to learn about every single day. The basics of what builds an avalanche, though, is you have a slab or a really strong layer over a weak layer on a bed surface that it can slide on. And then you need a slope steeper than 30 degrees.

What's the difference between skiing in a resort and the backcountry?
Ski resorts do an awesome job at mitigating the risk. What they do is they more or less create their own snow pack. So these layers that I just talked about, that slab and that weak layer, they use explosives, they use ski cutting, they use a multitude of different techniques to really destroy or test those weak layers and they create an artificial snow pack. They make sure that that weak layer or that whole setup doesn't exist within their ski resort. Now, as soon as you step outside a gate, you enter the backcountry from a trailhead. It's all the same. It's a natural snow pack. And at that point, there's none of that control. There's no explosive work testing the snow. There's no explosive work destroying that. We claim it's all just a natural raw snow pack. And you more than likely do have that make up of a slab and a weak layer.

As soon as you leave the gate, you are no longer in the ski resort and you need to think of it as the backcountry. There's not really anything known as the side country. As soon as you leave the gate, you're in the backcountry. It's the exact same as leaving a trail head.

What do we look for in the daily avalanche forecast?
Right away, you're going to see our danger rose, which has these danger ratings assigned to the different aspects and elevations of the Wasatch. That, right away, is going to give you a really simple breakdown of the dangers at those different aspects of elevations in a very visual way. Going with the danger rose, is just our bottom line statement. It's normally a couple of sentences that are just going to break it down, really simply on what the avalanche danger is, why and where from there it's really important to continue reading through the rest of the forecast.

Can backcountry users contribute to your reports?
Yeah, so we get observations directly from users. Anybody can go to click on our surveillance tab and they can view all the observations from the public. But they can also submit an observation themselves from just a general day in the field. Or they can submit if they do have avalanche incident and we rely super heavily on those. We don't have enough forecasters to get to every zone, every single day. So the user observations really help us paint a full picture of the Wasatch.

How has mentorship played a role for your career?
I've been really fortunate along my whole path to have some really great mentors, both male and female. I just fell into my own personal progression. I had to actively seek out female mentors a lot more. They were harder to find. And that's why I wanted to go up to Alaska and work with all the women up there. When I got down to Utah and I took the position down here, the woman who was in this position before me, Evelyn, had started an all female women's avalanche education program. And I think that's huge for the reasons I just discussed. I think that by introducing more female specific education, it creates more opportunities for women to see other women in leadership positions, in educator positions, in forecaster positions, and then also create more mentor-mentee relationships.

Do you embrace the mentor role yourself today?
Women's education is a first huge stepping stone this year. We went from about three women's-specific education to seven courses we're doing this year. And I'm involved with all of those as well. I would like to see more women enter these entry level avalanche education courses, maybe feel more confident to then continue their own avalanche path, start taking some of the farther along avalanche education courses, and then maybe pursue a career in avalanche or snow science.

So, I've got my backcountry gear … what's next?
The first step is getting the gear that doesn't only include gear to travel uphill, but that includes avalanche rescue gear as well. So your beacon, shovel, probe, all three are essential pieces. You can't use one without the other. After that, you need to get the training. And this is a really unique year because there's a lot of resources available for people. We had an e-learning module go live on Know Before You Go, which is an online learning module that you can work through from the comfort of your own home. Beyond that, I think getting on the snow is really important. The first stepping stone for that could be just in a backcountry one-on-one, which is an evening lecture. This year it's going to be in a more hybrid form. We're going to have just all your classes and lectures recorded, and then we're going to do a Zoom question and answer with your instructor. And then a day on the field. There's avalanche education that goes beyond that, like an avalanche Level One, which is a three-day course with a snow component. 

What do we tell our friends who are going into the backcountry without the gear or the training?
It's a hard topic, but it is so important. It's almost a little bit morbid when you go into the backcountry with somebody if they don't have the proper training, they don't know how to use their gear. They're telling all their partners that they don't really care about their life, which is a hard way to put it, but it's true. You want to go into the backcountry with somebody who knows how to do a rescue and you want to make sure that you know how to do a rescue. To have the education, to have the training and to know how to use all your gear is is telling all your partners that you care about them and you care that they live.

As a forecaster, you spend a lot of time in the backcountry where you have your choice of almost infinite lines. What does that perfect line look like for you?
Sometimes when we ski for work every day, it's not always powder. So I think just looking for the best line of the day, whether that be a really high snow day or the avalanche danger is high. So it might just be some low angle wiggles or maybe the best line to get out of steeping or skiing bulletproof ice as fast as you can. I think just looking for whatever is going to cause me to have the most fun that day on the way down is what I look for.

Listen in to Ski Utah's Last Chair episode with Nikki Champion to learn more:

How one of her favorite beers can keep you safe in the backcountry.
Her go-to snowy winter evening dinner at home (she's also a skilled chef).
The line she loves (or more like a region) for that perfect ski day.
And the circumstances under which she still prefers groomers over powder.

Tune in to Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast presented by High West Distillery and Saloon on your favorite podcast platform. Subscribe to get first access to every episode.

Nov 26, 2020
S2:Ep2. Bryn Carey: Innovation for a Better Ski Vacation

Few would argue that one of the most challenging aspects of a ski vacation can be renting the gear. Bryn Carey, a Sugarloaf, Maine transplant to Utah, has been changing that through his innovative approach to rental equipment delivery at Ski Butlers, a Park City-based company he founded in 2004. Today, Ski Butlers is in two-dozen locations in six states and four countries.

Carey grew up in the quintessential skiing family. His father, Chip, was marketing director at Sugarloaf. Skiing was a way of life for the outdoor adventuring family who lived in the remote outreaches of Maine. Then a warm, spring trip to Snowbird changed it all. With his older siblings off to college and dad weighing an opportunity to take over marketing at what would become Canyons in Park City, the family put the decision to Chip, then a young teen. It was a no brainer! They were Utah-bound.

Bryn Carey's interview on Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast is a story of passion for winter sport combined with business principles based on values. Sixteen years ago, Carey's fledgling business was one of many experimenting with rental equipment delivery. Over time, Ski Butlers stood out based on its quality of service that is a direct testament to Carey's leadership style, deep love for the sport and an innate sense of stewardship for the environment around him.

Carey's business success in the sport he loves stems from the basics of entrepreneurship he learned from his family, going all the way back to his days as a young boy brewing root beer and selling it to friends.

Over his two decades in Utah, Carey has very much become a part of the fabric of Ski Utah and life in the Wasatch Mountains. He could have taken the Ski Butlers headquarters anywhere, but his love for the Utah outdoors made it an easy call. He's channeled his passion into leadership roles within the region to protect the future of the Wasatch. His strong feelings about protecting the environment found him in France with his kids for the signing of the Paris Accord in 2015 and an active role in Al Gore's Climate Reality Project.

Most of all, though, he just loves being a part of Utah's active outdoor lifestyle. He recalls his youth in Maine fondly, and wants to recreate that for his own family in the Wasatch Mountains.

Here's just a small sampling of what you'll find in episode 2 of Last Chair presented by High West. Take a listen, there's a lot more to learn.

Nov 20, 2020
S2:Ep1. John Cumming: Passion for Utah and Outdoors

Ever wonder what happened to the 'E' in POWDR, the owner of Woodward Park City and nearly a dozen resorts nationwide? You'll learn about that in the season two debut of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast.

POWDRresort company owner John Cumming still has fond memories as a young boy of his father, Ian, scooping him up out of his bed late at night to head to their condo in Snowbird for a long weekend of family skiing. That passion he gained for the outdoors as a child formed his pathway for life as the owner of POWDR, a thriving family-owned resort company competing head-to-head with the likes of Vail Resorts and Alterra.

Today, Cumming owns Snowbird along with 10 other resorts across the country from Killington to Copper Mountain to Mt. Bachelor. His innovative Woodward Park City, a new gem amongst a host of national action sports centers under the Woodward brand, offers youth and adults alike with unparalleled action on snow.

In a rare interview to kick off Ski Utah's Last Chair podcast, Cumming talks in great detail about his childhood, his growth as a young entrepreneur, his feelings for his resort communities and the challenges brought on by the pandemic. He leaves no stone unturned, addressing the loss of Park City Mountain Resort as well as his own success in managing his life with multiple sclerosis.

His intense passion for the outdoors blends with the business acumen he learned from his father and from his own experience as one of the founders of Mountain Hardwear, a leading outdoor clothing and equipment company. His wisdom of resort operations comes from hands-on experience working at Park City Mountain Resort.

As chairman of POWDR, he oversees a unique outdoor company that is finding its way through the coronavirus pandemic with both skillful business direction and a high sense of compassion for both its employees and guests.

Want to learn more about John Cumming? Best ski run? Most challenging climbing route? Personal hobby? Favorite musician? Take a listen to season 2 - episode 1 of Last Chair: The Ski Utah Podcast.

Oct 26, 2020
Ep 13. Season Pause: A Fabulous Snow Season Cut Short

Without doubt, the 2019-20 ski and snowboard season was one for the record books - great snow, guests from around the world enjoying the Greatest Snow on Earth, restaurants and bars serving up the Ski Utah lifestyle. Then, it all came to a sudden pause on March 14.

The pandemic pause caused an unprecedented halt to a great season.

How did it all come down? How have the resorts managed it with guests and employees? What does the future hold? Last Chair wraps up the 2019-20 season - including some great powder day stories - with leaders of the sport. 

Join Last Chair for a conversation with Ski Utah’s Nathan Rafferty, Davy Ratchford from Snowbasin and Dave Fields of Snowbird to get the inside story.

May 19, 2020
Ep 12. Mike Caldwell: Ogden’s Ski Town Mayor

The affable Mike Caldwell bursts into his office, a welcoming smile on his face. Wearing a Salomon vest, he looks a lot different than the portraits of a century of mayors on the wall of his Ogden City office, embodying the active, outdoor lifestyle that has become the trademark of Utah’s second largest city.

Eight years in, the third-term mayor has built a strong city by focusing on Utah’s geographical location. A century ago, Ogden’s forefathers capitalized on the Junction City’s location as a railway crossroads. Today, Caldwell has seized on its proximity to the mountains and outdoor recreation. From the 40+ outdoor brand logos with a corporate footprint in Ogden to the thousands of skiers reveling on 25th Street, Ogden truly has become one of America’s great outdoor recreation towns.

On any given day, he’ll be riding his road bike to work, taking the mountain bike up onto nearby singletrack, slipping into a climbing harness, clicking into alpine touring gear for a backcountry outing or sliding onto a chairlift for an day at nearby Snowbasin, Nordic Valley or Powder Mountain.

This week Last Chair brings you to the top floor of the elegant art deco Ogden Municipal Building, overlooking towering Mount Ogden, for a conversation with Mike Caldwell - a mayor who has eight bikes and five pairs of skis hanging in the garage. He’ll explore Ogden’s rich history and entice you up with a look at the hidden gem among Utah’s ski towns.

Mar 10, 2020
Ep 11. Randy Doyle: Keeping the Family Feel at Brighton

Randy Doyle is that guy who always has a happy smile on his face - a fixture on the Ski Utah scene for decades. He literally grew up on the slopes of Brighton and has carried on the tradition of one of Utah’s most family-friendly resorts.

Across the Wasatch, there are few views that can match the alpine peaks of the Cottonwoods from the top of the Great Western chairlift down the ridgeline to Snake Creek Pass. Utah’s oldest resort, Brighton Resort, got its start in 1936 as a place for families to ski. Randy’s father, Zane, discovered skiing there and eventually bought the fledging tow rope and creating a Mecca for Salt Lake City families to learn how to ski. 

This week Last Chair takes us up to the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon as Randy Doyle reminisces on the origins of the resort and how it’s kept its family-friendly culture for nearly a century. We’ll explore the evolution of the sport that has played out on the slopes of Brighton for 84 years and learn about live growing up in the mountains from one of Ski Utah’s favorite leaders.

Feb 25, 2020
Ep 10. Ron Baldis: Park City Powder Cats

The bright red PistenBully wound its way up the switchbacks to the top of San Mateo Ridge. Inside, guide Ron Baldis joined the joyous revelry of his guests as they regaled each other with stories of their last run through the trees.

Baldis grew up skiing in California, making first runs at Big Bear and joining his family for long trips up to Mammoth. In the early 2000s, he got a call to help a fledgling cat skiing manage its business. He ended up buying the company and now, 16 years later, he still gets the same good feeling as he leads skiers and riders across the 43,000 acres of Thousand Peaks he services with his fleet of cats.

PC Powder Cats and Heli-Ski makes dreams come true. On the day we skied with Ron, we joined a group of old high school buddies from Minneapolis. Last summer they got a text chain going, rallying each other to come out to Utah for a guys reunion trip and a weekend of cat skiing.

It was a stormy, wet morning when we arrived at the lodge at the head of Weber Canyon. Soon the cats were charging up hill. That first run is full of apprehension. Then you realize, ‘hey, I can do this.’ Dipping off the ridgeline your skis carve into the snow, kicking up snow plumes.

Tom Kelly takes the Last Chair podcast to Thousand Peaks, getting to know Park City Powder Cats owner Ron Baldis from the cab of a PistenBully. Listen in as Baldis tells the story of Thousand Peaks ranch and what makes cat skiing such a social affair.

Feb 11, 2020
E9. Rob Lea and Caroline Gleich: Ultimate Outdoor Couple

Imagine climbing Mount Everest. Then think about swimming the English Channel. If that's not enough, how about riding your bike across America. That was last summer for Park City triathlete Rob Lea. Oh, and let's not forget the August wedding!

Rob Lea and Caroline Gleich are Utah's true adventure couple. Gleich, a noted ski mountaineer, joined fiancé Rob for the Everest climb. On May 24, they stood together atop the world's highest peak, gazing out across the vast expanse of the Himalayas. Just six weeks later, Caroline was in the boat documenting Rob's swim from Britain to France - the first time anyone had done Everest and the English Channel in that short a span of time. Lea wrapped up his Ultimate World Triathlon in September, riding from the Pacific Ocean to Nantucket.

It all began when Lea learned that an injury was going to cause him to give up his passion for triathletes. So he wanted to go out with a bang. And, along the way, help raise awareness for gender equality.

Last Chair's Tom Kelly will explore Rob and Caroline's ultimate summer adventure, as well as diving into her own passion for big mountain skiing in the Wasatch. The couple will share their backcountry outing in Little Cottonwood earlier that day, plus fun things they love in the show-closing lightning round.

Feb 04, 2020
E8. Laura Sexton Creating the Perfect Groomer Day at Deer Valley Resort

This was one of those ‘man dreams’ - to be riding in a big piece of machinery, conquering the steeps and sculpting the snow, riding in Prinoth Bison, nearly 10 tons of machinery with over 400 horsepower of Caterpillar energy pushing the treads. Deer Valley Resort groomer Laura Sexton was in command, her left hand deftly managing the track control levers, her right fingers flicking buttons on a joystick like an experienced gamer, expertly controlling the hydraulics.

A midwest native (Ski Sundown in Dubuque, Iowa), Sexton has been grooming Deer Valley’s mountains for neary 30 years - 27 of which she doubled up as a corpsman in the Naval Reserve. She’s one of the resort’s veterans on a crew with well over 100 years of experience on any given shift. And she still loves it.

In this episode of Last Chair from Ski Utah, Tom Kelly explores the mountain on skis with Sexton as she personally inspects the snow surface in the late afternoon hours, before sending her first shift crew up onto the mountain.

Snow grooming is an art form. Heading up the hill, Laura flicked the hydraulics to push the blade into the snow, snapping the wings out to gain maximum width. The snow looped up and circled back to the ground, while the treads compacted it. She set the tillers to aerate the snow behind the cat, with bars carving pristine corduroy into the snow.

It’s a labor of love for Laura and her team, tracking hour after hour in the mountain solitude to put down precision corduroy for all of us to enjoy the next morning.

Jan 28, 2020
E7. Chad Linebaugh: Blending Art, Nature and Skiing at Sundance Mountain Resort

When you look at Sundance Mountain Resort, you need to view it as much more than a ski area. When Robert Redford moved to this peaceful valley in the early 1960s, his dream was to preserve this very special place. Today, Sundance is a wonderful blend of art, nature and skiing.

Sundance may be a small ski area, but it skis big. Originally known as Timp Haven, Redford purchased the land in 1968, and the Sundance era egan.

Last Chair, the Ski Utah Podcast traveled to the scenic valley to speak with President and General Manager Chad Linebaugh. He’ll take you on a tour of Sundance runs in his conversation with host Tom Kelly, even sharing his favorite Robert Redford movie, some little known facts about the famous actor and some insider tips about the Sundance Film Festival. Check it out in this week’s episode of Last Chair.

Jan 21, 2020
E6. Kim Mayhew: Ski Bum to Respected Resort Leader at Solitude

Sometimes you just have to follow your heart. In the early 1980s, Kim Mayhew did just that. Mayhew and her husband reevaluated their lives, deciding to head west, hopscotching between resorts like ski bums until landing in Utah. Today, Mayhew is one of the most highly regarded resort leaders in America, serving as president and chief operating officer of Solitude Mountain Resort - one of the gems of the Alterra Mountain Company. Shares her story of success and her approach to the challenges presented leading a Cottonwood Canyon resort.

Jan 14, 2020
E5. David Perkins: Utah’s High West Whiskey Pioneer

Utah may seem like an unlikely spot to pioneer a distillery. But biochemist and lifelong skier David Perkins saw an opportunity. Perkins opened High West Distillery inside an old Park City garage in 2006, ushering in a unique new element to the lifestyle of skiing. In this episode of Last Chair, the Ski Utah Podcast, Perkins shares the story of how he and wife Jane conceived High West one day in Kentucky and then brought a distillery to Utah.

Jan 07, 2020
E4. Shannon Bahrke: Athlete, Entrepreneur, Skiing Mom

There’s never a dull moment in the life of Shannon Bahrke Happe: athlete (two-time Olympic medalist), entrepreneur (her Team Empower Hour brings Olympians together to motivate) business leaders and mom (young Zoe and Tucker, both literally born on skis, and husband Matt).

Life is a blend for Bahrke, a Lake Tahoe native who made Utah her home in 1998 to train for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. It worked, as she won silver in moguls skiing at Deer Valley Resort. She won another medal - this one bronze - eight years later in Vancouver.

The Christmas holidays will find her skiing with guests as a part of Deer Valley’s Ski With a Champion program. But what’s especially important for her is her family.

“I love this time of year because I get to ski with my favorite families,” she said. “But, most of all, I look forward to being out there with my own family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We’ll be skiing, sledding, playing in the snow and hoping for a giant snowstorm so we can build a gi-normous snowman.”

Known for her trademark pink-accented hair, Shannon remains a bubbly personality and one of skiing’s biggest ambassador.

Ski Utah’s Last Chair episode features a fascinating conversation with the two-time Olympic medalist - her favorite run, a noted celebrity with whom she’s skied (it’s a perfect match) and even her favorite ski outfit (she has a few). Take a listen - it will be an exhilarating experience.

Dec 24, 2019
E3. Evan Thayer: Forecasting your Utah Powder Days

Talk about finding your passion - snow forecaster Evan Thayer is living his dream! As a kid growing up in the mountains around Lake Tahoe, young Evan just loved to ski. But he was also fascinated with weather. Today, Thayer is truly living out his fantasy job spending his days hopscotching across Utah resorts and his early morning hours bringing you the day’s powder forecast through his role at

Following his time at college in Colorado, Thayer was working as a computer programmer. Then fate stepped in when his wife got a job in Utah. Just for fun, he started an email list among new Utah friends with his daily forecasts. That blossomed to a blog, Wasatch Snow Forecast, then a job at Ski Utah. The rest is history as Thayer spends most of his winter days on skis, doing on-mountain forecasts and keeping an index of his favorite runs.

Tune in to Last Chair to hear Evan’s story and pick up a few tips on what to watch and where to ski or ride.

Dec 18, 2019
E2. Dave Richards: Getting Alta Ski Area safely ready for the season.

Dave Richards is a part of the culture and fabric of Alta, one of Utah’s most beloved ski areas. As snow safety director, he’s your most important friend on the mountain - helping to keep you safe. December is that time of year when everyone’s asking, ‘why can’t I ski there?’ Getting a bit alpine mountain ready for the ski season is a challenge, with everyone itching to get back to their favorite line. Richards, affectionately known as Grom, is at the forefront of seasonal preparation as a team of professionals prepares lifts, snowmaking and other infrastructure for the season. Most importantly, as the snowfall comes his team of patrollers work night and day to ensure the safety of guests.

Richards literally grew up on the mountain at Alta with his father a patrol leader. The Wasatch backcountry was his home and remains deep in his heart. Last Chair will explore Alta through the eyes of the ultimate Alta local - the values he holds and the importance of keeping skiers safe. Grom will be ever philosophical as he tells us about his favorite mountain stash and how you can find your own!

Listen in this week on Last Chair for a locals tour of Alta, one of America’s most magical mountains.

Dec 10, 2019
E1. Dave Fields: The face behind Snowbird

Growing up in Salt Lake City, Dave Fields loved to make turns in Utah's fluffy powder. After an early career as a journalist, he saw how excited his wife was to work at a ski area. He quickly realized, 'hey, that's what I want to do!' He signed on as an assistant in the Snowbird PR department and his pathway began. Now, nearly two decades later, he's the president and CEO responsible for running one of America's greatest ski resorts. 

Ski Utah's Last Chair will take you inside Dave's life on the mountain from overseeing a dedicated team of mountain ops professionals or giving out sunscreen to happy Fourth of July skiers in the tram line. You might be surprised by his choice of on-mountain lunch or favorite beer. And you just might learn a few tips on where Snowbird's boss likes to ski. 

Listen in on this week's Last Chair with Snowbird leader Dave Fields to learn more as we take you inside the story of the Greatest Snow on Earth.

Dec 03, 2019