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 Mountain Resort 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 Ski Area 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 like 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.
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 Resort. 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 …
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| Lexi Dowdall, welcome to Last chair the Ski Utah podcast. I know this podcast is between you and a ski day. So are you looking forward to getting on the boards today?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:00:10| Absolutely. Yeah, I'm excited to be here and then I'm headed up to get myself on some snow, but happy to be here, Tom.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:17| Well, I'm really excited about this one. I learned about your project earlier this season, and you know, we're going to talk about a lot of things that are really near and dear to Utah skiers' hearts. We're going to talk about skiing today. We're going to talk about river rafting a little bit. I know you're not an expert river rafter, but it did factor into this storyline. We're going to talk about art and we're going to talk about the environment, all things that are really important to us. So just so before we get into the interesting things to talk about what you're doing in melting snow at resorts all around the state. Tell us a little bit about your background growing up in Salt Lake and how you got into skiing.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:00:52| Yeah, for sure. I'm, I don't know, a fourth or fifth generation Utahn, and I suppose so. 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.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:14| This is the Utah way, right? And you have all these resorts at your disposal. Where did you learn?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:01:19| So I learned, Oh man, this is actually quite embarrassing. So my first lesson was at Solitude, I think I was four, maybe three and a half or four, and I had an afternoon lesson and the guy comes in and he had it was the powder day and he had just a huge beard covered in snow. And I lost it. I was terrified. So I actually stayed inside and watched Sleeping Beauty and colored because I was too scared. He came in looking like a Yeti, you know, he had snow all over his clothes and his jacket. It was too scary for me.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:52| Was it the Ski Utah Yeti?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:01:54| You know, it's possible. I wouldn't put it past him.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:58| It's interesting. There's great characters in skiing, though, aren't there?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:02:01| Absolutely. Yeah, I was just watching that story about Farmer Dave the other day, with the powder skier up Little Cottonwood and man, yeah, we make some good characters.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:12| What do you remember back then other than the fact that you were scared by the yeti that came in with the frozen beard? But what were the things that really kind of ignited that passion about skiing in you?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:02:24| Well, I learned with my little sister and a couple of friends and neighbors, so for us, it was just a way to get outside. And then probably around the time I was six, my dad started working in the emergency clinic up at Snowbird and we knew how to ski by that point, and he would kind of just kick us out the door. So we kind of grew up just raining around Snowbird and doing laps on many miners' camps, and that was home for us. That was daycare.
Tom Kelly: |00:02:53| So how old were you then?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:02:54| Oh geez, probably six or seven? I'm not sure. I definitely used the ski free under 12 until I was 16.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:03| That's pretty much what everybody does, right? Yeah. We won't tell anyone.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:03:07| Once I got my driver's license, I got my first season pass.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:10| You know, I want to go back to you being six or seven years old and being turned loose on your own as a six or seven year old at Snowbird.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:03:18| Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:18| What were some of the outrageous things you did without mom or dad there looking after you?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:03:24| Well, my dad would typically give us a ten dollar bill, and it was up to us how to spend that. And we usually would just buy as many french fries as we could, often ordering more than we could pay for.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:35| So because they're going to look at the six year old say, Hey, just get out of here, right?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:03:40| Yeah. And we would, you know, we would definitely end up in places where we probably shouldn't have been or didn't belong, but we somehow always managed to extract ourselves. I definitely have a pretty vivid memory of being stuck in those gas chutes underneath. That's true. And there is some tumbling involved in acrobatics.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:59| You know, one of one of my favorite ski days of all time was actually at Snowbird in the spring. It would have been probably in the early 90s, and there was something like eighty four inches of snow in May, and it was white.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:04:13| The best, the best.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:14| And I went out with a friend of ours, the daughter of a friend of ours. She was, I think, seven or eight at the time, but she was a hot skier. I mean, she was a racer. Her dad was a coach. So I had a really good skier there and we were skiing the Gad trees and this and I started to realize how this powder is bigger than she is, you know, and I got ahead of her a little bit and she lost a ski.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:04:39| Oh, no.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:39| And I'm like, Oh man, I am going to lose her.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:04:42| Game over.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:42| She's going to die in this thing, you know, it's going to be my fault. But eventually she got her. She got it all back together and we just had a great day. But ripping around the mountain with a little kid is just a blast.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:04:52| It can be fun, it can be adventurous. It's a little bit of everything I say.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:58| Where do you ski today?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:05:00| You know, I've got one of those Silver Passes, so I try to make the most of that and ski all across Utah, down south in Brian Head, up north to Beaver. I'm actually headed to Beaver Mountain on Tuesday. But I also work in the ski industry, which I do have to travel a bit for work. So I get to ski all across the East Coast and West Coast. I'm headed to Big Sky in April and we do a championship over in Europe every year. So I've gotten to go over there before as well.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:31| Yeah, tell us about that job, by the way.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:05:32| Yeah, OK. This is ... I need to make a business card, but I'm the director of Freeride for the FSA and that is International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association. And we're basically the governing and sanctioning body of competitive freeride. So we run two series, one for children, which is about seven and up to 18, and then the Freeride World Qualifier series for 18, 18 and up. So that's adults competing for a spot on the Freeride World tour, which is about 60 athletes in total from all over the globe. They are actually headed to Kicking Horse up in BC right now for the third stop of the tour, and if you haven't caught one of those live streams, it's something you should probably check out. It's amazing.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:19| Were you an athlete?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:06:20| I was not. I was never an athlete.
Tom Kelly: |00:06:22| So you just kind of like my path to you, just get into management because you have that skill, but you're not necessarily the one that's putting on the skis and going for the gusto.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:06:31| No, no, no. And this is kind of a funny anecdote we had ... Every year we do a junior championship and then also a U12 Championship. And we did that at Kicking Horse a couple of years back and I was skiing around with the Whistler Freeride Club, all their young 12 year old groms, and I violently double injected on a cat track. And the next thing I know there's a swarm of, you know, 10 and 11 year olds, seven year olds, eight year olds handing me all my gear. And it was just mortifying. And I definitely have no illusions about my skiing ability when looking at these up and coming 12 year olds, 11 year olds. It is crazy. All these kids are the next Freeride World Tour athletes, and it's really cool to see the progression because all the kids that are graduating now are qualifying for the tour on their first or second year and the qualifying series. It's just amazing to see the level that they're at at age 18, 19, 20. It's pretty humbling.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:30| Yeah, we will get back to the art that we're going to talk about, but it's fun to explore that. What are the things that motivate kids today to do that? It is, you know, it's a cool thing for kids. I know. But what are some of the things that you've seen that really motivates kids to get out and do that?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:07:46| Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, as cliche as it is, it really is the mountain metaphor. You know, you're heading uphill and you've got to battle the elements and battle your fears and conquer your own self-doubt. And you know you're standing at the top of the mountain. It's just like such a perfect metaphor for life. And you lose days, you win days, you crash. Some days you get back up. And no matter what, you've got a group of buddies sitting at the finish corral ready to give you a hug. It's not as cutthroat as some of the other disciplines of skiing that I've witnessed, and I will say we attract quite a number of burnt out race kids and they make amazing free riders because they have such strong technique and foundation. They know how to control themselves at speed. And then you're just adding in, you know, cliffs and steeps. And it's really fun to watch the X racers free ride.
Tom Kelly: |00:08:40| Let's go back to your skiing all around the state of Utah. I was up at Beaver Mountain ago, and we did a podcast for Last Chair up there. I just had … the best ski day of the year for me last year was up at Beaver Mountain.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:08:56| Beaver is awesome and I think, you know, their whole deal is there. They're the oldest family owned resort in America, and you feel that the minute you step on their property, it's so great you grab your ticket from Marge. She's been there for, I think, 60 years or more. I've rode the chairlift up with Travis, who's the general manager, and he pretty much does it all. I've seen him drive and cats. I've seen him schmoozing with guests and we got to the top of the bull wheel and it was making a weird clanging sound. And before I literally hadn't even blinked, we'd exited the little ramp and he is on top of the bull wheel with a hammer. I don't even know where he got this hammer, and he's like clinging on the bull wheel. You know, he has to do it all because it is such a family operation and his children are involved, their husbands and wives are involved. It's just a really neat place to go.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:52| Yeah, it really was the day I skied with him. I think we skied for two and a half to three hours. We only did five runs, yeah. Everybody knows everybody, you know, you get off the chairlift and and you know, the guests call him by name and he responds as they did and but just skiing around and just looking at the views up there, I mean, it is truly out in the wilderness up there.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:10:18| Yeah. Logan Canyon is beautiful. I've done a couple of year trips just over the hill from Beaver, and it's just a slower, slower way of life up there. I think the thing I like most about Beaver is there's no cell signal, so you're really present, you're riding the chairlift, you're speaking to your friend, you're not scrolling through your, your tinder or your Instagram or whatever. So I love how being a Beaver forces you to be present, and it's actually quite similar at a lot of the small resorts here. I know Eagle Point is the same way. It kind of helps us remember why we're skiing, why we're snowboarding, and I do appreciate that.
Tom Kelly: |00:10:58| Yeah, I'm glad you said that. And initially I was traumatized by how am I going to survive today? But at the end, it was really it still is. It's my best ski memory from last season, and I have to get up there again. Let's move over to art along the way. You became inspired as an artist and we're going to bring the two things together when we get into the second half of our podcast. But just going back into your youth. How did you get inspired to express yourself through art?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:11:30| Yeah, for sure. 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.
Tom Kelly: |00:11:47| Well, it is.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:11:47| Yeah, I think so. And 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.
Tom Kelly: |00:12:00| What were some of the first mediums that you used and you think back to when you were a child and what you started to do first?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:12:09| Yeah, what kid didn't make a beautiful macaroni, you know, glue show piece? My grandmother was actually an artist out in Sedona, Arizona. That was a backwater back then. It was kind of just a little weird funky art town with a bunch of new age crystal shops. So we would go out there and feel the, you know, the energy of the vortex. They've got these incredible red rock monoliths that surround the town. So she was a big oil painter and watercolorist, so she would give us lessons in her kind of cramped, dark studio under the stairs. So it was kind of this weird … we would do pottery, we would do oil paints, and she didn't love that because we'd make such a mess. So she kind of delegated us to watercolors. But we had a little experience growing up. But I was pretty busy with school in sports, so I didn't do much art through high school and college. It kind of just dropped it along the way for other things, mostly skiing. I was doing a lot of skiing. Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:08| How old were you when she first introduced you to watercolors?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:13:13| Pretty little. I mean, probably six or seven. We would go down there about once a year or so, and we definitely enjoyed that time with her.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:22| So let's talk a little bit about watercolors and not so much. Your project will get into that in a minute, but watercolor is really quite a different medium.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:13:33| You know, 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.
Tom Kelly: |00:14:08| So I enjoyed one of the videos you did. You did a time lapse of you painting the old skier service ticket office at, at Alta. And as much as I know about art, my wife is an artist. It was fascinating to me to see you do the watercolor and see the colors spread out on the
Lexi Dowdall: |00:14:29| Surface, and it's happening slowly, like your naked eye can detect it. But on a time lapse, it's so much more evident how far the water and the paint actually travel.
Tom Kelly: |00:14:40| How do you manage that as an artist?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:14:44| You just work with it. You don't manage it. You go
Tom Kelly: |00:14:46| Magic.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:14:47| You just it forces you to be very much on your toes. You know, you make a mistake and you can try and correct it, but you only have, you know, maybe 90 seconds, maybe two or three minutes, depending on how warm it is outside. Because when? The paint is dry, you can't really go back in because you'll create, you know, cauliflowers and bleeds, that won't be ... probably not the effect you're looking for us, you have very limited time to work with.
Tom Kelly: |00:15:09| Are you able to layer in any way?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:15:12| Yeah, you can definitely layer. It's beneficial to wait until one layer is dry before starting another, but I honestly don't really know what I'm doing, so I might not be the best person to ask about.
Tom Kelly: |00:15:24| Oh, you are the best
Lexi Dowdall: |00:15:25| Person to ask. I'm a beginner at teaching beginners
Tom Kelly: |00:15:29| As we do this interview. My wife is actually at art class where she's doing oils. Oh, really? Which is really quite a bit, quite a bit different. Well, it's so intimidating.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:15:39| I don't think I'm ready for oil. So yeah …
Tom Kelly: |00:15:41| After the break we're going to talk a little bit about your Paint by Powder Project. But did you as your, you know, you're a skier, you're doing some art. Did you ever really think about how you could combine the two of those together?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:16:00| I just knew I wanted to paint mountains. I mean, 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.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:18| Well, it's interesting. We're going to take a short break here, but we're going to talk about the Paint by Powder Project. And I think what you've put together, you know, I think those of us as skiers are probably a little bit less concerned, whether you're the best watercolor artist in the world or not. But the fact is, you're out there painting some amazing scenes that are meaningful for us, for sure. So we're going to be right back. This is Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast. We're talking today with artist skier Lexi Dowdall. We'll be right back.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:45| And we are back with Lexi Dowdall on Last Chair the Ski Utah podcast today. We're talking about the blending together of skiing, river rafting, art and the environment. How do these all tie together? So Lexi along the way? Somehow you got this crazy idea of doing watercolors of all of the Utah resorts. Give us a sense of the evolution of that concept.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:17:13| Certainly. So, I'm a blogger for Ski Utah, and every year the team here comes up with a skiing goal. And they also race each other to see who can visit all 15 Utah ski resorts first in the season. So in 2020, I set out to try and accomplish this, this coveted goal of skiing every resort in one season here at the Ski Utah office, and we all know what happened in March of 2020. The chairlifts ground to a screeching halt alongside the greater global, you know, situation, so I did not complete my goal in 2020. So in twenty twenty one, I decided to come back with a vengeance and visit every resort. And I was. So I started visiting each resort here locally in the Salt Lake Valley, and I realized it would be pretty cool to paint each resort too. So that was my goal starting in January, and I realized I'm painting with water. Snow is water. I could incorporate snow from each mountain into my watercolor painting, and you know, I'm still I'm still 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. And then I was involved in a really amazing powder storm up a little cottonwood. And I don't know what possessed me, but I just I happened to collect some snow out of my boyfriend's truck bed and I thought this was the best storm ever. So many good powder runs. I want to like, capture the essence of this day. And so I was painting with with this snow from this powder storm. And that's what got me started like, Oh, I should collect snow at every resort. So.
Tom Kelly: |00:19:06| So in that first instance where you collected snow from your boyfriend's truck? Yeah, what did you collect it in?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:19:13| It was a milk jug.
Tom Kelly: |00:19:14| Like you happened to have one with you?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:19:15| He was parked outside my house in Salt Lake and I was just in the recycling bin, so.
Tom Kelly: |00:19:22| And as you go around and do this now, are you more scientific? Do you have specially labeled Mason jars or something like that?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:19:30| Oh no. So this is funny, Tom. You know, these are the things you don't think about when you set off on a big project. You might have heard we have the greatest snow on earth. It's a rumor, but it's true. We do. So when I go to collect snow, this snow melts and it's a fraction of the volume.
Tom Kelly: |00:19:51| So I didn't think about that.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:19:53| I know I didn't think about that. So the second resort I gathered was Solitude. And this was really funny, I was actually with Hailey, one of the Ski Utah gals, and she was taking a phone call and I was like, I'm just going to do my thing right over here. And she looks over and I've got, you know, like two or three milk jugs out. I have been carrying them. I've got this special vest called a white vest. It's so cool you can shove your avalanche gear in there and still ski around without a big backpack on. So I had shoved all the milk jugs in there, and I was like pulling them out, you know, like kind of like a clown guard. She's just looking at me and I'm underneath the Powderhorn chair and ski patrol is soaring over. They like, Are you okay? I'm like, yeah, I'm crazy if I can't fix that. And there is this ongoing trend of ski patrol, you know, stopping and making sure I was OK and like groveling in the snow, trying to fill these milk jugs.
Tom Kelly: |00:20:51| Do you even try to explain to them what you're doing?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:20:55| If they stop. Yeah, I had this very awkward interaction with the Powder Mountain patroller, who was like, You can't take that. I was like, I've taken it. I try 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 thirty four seconds. Ma'am, are you OK? Do you need assistance? I was. I was fine. But again, I need to explain what the heck I'm doing, and it was just all pretty comical.
Tom Kelly: |00:21:26| Where were you at Deer Valley?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:21:27| I was up by Empire, somewhere down in the valley there with some trees. I don't know. I thought I'd found an out of the way place, but they find you.
Tom Kelly: |00:21:35| Somebody was sitting up in the shack at the top of the Empire with binoculars
Lexi Dowdall: |00:21:39| They can tell I'm up to something.
Tom Kelly: |00:21:40| Word travels around the Wasatch. Exactly. have you actually collected at all resorts now? I have.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:21:48| Yeah, my last resort was, Oh boy, it was at Woodward. And I'm not a person that really belongs in the air, so say it nicely. That way,
Tom Kelly: |00:21:59| You can stay on the ground at Woodward too, though.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:22:01| You can. You can. But I didn't manage that. So I was. It was, I think, late March. So their season was kind of winding down and I was walking up the long concrete pathway to grab my ticket from the big, what they call it, the adventure hub. Yeah, it's like all those foam pits and it's like a child's paradise, essentially. But I was just grabbing my ticket and I I have very unfortunate ski boots and I slipped, you know, like a cartoon banana peel. Yeah, with my legs above my head and just slammed into the concrete. So I was airborne and just incapacitated before I had even gotten my lift ticket. So I kind of just tail between my legs, the lift up
Tom Kelly: |00:22:44| Milk cartons in your pack.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:22:45| Of snow. And I was just like, I don't belong here, man.
Tom Kelly: |00:22:49| It's fun there though, isn't it?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:22:51| It's not for me, but I I can understand the appeal. It's if you were a 12 year old kid, there is no greater place on Earth.
Tom Kelly: |00:22:59| Yeah, I went out with Jeremy Jones there last winter. The Jeremy Jones from Woodward, not the one from Powell. All right. So we had a great time and I, you know, I actually shouldn't say this because I did make a commitment to Jeremy last year that I would come back and I would learn how to ride a rail. And I haven't done that yet. So I imagine at some point I probably should get back there. So you didn't ride the rails, either? I would.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:23:25| I would come watch that, Tom. You know, I had a I tried a rail once it was on my Alpine Collegiate Ski team at Brundage Mountain up in Idaho, and I had a very unfortunate turn of events where I, the back of my ski tails, hit the board and I went over the rail so my legs were stuck and my teammate was on the chairlift above me watching this happen and it was so ridiculous she actually put your pants. So I'm not a real grinder. I'm not a big hiker. I'm just a cruiser,
Tom Kelly: |00:23:59| You know, just watching the Olympics earlier in February, the stuff that some of those athletes do. I mean, Colby Stevenson from Park City, a really good example. Silver medalist at the Olympics. It is really crazy what they
Lexi Dowdall: |00:24:15| Do well and that's why I would woodworking. It is so cool. It's helping the progression of those sports. You start them at age seven and you don't even know what they're capable of. So it's pretty cool that that facility has come to Utah. And yeah, I know it's inspiring a lot of the next generation, which is pretty neat.
Tom Kelly: |00:24:32| Yeah. And then that's what it's all about. You know, I have to go back to the river trip because we've kind of skipped over that, but I know that you're not a really big rafter, but you had some inspiration on your trip through Gates of Lodore?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:24:46| Yeah, correct. Re Wikstrom is an incredible photographer local here to Salt Lake, and she invited me to come along on this trip. It was kind of last minute and we packed up and went and I threw in an old set of watercolors just because I figured, you know, you're sitting on the rack, you're kind of captive, you're there for the day. So what better time to make time for it? And I, I'm one of those overloaded schedule people. So if I don't carve out time, it's not going to happen. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to try and try and get this going. And so, you know, I was painting the river and I was using the river water and it just felt really organic and cool. And if you ever get the chance to go down that river, it is wild. You're kind of just you're basically floating through time just the way that the rock formation. So it's this big upheaval dome, so as you float towards the center of the rocks, totally changed the composition and you're in these really distinct layers and it's basically a passage through time. It's very primordial. It's pretty cool that all this is just in our backyard here. Utah.
Tom Kelly: |00:25:57| For those who don't know the geography of the Gates of Lodore in eastern Utah, western Colorado, can you give us a little more detail on the rivers and what you're going through?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:26:08| I think it's the Uinta geologic formation. I don't know as much geology as they should. I've probably forgotten a little bit of it from the trip, but you basically put in on the river and right away you go through these two formations Gates of Lodore, these just soaring cliffs. And then for the majority of the trip, until you pop out in Utah kind of near Vernal, you're just totally ensconced by these canyons that the walls are soaring overhead. There's springs and waterfalls and rapids, and there's no roads around this particular river, and that's what makes it so special. You're really in the wilderness, you're out there, you know? Evacuation is difficult and there's no cell signal, but there's no better way to connect with our natural surroundings than a multi-day river trip. That's so cool.
Tom Kelly: |00:27:02| We're diverging a little bit, but I think if you're a skier or a visitor even to Utah, one of the things that should strike you is the amazing diversity we have in our topography here. The fact that we have these amazing desert environments, we have incredible mountains with snow and powder. You grew up here. It's quite a remarkable place to think. We have all of this within a couple of hours of Salt Lake City.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:27:28| You and I think what's so important is you, you can't protect what you don't know. So it's important to provide opportunities to others and also get yourself out there. So you, you understand how fragile our environment is and what we all need to do to step up and protect it. We've got so, so many amazing landscapes and vistas here and you won't know what you can't. You can't protect what you don't know.
Tom Kelly: |00:27:53| So back to the Paint by Powder project? You have now collected snow water from all 15 Utah resorts. Yeah, you started the process of doing your watercolors. Where do you stand on it right now?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:28:06| Yep, so I'm pretty much 50 percent of the way done. I've got seven complete and eight more to go. Eagle Point's giving me some trouble. I've tried that one, two or three times, but I was just down there a couple of weeks ago and I just didn't have a great reference photo from there. So I went down with the videographer Tim Jones. We're making a ... We're kind of profiling the spirit and character of that resort for in a little video project for Ski Utah. So Tim grabbed some pretty cool shots of the resort with his drone. So I'm going to be painting Eagle Point next with some drone shots that Tim took.
Tom Kelly: |00:28:45| Well, I think so many skiers know the quintessential Wasatch resorts. You have Park City and Deer Valley, Brighton and Solitude, Alta and Snowbird. But as you get out and about in the state, it's pretty amazing. Some of those small resorts we talked about Beaver Mountain earlier. Yeah, any other small resort experiences that have been really memorable to you?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:29:05| Yeah. So this is actually probably pretty embarrassing, but I didn't know about most of the other resorts here growing up. We were just so on the program of, you know, we had the family passes and the employee benefits and Snowbird and I'd never skied outside of Utah until I was 19. So I didn't know about most of them until I started working with Ski Utah. And it was such a cool discovery to realize that there are all these other mountains in our backyard. Starting with Brian Point down south, we had Brian Head, sorry, I'm thinking about Eagle Point, but I'm talking about Brian Head. I had no idea that was down there. It's so cool. You're skiing and you're looking out on all this Red Rock and this high desert plateau. And after days of skiing, I went out with my friend Clare. We backcountry skied, I guess, cross country ski because it's flat out to the rim of that Cedar Breaks National Monument and watch the sunset. It was so neat. So just there's no other vista. I can imagine that that compares to skiing Brian had. It's so unusual. And then up just
Tom Kelly: |00:30:14| A go just to go back to that. How far a ski was it out to the edge?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:30:17| Oh, it's not bad. Maybe 15 minutes.
Tom Kelly: |00:30:19| That's amazing.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:30:20| You could snowshoe. We saw snowshoe tracks. It's well worth it. If the road's open.
Tom Kelly: |00:30:24| Yeah, what's the elevation up there?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:30:27| I think Brian Head peak it's at least eleven thousand. We summited that as well. It was during a low snow period a couple of years ago, so we were kind of scattering to the top. Up across some rocks, but supposedly you can see a couple of different states from the top of Brian Head Peak, which is pretty cool.
Tom Kelly: |00:30:46| Yeah, it is amazing down there. Get a lot of people up from Las Vegas, but a lot of people from Salt Lake are starting to find their way down there
Lexi Dowdall: |00:30:53| Figuring it out. Yes, we
Tom Kelly: |00:30:55| Shouldn't tell them right.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:30:56| Eagle Point. I think people are catching on to the Powder Fridays. I kind of don't want to talk about it. It's a secret. They just have powder on Fridays. Yeah, they're only open. You know, aside from the Christmas New Year's madness, they're only open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and I think Monday. But if it snows all week, you head down there Thursday night and you got like a private country club powder experience, it's pretty amazing.
Tom Kelly: |00:31:22| Great idea. Yeah. Now this is a fabulous project and actually give us the website really quickly if we people want to go and take a look at it and we're going to talk about a few other elements.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:31:32| Yeah, for sure. So my Instagram name is kapowder like powder, but kapowder. So that is my website as well. It's KAPOWDER.com. So that's where all my art lives, but that's my Instagram handle as well.
Tom Kelly: |00:31:49| Now, one of the cool things about this project is that not only are you documenting these 15 Utah resorts with snow that is collected from each of those resorts, but you're also benefiting a cause that's very important to all of us as skiers and riders to protect our winters.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:32:06| Yeah. If we don't start to make some pretty massive changes, we're not going to have a ski industry. I'd read a study that says, you know, if we literally do nothing and continue on this same path of consumption that we're on, we will not have snow. Precipitation will not fall as snow in the Wasatch by the year thousand one hundred and have like a more concrete, you know, consequence like staring down. 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 … it was truly sobering. So I'm just hoping to galvanize folks around here. And then most importantly, we need to vote. We need to change the legislation. So there's lots of things we can do on an individual level that will help our air quality and and and, you know, 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 and Protect our Winters provides a ton of resources about that and ways to get involved and panels and discussions with legislators. So it's a great organization to get involved with in terms of, you know, voting climate and understanding the issues and knowing how you can play a role in changing the trajectory of of a lot of those decisions that at the at the local and federal level, that's what we're going to need to work on if we're hoping to change our trajectory here.
Tom Kelly: |00:33:38| What I like about Protect our Winters is it was actually started by skiers and snowboarders and most notably, a pro snowboarder, Jeremy Jones, who do you want to check back on last year? I think he was episode two of this season where he explained a lot of what's going on in the evolution in the last few years and really focusing more on legislation and trying to to change not just individuals habits, but to change countries habits. And it is a really important and vital cause. So a part of the proceeds of your sales are going to protect our winters.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:34:09| Yeah, I've raised one hundred dollars so far, which doesn't seem like a lot. But, you know, I've only just gotten started. I'm halfway done. I think there'll be a lot more momentum once I complete the project. And I also haven't tallied all my holiday sales, so I'd guess we're probably about two hundred fifty dollars right now, so they protect our winters. I do owe you a check, but we're just getting started and this this component, I'm donating five percent of the profits from each of my paint by powder art print sales. So I'm just getting started. These will be on my website in perpetuity. So it'll be an ongoing donation to Protect our Winters as I sell through product and, you know, kind of finish up the project, but they'll be available on the website.
Tom Kelly: |00:34:56| So people can go to kapowder.com And they can order watercolors.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:35:01| Yeah, I've got stickers, I've got watercolors. I've kind of just getting started with the art thing. I I've got a lot of ideas in mind and I got big goals, but this is something I just started in December of 2020. So it's a new business venture for me.
Tom Kelly: |00:35:19| I suppose you have a gallery show in the offing.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:35:22| Maybe I would love to do something upon completing all 15 resort paintings here in Utah. I don't know what it will be, but I'm sure I'm sure we'll figure something out.
Tom Kelly: |00:35:34| Aside from the Paint by Powder Project, you're also an active volunteer with Wasatch Adaptive.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:35:39| Correct, yeah. These guys are just so great, I, you know, I grew up skiing Snowbird and I always see them in their jackets just having the best time. And I'm pretty shy. So it took me most of my life to be pretty shy. I'm shy. I fool most people, but I am an introvert. But I finally mustered up the courage to go, say, Hey, can I volunteer? And the training process is pretty intensive, but once you're trained, you're trained. And now I help out with. I volunteer on adaptive lessons so that can be anybody from who's coming in as a first like, never set foot on skis or a snowboard before to more experienced skiers and riders. So it's really cool. You're working with people on a sit ski or a monoski, or there's all these really cool devices that can help people, no matter what their challenge is. We'll get them on snow, and it's the best part is just seeing people find and discovered a sense of independence. And oftentimes for some students, just being up there is enough to be out in nature and see the mountains that can heal your soul so much. I was starting to cheer up, but it's just such a powerful experience and skiing gave me everything and my whole life is built around skiing, so to give back is pretty cool.
Tom Kelly: |00:37:07| I think as able-bodied skiers, we don't think so much about that independence. The feeling of independence. If you're an adaptive individual, skiing can really give you that sensation.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:37:19| Yea, it can change your life. It's really cool to witness.
Tom Kelly: |00:37:22| It really is. Lexi Dowdall, thank you so much for joining us on Last Chair. We're going to close it out with our typical Fresh Tracks section. We have a few questions for you. Try not to stump you too much. I mean, easy stuff like Lexi. What's your favorite Utah ski run?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:37:37| This is not an easy question.
Tom Kelly: |00:37:39| Yes, it is. Oh boy, there's no wrong answer. There's just too many right answers.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:37:44| Oh, the backcountry out of Beaver Mountain is pretty spectacular. They've got these cool old mahogany trees. And on a good powder cycle, you can ski all the way to the road and hitchhike back up to the mountain. That's pretty special. And then I'm never above a good Silver Fox at Snowbird.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:04| I love it. A good one. Do you actually? Let's go. Do you have a favorite ski holiday that you've been on?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:38:12| Yeah, that one's easy. It's Interlodge.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:15| Interlodge, as a ski holiday. This is great!
Lexi Dowdall: |00:38:18| My boyfriend works with Avalanche Ops up at Alta. He's on ski patrol at Alta, so he gets all the beta before. It's common knowledge. So he'll tell me, you know, Road's going to close at midnight tonight. We might not spend lives tomorrow. It's looking pretty brutal, so I will pack up all my things. And the key Tom is snacks. You got to have good snacks and I'll get myself up to the hill and he he lives on the mountain had Alta and I'll just hunker down and lodge myself until the time the big the great release happens, and it's generally worth it.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:59| So for folks who might not know about Interlodge, or maybe they're listening from out of state and planning this trip to Utah, tell us what Interlodge means.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:39:09| Yes, the Interlodge is a town ordinance with the town of Alta. And it basically means the avalanche danger is climbing or rising so quickly that the mitigation efforts can't keep pace. And that's a huge teams of people at Snowbird Ski Patrol, Alta Ski Patrol. That's you dot its forest service. It's all these agencies working together to keep the road and the town and the people safe. So during an avalanche, it is illegal to leave the building, only authorized people who are doing snow removal or actually out there. Truck and bombs are permitted outside. So it's kind of apocalyptic. You look outside, the snow is swirling. It's stacking up. It's this cool feeling that you just can't understand unless you've been in
Tom Kelly: |00:39:55| Pole and this is a vacation. You can't just book. You can't say, Listen, I like to book an Interlodge for February twenty fifth. Can't do that
Lexi Dowdall: |00:40:03| Well. And a lot of people who actually experience Interlodge don't realize the implications of it. You know, the avalanche hazard index for Little Cottonwood Canyon Road, Highway 210 is one of the highest in the world. There's so many slide paths that cover this road, and it's dangerous. So I think with the last great inner large event, it was February. Twenty, twenty one sixty hours. I was involved in that one as well, but they were over
Tom Kelly: |00:40:33| Getting inside intel.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:40:34| Yeah, there were over two hundred and ten recorded natural and control that. Avalanches, and that's probably not all of them, we surely didn't see all of them, but that's pretty crazy.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:44| And at the end of all that, there's probably some pretty good ski.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:40:48| Yeah, it had snowed a hundred inches, one hundred and three inches, according to Wasatch Snow forecast.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:54| So it's bigger than you.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:40:56| Taller than me. It was a great day. A great day.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:00| That is amazing. Yeah. Favorite Utah small resort.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:41:06| Oh, I love beaver. But Eagle Point is really growing on me. That is a cool little spot down in Beaver, Utah. So I guess I like the Beavers. Beaver, Utah, Beaver Mountain. Love it. Send me north. Send me south. Or I'll take them all.
Tom Kelly: |00:41:21| Tell us a little bit more about Eagle Point. We've talked about it earlier in the podcast, but give us a little more detail.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:41:25| Yeah, it's really cool. It's kind of just nestled at the foot of this large mountain called Mount Holly. It's got a really high base elevation, so they get pretty great snow and it's coming out over the Great Basin. So it's really dry. It's this crispy, dry powder. It's really nice and you're up in the Tushar Range, which is actually one of our highest mountain ranges. It's taller than the Wasatch, which most people don't realize, but it's just this very singular, unique little resort and you're kind of away from it all and you're up this beautiful canyon and it's worth checking out.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:00| Favorite watercolor that you've done. I know you're only about halfway through the Utah resorts, but do you have a favorite already?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:42:07| Well, it's right here, Tom and I brought you in.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:10| I’ll hold this up for all the podcast listeners to see. You know, I'm glad you picked that one. This is a fantastic print. Tell us about this, and I'm going to add some color to it.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:42:19| Yeah, so I mean, Park City, I'm trying to picture, I'm trying to paint the most iconic landscape that I can for each resort. So for Park City, for me, that was definitely Jupiter Peak, and this was cool. The day I hiked up here to collect the snow, I did collect it on Jupiter Peak, and that day we were having an FSA free ride junior regional. So all the young, free riders were just hawking their meat off of Jupiter's flanks here. And I I thought that maybe some of their cool, fearless freeride energy would come across in my painting, and then I threw in a vintage gondola from the old gondola. It's bright yellow. I just … I love the history of Park City, and I thought it would be fun to tie some of its past in with its Jupiter present.
Tom Kelly: |00:43:07| You know, I was talking with someone at Park City Mountain the other day and just giving them a little bit of history. And in fairness, they were younger than me, and I asked him, I said, Do you know about the gondola? They didn't know about the gondola. And this is such an amazing rendition of the Park City Gondola, which opened in nineteen sixty three. It was one of the first in the country, was built with some federal funds that were available out of the Kennedy administration. And it really created the resort. And I remember because I actually skied for many years with that gondola. It was like a twenty five minute ride. Twenty five minute ride from the base up to what is now the Summit House, and you can see some of the remnants at the angle station right above the base of the Bonanza lift. Yeah, and the gondola would come up. It would take a little right turn and continue on up to the top and say, OK, cool, what are the thing I like about this? And we'll have this on the web page. You have the gondola in a great perspective with Jupiter Peak, which is just this iconic peak there. I was kind of at our home, we can see the whole ridgeline and every morning I look out and I see Murdock on the right, Jupiter right in the middle and then over to Bald Mountain at Deer Valley. It's just such an amazing view. So this is fantastic.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:44:34| Thank you. Yeah, I'm more partial to that ski tunnel. I think that would have been pretty cool.
Tom Kelly: |00:44:39| The ski tunnel. We talked about that on a podcast last year, but if you go over to the base of Silver Star, there is actually a mine tunnel and they've preserved it. And the old lift of sorts used to go three miles into the mountain by old mine and then another couple thousand feet up to put you at the base of what is now the veins left right. Amazing. It was operated for a couple of years, but it was just too uncomfortable. Uncomfortable. Yeah, I …
Lexi Dowdall: |00:45:14| Did. My grandpa was a coal miner down in Eureka, Utah, and we did that Silver King mine tour. I think it's shut down now, but it was so cool and we took him down there and he was telling us all about mining and we were riding in the cars. And yeah, that's a whole different atmosphere down below. And it's weird to think that these mining tunnels are kind of beneath all the mountains we ski. That's a little wild.
Tom Kelly: |00:45:38| Yeah, it's.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:45:38| Here in the Wasatch, anyway.
Tom Kelly: |00:45:40| You see it in particular. Well, Alta and Snowbird ... huge mining areas
Lexi Dowdall: |00:45:46| Snowbird is named after a mine.
Tom Kelly: |00:45:48| Yeah, but there aren't as many structures left there. Park City has done an amazing job in preserving these structures. Deer Valley to a certain extent as well, and I just love it in Park City and seeing those old structures there.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:46:02| Yeah, different.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:04| Ok, now we'll get on to the fun stuff. Do you have a favorite High West whiskey?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:46:08| Well, Sir Tom, I brought you a little present here. It's a Midwinter Night’s Dram.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:16| Oh my goodness.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:46:17| And as you know, it's rather hard to get.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:20| You actually brought a bottle of High West to the podcast recording.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:46:24| I couldn't let the opportunity pass by.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:28| This is amazing. So we did a podcast episode at High West a year ago. It was a story on actually mining history at Park City. It was a really fun one and we recorded it there and we had one of the High West experts there. And I think that we tried BouRye that day.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:46:49| Oh, I haven't tried that one.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:51| Are you going to pour this?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:46:52| Yeah, I can pour this.
Tom Kelly: |00:46:53| Yeah, let's let's do this. This will. Actually, I was going to say it's a first, but we actually did this. We did this at High West last year. But this is a really, really nice treat. For folks who ...
Lexi Dowdall: |00:47:08| Do you have the history of this bottle? I probably don't know as much about its pedigree.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:13| Not enough that I want to talk about it for all of our guests, but a Midwinter Night's Dram, this is a very, very special bottle, a little bit hard to find and I
Lexi Dowdall: |00:47:25| Would say quite hard to find ...
Tom Kelly: |00:47:27| So this is really quite a treat. So I appreciate you doing this so ...
Lexi Dowdall: |00:47:33| Cheers.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:35| So we're going to actually start out the day ...
Lexi Dowdall: |00:47:39| Start out the day, right? Oh, it's so smooth.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:44| It's about two inches left in this bottle. So be out of here by noon. Exactly, that is a nice treat. No one's ever done that before.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:47:52| Hey, Tom, I'm just happy to be here.
Tom Kelly: |00:47:54| Well, we're going to enjoy more of this after the podcast. But just to close it out, Lexi, thanks so much for being here. One more question. When you think back in time to think back about your life as a skier growing up here in Utah and now moving into this amazing watercolor project. What does skiing mean to you and what does it mean in your heart?
Lexi Dowdall: |00:48:13| Oh boy. I mean, skiing, pretty much. I've built my whole life around it. It's my job. It's my hobby. It's pretty much all my freelance work. My boyfriend is a skier. If skiing were suddenly stripped away, I'd be in quite a pickle.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:29| Yeah, it's a great sport.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:48:31| Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:32| Lexi Dowdall, Paint by Powder Project. It's awesome. Go to kapowder.com and learn more. Hey, cheers to you.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:48:39| Cheers.
Tom Kelly: |00:48:40| Thanks for joining us on Last Chair.
Lexi Dowdall: |00:48:43| Cool.
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