From motor city to mountain town
March 1, 2013
Kristi Major likes the view from the top. For her, it’s been a steady ascent. She’s gained at least 6,500 feet since moving to Utah from Florida in 1997. "I’ve always lived ‘up,’" she explains, "whether it’s been my top-floor condos in Florida, Salt Lake and Park City, or my current house in Francis."
From her lofty perch in Francis at the south end of the county, Major has woven herself into the fabric of that community and the surrounding area. "I’ve always liked to be involved wherever I’ve lived," she says. "I was very active in the Florida Jaycees and I began attending Francis City Council meetings once I moved there. I wound up on the City Council in 2010." Though she lives 25 miles from our town, daily trips to Park City for work also keep her connected here. "I usually take my time and I stop often to take photographs," she says.
Major’s journey has been adventurous and far-flung. She was born and grew up in Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors. Her father worked for GM for more than 30 years and her mother retired from the Flint school system.
She remembers cold Michigan winters, sledding, snowmobiling and ice fishing, and "glorious" summers at her grandmother’s log cabin on Long Lake, where she fished from the dock using a long bamboo pole.
"In my teens and early 20s I went to a lot of concerts in Flint and Detroit," says Major. "I saw guys like Bob Seger, Iggy Pop, Ted Nugent, Jethro Tull and Elton John. Grand Funk Railroad’s Mark Farner and Don Brewer had a cabin right across the lake from us. I’m dating myself, I know."
In junior high, Major played violin and was chosen for the Michigan Youth Symphony. In high school she designed and painted backdrops for school musicals and played violin in the pit orchestra. She won three summer scholarships to the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy. Major also developed an interest in photography, a hobby that would evolve into a profession.
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She attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo for fine arts and later worked for a photography studio in Flint. A quest for warmer weather took her south to Florida, where she found a job with a publisher producing cruise-ship magazines and hard-cover tourist books for premier resort hotels.
"I’ve been on 14 cruise ships and worked on 45 islands throughout the Caribbean, across Mexico and the east coast of the United States," she recounts. "At one point, my work day was nine-to-five flying to and from Nassau on the ‘Blue Goose’ seaplane. What a job!" Major established herself as a published photographer with several cover shots on travel magazines.
After several years crisscrossing the Caribbean, Mexico and the U.S., a weary Major transitioned to a new position that kept her in one place. "I’d been traveling about 47 weeks a year, which was getting a little old. I decided to move to one of my territories and set down some roots," she says.
One of those territories was the Intermountain West. After photographing Native-American pow-wows in Utah, she decided this was the place. Major said goodbye to Hollywood, Fla., and moved here in 1997. "I fell in love with the state right away. The summertime weather is great and there’s so much to see and do."
She bought a condo in Holladay, a suburb of Salt Lake, and lived there two years. "My Salt Lake condo was on the top floor, with a great view of the Wasatch Mountains. It wasn’t long before I wanted to get out of the valley and into the clean mountain air."
She found what she was looking for at Kimball Junction a top-floor condo with a panoramic view of the area. "I watched them build the ski jumps and bobsled run in preparation for the Olympics in 2002. Things were different then. I remember having to stop on the way into town while they herded cattle across 224," she chuckles.
After eight years in her Park City condo, Major longed for a yard. She sold before the bubble burst in 2008 and bought a sprawling four-bedroom home on an acre of land in Francis. "The area reminds me of where I grew up in rural Michigan. The views are fantastic and it’s still an easy drive to Park City."
Major has gradually transitioned out of her full-time job of 25 years with the Florida publisher. But she continues her photography work, shooting independently for various companies including in-flight magazines, area newspapers and tourism businesses. Samples of her local work can be seen at http://summitcountyeconomicdevelopment.org . She’s built a supplemental career here in a range of jobs from trip advisor to concierge to office manager.
Volunteer work has also been central to Major’s life. A passionate film buff, she began volunteering at the Eccles Center. That eventually led to a full-time seasonal job with the Sundance Film Festival for many years.
Park City and Summit County have become a playground for Major. "I love the clean air, the views and the wildlife. I put up with the winters because they’re so mild compared to Michigan," she laughs. "During summers I head for the high mountain lakes for fishing, kayaking and camping. I also collect rocks a habit I’ve had since childhood."
Major seems to engage in all aspects of her life with inexhaustible enthusiasm. "I love getting up every morning, excited to see what the day will offer. I jump at any opportunity to travel, learn and explore new things. My energies are definitely directed forward."
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer and actor. Send your profile comments and suggestions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Favorite activities: Photography, camping, fishing, bird watching, road trips
Favorite foods: Any seafood, Vietnamese and Thai.
Favorite reading: Magazines and newspapers. "I don’t have the patience for a novel. I’d rather see a movie."
Bucket list: "Eat my way up the East Coast; stand on a glacier in Alaska; hike the Appalachian Trail."
Pet peeve: "There’s not one Cuban restaurant in the entire state!"
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