With the end of ski season, comes mixed emotions.
Our bodies are battered and tired. Our hips and knees really could use a break, while our ski coats and pants could use a good wash.
Still, our souls could ski forever and the temptation to pack up the car and hit the road can take a deep hold.
Might this be the year when we finally ski year-round? That’s always my goal and that’s why I so love Steph Jagger.
When Steph had the inspiration to take a year off and ski, she did it.
Now she’s written a tremendous book about her experience.
Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery
I’ve been looking forward to Steph’s book since I interviewed her in 2011. Impressed with her moxie, her persistence and her daring, I couldn’t wait to read about her journey.
Steph is a strong woman. I knew that already. So I think I expected her book to be inspirational from an aspirational point of view, as in “I skied around the world! You can do it, too!”
I was wrong.
Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery is not a simple book about chasing snow, lugging gear and making perfect turns on multiple continents.
Unbound is a story of growing up and growing into the understanding of what it means to be an independent individual.
Yes, there are some inspiring tidbits about skiing in Japan, Chile and Argentina (who knew that Bariloche has so many chocolate shops?). There is also Steph’s first-hand account of skiing in New Zealand that makes me happy I visited during their summer.
What I found, as I turned each page, was the story of a woman who’d been on autopilot for too long, trying to fit into her family, meeting and exceeding expectations that weren’t necessarily her own.
Chucking it all in and packing it all up helped Steph build emotional, as well as physical, muscle.
Skiing day in and day out, maintaining the strength and momentum to stick to an arduous travel schedule, as well as remain healthy, taxed Steph.
But as with many life changing experiences, the hardest challenge was accepting herself.
Unbound is a fun read. It defied and exceeded my expectations and I recommend it for anyone who has ever dreamed of traveling the world with their skis and boots.
While it’s semi-horrifying to picture her lugging her physical baggage (all that gear!) through airports and to remote hostels and hotels, it’s both reassuring and inspiring to find out that the emotional baggage she shed along the way so definitively freed her soul.
Q and A with Steph Jagger
Q: Your story is one of growth and of love (spoiler alert!). Looking back now several years, what were the most essential benefits that you reaped?
A: To be blunt, I thought the trip was going to be about boosting my ego up even further than it already sat. It turned out to be the opposite of that. It was a real tearing down of ego and identity.
That has lasted, and my definition of strength changed completely – it is no longer about armoring up in an effort to prove something to myself, the people around me or the world at large. It is instead about placing my armor on the ground and asking in what ways, and where, I will be of service in the world.
Q: Despite the hardships of your story, I want to follow in your footsteps, just maybe not all in one year. Looking at all of your destinations, how would you rank them in terms of the skiing experience?
A: Oh my gosh that’s so hard. It depends upon what kind of skiing you like best, if the cultural part of it plays a role for you and what the given conditions are at each destination.
Highlights for me were:
- Cerro Cathedral (Bariloche, Argentina) – mostly because of the memories I have of skiing there with Chris.
- The Hakuba Valley (Hakuba, Japan) – the snow is EPIC and with seven or eight resorts within thirty minutes it really does rival Salt Lake City. No, it’s better than Salt Lake City.
- Chamonix, France – I had awful snow but the spiritual nature of those mountains is not to be missed.
- Finally, Alta, UT, Jackson Hole, WY, Kicking Horse, BC and Whistler/Blackcomb are at the top of the list for killer, resort-based, big mountain skiing.
Q: When I interviewed you in 2011, you mentioned that you were inspired by a rather innocuous sign at Whistler Blackcomb. It’s the sign that reminds skiers and snowboarders to raise the bar, simply stating“Raise Restraining Device”.
Six years out, is your bar still up or have you found that the bar creeps back down over time?
A: I’m no guru. One ski trip and a book doesn’t mean I’ve miraculously become a master of this thing called life. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve come a long way but I still have further to go. What has changed significantly is that I see fewer restraining devices (metaphorically speaking) than I used to. I’m quicker to identify them than before. I’m WAY better at asking for help, and lifting these devices has become more simple for me.
Q: What’s next for you? What challenges await?
A: People ask me this all the time “What’s next on your bucket list?” they say. The old me would have listed a thousand things, filled a page of interesting, ego-based to-dos. The newer version of me has a much different reply. There are two things on my bucket list:
1. Am I listening for what it is I’m called to do? and
2. Do I have the courage to say yes when I hear it?
That might mean traveling. That might mean launching something new with my business. Or that could mean writing another book.
Q: Finally, is there one passage in your book of which you are especially proud, or which you think really captures the spirit of your journey and your work?
A: Ooooooh, that’s so hard. The one I read aloud most often is in the “Church Pews” chapter – the section about Chamonix and meeting my grandfather on the chairlift. I’m not sure it captures the spirit of the book the best, but I honestly feel my grandfather beside me every time I read it, so it’s become my fave!
I know you want to read Unbound, at least I certainly hope you do!
Unbound is a great read, especially during these months when many of us aren’t skiing. Thanks to the kindness of Steph and her publishing team at Harper Collins, we have five copies to give away this week!
To enter, please leave a comment. Five winners will be chosen randomly on May 1st.
Thanks and good luck!
If you buy Steph’s book, please purchase it through the links in this post. I do not accept payment for product reviews and this affiliate link is a way to offset some of my expenses and time. As always, all opinions are my own and are exactly what I would tell my family and friends. Thanks.
Want to Know More About Steph Jagger?
Rebecca Walsh, of Hike Like A Woman, recently interviewed Steph for her podcast. You can download the Hike Like a Woman podcast here or listen to it via YouTube right here.
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Lili, Audrey, Jules, Cynthia and Tracy.
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