Excerpt: 'Unbound,' by Steph Jagger
The book "Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery" goes on sale Tuesday. Note: Excerpt contains strong language.
Thick confetti slammed into the mountains all night long, and when I woke up the next morning I could barely believe my eyes. Everything in sight was covered in a deep, downy layer of snow, and in a rare trifecta of perfection, especially for Whistler, it was also sunny and bone-bitingly cold. I drank my coffee, made a plan to meet a few friends, and watched as tiny snow crystals floated through the air like fairy dust. I knew we were in for an epic day of skiing.
With blue skies cracking open above us, and a knee-deep carpet of snow under our skis, we opted for the Whistler side of the resort. More specifically, we hit up an area of the mountain dominated by two fast-moving chairlifts, Symphony and Harmony. From the lift we could see three massive bowls of untouched powder beneath us, each of which was filled to the brim with snow.
All morning, and well into the afternoon, we skied those bowls until we hit their gutters, arriving at the bottom of each run completely and utterly spent. Once there we loaded back onto the lifts and did it again. We skied hard all day long -- harder than hard. My legs were throbbing, lactic acid spread from my quads to my calves, and then finally, down into my feet and my tiny little toes. It was a euphoric mix -- I was fully awake but completely exhausted. I wanted the feeling to last.
Each chairlift ride was a blessing, 10 minutes of badly needed rest and recovery. I collapsed onto one of them in the late afternoon and leaned back. My feet dangled below me and my head came to a rest on the back of the chair. I looked up into the sky and inhaled deeply, releasing the air as my cheeks turned up in a smile.
And then, right there, perhaps because of all that fairy dust, I was struck with a grand idea, a bolt straight out of the shining blue sky. It was the answer to "What's next?", the perfect box for me to strike a giant check through. Or perhaps, more accurately, it was exactly what was needed to fan all the flames.
I immediately announced my idea.
"I'm gonna do this," I said with confidence. "I'm going to quit my job and ski around the world." I felt a shiver move up my right arm.
Silence hung heavy in the air. Other than some light panting, left-over breath from our last run, there was no response.
A few moments passed and the silence was replaced with a light snickering sound. Then chuckles. Then full snorting.
"Good one, Jagger." said one of the guys. "Now that's what I call a f---ing pipe dream!"
"Yeah! What's stopping you?" added my friend Scott before crumpling forward in laughter.
Eventually, they all chimed in. Each person taking turns to shoot down what was a truly absurd, and apparently comical, idea.
"Don't you think you're a little young to retire?" one of them said.
"You're a good skier, Jagger. But you're not that good."
"Sounds nice, but remember that little thing you've got called a mortgage?"
It was enough to snuff out the small little flame, and it didn't take long for my own voice to chime in.
They're right. I laughed, shaking my head from side to side. What the f--- am I thinking? I've done big goals but that's a little much.
As we approached the top of the lift a blue tin sign caught my eye:
RAISE RESTRAINING DEVICE
Another shiver. This one started at the base of my spine and moved up through my body, causing my shoulders to shudder.
I'd seen the sign before, thousands of times. It's posted at the top of every lift in the resort -- but this time something was different, something about it made me pause. I looked back at it one more time:
RAISE RESTRAINING DEVICE
What's holding me back? I asked myself. What's my restraining device? My job? My mortgage? I can figure out what to do with those things.
The match was lit. All I had to do now was drop it.
A series of questions instantly spun through my head.
How long would this take? How much would it cost? What about plane tickets? I think I'm going to do this. Am I actually going to do this?
I was onto something and I knew it. These kinds of bolts from the blue weren't new to me. "What's next?" was a question that lived on the tip of my tongue. I knew how to recognize answers as they came flying towards me, and I knew what to do with them the moment they arrived.
I got home that afternoon and Googled "round the world flights." Seventeen months later, I was at the boarding gate. I was going to follow winter around the world, and I was going to try to ski four million feet* in the time I was gone.
*Just in case you were wondering, the measurement of vertical feet looks at the vertical elevation drop from the top of a mountain to the bottom. This is different than total distance skied, which, to get all Bill Nye the Science Guy on you, depends on the steepness of the slope.