I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Laura Davies as she pursues an epic journey chasing winter around the world. The ForeverWinter Project is Laura’s dream to spend a year skiing a different country every month. As ambitious as that may sound, as you will read in the following interview, she is set to far surpass her goal and to experience many other unknowable things. Be sure to follow The ForeverWinter Project on Instagram @ForeverWinterProject.
“ForeverWinter Project” is a unique name for your adventure. What inspired this name?
I always loved the name Never Summer and thought it would be cool to have a skier brand with a similarly clever name. My friend Tim and I jokingly came up with the name ForeverWinter over beers, but we didn’t have anything concrete to apply the name to. Once I started to plan the first trip I knew that ForeverWinter Project was the perfect name for my goal to ski around the world.
So what exactly is “ForeverWinter Project”?
ForeverWinter Project is both a personal goal and an inspiration for skiing enthusiasts, particularly women. The personal aspect of the project is for me to ski a different country every month for a full year, traveling to over 30 countries in total.
I am hoping to also launch a blog that will serve as a resource for other skiers. We are going to feature a different female every two weeks to showcase all the amazing things women are doing in the ski industry. Additionally, there will be information about my travels and tips for other skiers, male and female alike.
Life is about the journey, not the destination. What is your #1 highlight of your current journey?
I worked in corporate healthcare for five years before starting ForeverWinter Project. Over time, I felt as though I had hit a wall in terms of what I was able to learn in my role at the company. I took what I had learned about sales and marketing and applied it to my passion for skiing. While I obviously love the trips, my favorite part has been learning new career skills like social media marketing and blogging. It feels very empowering to make mistakes and celebrate successes on my own terms. Drinking a Pisco Sour at Hotel Portillo was a pretty big highlight too!
Any tips for where / how others can also learn these skills? Any favorite online resources? Or is it a combination of being self-taught and learning from the people you meet while on your adventure?
I love the wisdom of surrounding yourself with people who are much smarter than yourself. However, you also need to ask those people good questions to learn from their wisdom – just being around them isn’t going to be much help. Every time I have tried to learn a new skill for this project I have sought guidance from people in my circle who know more than I do. If I don’t know anyone with the particular skill I am trying to develop I ask for introductions until I find the right person. Be kind, smile, and listen. Do those things and you’ll be surprised how willing people are to help.
You chose to spend five years working before traveling, were there benefits to choosing your time for extended travel?
My parents were gracious enough to provide me with a wonderful higher education. During that time, they would often remind me: “four years and you are off the payroll.” After graduating the reality of what “adult life” costs set in fast and I knew I needed to make some money.
I was hired by a healthcare company in Denver and started a job I loved and learned a lot from. Taking those first years to work helped better prepare me for travel in three significant ways:
I have the means to travel. There are plenty of blogs/articles on how to travel cheaply, but skiing is not a cheap hobby. Saving throughout those first five years for a previously undetermined purpose gave me the funds to pursue ForeverWinter Project when I finally came up with the idea.
I have a career I can return to. Having spent five years focusing on hiring as part of my job, I firmly believe that it is a lot easier to get in the door when you have work experience or directly out of college. If you decide to travel right after graduating, you may find it initially more difficult to break into your desired field.
There are certain skills I developed while working which make traveling easier. I improved my budgeting, presentation, and interview skills which help me keep the project moving forward. Additionally, working with several former consultants taught me the value of credit card and airline points which have saved me thousands of dollars in plane tickets.
Switching from healthcare to skiing must require some industry specific resources. Where can the reader start seeking out those resources?
Some of my favorite resources for skiing are: powderhounds.com, Telegraph, and a company called Scout Ski. Scout Ski noticed a similar gap in ski trip resources and will actually help plan your entire international ski trip.
While each of these websites has pieces of information for skiing internationally, I hope foreverwinterproject.com can help combine the best tips and provide new information about more remote destinations such as Kashmir or Kazakhstan.
Being independent does not mean going it alone. Who most influenced you in your pursuit of ForeverWinter Project, and how?
The list of people I need to thank is continually growing. That said, a Vice President I worked with at my previous company named Ian really helped bring the idea to life. One day we were sitting in his office talking about the possibility of business school, and he was encouraging me to take a few months off to travel before starting an MBA program. I told him the idea of unstructured travel didn’t really appeal to me to which he quickly replied: “Alright then, what would you do?” After a few minutes of being shocked that I had never considered what I would do if I had the time and money to do whatever I wanted, it became clear: I would ski. I would spend as many days as possible traveling the world, just to ski.
From that point forward, there was no turning back. I fell in love with the idea and spent as much time as possible trying to turn it into a reality. On January 13, 2017, I left my job and started pursuing my new adventure full time.
What does it take to pull a journey like this off?
I think pulling off any large scale international trip requires flexibility and commitment to be successful, especially when extreme sports are involved. I spent about 6 months formulating the idea for the project and getting input from friends and family. Once I felt like I had a clear goal in mind, to ski in at least one different country every month of the year, I committed myself to restructuring everything in my life to help achieve that goal. I sold everything I owned that someone was willing to buy, got rid of my apartment, quit my job, and had to end a relationship, all in the hopes that this dream will be successful
Once I hit the road full time I realized my idea of a successful, picture-perfect trip was far from the realities of travel. I have had to reschedule multiple legs of my trips due to injury or problems with flights (delays, pilot strikes, visa issues) and rather than stress about something you can’t change you need to open your mind to the new opportunities that your situation creates. The best example I have of this is while skiing in Kazakhstan my binding malfunctioned and sent me flying out of my skis down the hill. I injured my knee severely and had to take several weeks to rest. Rather than fly back to the states or sit in a hotel room in cry (okay, I cried about it a little…) I called a friend that was traveling to Thailand and by agreeing to join him for a week we were able to pool enough money to sail around Thailand for a week! Talk about a lucky-unlucky situation.
I have thought a lot about what “empowerment” is and have come to believe it is a combination of three things: ability, permission, and desire. Do you agree or disagree? How has ForeverWinter Project made you more empowered?
I absolutely agree and as a female traveler, I think the permission aspect is one of the toughest things to embrace. Solo travel is about self-discovery and therefore is inherently a little “selfish.” I’ve talked to a lot of women about the burden of feeling that we need to care for others, build families, etc. I’m from Texas and almost everyone I know is married, I get it.
At the same time, I truly believe you cannot care for anyone until you take care of yourself, and ForeverWinter Project is giving me the time to explore my passions intensely and unapologetically. You’re only going to get a few chances in life to do something big, and countless friends and mentors in their 30’s and 40’s pushed me to do this while I’m young. I might be broke in six months from this trip but I can honestly say I’ve never felt more empowered.
While traveling one can always expect a bit of the unexpected – what’s the craziest thing you have encountered?
While I was skiing in Las Trancas, Chile, some friends and I were enjoying a mid-mountain beer at the lodge when the volcano we were skiing on started to erupt. We didn’t realize what was happening or how serious the situation was until the chefs at the lodge ran outside and got on their skis. That’s when you know it’s time to go!