Stephen Koch: Mountaineering, Pioneering, Never Fearing


Havana Frakes and Claire Cywes

Stephen Koch, pioneering snowboard mountaineer, had a great time delivering the keynote to the Bolles juniors, seniors, and fifth graders. He spoke about his passion, which was originally snowboarding and then morphed into speaking. The main portion of his speech involved his quest to snowboard the seven tallest mountains in the world. However, due to inconvenient timing, he was only able to conquer six and a half. Despite him not reaching his dream, he says that the lesson he learned from his letdown is even more valuable. It taught him the value in being satisfied with results, even if you don’t quite reach the set goal as long as made your best effort.
Koch teaches that this lesson can be applicable to everything, including schoolwork.
While his snowboarding comes with the high possibility of injury, Koch has a reason behind his intense passion. He said that he uses his experience with high risk to give himself “the opportunity to put to practice every day what I told you”, which is using his “tools of awareness” to identify and deal with extreme emotion such as anxiety and fear.
Koch holds a strong philosophy of being “positively selfish” and not letting feelings of insecurity due to the opinions of others daunt you. He believes that “When you are strong and have a good foundation, when people we care about come to us and ask for help, we can give it because we are solid versus running around all frazzled about what everyone thinks.”
Koch said that there was a big adjustment from going to the top of one of the world’s highest peaks to being back at home with his family. He appreciates the small things, such as coffee and being with his family. These are things that the normal person may not realize are important until they are deprived of them, and for Koch, who goes weeks and maybe months with these seemingly small but really huge joys. “Everything tastes better because it is more relaxed and it doesn’t require so much to access it.”
Koch also said that safety is one of the most important parts of extreme sports. His advice to students wishing to partake in such sports was, “Be safe. Do your homework. Learn as much as you can.”