Originally posted on SnowboarderGuide.com
Jeremy Jones is the reigning king of big mountain snowboarding. He’s appeared in countless snowboard films, devouring lines that would have eaten most riders, and he was on the front line of bringing more freestyle moves into big mountain riding. His convictions about reducing the industry’s environmental impact led him to start the non-profit organization Protect Our Winters, he’s on year two of a two-year video project called Deeper, and he’s just resigned from Rossignal to start his own company, Jones Snowboards. We sat down with Jeremy last week to get the scoop on his many projects.
Year’s Riding: Last time I did the math it was 26 years
Home: Lake Tahoe, California
Sponsors: O’Neil, Scott, Swatch, Cliff Bar, Backcountry.com, Highball Energy Water, Bern Helmets
SBG: 26 years ago, what made you decide to take up snowboarding, and how did you learn?
Jeremy: 26 years ago I was obsessed with skating and surfing, even though I didn’t know how to do it. I had been skiing, and when I saw my first snowboard I remember being like “It’s about time, I’ve been waiting to stand sideways on snow.” It took me forever to learn; probably about 4 years before I linked my first turns. I’d never seen anyone do it before and had to figure it all out myself. Basically self taught at the beginning.
SBG: After a few years of laying somewhat low and doing your thing, you’ve been generating quite a bit of buzz this year, and it seems like there’s a whole new batch of people confused about there being two Jeremy Joneses. A few days ago I overheard someone saying “Yeah, I guess Jeremy Jones left Burton to start his own snowboard company.” Do you get a lot of that?
Jeremy: I think it’s something I’ll always have to some extent, seems like it’s mellowed out from what it was 10 years ago, but there’s still confusion out there.
SBG: Describe your perfect day:
Jeremy: The perfect day for me is to wake up in a tent in the dark, far away from everyone. Start hiking to a peak I’ve been looking at for a long time, getting on top and shredding a sick line. Come home to a warm tent and ready to do it again tomorrow.
SBG: Let’s talk about your non-profit organization, Protect Our Winters. There has been a good bit of research coming out in the last few of years that speaks directly to the snowboard industry, saying that within 10 years there may not be enough snow at mountains below 5,000 ft to have much of a ski season. What was the eye opener that led you to become involved in the environmental side of things and led you to start Protect Our Winters?
Jeremy: It had been an ongoing thing, but I was walking at a resort in the middle of February with a guy that was 30 at the time, and who had grown up skiing at the resort. It hit me how this guy who is relatively young had seen so much drastic change at his local mountain. The resort had closed 5 years prior, we were walking on grass, and there was a golf course at the bottom. That was an eye-opener.
SBG: What do you think about real vs fake environmentalism in the ski and snowboard industry? What I mean by that is there is the “eco-friendly” fad: the boards that are “better for the environment,” and the resorts advertising which of their lifts are wind powered; the marketing gimmicks. But then there is also the group of riders, the soul snowboarders, who are quietly living it.
Jeremy: I think a lot of companies have good intentions about doing things more environmentally, and a lot of them have taken the first step towards cleaner products or cleaner mountains, or what have you. However, I think that if they keep waving this big environmental flag, but don’t continue evolving their products, then the truth will come out in the wash. I think it will all work itself out naturally. A year or two ago it seemed like a lot of people felt like they had to be doing something environmentally to be in the industry, and I think that over the next couple of years it will become really obvious which are really serious about it, and the ones that aren’t serious about it won’t be waving that flag.
SBG: What’s is your vision of a more ecologically friendly snowboard industry? What’s your ideal?
Jeremy: The thing with the environment is that it’s everything, so all aspects, from products to resorts, how we get there, what we’re eating at the cafeteria, every facet of it. If the industry improves just 10% in the next 10 years that’s huge. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a start. You have to look at it in long term, say 50 year chunks of time, because these results will take a long time. We’re taking the first step and we have a lot more to take and some take a long time.
SBG: Which resorts do you think are actually doing a good job at making themselves more environmentally friendly? Who gets the A’s?
Jeremy: Of the resorts that I visit and go to, Grand Targhee is doing a phenomenal job. Protect Our Winters works very closely with them, so I’ve gotten to see first-hand, not only what they’re doing now, but what’s in the plans for the future, and it’s been pretty wild watching the changes at that resort the last 5 years. The other ones, and not quite at the Grand Targhee level, but I’ve also been excited to see the changes that Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley have made over the past 5 years. Past that I know Aspen puts a lot of energy towards it, and I know there are a bunch of other ones out there.
SBG: A few years back we started looking at adding a quarterly print edition of SBG. We eventually decided against it, and one factor for us was that environmentally, glossy photo magazines are pretty bad; even on partially recycled paper. We find areas we can make a difference, for example, we host our site with a company that’s aiming for net-zero and we ran a bunch of free advertising for POW last winter. What should snowboard media be doing to promote more environmental awareness, and to be more eco-friendly themselves?
Jeremy: The magazine has been around for a long time, and I don’t think it’s fair to just dig in and say how lame all mags are, and they are doing better stuff, but I would like to see more from them. They’re pretty powerful and they have ways to get the message out, they obviously can’t make their whole mag about it, but starting to implement more content, maybe highlighting companies that are doing good stuff environmentally, or ways that snowboarders can reduce their footprint. Things that we’re seeing a little bit of already. Protect Our Winters was a part of the Transworld Rider Poll award last year, and we raised $10,000; that’s an example of the power of these companies. It didn’t take a lot of their energy to do something like that and that money went far.
SBG: You have a great list of general purpose tips for saving energy and living more environmentally friendly on the POW website [read 10 Things You Can Do Now on POW]. What are one or two things snowboarders can do within the industry to encourage the development of a more environmentally friendly industry?
Jeremy: Support companies that are putting in the effort to make sustainable products and run a cleaner business. Every purchase is a vote with your dollars, and this is the only way to really get companies to become more eco friendly. The same goes with the resorts you choose to ride; if your home mountain is coming up short, let them know with a comment card. Lastly, I encourage everyone to become a member of Protect Our Winters. Our strength is in numbers, and the more members we have the more it shows the industry that the environment is important to riders.
SBG: Looking forward to this year, what will be your highlight of the winter?
Jeremy: I’m so excited for year two of filming Deeper. We’ve got an incredible team in place now, and we’re continuing to refine our process; we’re learning a lot about going deeper, and I’m really excited to continue down that road.
In part two of this interview, coming later this week, Jeremy talks about his two year video project, Deeper, and his new snowboard company, Jones Snowboards.
This interview is transcribed from a live interview on October 9, 2009. The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and readability.
Thanks to Teton Gravity Research (TGR) for use of their images.
For any readers not in the know, there are two Jeremy Jones. The Jeremy Jones we’re interviewing is best known for his contributions to big-mountain freeriding, and his company Protect Our Winters, a snow-industry focused non-profit working to unite and mobilize the winter sports community with the goal of having a direct and positive impact on climate change.