When Jeremy Jones saw a snowboard for the first time in a general store in Vermont, his nine-year-old self thought, "It's about time."
Growing up skateboarding and pretending to surf on the East Coast, these new wood boards, with nary a binding or hint of design innovation in sight, brought together all of his most favorite things.
From the first time he dragged his first board up a hill in his backyard, across a career spanning more than two decades, snowboarding for the legendary eight-time Big Mountain Rider of the Year has come full circle. Over the years, and some of the steepest vertical slopes ever ridden, Jeremy's name became synonymous with big mountain heli-boarding. These days it takes more than a plush ride to get Jeremy's adrenaline pumping in the mountains. For reasons as varied and as colorful as his career, he's abandoned the luxury of technology for the solitude and adventure of self-propelled big mountain riding.
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE CONTEST
By the time he was 13, Jeremy had already logged several seasons on his snowboard when the resorts finally decided to allow them on the mountains. Not knowing how to handle these hooligans, the resorts "certified" snowboarders to ride. Jeremy was the first to get certified, "but that all ended quickly…instantly," he laughs. Someone figured out that if a "certified" snowboarder crashed into someone, the resort was responsible. Soon he found he was spending less and less time at the resort and more time in his backyard, solo, hiking out to ride down.
In those early days of snowboarding, progress was slow, painfully slow. Jeremy remembers, "I'd be looking at my skis and then look at my snowboard and think, 'Why does it look like this?'"
The transition from amateur to pro proved more difficult still. Without the sponsors and the support today's athletes may take for granted, Jeremy started competing at 14 and though averaging about 35 contests a season, he didn't stay in a hotel until he was 20. One winter he ate more than 300 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and graduated high school $10,000 in debt. He'd lose 15lbs each winter and one season got so sick, he gave his sponsors an ultimatum: either they up their support or he'd have to walk away. He saw all of it, though, as an initiation. "You have to earn your deal," he reasons, "the better the job the harder the initiation."
On the way out West to his first competition, Jeremy stopped to visit his brother in Jackson Hole. In that one moment, he knew he no longer wanted to be a world champion. "I wanted to wash dishes and ride Jackson Hole every day," he said.
THE AGE OF DISCOVERY
At home now in the Sierras, Jeremy's walls are covered with trophies of his greatest exploits: photographs. The contest trophies are stuffed in the corner. "My biggest reward, andwhat has fulfilled me more than anything else, are the mountains I've ridden," he said. "I've gone into a handful of mountain ranges around the world and taken snowboarding to the next level." This next level is going back to the beginning. In part a reaction to critics who claimed anyone could ride big lines with a heli budget like Jeremy's, his new chapter of exploration – full foot-powered expedition snowboarding into some of the most inaccessible lines in the world – seeks to recapture the solitude and pure adventure wiped away by easy access and fat cash.
"After a five-day trip, I'm walking on water for a week," he says. "I'm a cheap drunk out there; it's so easy to get the adrenaline amping. I'd have to drop in off a helicopter, redlining in fifth gear along some ridge to achieve that same level of buzz."
Jeremy's latest project is the film "Deeper" with Teton Gravity Research, to be released in 2010. A two-year exploration into the world's most inaccessible ranges, "Deeper" delivers a very positive message: world-class freeriding is available to anyone willing to work. Though he's been filming all winter, Jeremy's spent $300 in gas plus food costs to scout the lines that will redefine what freeriding is and what it can be.
CLOSER TO HOME
It's this return to the basics that prompted Jeremy's "Protect Our Winters" project as well. A non-profit organization dedicated to reversing the global warming crisis by uniting the winter sports community, POW was inspired by Jeremy's travels and realizations that snow levels were rising and the mountains themselves were changing. Bringing this message to the home front, Jeremy spends much of his time now rediscovering the Sierras. "I can drive three hours around here, and feel like I'm in a whole new world."
Always on the forefront of snowboarding's evolution, wherever Jeremy will go, riders will follow.
Jeremy Jones convincingly won this year's Swatch O'Neill Big Mountain Pro following two fast fluid runs which had all the other riders astounded, unanimously voting him the winner of the snowboard category and the majority of riders voting him the overall winner.
"It wasn't my goal to win," said the American O'Neill ultimate freerider. "I came here to ride fun lines and see what happened. To come out on top is an amazing feeling."
Behind him in the snowboarding category was last year's winner, Xavier de le Rue, who had a stunning strong first line, but was not as fluid on the second face of the competition. In third place was Austrian O'Neill rider, Mitch Toelderer.
Kaj Zackrisson won the skiing title for the second year running with his impressive double drops and adventurous lines down both faces. "I am very happy to win this for the second year," said the ever-smiling Swedish skier.
Behind him was Aurelien Ducroz, the French skier from Chamonix particularly impressing with his drops and line on the second face, which had suited skiers a lot more than the snowboarders. In third place was the Swiss skier, Phil Meier.Interview
As a true ambassador of the O'Neill brand, Jeremy Jones is constantly pushing the boundaries. Being the World's Top Big Mountain rider, Jeremy vows never to look back, "I just look forward to where I can progress." This attitude has earned Jeremy admiration from the snowboarding world for many years now. Respected as the best in his field, Jeremy has been voted Transworld Snow Rider of the Year multiple times and Snowboarder Magazine Best Big Mountain Rider seven years in a row. As an outdoor enthusiast, avid surfer, and a leader in his field, Jeremy represents what O'Neill is all about.
- Favorite conditions
- Favorite location
"Alaska, the mountains and snow are so perfect that it allows you to push your riding to new levels every time you are out there. The opportunities are endless as long as you can get your mind around the fear of not seeing what you are riding."
- Future plans
"Explore new terrain and continue to evolve my snowboarding to where I think it can go. Down the trade in the hard pack days for surf and ride powder.
Major accomplishments: The things I am most proud of have been exploring new terrain and safely riding the prominent peaks in un-ridden mountain ranges. As for awards the seven Snowboarder Magazine's Big Mountain of the year and multiple TWS Rider Poll Awards are what I am most proud of."
"Continue to search out those perfect lines as well as ride some of the ones I have found but am waiting for the right conditions for. Take my riding to the levels I dream about."
- Enjoying snowboarding
"Snowboarding is the sport that keeps on giving. There are always new things to do and explore and when conditions are right it is the most effortless thing in the world and feels like I am flying."
- Best thing about boarding
"Hitting the lip like Tom Curren, catching perfect trannies and the solitude of being in pristine mountains with no one around but you and a few friends."
- The future of snowboarding
"We will continue to see a select group of riders bringing tricks into riding lines and overall style will be more important then how hard of a trick a rider does.
Introduction to the sport: Around the fall of 1982 I found a Burton Backhill tucked in the corner of the general store and immediately it went to the top of my Christmas list. At the beginning I rode a little with my brothers but mostly by myself. After four years of riding my backyard and occasionally poaching the ski area snowboards were finally allowed on lifts."
- Largest influence
"Craig Kelly, Tom Burt, Tom Curren, and my dad."
- If you weren't involved in snowboarding, what other sport would you most likely be involved with?
"Definitely surfing. That is where I first got hooked on the sideways lifestyle."
- Currently focused on?
"Basic freestyle tricks that I can implement into free-riding as well as riding lines switch."
- If you had one day to live what would you do?
"Hang out at the beach or mountains with my friends and family"
- What types of music to you listen to?
"Country, Metal, Reggae and everything in between."
- What do you listen to before or during a session?
" Usually something mellow like Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash to try and mellow myself out. Going into the mountains overly amped can be dangerous.
Dream session: Either perfect snow or a perfect point break with just some friends and myself."