Jeremy Jones’ Road from Snowboarding Pioneer to Climate Champion

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Jeremy Jones (@jeremyjones) didn’t set out to start a movement or change an industry. But he did.
Jones reimagined snowboarding and forever shaped how big mountains are ridden. He could have stopped there. Instead, he started a climate movement with Protect our Winters, created Jones Snowboards to push snowboarding innovation, and along the way starred in 50+ movies.
It all seems so big and so unreachable. A kid who hitched rides to Jackson Hole receiving a Champion of Change Award from President Obama. But as Jones shares, it all starts by taking one step, sleeping in one friend’s closet, following one passion and focusing on it with unwavering intensity. And doing it with curiosity, respect and admiration for your surroundings and the people who came before you.
This is Jeremy Jones and here’s his story from a conversation with @prokit two days before the pandemic lockdown began in California. “It’s one step at a time. We need to just start.”
Listen to the podcast on The Common Threads: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

David Swain (@swain): What did you have for breakfast?

Jeremy Jones: I had pistachios. I skipped breakfast basically, had this early interview.

Tell us about your journey from Cape Cod to the big mountains.

Jeremy Jones: I grew up at the highest point of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, so naturally we were mountain folk, at 200 feet above sea level.

My grandfather fell in love with Vermont later in life. My parents followed him, also later in life as young parents. We’d all go to Stowe every weekend. They would say to me and my brothers, “All right kids, we’ll see you at lunch. Get out of here.” Growing up on Cape Cod, hockey was the sport. We were all serious hockey players, but pretty quickly, my brothers and I just felt the pull of snow. You don’t even really realize it’s happening. As I got more serious about hockey, my parents would say to the coach, “He’ll play on the travel team, but you’re taking him because we go skiing every weekend.” By the time I was 12, hockey went away really fast.

What was the state of snowboarding in Vermont in those days?

I feel super fortunate to have gotten into the sport when I did, which was at nine years old. I was really into skateboarding, and I started seeing snowboarding in skateboard magazines, like Thrasher. I saw the first Burton Backhill in Shaw’s general store in Vermont and knew that’s what I wanted for Christmas. Santa blessed me and my brothers with Burton Backhills, and we went out behind our house instantly. We were able to make turns in powder, but hardpack was basically impossible.

Back then you could trade in each year’s board and get credit for the next one, so I kept trading in and trading in. I eventually got a Burton Cruzer which was a board with edges and high backs, but I still really struggled with hard snow. One night the sun was setting, and I was at peak frustration because I got this board to be able to ride on hard snow, but still couldn’t do it. I went to the top of the hill and got up to speed, and I swear it was like something just hit me. I remember exactly where it was on the mountain. I just tipped it over on edge and made a toe turn, then tipped it over and made a heel turn. I did that to the bottom of the mountain. I was so excited to get back up there, I broke a buck on the binding. I used to ski all day and then go snowboard by my house, but from that point on, I started going home earlier and earlier to snowboard.

And what about your brothers who went on to found Teton Gravity Research?

My brothers were not nearly as impassioned by it, but they enjoyed it. The Burton catalog had a list of mountains where snowboarding was allowed, and when I saw Stowe on the list, it was life changing for me. I remember snowboarders were allowed on the mountain at noon. You used to have to get checked out to be able to snowboard, and I was the first person to be certified. On the first day my brothers and I went up, we got yelled at by skiers. My brothers took one run and were back on their skis. They still snowboard and ski, but I never touched my skis after that.

What were your aspirations at that point as a kid? What level of support did you get from your parents?

My parents were not helicopter parents, let’s put it that way. Once snowboarding was allowed at the mountain, I was officially done with hockey. I remember the coach called my parents and said, “What do you mean he’s done? That’s ridiculous.” There was no family meeting, zero discussion with my parents. My parents were like, do whatever you want.

At that time, there was really no such thing as being a pro snowboarder. There were guys like Terry Kidwell and Jim Zellers. People that were getting free boards and maybe getting some trips paid for. My brothers and I got so into it every day, first lift to last lift, no matter what the conditions. My dad worked really hard so we could go up there on the weekends, and some weekends he wouldn’t be able to go because of work. We figured out who the best skiers on the mountain were, and we connected with them. We asked how often they were out on the mountain and they said, “Every day.” We asked what they did for work. They would bartend at night and paint houses in the summer. We’re like, that’s what we’re doing. We said to my dad, “Guess what, you can do this every day.” Sure enough, we started painting houses and working in the restaurant industry.

From there, how did you get to Alaska?

It happened fast. If you look at the product in snowboarding between 1987 and 1991, it’s like 50 years of evolution. It’s crazy. When I was 14, I went to my first contest a half hour away. I had no idea what type of snowboarder I was. I won the race. I did more races and kept winning. I had this passion that I’d never had before, but I was struggling in school. One of my dad’s closest friends, Warren Cook, was running Sugarloaf in Maine. They had a small academy there, Carrabassett Valley Academy (CVA), and they were trying to grow the snowboard program. I went there for the winter semester, and that’s where I met Mark Fawcett. We got to snowboard every day and compete every weekend. I was doing really well, and at 16, I did my first pro contest. I got third place and was able to take that money and go to the next pro competition and keep doing that. By 18, I was in Alaska with my brothers.

Jeremy’s first ever snowboard contest, the Muffin Cup in Stowe Vermont. 📸@jeremyjones

What were the competitions like then?

Back then it was all about overall World Champion, which was racing and halfpipe. There was no such thing as a snowboard park. Everyone did everything. It was all about the overall performance, and I won the junior regional overall title. So, I was decent in halfpipe on a good day, but when it came to racing, it just really clicked. I think I won something like 35 races in a row. When I turned pro, I did a race and got third place and in half pipe, I got fortieth. That was the last halfpipe contest I ever did.

Why were you good at racing? What was it about you or your approach?

First and foremost, it’s repetition. My brothers and I just had this deep love for it. Yeah, we all love the pretty powder days, but early on we coined the phrase “love of sport day.” It’s when nobody’s there, and it’s raining and icy. I remember the lift guys telling us we couldn’t get on the lift because we’d get frostbite. We found this cream that we could put on our face to not get frostbite so we could go up.

I could say this 20 years ago, when my big mountain riding was taking off. I was doing it more than anyone in the world. If you do something more than anyone in the world and you’re a decent athlete, you’re going to get to the upper 93%. We’re all fighting for the extra 2%, 1%, or maybe it’s half a percent. That extra half percent takes 80% more work. I had something that I loved so much, that had me working without realizing I was working. I was getting the reps, riding in every type of condition. I was chasing my brothers down a mountain, just trying to keep up because they were on skis and I was on a snowboard. That’s where it works. I see it now with my kids. I just spent a week with them riding bumpy hardpack. I bring them everywhere, from Chamonix to Canada. They don’t think twice about tricky lines or entries because they have so much repetition in bumpy hard snow.

What was it like showing up in Alaska for the first time?

I got to Alaska. My brother got a helicopter. I vividly remember my first run. My brother went first and told me to ride on his tracks. I dropped in totally blind, perfect powder, pink light. My throat was in my stomach. A 2000 foot face unfolded in front of me, and it was one of the steepest things that I had ever ridden. I just let go and let my board take me down the mountain. I was in total control and was laying out these turns with my head two feet above the ground. I mean, if the hook wasn’t set before that, it was officially set at that moment.

Jeremy Jones shooting movie Higher
📸Teton Gravity Research shooting the movie Higher in Nepal; Jeremy Jones drops into Shangri-La.

How do you manage fear?

Fear is an interesting thing. These days I’m camping in front of lines, hiking up them and then snowboarding down. We leave camp in the dark, and the mountains are making noises. I bring this up because now instead of being on a slope for two minutes, I’m on a slope for a couple hours. It’s like I’m looking down the barrel of a shotgun, meaning if there’s a small avalanche, I’m going to be at the bottom of that mountain really fast. I have time to really sit with my fear. There’s a lot that goes into that and into breaking it down. I call it boogeyman fear or real fear. I never set out thinking, we’re going to climb this mountain. My thinking is more, I think it’s in play and I feel good about moving forward. If all goes well and we turn 20 no’s into 20 yes’s, we’ll have an opportunity to stand on top of this thing and snowboard back down.

You seem pretty humble around your relationship with the mountain.

Definitely. I learned a lot from my two older brothers. I’ve always looked to people older than me to learn how they do things. I ask questions to really understand what the worst case scenario could be. My brothers have a film company, Teton Gravity Research, and they’ve been filming high octane, high risk sports for over 20 years. We could put up a demo reel of harrowing crash after harrowing crash, and you might think, how many people died while you’re filming? We have a good track record, but it’s very edge-type stuff. We’re constantly evaluating how we’re going about it. Every year, we get together as a crew and go over our mistakes. We bring in people we think we can learn from. But our big thing is always, what’s the worst case scenario here?

We could go out on a day you think is mellow, but I might say, “We’re out here”, because I know that if something slides, it’s going to be a massive avalanche. I was just in Chamonix with my wife and kids. My wife was having the time of her life, but I know there were open glaciers all over the place. There are hazards that are out of our control, but it’s about understanding where you can take risks and make mistakes and where you can’t. There are times when I’ll drop into lines and think, all right, if this thing slides, I’m going to get flushed off this mountain. It’s not enough to bury me. It’s going to be a bad fall, and I could tweak myself, but I’m going to come out of this. That’s really what TGR is all about. Our whole deal is high action that’s on the edge of the makeable and not makeable, but in places that you can make mistakes.

What about the progression from filming all day in Alaska to reimagining what’s possible with human-powered exploring and splitboarding?

For those who aren’t familiar, splitboarding is using a snowboard that can split in half so it’s basically two skis. Put climbing skins on them and we’re able to use them like cross country skis and tour up the mountain. When we get to the top, we connect the board together.

Personally, I like pushing myself. I love being in places in life and in the mountains where I think, “I could not have been here a day earlier because I need all the knowledge I have now to get here.” My progression of switching from helicopters to foot-powered snowboarding happened for multiple reasons. When you’re young, you can progress by hitting bigger cliffs, but over time that changes. I had taken it as close to the edge as I could with high octane snowboarding. I realized that my favorite thing in the world is to walk into new mountains, find this beautiful dream line and figure out how to go and ride that. With helicopters, you’re really limited where you can take them. I became hyper aware of the impact of my snowboarding and life on the planet, so that didn’t sit well with me.

At the end of the day, I asked myself, what is the goal of snowboarding and why am I still so hooked on it? I am snowboarding now more than ever. I think it’s this deep connection with nature. Walking into the mountains and walking up them is this incredible deal. It forces you to be present. Walking is a kind of meditation. You need creativity to figure out how you’re going up and how you’re going down. Now, I can keep progressing by doing these self-supported, point-to-point traverses that are up to 10 days long. I’m going to ranges like the Sierra, where a ton of people go to the mountains, but by walking and camping for days on end, I’m able to get to this second, third, and fourth layer that has seen very little, if any, snowboard tracks. I am still moving the ball forward in this random manner. I’m still using all this skill. We’re still refining our kits. Even yesterday, we did this 10,000 foot day, and relied on nutrition and all these things. It’s evolution and it’s not stagnation. That is important in life, and it’s important with society, too.

It seems like you’ve had a growth mindset since you were a kid. How do you push yourself both as an athlete and as a human? You made some big bets starting a company.

They’re very similar to be honest. I get woken up in the middle of the night at different times. Sometimes, it’s before a trip or a big day where I know that a wrong call will be fatal. But there’s also societal risks that keep me awake. The decision to start a company, to make a film that’s outside the box, to change my approach to the mountains, to start Protect Our Winters, this kind of societal risk-taking is every bit, if not more terrifying, than going up into dangerous mountains where the wrong call could be your last call. I’m interested in how we can be limited by the shackles of society and thoughts of “what if I fail.” It takes the same kind of guts to step out there and go in those directions.

As a parent too, it takes a lot of guts to let your kids make those choices.

I have to shake my head and thank my parents. I knew I wasn’t going to go to college. My mom said, “You’re 16 and you’re already writing it off?” Now that I’m a parent, it’s funny. I get asked to speak at schools and I think, do you really want to know the deal? When you are striving for something, there’s no backup plan. It’s not the smartest thing in the world, but it shows how it gets you through hard times. I definitely slept at bus stations and train stations. When I was 18, I got dropped off on the side of highway 80 and hitchhiked to Jackson Hole. I lived in a closet for a long time. Coming from the East Coast, it was all about going to a good college. People would ask my parents how we were doing and they’d say, “Jeremy just moved into a bigger closet. Todd is moved from the floor to the couch, and Steve just bought his first car. They’re doing great.” My parents knew there was no talking us out of our path.

You’ve been pushing your body hard for a long time. Any changes in how you approach your body and nutrition over the years?

By 21, I had my back first go out. By 28, it was going out more. By 30, if I went back to my journal, they’re deep and dark. I dealt with major back injuries that I thought were going to end my snowboarding, but I just dove into it. I saw every expert I could, and then I learned how to take care of it myself. That’s why I say I’m snowboarding more now, because with this foot-power snowboarding, I needed to take 100,000 steps to realign my body. That, coupled with always looking to people older than me and asking questions, helped me fix my injuries. The cool thing is, there was a point where I couldn’t ride the resort anymore. I went foot-powered and my back started feeling good. Now, I’m riding a lot of hardpack again and riding the resort (Squaw Alpine) with my kids. I just kind of balanced it out. Mentally, you can think it’s all downhill in the bad way, but a couple years ago, I thought, to hell with that. I dove even deeper into it. I’d say the biggest change I made was about two or three years ago. I made this commitment to wake up my body every morning, for as little as five minutes and as long as 20 minutes. That consistency really helped put me in a good place. I just had my biggest day in the mountains and felt great at the end of it.

What’s that morning routine look like?

I start my morning routine with an electric foam roller on my back and legs, super quick. I plank to get the juices flowing. I had a yoga expert spend multiple hours with me on two poses to really make sure I’m doing them right. So I do these lunges, warrior one stuff. I do this bridging deal to wake up my glutes and then use an inversion table. I start my day upside down. I also will release my psoas pretty regularly.

What about nutrition?

I kind of naturally moved to a plant-based diet for environmental reasons. One day my wife said, “You realize you’re basically vegan now.” I hadn’t even realized it. It started through the Shane McConkey Foundation. They did meatless Mondays and I thought I’d give it a try. I remember going to a restaurant and instead of getting a piece of fish or meat, I had this really amazing veggie dish. I went home and felt great after dinner. There was no food coma or going home to crash. It also goes back to talking to older people. I know this guy who is 75 and still climbing mountains. I find the much older people and ask them. They always say the same thing: Keep moving, eat light. I didn’t think much about the fact that a vegan diet is an athletic performance enhancement, but my natural weight dropped about three pounds. That’s a good thing, especially with a bad back.

Recovery is also a big part of it. When you’re going big, you can eat whatever you want because your body needs to just eat. But as soon as I get done, I’m religious about eating pistachios, water and a banana, because I want to go out the next day. We end at trailheads in the middle of nowhere, so we don’t have the ability to blend up a smoothie. That’s the program right now.

What’s in your backpack on the big days?

When I’m really worried about whether or not I have the fitness to do what we’re trying to do, things get pretty simple. I’ll have some kind of salty trail mix or a Clif Bar-type thing, but mostly I eat Shot Bloks and some electrolyte-type water. I’ve been on this layered coconut water lately. One time, I climbed Denali and on the summit day, I felt horrible. I just eliminated everything. I drank water and ate like six sleeves of Shot Bloks. I just needed that ease of digesting.

Becoming a Voice for Change: The Start of Protect Our Winters (POW)

How did Protect Our Winters get started?

I started Protect Our Winters in 2007, but I first had the idea in 2003 because I was hearing more about global warming. By 2005, I was starting to see more effects. I was in northern Canada in February and it was all grass. I got to be friends with locals and we went on a hike. They showed me this closed ski resort where they learned to ski. It was closed because there wasn’t snow there anymore. I thought, “These guys are young to lose their resort.”

At that point, I had a bunch of pro model products, and I decided to take a percentage of my royalties and put it towards climate change. I looked around and there was nothing that stuck with me. I called a friend at the Surfrider Foundation and was told that my industry wasn’t doing anything like they were. My friend said I should start something, but that was the last thing I knew how to do. I’m a snowboarder who barely graduated high school. I flew around in helicopters making an enormous carbon footprint. But my friend was right. I knew the film companies. I knew the magazines and the riders. I knew I could connect all these dots and get something up and running. I remember thinking constantly, who am I to do this? But I learned to not be afraid to ask. I would find the best people on climate change and ask if they wanted to be a part of this. They all said yes. Fast forward to today, I’m a big part of Protect Our Winters, but I’m just a piece of it, which is awesome. I knew it needed to take on a life of itself. Now we have chapters all over the world and there’s a ton of amazing people working on it.

  • Protect our Winters explorers holding sign
  • Jeremy Jones in Washington D.C. for Protect our Winters
  • Jeremy Jones on Capital Hill

What have you learned through this process? You’ve got the climate champions on one side and the deniers on the other. Where are you optimistic and where are you freaking out?

Well, first of all, I’m freaking out. That’s what’s keeping me up at night right now. When we started, we quickly realized that in order to get mass CO2 reduction, we need global leadership. We need major policy change, and we have to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry $700 billion a year. The first thing we did was all about light bulbs and water bottles, which is super important. I’ve got my reusable coffee cup. But we’re just not getting there without large scale policy change. I never envisioned that we would be so active politically. The fact that it’s a political issue, especially in the US, is probably the number one reason that we’re not just all in on the solutions.

Now we’re in the wonderful world of politics and the toxicity has been shocking. I understand now where climate deniers come from. That’s been a little bit more helpful, and I don’t have as much anger towards them. They’re a product of a campaign by the fossil fuel industry that dates back to the early 80s. Naturally, in Congress, half our leaders are climate deniers and every single one of those climate deniers in office takes donations from the fossil fuel industry. Sadly, that’s what we’re up against. We need to rally. We don’t spend time on trying to change climate deniers. We need to mobilize the right people in the right places, and ideally get us embracing a clean energy future.

What are the few most impactful things that the everyday person can do?

Living in an examined life is important. I don’t ever want to say that personal choices don’t matter because we need to tackle this from small things to big things. But there’s no debate in the climate world and the environmental world that the current administration has been detrimental. They have reversed over 200 laws that were tied to CO2 reduction. That means we need to rally the vote, especially in key places. People can be canvassing or calling their parents in Florida. People can raise money to donate towards getting the right person in office. If you’re in the US right now, this year, it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Generally, everyone has a voice these days. It’s great when you have a famous person talking, but we really reach out to people who have 500 followers in key areas. They’re talking about climate policy and voting for clean water, clean air, cleaner energy, and a cleaner future. We really need, at every little level, to get out the vote and get climate champions in office.

Protect Our Winters has become much more than about winters. It embodies anybody who believes in the environment.

We like to say it embodies anyone who ”accepts the facts of climate change.” I have really learned a lot over the last four years. I’m a positive person who always looks on the bright side. I can find connection points with anyone. My idea of a good time is not getting into an argument. It’s not going online and picking fights. It’s really against my nature to be in this world of politics, which is super toxic. I’ve had to get over that and just dive into it. I think about my kids, and in 30 years I want to be able to say I did everything I could to get us on the right path. It’s like climbing a mountain. It’s one step at a time. We need to just start. Optimistically, I know we have many solutions and they create jobs. That’s where we are, and that’s what we’re fighting for.

To finish that, I leave tonight to go to Elko, Nevada, which is dark red, very conservative politically. I’m going splitboarding with a miner to talk about climate change. It’s for a film I’m making called Purple Mountains. The film will follow me through these key regions that we’re focused on with Protect Our Winters.

The Entrepreneur: Starting Jones Snowboards

“One step at a time” is an interesting practice for anyone – athletes, parents, entrepreneurs. Did you have that mindset when you started Jones Snowboards?

Again, I like to equate it to the mountains. We come in and we have this goal. We’re finally at the base, and if you look up, you’re just terrified to leave camp. We don’t even talk about the summit. We don’t even look at it. We stay focused on how we are going to get through this glacier. The next step is how to get over the bergschrund. With Protect Our Winners, I wanted to start a nonprofit focused on climate change. That was so out of my wheelhouse. I started with the name, then the logo, and then the mission statement. We needed a website. I did the 50-page application to get a 501(c)(3). I just kept bumping it forward.

It’s funny because the two things I never wanted to do was make my own films and start my own snowboard company. In the course of about four months, I did both. And that was two years after starting Protect Our Winters. I learned from Protect Our Winters that I could do anything one step at a time. With Jones Snowboards, we took a couple steps pretty quickly. I had the original line and the board names planned quickly. I hadn’t been thinking about it, but I have so much experience that I was able to get it going pretty fast. In general, I try to focus on what needs to be done now and not worry about what needs to be done after it.

What have you learned from all the places you’ve been with Jones Snowboards?

There’s no greater honor than going to a mountain and seeing someone on one of my snowboards. I have really enjoyed the snowboard side of things. I like to put my head down and figure out snowboard designs. I love the marketing of snowboards. It’s a nice, fun break from the climate work. We’ve had some great success around the world. It always blows me away when I go to an off-the-map place, and there are three snowboarders and two of them are on a Jones.

We are part of 1% for the Planet which means we take 1% off the sale of a snowboard and put it towards environmental efforts. You learn at any environmental organization or any NGO that raising funds is the hardest thing to do. We have to have this consistent revenue stream that we use for both Protect Our Winters and a rainforest in Costa Rica that we’ve been reforesting. This has been a real drive for me. At the end of the day, I live a simple life. My quality of life index, I like to say, is more important than my financial index. As we continue to grow and have product extensions, I see it as the source to raise money. That’s what I’m really most proud of with the Jones stuff. I’m proud of the checks we’re writing every year.

How has the snowboard industry changed?

We’re seeing more people in the backcountry. I think people have realized that the barrier to entry is not that hard. It is not that hard to walk up a mountain and ski or snowboard back down. We’ve seen a diversity of board shapes which has been great. Kind of along the lines of surfing, where the perfect board can turn mundane conditions into really fun stuff. There was a time in snowboarding where all the boards look the same, all the riders look the same, and everyone talked the same. I love to see the diversity in snowboarding right now. You don’t need to just be in the park learning a new trick. We have a generation of snowboarders coming up right now, and I love seeing the youth bring their own spin on things.

What’s it like being “Jeremy Jones” where your name is a brand by itself? Do people recognize you more?

It happens generally at industry functions and when I travel more, but it’s not that big of a deal. It’s cool to see people psyched. It’s a little weird, but thankfully, it’s the right amount of that.

You know, I’d like to say one thing on the industry side. I do two trade shows a year, one is in Europe and the other one is in the US. Every single booth at both shows was in business for climate change and sustainability. We’re seeing more supply chain options to get cleaner materials. At Jones, every year, we’re pushing suppliers for more sustainability. That progression is every bit as important as progressing the product. But the reality is, we’re not gonna recycle our way out of this problem. When we ask the industry for help on climate policy, everything goes silent. Since starting Protect Our Winters, that’s been the thing that shocked me more than anything. I thought that the industry would rally around it more than it has. It goes back to this political side of things. It goes back to the venom of climate denial. The climate denial campaigns are very effective and it’s kept people off the sidelines. Even though we’re bigger than the pharmaceutical industry and the gun industry, we carry very little weight with leaders.

Which companies have come forward in a way that you think can be good role models for others?

The obvious one is Patagonia. They built their brand off of that from the beginning, so it’s a little bit different. There are big companies that have been around for a long time and have nothing to do with the environment. For them to shift their focus and leverage their power to get leaders into office, I understand the challenges of that. Off the top of my head, I’d say The North Face has leaned into it. The environment wasn’t part of their original guidelines. Burton has been an awesome leader in climate. Aspen Ski Corporation. I’m sure I’m forgetting some other ones.

Here’s a nice little case study, for example. The leader of FIS said he would rather deal with dictators than environmentalists and that climate change is a hoax. Here’s the guy who’s running the ski and snowboard organization. Protect Our Winters created a sign-on letter saying that he should step down. We had very little support from companies. We thought for sure it was a no-brainer, but people would not touch that letter. Thankfully, we did have 9,000 people sign on to it. FIS has laid out pretty robust climate goals to reduce their impact as an organization, but again, they’re not using their weight to push for policy change.

What do you think needs to happen in those companies to change?

It’s hard to change big companies, which is understandable. I have empathy for that. I do believe we’re on a 30-year trajectory to really overhaul our energy system. In 30 years, I think we’ll feel pretty good about it. In the end we’ll have success. The problem is we need to be on a 10-year trajectory, and it needs to happen faster. There’s no doubt, in 30 years the industry will be rallied around this. We won’t be debating climate, but we need to have that happen now.

How much of a role does the consumer have in pushing these companies?

I think the consumer is playing a huge role in it. Everyone’s looking at Patagonia. They have seen consistent growth over the last five years, while the companies that stand for nothing have seen decline. It’s the consumer supporting companies and understanding what companies stand for. That’s really important and it’s definitely working. The companies that are really taking this stuff seriously are winning which is awesome to see.

Social Media, Sponsors & Books

What have been the good parts of social media and what are the parts you’re worried about?

Right now in our world, social media is really just Instagram. Twitter’s not that big of a deal. Facebook is pretty quiet. So I’m just speaking to Instagram. The benefits are the ease to publish and to tell a story. There’s no barrier to entry. It’s awesome that anyone can get out there and publish a photo, or tell a story. That’s a wonderful thing. It’s something we use really strongly at Protect Our Winters. It’s the new magazine, the new newspaper. I like that side of things. With that comes the trolling and the toxicity of the comments. I really had to learn to ignore it. It affects me too much. Now, when I’m talking about climate, I can look and see 200 comments. I know there’s a fight going on there. Generally, it’s a fight between people, and the community has my back which I love. I just have to not give those trolls that piece of me. I do that through avoidance.

With Protect Our Winters, we’re on Capitol Hill, and doors are flying open there. When we go there, 80% of our meetings are with Republicans that we are trying to get to vote for climate action. We’re there with 15 to 30 people, but we represente 40 million followers on Instagram. Because of this, the staff of these senators and congressmen are telling them to meet with us. We’ll have CEOs from different companies and athletes with us and they’ll say, “I was here with Coca Cola and Kellogg, we didn’t meet with any of these senators.” A huge part of that is because of our social media reach.

You’re still a pro snowboarder. You’re running Jones Snowboards. You’ve got Protect Our Winters. You’ve got a family. You need to post on social media. How do you keep it all together?

It does take time. I’ve always had a camera in my pocket in the mountains. I love taking photos. I love telling stories. I do like that side of things. But yes, the consistency of it can get old. There are really simple things I’ll throw out there, but the stuff that takes more thought, sometimes I just can’t get to that. At Jones, I talked to our riders about it. I tell them the good news is they don’t need a website; the bad news is they need to throw a photo up there a couple times a week. They don’t even really need to write anything. It’s not that hard. It’s just part of the job.

That’s something that has changed a lot. My contracts now have three pages on social media. You have these CEOs or marketing directors that get on their phones every night and check on their team riders. That side of things is a little bit sad. Once, I was shooting an IMAX film, but I was getting yelled at because I wasn’t on social media. I was on location, and I was getting calls from marketing asking why I wasn’t posting more. I’m like, “Dude, I’m shooting a $5 million movie right now, calm down.” I was in six movies last year, and I was getting stressed by these sponsors. At that point, I moved away from those sponsors. I try to avoid the commercial side of things. I can’t tell you how many people want to give me money to post. I’m like, thank you, but no, thank you.

It’s an interesting thing with marketing, in general. I found that it’s harder to fund films than it’s ever been. I think the marketing companies are having a hard time figuring out how to market these days. It used to be simpler. They could sponsor a film and get ads in magazines. Now, as soon as you start advertising to someone on social media, it doesn’t work. It puts these companies in a tricky spot. For me, it’s been harder to fund films than ever before.

What have you read that means a lot to you?

I’ve been reading this book, Stillness is the Key. I gave it out for Christmas. It’s a great book on working on yourself. It goes into that side of things of just trying to evolve.

Obviously I have my weather sites that I look at more than anything. I really like Open Snow for Tahoe. I get my news from Next Draft. I do love good literature. I give myself a break on things and just read good books. I’m reading Overstory right now.

What about podcasts?

Definitely. I listen to a mix of different things. I really love the podcast “Drilled” by Amy Westervelt. It really breaks down the birth of climate denial. It’s investigative reporting on how we got to where we are. It’s been really helpful to understand the creation of these climate deniers. There’s a reason why they’re of a certain age group, from certain regions, white males. They’ve been targeted and it works. Recently I’ve been digging Rich Roll. I liked Tim Ferriss, but he broke my heart with his Charles Koch interview and I can’t listen to him anymore. The Koch brothers have funded really intricate climate denial more than anyone else in the world. Tim Feriss had Charles Koch on and did this super soft interview. I started noticing like some of his guests would bring up climate change and he would just pivot away. He avoids climate change at all costs, and then he brings on the biggest climate denier in the world. To Charles Koch’s credit, he sounds like he’s doing some great prison work, but there is no defense of his climate work that he has done. In many ways, we’re in this mess because of him. So the interview just crushed me.

What would you say to your 18-year-old self? Or to your kids?

The coolest thing about skiing and snowboarding is sharing it with kids. How are we not talking about this as the coolest thing that you can do as a family? Time outside as a family is just gold. Whether you like snow or not, it could be as simple as sleeping in the backyard. Hands down, the best interactions I have with my kids are outside and it doesn’t need to be on a chairlift.

  • Jeremy Jones family snowboarding
    Jones family exploring
  • Jeremy Jones' son Cass snowboarding
    Jones’ son Cass “dropping into one of the biggest tubes of his life.”
  • Jeremy Jones family on chairlift

As for my 18-year-old self, I’d stay out of it. I don’t want to mess with it. It all worked out in a weird roundabout way. As for my kids, I try to keep them happy, focused on things they like to do, being kind people who are constantly learning.

Resources mentioned

Photo credit: Jeremy Jones; Jones Snowboards; POW
A few Jeremy Jones movie samplers

The post Jeremy Jones’ Road from Snowboarding Pioneer to Climate Champion appeared first on Prokit.

27 episodes