Evolve or Get Out
by Jeremy Jones
Although I’m a firm believer in human-powered snowboarding, I do not hate helicopters. I’ve starred in almost 50 snowboarding films, and helicopters made most of them possible. With a heli, I can wrap a film segment in three good days. The last year I employed helicopters for filming I snowboarded in four movies.
My sponsors were happy, my wife was happy—and I was too. But by that point in my professional snowboarding career, I found myself racing other film crews to lines I’d already ridden. Big mountain heli-assisted snowboarding in quasi-remote locations had almost become routine to me. I only got those scream-at-the-top-of-my-lungs highs when I rode lines at the edge of the world with huge sluffs chasing me. I had stalled.
When I wasn’t filming, I was hiking. I’d spend two days skinning on my splitboard and camping in the California Sierra backcountry just to access one run down a simple couloir. I was more excited about the backcountry experience than I was dropping into the same Alaskan spine wall—over and over again. For the snowboarding legends I looked up to like Tom Burt, Noah Salasnek, and Tex Davenport, it was groundbreaking to hop in a heli and ride 50-degree faces in waist-deep powder. These days, New York stockbrokers lap that same run. I had to evolve or get out of the way.
The blank spots on the maps lie past the heli boundaries, sled areas, and a long way from the frontcountry. To get there requires many nights in a tent. Instead of a leisurely start from a warm hotel buffet line, each morning I wrestle on frozen boots and eat a handful of nuts. And after much scouting, when I find a spine wall worth descending, I have to hike a few thousand more feet to my intended line. And from there, I hope, I move the sport forward.
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