By Brian Schott | Photograph Ben Arnst
You know by now that Jeremy Jones founded both Jones Snowboards, and the climate change nonprofit Protect Our Winters—POW. As an athlete, he’s transitioned from the world’s most notorious sender of G to the Nar Alaskan steeps to one of the planet’s most acclaimed snowboard mountaineers—who still descends like a hellfire missile.
But did you know Jeremy Jones once stuck himself with his own ice axe? In the head even? It’s true. The year is 1996 and a 20-year-old Jeremy is bleeding in New Zealand. His snowboard is long gone, swept away by an avalanche after a cornice broke while he was hiking a knife edge. The board vanished into a valley, never to be seen again, and the slide took him for a 1,000-foot ride, flicking his ice axe into the flesh of his head. It’s a tough rookie season.
“Most people would have gone home,” says Jeremy’s cousin and Olympic snowboard racer Adam Hostetter. Adam shared a crib (a baby crib) with Jeremy back on Cape Cod and was with him filming in the mountains that day. They were gathering early footage for Continuum, the first ski movie from Teton Gravity Research, the media company Jeremy’s older brothers Todd and Steve founded that same year. “Jeremy needed stitches, but instead he was silently mounting his backup board and trying to get back to that line before the sun went down.”
After a lengthy interview with the thoughtful Jeremy, the scene makes sense. The older Jones brothers are famously freewheeling, but Jeremy lives a life of carefully controlled outcomes and metered responses.
Until he was nearly five years old, in fact, Jeremy was so quiet that Steve says his mom brought him to doctors to find some answer to the silence. “When Jeremy finally did talk,” says Steve, “he started in full sentences. Mom dropped to her knees. That is very Jeremy. Take all this stuff in and then deliver it in a complete form.” Naturally—for Massachusetts kids anyway—shortly after he did begin to talk, the older Jones boys used him for BB-gun target practice.
By age 14, Jeremy was racing snowboards in Stowe, Vermont (he barely missed qualifying for the 1998 Winter Olympics). The years he spent visualizing racecourses, honing his form, experimenting with balance points, and pushing angulation at speed would also pay dividends later in life. “Proper body position is critical for freeriding,” says Jeremy. “The race training helped because I would memorize the race course and break it down into sections—which is exactly what you do freeriding on big mountains.”
“Jeremy was pretty conservative in Alaska on our first shoot with him,” recalls brother Steve. “His whole approach in life has been like that. He was coming to understand the maritime snowpack and what was possible. Then he slept on it for a year. When he came back the following season he changed snowboarding. He was blowing the doors off every line.”
Today, Jeremy is a fully realized snowboard mountaineer, with an esteemed trilogy of TGR films—Deeper, Further, and Higher—accounting for but a fraction of his growing legacy as an athlete, an entrepreneur, and an activist.
Maybe he was born to do those things. Or maybe the ice axe in the face or live-fire BB gun drills further tempered his already logical and exacting personality. Regardless, with two children aged eight and 11, expect to see more of Jeremy’s careful approach to the extreme. “There is a lot more weight to this type of life as a parent,” says Jones. “You are affecting so much more if you don’t come out.”
From the Early Winter 2016 issue.