“The older I get, the older I like my snow.” You wouldn’t expect it, but these are the words of snowboard and freeride legend Jeremy Jones. We sat down with him to talk about snowboarding, climate change and his latest film ‘Ode to Muir’.
Just in case you do not know him: check his trilogy ‘Deeper, Further, Higher’ on Google and you’ll get the point quickly: Jeremy Jones is one of the most legendary freeride snowboarders ever. His love for big mountain powder runs took him to some of the most remote places in Alaska, Georgia, Japan, Norway, the Himalayas and the Alps. Jones – who is also a surfer, climber, father and business man that produces snowboards – was given ten (!) ‘best big mountain rider of the year’ awards by Snowboarder Magazine; in 2013 he was elected ‘adventurer of the year’ by National Geographic, and president Obama gave him the ‘champion of change’ award for his dedication to protecting the impact of climate change on the snowsports industry.
But the older Jones gets, the less extreme his snowboarding is, and the more time and effort he puts into his ngo Protect Our Winters (POW, of which you’ve surely seen stickers on helmets or snowboards!). His latest film, ‘Ode to Muir’, has only got one goal: raise awareness of climate change. In the film he ventures deep into California’s John Muir Wilderness on a 9-day self-supported splitboarding expedition with US Olympian snowboarder Elena Hight. “This is not my best movie ever, but definitely the most important one I’ve ever made”, says Jones when we sit down with him at the première in Amsterdam. “Important, because it tackles the bigger issues of climate change. People should see what happens when we do not drastically reduce our emissions. I hope the film inspires people that don’t traditionally go to vote, because we need politics to fight climate change.”
But as a movie maker you’re not proud of the film?
“Yes I am! I’m superproud of it, but it’s different than what I’ve done in the past. In my previous films we could - after six minutes of talking - wake up the audience with some beautiful Alaskan spinewalls and the sound of Metallica. In this film, we have none of that: no powder, no A+++ action footage, nothing. Just a splitboarding trip crossing the High Sierra on snow that is far from perfect. But that’s the snowboarding that I’ve been doing the last years. And that’s the snowboarding that has me more fired up on snowboarding than ever before.”
In the film you say “The older I get, the older I like my snow”?
“Yes. To be able to walk up these mountains and not be terrified of an avalanche is really nice and relaxing. If that means I don’t have powder flying in my face, I don’t mind. I’ve seen the world come down on me in avalanches, you know… I even like it that we didn’t get the perfect snow while filming, because you see that we don’t need epic snow to be happy up there.”
Why did you take Elena?
“She’s been a champion for Protect our Winters, but she’d never winter camped before. We really wanted to bring someone new to it, to show the power of wilderness to someone who never experienced it before.”
You crossed the Sierra without sleeping in huts for 9 days. How hard is that?
“Off course there was some planning, but there is a point where you just have to throw everything you need in a pack and see where it takes you. I estimate that we toured about 65 kilometers with our heavy packs. Each time we set camp, we climbed 2 to 3 peaks per day. There is also a funny thing that did not get into the film, but after six days we realized that we had an extra day of food, so we were like ‘Sweet! We can stay out longer!’”
And how hard was it physically?
“Snowboarding in less than optimal conditions takes a lot of energy. But you are so inspired by nature that your body just keeps going and going and going. So we felt good. It’s only when I came home that I realized how tired I was. I almost lost 5 kilos that trip, and afterwards I felt useless for a week.”
John Muir is the man behind the popular quote ‘The mountains are calling and I must go’. How would you describe that feeling?
“Well, especially with the US elections last November, I am on the phone all the time, people are texting and e-mailing me, yelling at me… Politics is a nasty deal. So then I just know ‘run to the mountains!’ Up there, each step is like ‘Oh my god, this is where I belong’. You see, I’ve been snowboarding my whole life, but my standards to have a good time are as low as they’ve ever been before. I’m so content on anything, and I think it’s because the mountains are my most intimate and creative connection with nature. They are a simple way to be very present.”
What do you do yourself to save the planet?
“I’m a huge fan of getting better every year. First I’ve tightened up my house and put solar bids on it. Now I’m down to the bigger steps: I don’t eat meat, I take my bike as much as I can an I’m about to get an electric car. I’m also proud that my collection for O’Neill is PFC-free and entirely made of recycled polyester.”
What are your plans for this winter?
“As I say in the movie: muire of this.” (smiles) It’s not like ‘let’s go and hike and make a good movie’, it really is the snowboarding that I’ve been doing lately. And I’ll continue to do a lot more of that. That’s where my focus is. Getting deep into these mountains, because that is where you get into the blank spots of the maps. And I love being on the blank spots.”
Will we see you again in Austria?
“Well, I come to ISPO every year, so I take advantage of it and stay for a month. My deal with Europe is to have an open calendar and go where the snow has happened. There are so many resorts! If my friends say ‘we can go to such and such’, I’m like: ‘I’ve never heard of that, that’s awesome, let’s go’. I love going to new places. Life is too short to ride the same line twice.”
‘Ode to Muir’ is available for download on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox en Vimeo.
You can check out the trailer here.