Words: Gerhard Gross

Jeremy Jones on his Champions Of Change award

Winters with low snowfall suck. Winters that start late and end early suck. Six years ago, after seeing these and other affects of climate change firsthand, Jeremy Jones started Protect Our Winters to do something about it. A few of their projects so far: POW has helped educate high school students about climate issues, opposed coal projects, and brought together pro riders to join in the fight. For his work on raising awareness about climate change Jeremy earned himself an invite to the White House on April 11 to receive the Champions Of Change award. When the ceremony was over he presented a letter signed by 75 Olympic medalists and other pros including Terje, Jake Blauvelt, and Mikkel Bang reminding President Obama that winter is getting its ass kicked and action on climate change needs to happen now. The dude never stops. Days before Jeremy was in the Sierra’s near his Lake Tahoe home “just riding for myself, staying fit, and exploring.” By April 17 he was in Valdez, Alaska doing day treks to nearby peaks and preparing to film for Higher, the final chapter to his Deeper and Further movies, which have inspired a new generation of splitboarders. I caught up with him on the edge of the Valdez harbor that evening where we talked about his experience at the White House and his hopes for the future.

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The interview view. Valdez harbor.

What was it like coming out of the Sierra’s and stepping into the world of Washington and the White House?

It was a very bizarre transition going from the mountains to Washington. It’s surreal. I definitely found myself in Washington, and I never do this, going “Wow, I’m really surprised that I’m here right now and how did my path lead me to this spot?”

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Jeremy Jones at the White House

Was it something you ever expected?

I definitely never expected to be in that situation. Since we started Protect Our Winters we’ve just been getting more and more educated on how best to fight climate change. About four years ago we realized that for real significant change to happen we had to go to Washington. So the reality is we’ve had to try to influence our elected officials to take climate change seriously.

Were you nervous up there getting the award?

Not necessarily nerves, but it’s very similar to riding serious terrain where I’m just really focused and there’s no room for error. The spotlight was on me and I chose my words wisely and just really had that extreme focus. It’s bizarre how that extreme focus is necessary in riding a serious line and it’s also necessary when you’re in this environment when you have reporters in front of you in a place like the White House. [laughs]

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Jeremy Jones. Focus. Photo: Jeff Hawe

What’s been your biggest success with POW?            

This is our third time to Washington and I think that this trip was our biggest success. We got to deal with the executive branch of the government and say to them, “Hey climate change is really serious. We appreciate everything you’ve been doing and we want to get serious about this situation.”

Obviously it takes a fair amount of fossil fuels to travel around the world and film. How do you continue to do that and reduce your impact on the environment?

For starters I really try to lessen my impact on the environment in all aspects of my life including my snowboarding. I’ve for sure been on that trend. But I also think we need to be realistic. We’ve come up in this society that’s hooked on fossil fuels and we can’t just expect everyone to cut themselves off and live in a tree. Ideally people learn to live a smarter, cleaner life, but continue living their life. If you look at it in say five year chunks, we’re making advancements on cleaner living but we have a lot more we need to do and that’s what our focus is with POW. But I’d say the answer isn’t “Hey stop, live in a tree and eat nuts and don’t ever drive your car.” That’s an unrealistic ask.

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Jeremy leaves a low carbon split track. Photo: Jeff Hawe

[At this point the bartender from the restaurant in the Valdez Best Western walks up.]

Seth: Hey sorry to interrupt, my name’s Seth, Valdez local, and I grew up watching your videos. I’ve just been trying to get up and ride higher and gnarlier stuff and you’re responsible for a lot of it.

Jeremy: Cool dude, well you live in the right place for it.

S: Yeah man I saw snowboarding for the first time at Cordova. After that I came right back here, became a snowboard bum at 21, went to Mt. Hood and bounced around, but the last five years I’ve been getting after it right here.

J: That was my buddy who rode Cordova, Tom Burt.

S: Oh of course man. Too many of these young kids don’t know Tom Burt.

J: I agree.

S: Well Tom Burt probably influenced you and then you and Xavier influenced us and all the other guys down the line.

J: No one has done more impressive things in this range than Tom Burt.

S: And back in those days the board technology wasn’t as good as it is now.

J: Totally.

S: I just wanted to you know man, you’ve inspired me for a long time.

J: Good to meet you bro.

[Seth goes back to making some wicked Smoked Salmon Vodka Caesers.]

You’ve got some fans up here.

[laughs] This is my country for sure.

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Jeremy Jones, solar powered. Photo: Dan Milner

But yeah, I was going to say that hopefully there are solutions that will let us continue to do what we want to do, maybe a little differently from the past, but without having to live in a tree.

For sure. What’s exciting is that solar, wind, clean energy, and sustainable products are happening right now. The solutions are out there. We’re really just scratching the surface. I think we should all take a close look at our energy consumption but I don’t think we should stop living and seeing the world. At times it seems really slow, but when I look back on where we were five years ago and where we’re at today, we’ve made huge progress. It’s just the start. With POW the one area that’s the most uplifting for us is when we go into schools and talk about this change. I have a lot hope for this future generation coming up.

So what’s next for you?

What’s next for me is really immersing myself into the mountains. I’m starting on this next film Higher. When I get into serious snowboarding I really unplug and my world becomes the mountains so that’s where all my energy and attention goes. I’m looking forward to losing myself in the mountains for a while.