Words: Nick Russell // Featuring Jeremy Jones
Photos: Andrew Miller
"Really, really happy thoughts," Jeremy Jones recalls with a smile. His eyes drift off, back in time to a blur of days that seem to blend into one genuine, joyous memory. "The longer the power was out, the happier I got."
It was one for the books. This La Niña winter was one I will someday attempt to describe to my future kids. Snowpocalypse, Snowmageddon, Januburied. Several names had circulated throughout town for the colossal storm cycle set on repeat. The sun would barely be up, yet white light shined through the window letting me know that the local playground had a new thick coat of paint.
"No electricity, no cell service. You'd see another few feet had fallen; your tracks from the day before are gone; the bootpack is for sure gone; everything's gone. I'm totally content. I know without a doubt that I'm shoveling just to get out of the house."
The snow would drift up against the door so much it would require an exit from the garage. My car had been buried for the last week, efforts to dig it out proving futile. Grabbing a pow surfer from my and Danny Davis' collection, "Really, really happy thoughts," Jeremy Jones recalls with a smile. His eyes drift off, back in time to a blur of days that seem to blend into one genuine, joyous memory. "The longer the power was out, the happier I got." I trench my way down the driveway and walk up the street to Jones' house. There's a quiver of boards ranging in shapes and sizes lined up along the porch. A knock on the door, and I'm greeted to an excited smile and invitation inside. I shake off my Sorels and am offered a hot cup of coffee as Jeremy's kids run around putting on snow pants and boots. We each grab two boards from the collection and take turns breaking trail into the woods.
It's truly special to have conditions like this at home. For a professional snowboarder, traveling the world searching for deep snowpack and cold temperatures comes with the territory. This year is different. Unknown to him at this point in January, Jeremy's season will be spent "exclusively in the Sierra, from Shasta to Whitney."
For the first time since he was 13 years old, this will be the longest he's ever spent in one range. Once the waist-deep stairway is set, laps are taken for hours. We trade off boards every other run, mixing up foot placements on a variety of shapes ranging from Jones' first prototype Mountain Surfer, to an Äsmo, to a Petranboard. Big mountain pioneer, Jim Zellers, soon comes over wearing a cowboy hat, carrying a 190 Winterstick swallowtail and a rubber tire tube in place of bindings. On the Red Rocket, we'd blast through the trees, hanging on for dear life.
"Make sure you don't drop anything in the snow, 'cause it'll be gone. I lost a few boards that came back in June," Jones says with a laugh.
This is taking it back to being 12 years old—when snowboarding just meant going to the backyard. It's so amazing how fun [powsurfing] can be for all ages and all ability types."
Zellers relates these kind of days to his first time ever riding, nearly four decades ago, back in 1978. "I drove up I-80 from the Bay and pulled off on the Boreal exit. I probably hiked the small hill right off the highway 50 times in a row and drove home."
Primarily known for mind-melting descents in Alaska, Nepal, Antarctica and beyond, Jones is a man who needs no introduction. He has influenced multiple generations of fall-line enthusiasts, myself included. For a guy that constantly redefines what is possible in the mountains, it is refreshing to see that the most simple pleasures are now those that bring the most satisfaction. With this storm,
"It is now this huge achievement just to get in a bootpack on a hill outside my house; it was this big accomplishment."
Throughout the day, the rest of his family, neighbors, and the local grom squad gradually filter into the zone. He dials the kids in with boards taller than they are and sets them down a path of deep freedom. Jeremy's wife, Tiffany, steps on a powsurfer for the first time and naturally flows through the wallowing smoke.
"My memories are of sessioning and coming back home, putting a log on the fire, and sitting with my family. Seeing the snow come down, gear drying, tracks disappearing, knowing that tomorrow is another day of doing the same thing. It's incredible, being so at peace riding these 200 to 600-foot hills.
Take what the mountains give you; if the neighborhood is firing, then the resort is probably closed, the roads are a nightmare, and the avalanche danger is high. I was reading the report, and it was like nothing I've ever seen—historic avalanches likely."
Over the following days and months, as the growing snowpack progressively settles with each high pressure, a natural step ladder from low angle wiggles to alpine adventures is climbed.
"I love riding new places, seeing new things, and the reality is, I can do that in the Sierra, so why do I need to go some place else? It's very rare for me to ride the same line twice in the winter, and hardly do I even go to the same trailhead. The size here is just overwhelming.
The reward is the fact that it is all protected land, and you do have to do it all on foot. Just to hit a basic line is this major push that leaves me crawling home and needing three days to take a break. And that's just for the most basic front-country stuff right off the road. For someone who likes to go see new terrain, I have my work cut out for me. I'm extremely satisfied."