Backcountry and big-mountain snowboarder Jeremy Jones is bringing his Teton Gravity Research film Further to the Oriental Theater tonight at 6:30 p.m. for the local premiere of the second installment in his Deeper, Further, Higher trilogy (tickets $13), and will also be screening the film on Friday at the Boulder Theater. We caught up with Jones -- also the founder of Jones Snowboards -- for more on this season's most eagerly anticipated snowboard film and the quest to get as far out there as possible.
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Westword: Now that the film is finished and you've had a chance to put it in front of some audiences, what's the response been like and what kind of perspective do you have looking back on the two years you spent making it?
Jeremy Jones: The response to the film has been overwhelming and the crowds have been huge. It's just awesome to be able to inspire people, and that's what I've been hearing again and again: this film is inspiring people to get out there and do something big. That's really a cool thing. As far as my own perspective, I'm still definitely digesting the film and it's still too fresh. The filming is one thing, and then you go to edit these things and it just kind of takes over your life. I still can't even stand to hear myself talk on screen without cringing, so it's all a little much for me, to be honest, but that goes with the territory.
What did you set out to do differently for this film?
I wanted to take a similar approach to what we did with Deeper, which was going into these places and really immersing myself, hiking and camping and chasing after pure wilderness experiences. With this film I went to places that I knew very little about and got pretty far off the map. With Deeper, those were ranges that I knew pretty well, and the challenge here was to take it a bit further and add to the challenge of it.
Over the four years that you've been working on these two films, there's been an explosion in the market for splitboards and backcountry snowboard equipment. What do you think is driving that movement? Do you feel responsibility for it in any way?
I think what's driving the movement towards the backcountry in snowboarding is that people are maturing, they're realizing that there's more to the sport than terrain parks and resorts, and they're realizing that with a little bit of effort they can go out and get away from crowds and go have the best runs of their life, and that it doesn't necessarily require a helicopter or a snow-cat or a week at a lodge or what have you. I feel like I've probably played a role in the growth of that movement, but I really feeling like it was gathering steam before Deeper. My film just helped pass on some extra fire to top it off.
Jeremy Jones in Wrangell St. Elias National Park in Alaska
Photo by Chris Figenshau, courtesy Teton Gravity Research
How much of Jones Snowboards' business is in splitboards now?
Right now it's about 30-40 percent of our boards sold. The company as a whole is growing year over year but the percentage of splitboards kind of stays the same. I think it will continue to grow, but it will always be a niche part of the sport.
What was the most terrifying moment for you on this film?
The most terrifying moment making this film was when I was hiking a face with Mitch Toelderer and Bibi Pekarek and I turned around and they were gone; they'd been taken out by an avalanche. Seeing your friends there one minute and gone the next and not knowing if they're alright is one of the worst feelings in the world.
Has your approach to the risk-reward calculus changed at all over the years, or after that incident in particular?
It's a serving of humble pie, and it does make you question what we're doing. I think it breaks it back down to ground zero, and that's actually a great perspective to have out in the mountains. When you understand and appreciate the level of risk involved in everything you do out there it forces you to make smarter decisions, to always be thinking. But there's always risk involved. I'm conscious of that every day.
My daughter and my girlfriend are both snowboarders, and we've been bummed about the lack of women in most of the big snowboard films over the last few years. Was there a conscious decision to bring Bibi Pekarek in for this film to help fill that gap?
With Bibi I didn't go and seek her out like, "I need to have a woman in this film," it was just really natural for her to be a part of it because she's so strong in the mountains. She's in the film and on the Jones Snowboards team because of her abilities in the mountains, period. We were excited to have a girl in the film, but it wasn't a prerequisite. You're going to love her part in the film, because she just went for it.
Bibi Pekarek at home in Austria
Photo by Mitch Toelderer, courtesy Jones Snowboards
This is also the first year Jones Snowboards has a women's line and a women's team, right?
Yes, and my wife also is an avid snowboarder and I ride a lot with women, so I have a pretty intimate knowledge of what kind of product is out there and, as with the guys, I could see that the women just didn't have a lot of options for proper freeride boards. A happy wife is a happy life, and she's got a much better snowboard now that Jones Snowboards is doing women's-specific boards! These are precisely the all-mountain freeride boards women have been asking for.
The trips you make for a film like this must translate into some serious R&D for the boards, the O'Neill outerwear, and the other gear you're involved in designing. How does riding in the big-mountain conditions you prefer get reflected in the design decisions that get passed on to consumers?
I called the first snowboard we made the "Solution," because it really was fulfilling a need I had and a void that was in the marketplace at the time. Without that kind of splitboard technology we simply wouldn't be able to do what we've been doing in the mountains over the last four years. We built the boards we needed in order to realize the vision we had for these films. From an outerwear perspective, I don't have the luxury of bringing multiple outfits out and drying clothes, so having gear that you can literally live in the mountains in for days on end and not get wet and not have it fail you, that's essential. With the kind of riding I do, there's no option for equipment failure. So with the whole kit -- from helmet to clothing to axes, splitboards, skins, poles, you name it -- it's a constant evolution towards lighter, stronger, more efficient material. We're subtracting more than adding and going for that balance of minimalistic but getting everything you need. That's the key.
What's next for you? The next film in the planned trilogy is tentatively titled Higher. Where are you hoping to get to this season?
I have a never-ending bucket list of terrain I would love to ride, but we're still kind of digesting this film and touring with it, and then we'll figure out what the next plan is going to be. For the moment I'm just trying to get in the mountains a bunch, away from cameras, and clear my head. Then we'll take it from there.
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