Breckenridge Film Festival: Snowboarder Jeremy Jones chats about new backcountry flick “Higher”
Progression — the concept defines snowboarding and freeskiing. It’s taking the next step, adding an extra spin, dropping a bigger cliff, getting deeper into the backcountry, pushing the envolope further, challenging personal limits, growing.
In the backcountry skiing and snowboarding world there may be no athlete that better defines the idea than Jeremy Jones. For one of the most accomplished big mountain riders in the history of snowboarding the concept is more of a way of life. It’s also one of the underlying themes in what’s become one of his life works — Teton Gravity Research’s snowboard movie trilogy, “Deeper,” “Further” and “Higher.” That final chapter will premier at the Breckenridge Film Festival Saturday night.
For over 20 years the 39-year-old has pushed the boundaries of the sport, taking it from peaks and ridges deep in the Alaskan wilderness to as far north as the Arctic Circle — where he and his entourage rode through endless daylight. While “Deeper” served as a sort of ode to the backcountry and man-powered alpine touring, “Further” went into more remote far-reaching terrain, with Jones building on his backountry knowledge. The third installment “Higher” serves as a documentary of his life as a whole and his motivation, while also exploring new terrain from Alaska to Nepal.
“This film is a really intimate look into my story from Cape Cod to the Himilayas,” Jones told the Daily Friday. “It’s a much closer look at me really, and my mindset going into these mountains.”
Jones said he also reached new heights in this film, riding what he called the three biggest lines of his life.
When asked about his motivation, he said simply, “I don’t know … I just have this pull to the mountains. I really immerse myself. I become consumed by these lines.”
Well before it became a snowboarding movie trilogy, “Deeper,” “Further,” and “Higher” started as an idea — somewhere around 2005.
“I’ve always enjoyed hiking, but it was always side-country stuff,” he said of his inspiration. In a time where big ski and snowboard movies relied heavily on heli-skiing to session laps in the wilderness, Jones said he was looking for more.
“I didn’t want to go home at the end of the day,” he said of his earlier work in films. “I thought this would be really cool if I could camp right here and didn’t have to go to my hotel room at night.”
And so the idea was born, a film that would focus on snowboard mountaineering, with only the occasional use of a bush plane to access a campsite. “It was something in my head for a long time,” he said.
Splitboards — snowboards that can be separated in two and used as Alpine touring skis — were in their infancy, and the idea of a movie focused around them was not the most popular in the industry.
“I was trying to make this change, but it was hard because my job was making (traditional) snowboard films,” Jones said. “I realized that the film companies and movies I was a part of didn’t want to do that. So in order to do it, to make this evolution and still have a career as a snowboarder, I had to make the movies and start with a clean slate.”
Teton Gravity Research got behind Jones’ idea and the first film, “Deeper,” was released in 2010.
“They basically worked out all the details to allow me to achieve my goals in the mountains,” he said.
Through the three films Jones builds on his backcountry experience.
“I came up with “Deeper,” “Further” and “Higher” because it embodied my mindset with the mountains,” he said of the over-arching theme. “I knew I wanted to go on foot. In ‘Deeper’ I got to the mountains that I know really well. With ‘Further’ I took what I knew in these familiar areas and got off the map a little. With ‘Higher’ I figured I’m going to want to step up to some big lines.”
Through the three movies Jones said he’s grown as a rider and is currently riding at the peak of his ability. And with a wife and two children at home now, he’s also gained some perspective.
“I back down off a line much easier than I used to. I’ve gotten really good at walking away,” he said of judging safe conditions. But at the same time he added, “When stuff is feeling right I’m way out on the edge more than I’ve ever been.”
While “Higher” is being billed as the final installment in Jones’ trilogy, the snowboarder says he’s far from hanging up his snowboard.
When asked about what’s next, he joked, “I’m really looking forward to retirement, so I can really focus on my snowboarding.”
The truth is Jones has no intentions of stopping, or even slowing down.
“I’m as hooked on the mountains as I’ve ever been right now, or more so,” he said. “Every time I get out there into the mountains it really feels right. It feels like it’s the right place to be and that’s where I belong. Until that feeling changes, I’m going to continue to go into the mountains for long periods of time … I don’t know how that will be documented, but I’m as obsessed as ever.”
He said among other things he’s currently working on a project with fellow backcountry snowboarder Travis Rice.
Tickets are still available for Saturday night’s screening of “Higher” and the movie will be out on DVD in October.
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