Jeremy Jones is a man who needs little introduction in the snowboard world; heralded as the greatest freeride snowboarder on the planet and the face of snowboarding’s hottest brand. Created through necessity, Jeremy started Jones Snowboarding to make better splitboards with more of a freeride focus. The company spearheaded the backcountry movement, which has seen huge growth in recent years as snowboarders, once put off by the dangers and unknown factors of venturing off piste, now look to escape the crowds and “earn their turns.” We speak to Jeremy on a wide range of topics spanning his career, his brand, moving into the binding category for 18/19 and Jeremy also gives his thoughts on how snowboarding’s changed since he came up. Interview by Harry Mitchell Thompson.
Jeremy, give us a brief history of JJ the snowboarder and what led you to start Jones Snowboarding.
I had worked with Rossignol for 19 years. Over that time period I had become more involved with product development and marketing. For about the last 10 years I had a growing line of signature products and was spending time every year with the key shops around the world getting them on my product. By the end my name was on over 20 products and I had become friends with many of the key shop owners around the world. The product I was making was really good but I felt it could be even better. This coincided with Rossignol going through a rough patch. I had interest from a few companies out there but none were interested in putting money into new freeride shapes.
Specifically I needed a better splitboard. And I wanted to play around with freeride focused rocker/camber profiles. I figured if I was feeling this way there were probably others too. My focus went from, where can I get paid the most, to what path leads to the best snowboards under my feet. I had some decent offers on the table but I heard over and over, “we are not investing in new freeride shapes or splitboarding.”
How did the relationship with Nidecker come about?
Then DCP [David Carrier Porcheron co-owner of Yes Snowboards, fellow Nidecker stable brand] introduced me to the Nidecker family. I have always had major respect for the family and the snowboards they make. They had the factory and the engineering background to make my ideas reality. Starting from scratch I was able to form the company of my dreams. A company totally committed to developing the best product, embracing the most sustainable materials, and give 1% to the Planet. I had very low expectations. I set up the company so it could run in the black selling small quantities of product. It was going to run by standards and I would let the industry determine our size. Nidecker from the start has totally supported my vision and has been a great partner to help me execute my goals.
Working under the Nidecker umbrella presents a lot of room for synergies and collaborations. Can we expect Jones to venture into any new product categories in the future? Please also tell us how Jones has benefited from being under the Nidecker umbrella.
Jones is a small company so being able to share back-end resources like, warranty, logistics, and customer service has been helpful. As for snowboards we are off on our own and there is no cross over. I see the YES and Nidecker product for the first time at the trade show like everyone else. However NOW is a different story. I have known JF for 20 years and was one for the first people to get on his prototype. I felt the difference right away. By the end of the first day going back and forth between NOW and traditional bindings I was hooked. At first the relationship had little to do with the Nideckers. But this year I am coming out with Jones bindings that utilizes NOW technology and the fact that we both work with the Nideckers has helped make this happen.
How involved in the daily running of Jones Snowboarding are you? At what point did you step back and allow other people to be involved in operations?
As the company grows I have handed off certain duties to the staff, but when it comes to the product on the snow, I am deeply involved. I am not a micromanager. I let my employees do their job. I make sure when hiring that they understand my needs to be outside. That this is where my inspiration and ideas come from. Being in the mountains daily is the key to our success. It is our compass. I have never had a break through idea while writing emails.
What are your goals and aspirations with Jones Snowboarding?
I started Jones so I could have total freedom to develop snowboards and to raise money for the environment. Product development makes up 80% of our budget. We are constantly exploring different shapes, materials and manufacturing processes. Having support from the customers has allowed us to keep developing more products for sliding on snow. It is a dream come true to do this. I have never pushed a shop, rep or distributor to take more product. There has never been a five-year plan or sales incentive goals. Keep the products from going on sale and have an empty warehouse come spring is the goal. I get excited when the orders come in. I always think of them in terms of money raised for the environment. As someone close to the struggles of NGOs, money is the single biggest issue holding us back from achieving our goals. More and more I view Jones as a vehicle to raise money for the environment.
This year sees you release your passion project movie…
I wanted to make a film that everyday riders can relate to. A simple film that celebrates that feeling of riding, and the reason people dedicate their lives to moving to the mountains or the beach to pursue that feeling. “It’s shot mostly under the chair or off the side of the road, so it’s relatable to anyone who rides. I’m most proud of the shots we got right off the lift in a mediocre snow.
Deeper, Further and Higher were all great bodies of work. Is there scope for a continuation of the trilogy at any point?
I will not be making Higher 2, but my commitment to go Deeper Further Higher is as strong as it has ever been. This side of my snowboarding has really evolved the last four years since the trilogy. I am covering way more ground and spending longer amounts of time in deep wilderness than I was with the trilogy. This has lead to first descents in California. Going where no one has been before; in a place as populated as California this takes a lot of commitment and something I am very proud of.
What are your views on the current landscape of competitive snowboarding, both freeride and pipe/park/big air?
I am really removed from contests and the happenings of the industry. I really live in my own little bubble of snowboarding with a few friends in the backcountry, hanging out with my family, developing product and working on climate change. I do not have time to check the latest tricks or contests other then watching Sammy [Luebke, current Freeride World Tour champion]’s runs on the FWT. And those runs have really been mind blowing.
What are the main differences between young professionals nowadays compared with how things were when you started out?
There is less money in snowboarding but the barrier to become a pro costs less too. Back in the day if you were not in the mags or the major movies you couldn’t make a name for yourself unless of course you dominated the contest circuit. These days social media is making it so everyone has a platform to highlight their snowboarding. This is really cool but it requires a little bit of time every day. It also may have stalled progression. When I came up you had to put it all on the line to stand out in a snowboard movie. Everyone was competing for those few spots and the intensity of a film day was really high. I am not sure if that commitment to breaking barriers and pushing yourself to the edge is there as much as it was before.
Tell us more about your work with Protect Our Winters (POW) and what the next steps are with this.
POW turns ten this year. What I am most proud of is the people that are a part of POW. That I am a cog in the wheel. Between the board of directors, staff, Science Alliance, and Riders Alliance there are more than 100 people closely connected to POW. Our work has never been more important and we continue to get better at it. POW markets climate change to a younger demographic. We use social media, op eds, PSA’s, to inspire our industry to act on climate, to educate them on the hurdles in our way that are keeping us from fully embracing a the solutions. The last election was devastating. It undid years of work in a matter of hours. Since then my work in climate change is my main priority. The stakes are too high and I am sick of losing.