Pushing the limits is human nature; progress is driven by surpassing what was done previously. This is the case in every field, from art to sneaker design to snowboarding. And, when somebody at the top of their field continues to push the limits—whatever the discipline—it's worth taking note. More knowledge and unified themes emerge, and those watching can learn about their own craft by witnessing innovations in another. Jeremy Jones embodies the restless master. A fixture in snowboarding since the activity's early days, Jones has gone on to star in, direct and produce some of the most technically advanced, visually captivating films of the last decade—mostly with big brothers Steve and Todd, founders of production company Teton Gravity Research, behind the lens. This fall, his trilogy concludes with the September release of "Higher."
"I came up with the titles 'Deeper,' 'Further,' and 'Higher' about eight years ago and really that just embodied my quest from very early on," Jones tells CH. "I realized I always wanted to take my snowboarding as far as I can, physically and geographically." Jones has led the charge in human-powered riding—that is, accessing peaks without the use of lifts, cats or helicopters as much as possible. "I set my life up around being at the best mountains on the best days and when I made this shift of going on-foot, I felt limited by sleds, helis and resorts," Jones adds. With now virtually no boundaries save for the map, the next step was choosing where and when to reach those unridden peaks.
On the way up to the peak, there's lots of evaluating, decision-making, but once I'm strapped in and dropping in, it's full presence at its purest form. I'm completely in the moment.
"I laid out the progression with these ranges that I knew very well. There were boundaries, but I knew I wanted to go past them," Jones says. After fine-tuning his winter camping setup and process, he pushed into the depths of ranges in the Grand Tetons, Himalayas and the craggy Alaska Range. "'Higher' represents the pinnacle achievements of my life as a snowboarder," Jones says. Charging down these impossibly vertical rock-peppered faces, Jones enters what psychology experts describe as Flow. "On the way up to the peak, there's lots of evaluating, decision-making," Jones says. "But once I'm strapped in and dropping in, it's full presence at its purest form. I'm completely in the moment." But it wasn't through pleasing sponsors or following the herd that led Jones to this zen-like state; it was following his instincts and creating his own path.
"As a pro rider you have to be really cognizant of what's in style and what your sponsors want, but when I started this project, I decided I wanted to do these movies for myself," Jones says. When he decided to focus on human-powered riding, there weren't split boards (boards that come apart into skis to allow riders to trek up the mountain) that suited his aggressive riding style, so he made his own, which grew into industry backcountry leader Jones Snowboards. "With snowboarding, I'm not up to speed with what other people are making," Jones explains of his approach. "I'm so focused and know exactly where I want to take my snowboarding. I know what I want in the future and hopefully the industry is onboard with that."
See the master at work alongside Ryland Bell, Bryan Iguchi and Luca Pandolfi on some of the world's most intimidating peaks in "Higher," premiering this September with a national tour around the US.
Images and video courtesy of Teton Gravity Research