10 Questions with Jeremy Jones

By Sarah Tuff Dunn April 25, 2015

For a guy like Jeremy Jones—who, at 9, started poaching resorts that didn’t allow snowboarders; had a professional career as an extreme athlete and then founded a technical equipment company for backcountry snowboarders—environmental change is a very real concern. Few voices are more authentic than his when it comes to climate-change advocacy because it’s infused with personal and professional emotion. To protect the sport he loves from extinction, Jones founded Protect Our Winters to engage the greater snow sports community in the fight.

OIA: What was the light-bulb moment that sparked the creation/foundation of Protect Our Winters?
Jeremy Jones: Throughout my time in the mountains, I had noticed that winters were really changing. But it was the combination of seeing a resort in Northern Canada close permanently due to lack of snowfall and the rate of the receding glaciers in Europe that put me over the edge.

OIA: What have been the biggest rewards so far with POW?
JJ: Hands down the biggest rewards are visiting schools. The kids know that the path we’re currently on is a dead-end street. They’re ready to take on the challenges ahead, embrace the solutions and reduce their impact on the environment.

OIA: And the biggest challenges?
JJ: What we struggle the most with is participation. We work with fewer than 1 percent of resorts, riders and companies in this industry. We have been able to do a lot with the support we have, but this number has to go up for us to really move the needle on climate change.

OIA: It seems like any business connected to the outdoors and especially to winter recreation would want to be involved. Why do you believe fewer than 10 percent of outdoor/snowsports companies officially support climate-change policy?
JJ: It’s actually fewer than 1 percent. The challenge is that climate change has become a politically polarizing topic. Republicans think climate change is a hoax, and Democrats think it is real. Somehow we need to depoliticize the issue and get Republicans on board and embracing the solutions to climate change. If it’s depoliticized, resorts and companies wouldn’t be afraid to take a stance on climate change. But right now they’re afraid they’ll offend their Republican customers.

OIA: The POW Seven Pledge asks individuals to take seven steps each month—everything from writing to their elected officials to installing solar panels on their homes. But what is one thing outdoor enthusiasts can do every day, maybe even just habitually, to help address climate change?
JJ: If everyone did one of the POW Seven steps every day, we would be well on our way to solutions. And knowledge is key. The average snowboarder spends more time on their Instagram feed and checking the weather forecast then they do becoming informed about the current issues facing climate change.

OIA: What is the scariest thing you’ve seen when it comes to climate change? And the most promising?
JJ: I am reluctant to point to one winter or one weather event, and blame it on climate change. But what I am seeing on the West Coast is scary. Is it a glimpse into the future? I don’t know. But this winter in the Sierra is 8.9 degrees warmer than our average. This is three or four years in a row with “off the charts” bad winters. We have had some decent storms, but the snow levels have been too high. We’ve had almost no snow below 7,000 feet. The higher snow levels have made it so that 90 percent of our backcounty zones are unrideable, and our main lift at Squaw Valley, KT 22, has hardly opened. For the 20 years I’ve lived here, I can’t ever remember KT being closed like this, or our backcounty shut down.

OIA: What is the next big thing in the pipeline for POW?
JJ: We continue to get better at what we do and worker with smarter and smarter people and are starting to make a difference. We are firing on all cylinders with our three pillars, advocacy, education and activism. But we need more support.

Since 2010, OIA has been a member of Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), a coalition of U.S. businesses promoting comprehensive climate and energy legislation in the U.S. Several OIA members—including Burton, Clif Bar, Patagonia, The North Face and Timberland—are also part of the coalition. For more information on Protect Our Winters, to support the organization, or to become a partner like the list of OIA members below, visit protectourwinters.org.

For more information on Protect Our Winters, to support the organization, or to become a partner like the list of OIA members below, visit protectourwinters.org.

Members of OIA who partner with POW include The North Face, Patagonia, Clif Bar & Company, Smartwool, Icebreaker, Mountain Equipment Co-operative.