Photos courtesy of Jeremy Jones
For pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones his mission of collaboration started in Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
He returned to his favorite place to ride glistening powder only to find it void of snow. Rock and grass was all that was visible where it should of been feet of compacted frozen water crystals.
He took it upon himself to dive more into the sad state of affairs he was witnessing. He spoke with the locals. They confirmed what his brain was having hard time digesting. But what he learned was worse than he had realized…this was something that had been moving in the wrong direction for a long time.
So, in inspirational form that is a personality trait of Jones, he took this experience and created Protect Our Winters, a non-profit created to fight global warming. With the goal of assisting the environmental actions of North America, POW works on multiple levels. From an easy-access platform inspiring interaction between large non-profit foundations and the masses to education programs like Solar 4R Schools, POW is creating a new path for change.
I was able to sit down and talk with Jones about how POW is contributing to collaboration, the non-profits hopes on affecting the future and his personal feelings on the issue of global warming.
Continue on for thoughts from the pro himself…
SM: Thanks so much for making the time.
JJ: No problem.
SM: When and why did you initially create POW?
JJ: It’s kind of a combination of things…I was expanding a product line called the Jones Experience, that has about a twenty different products in it and I wanted to give a percentage of sales back to the environment. I did some research and I talked to a friend at the surf rider’s foundation. I couldn’t really find what I felt was the right environmental foundation to give the money to and my friends and surfers were like you guys need something in the winter sports world to inspire and hopefully rally companies and other participants to help the environment.
That wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I wanted to write a check and be done with it, but after a couple of months I decided that this was something that’s important and something that needs to be done.
And I think probably the birth of my daughter had something to do with that as well with the belief that it is a long term problem, it’s something were we won’t see the benifits of our actions but our kids and our kid’s kids will see the benefit of our actions.
SM: There is nothing out there for the winter community?
JJ: I wanted something where every dollar raised went straight to slowing down global warming. There was good carbon offset companies and 1 percent for the planet, who we partner with now, but it kept coming back to us needing something that was targeting people…something that made people and companies go “I want to be associated with that foundation.” Other foundations out there didn’t have the same connection as we hope to have with POW. We work closely with these foundations that are established and they do an awesome job, it’s just that we are coming from a, as crazy as it sounds, a different marketing level.
And also what we do is focus, and we hope to do more of this, on cleaning up our mountains and our mountain towns, first. That is what we want to put focus on first.
SM: For sure, like Squaw Valley…I used to work at High Camp and it was amazing seeing what they were doing negatively to the environment?
JJ: Exactly. And we feel like we can be more affective this way and still use the great resources that are out there. We partner with a lot of these existing groups and we see where they work the best.
SM: So you basically bring all of the parts of the puzzle together?
SM: You have said that you saw major changes in snow at areas you were photographed riding, where did you see the biggest changes?
JJ: The most dramatic I saw was in Prince Rupert and up in Northern BC. I got to know the locals there. One day I went for a hike up at their local resort, it was mid February and it was all grass. I was talking to a skier that was 30 at the time and he said that this is where we all grew up riding and our average winter was 70 days a year and now were lucky if every couple of years we get to ski down this thing. And I was like, “Wow!” That is a lot of change in twenty years and it got me to thinking what is the next twenty years going to be like. So that was the most in-your-face-dramatic thing that I’ve seen.
SM: What are things that you have changed in your own life to help global warming?
JJ: I’ve looked closely at my own lifestyle and my life as a pro snowboarder.
One change, for instance, is I drive a forward Focus instead of a Dodge pick-up.
I don’t own a snowmobile anymore.
My house was built in the 1960’s, so I continue to change out into better windows and better appliances and better insulation, things like that, and that, actually, is an ongoing thing with my house. (laughter) It is still a summer cabin. It’s frustrating at times but I continue to try to get better with that.
And, fortunately, I live two miles from town so I’m riding my bike a ton in the summer because I’ve realized a lot of my trips are two mile trips so just trying to do those shorter trips on my bike.
And everything from house-hold products and that full gamut.
Those other changes were pretty easy. I continue now to make further changes…though these next changes will be harder steps, in the sense of we’re not on solar and or anything like that.
As a professional snowboarder…that’s been a harder deal. I am still doing a lot of flying, a lot of air travel. Using helicopters for access in Alaska…but I have eliminated my snowmobile use. I’m still traveling a lot, but like this year my shortest trip is two weeks long. Now that I know where I am going to be for the winter I have been able to cut down on my air travel.
One of the things that we are doing through POW is a movie called “My Own Two Feet”. It’s a movie based out of the Sierras. It’s a human powered snowboard movie and something that I put a lot of time and energy into because I feel that it is a great message, not only environmentally, but also as a great way to hopefully inspire people that great freeriding is only a short hike away. And if you want it, you can do it.
I have had movie parts in the past that are 70 or 80 percent hiking accessed but we never talked about that, so now people look at me and say, “…yeah right, if I had this huge heli budget I could do that too.”
In the past it is true that sometimes my three week time in Alaska wipes out the footy of us hiking around in the Sierras and Tetons. That’s something I want to change.
So doing stuff like that. I hope to do a lot more of that in the future.
I’m starting to find cameramen that are into going that extra mile and doing more foot-access stuff, but that’s not all happening over night.
But I’m starting to see change.
An example of that is this one film company that I am working with, Absence Films. I told them that I want to go and set up camp in Alaska and do, like, a three week trip where we hike in. I said that I feel that we could get some good stuff and in the fall they were saying “There is no way we can do that, that sounds gnarley.” And then I got a call from them and they said “Hey we want to do that and our riders are stoked to do something like that.”
I’m not going to walk away from Alaska and heli-accessed stuff, but this is something where I want to continue doing more and more of foot accessed stuff in Alaska. I would like to start splitting the time. I would like to put a portion of the time in to a long hiking trip, ’cause what I actually really enjoy is hiking what I ride.
That, to be honest, is the inspiration behind all of that, enjoying it from a personal level, and then of course it’s more environmentally friendly, but it is not like I’m out there saying “God I wish I was out here in a heli.” It’s more like “This is so sick and I’ve only gotten one run in today and I don’t care. It was a sick run.”
I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to start doing more hiking, that that would be the next phase of my snowboarding. And now I’m starting to activate that phase.
SM: What is the biggest way that we can help shift global warming, as a winter sport community?
JJ: I think that are a lot of simple steps that we have pushed, the ten simple steps, and they don’t seem like much. They’re everything from carpooling to changing the kind of light bulbs you are using. Basic stuff. It’s the idea that if everyone does that, then it makes a big difference.
If everyone curbs their carbon foot print by ten percent it is a big difference.
We’re not trying to get people to stop living their lives but just adapt. So there are the simple steps and then there are the other factors that I believe in: consumers have a lot of power, and when it is time to choose a new pair of skis or snowboard, it’s important to support those companies that are trying to do things differently. That can hopefully change the way that everything is made and manufactured.
SM: The Solar 4R Schools is a great program. How are the students reacting to this program?
JJ: Well, it’s a long process. We have three that are going in this summer. So unfortunately I have had little interaction. I got inspired because I went back to my high school, in Sugarloaf Maine, and did an environmental studies course with them so I have had some interaction with kids but specific set-ups we have put in, and I’m looking forward to, getting those up and visiting those classes.
SM: What would you like to say to the nay-sayers that believe that Global Warming is unsubstantiated?
JJ: Well, I don’t have the magic potion, if they don’t believe it, if all of the world-wide media attention hasn’t been able to cross them over, than I don’t think that I have the power to cross them over.
But I would say that it sure is a risky statement to say that it doesn’t matter, it’s not real, were not going to do anything about it. If they are wrong the results are pretty drastic where they should at least still be doing things environmentally friendly, whether you believe in Global Warming or not. It just makes sense.
I deal with the people that are nay-sayers and we have some great debates. But I always come back to, “How is getting sixty miles to the gallon bad?” How can you not embrace that? Or something like being off the grid with solar energy. They will always be out there. All of these environmental practices, a lot of them I should say, at least the technologies, are great whoever you are.
SM: Being that past administrations have not necessarily been the friendliest to the environment, and don’t put funding for school systems at the top of the list, are you finding it difficult to have the Solar 4R Schools plan incorporated into the schools districts?
JJ: It has been an interesting process because they need to build it in into their school curriculum, so we have had to find the right person in the school to get everyone fired up. We have had great response once we have found that person. I think that a lot of that is because we are doing the first three in mountainous areas; Jackson, Park City and, possibly Vermont. Maybe we would have a harder time in the middle of the country. But for right now the school systems have been really psyched on it.
SM: Rossignol’s Evergreen Alliance program (focuses on reducing their carbon footprint and conducting business in a more environmentally-friendly manner…their initiatives stretch across their company, retail partners and end-consumers and will also influence their products) is a great program as well. Do they plan on making any changes in the way boards and skis are made, being that there is a lot of plastic involved in making the snow tools?
JJ: Yeah. I’ve been working closely with Rossignol on that front and we have been able to make some quick, easy steps, like with recycled bases and were working on reclaim-sidewalls, trying to do bamboo topsheets. Those things have come pretty easy and this next step is going to take a lot more in the terms of investment to solve bigger issues with the product. So they are for sure and they are starting to and one thing I am trying to to do is…well, you see the ski world had kind of been in their own world and the snowboard in theirs…so I’m trying to get all the product managers together to pool our resources and, hopefully, bring out some real advances in environmentally friendly products.
The time tables for these are slow, it is easy to get frustrated but the fact that we are having these talks…if you look at it from a longer time line, then I do think we will have some great success.
SM: So snowboarder and ski companies are not necessarily working together for this cause, then?
JJ: No, they are separated. That is something that we hope to do with POW is create an environment where people can share environmental practices and that’s part of our phase two with POW.
SM: Is one being more receptive than the other?
JJ: No, well, we have had a little bit more success with the snowboard side but that, I think, is partly because I am in that world. But what communication we have had with the ski companies has been positive.
SM: That’s good because it doesn’t matter what the tool is.
SM: Snowmobiling is a definite addition to emissions. What are ways that snowmobilers can make a difference?
JJ: Primarily, it comes down to when you’re getting a new snowmobile, get a four stroke. There is a great difference between a four stroke and a two stroke emission. But other than that I would say that using the cleaner oils out there.
I’m not up on it now but there are oils and such out there that help keep emissions down, such as Blue Ribbon Oil or doing things like better air filters, things like that.
But for me, it wasn’t like I loved snowmobiling. When I was out there I just wanted to get to the boot pack as quickly as possible and get off the thing. It wasn’t like I gave up snowmobiling for the environment. Getting rid of my snowmobile, it was amazing how happy it made me. It was mainly because it was the last time I had to start the thing. (Laughter)
I wasn’t planning on it but I ended up having to start it up one last time and I like literally welled-up with tears thinking “Thank God its gone.” But that is totally from a personal level. I would always dread when I would get the call that we going out on the snowmobiles I would think “Uuuuh, I’ve got to go load my sled.”
SM: How do you think POW could go international?
JJ: We are working internationally. We have a great person in Europe who has been in the industry for ten years. He has really taken over the European chapter of POW. It makes me think that pretty quickly here we will be equally, I don’t know, powerful. We’re doing a lot in Europe. I guess it’s all about finding the right person.
And the cool thing I’m learning, and thank god we have Jan over there, is that there are different issues over there. It’s not the same as in the States, and so we are adapting to different programs and stuff.
SM: Have you ventured into working in South America at all?
JJ: We have not gone to South America. Right now we are we are just focused on Europe and North America.
One way, though, that we are trying to get more involved internationally is we are building into phase two a really good resort program where we can provide resorts with the basic steps, wherever they are environmentally, whether the resort wants to make that first step with recycling or what have you, we will have the ability to consult them on that. We are defining that partnership right now and hope to have the complete program up and launched soon.
SM: Where do you see POW going in the future?
JJ: Hopefully we will have a ton of manufacturers involved and a bunch of snowboarders and skiers as members. And hopefully, as we grow, we will become more powerful and be able to do greater things for the environment. Within the foundation, we continue to explore different options to better spend our finances and kind of be a better help to the winter sports world on all levels.
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