I make hundreds of decisions in the mountains every year that could have direct consequences. To make the right choices time and again requires being intimately in tune with snow—how it falls, how it sticks, what the subtle textures mean. In the early 2000s, I started seeing changes in the snow, in the winters, that troubled me. I did not need scientists, graphs, or charts to know that winters were becoming warmer, the weather was getting more extreme, and glaciers were melting faster.
By 2005, I was endorsing close to 20 products and I wanted to take a percentage of sales and put it toward action on climate change, on what I was seeing happen out in the mountains. While researching where to donate, I reached out to a few people doing environmental work, and I kept hearing the same thing: “Your industry is not doing anything on the issue. You should start an NGO focused specifically on climate change.”
For over a year, I tried to talk myself out of it. I was not bored, not looking for meaning, not looking for a reason to sit in conference rooms, classrooms, or the halls of Congress. But my concerns continued to grow. The problem was not going away. But who the hell was I to start a group about reducing carbon emissions? I was a poster child of excess: a heli-flying, high-carbon-producing hypocrite who barely graduated high school.
However, I knew the industry well; I understood how it ticks. I knew the heads of the major companies, editors of the biggest magazines, makers of the movies, and the biggest influencers in the sport. I cold-called the best of the best—the smartest scientists, brand builders, content producers, and athletes. I didn’t want to create some kind of Jeremy Jones foundation; that would be too limiting. Only with a collective effort could we do something to protect our winters. So I let the leaders and experts guide our efforts and pick our targets. I helped motivate the right people to achieve our goals and began marketing climate change awareness so the masses could get inspired and get involved. Protect Our Winters (POW) was born.
Naiveté is an important tool when you set large goals. Politics were never part of the plan when POW started. It’s hard to imagine that now, but it was not long ago that a Republican, Senator John McCain, was running for President and supported action on climate change. POW’s first trip to Capitol Hill, in 2011, focused on helping to push a carbon tax bill in Congress. That woke a sleeping giant—the fossil fuel industry, which ramped up its efforts to turn climate change into a political issue. Big oil invests in entrenchment. It soaks senators and congressional representatives in oil money to protect its industry and make climate change a polarizing topic. This is our front line now and we see the government consistently working to the favor of big industry over the public’s interest.
POW turns 10 this year. What I am most proud of is the people who are apart of it. 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 young demographic. We use social media, op eds, PSAs, and other tactics to inspire our industry to act on climate and educate people on the hurdles that keep us from fully embracing the solutions. The last election was devastating. It undid years of work in a matter of hours. Since then, our work in climate change is my main priority. The stakes are too high and I am sick of losing.
We are in the unique position to be the first generation to see climate change, and the last to do something about it. I think of all the people who have supported POW over the years. It makes us all work hard. But we need more support. We work with less than one percent of the companies in the industry, and our members are even fewer. We have become masters of fighting above our weight but we need more support. We need more employees who get paid every day to fight climate change. We need people to get over the haters. They are loud and obnoxious but they are the minority. We do not need the deniers to win; we need the sideliners.
Getting POW off the ground confirmed to me that following my heart and trusting my instincts could succeed. I never dreamed it would be the start of how I would grow as a snowboarder and a person. I did not set out to make my own movies or start my own snowboard company, but I did both in 2008, a year after founding POW.
At the time, my heart was in foot-powered snowboarding—using a splitboard or hiking to access big lines—but, every spring, I would again resort to helicopters and snowmobiles to film movies. I was selling the wrong dream. And the sport had stagnated. I needed to progress as a rider, so I created my first foot-powered snowboard film, “Deeper.”
At the same time, I was at a crossroads with my snowboard sponsorship. I was not getting what I needed: I wanted a better splitboard. I figured if I was feeling this way, others probably were, too. My focus went from where I could get paid the most to finding the best boards. I had some decent offers on the table, but I heard over and over, “we are not investing in new freeride shapes or splitboarding.”
Then pro rider David Carrier Porcheron, “DCP,” 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 transform my ideas into reality. Starting from scratch, I was able to form the company of my dreams—a brand totally committed to developing the best product, embracing the most sustainable materials, and giving one percent 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.
My marketing plan was, and still is, our product. Product development makes up 80 percent of our budget. This is why I started the company: to have the freedom to make what I want. To explore different shapes, materials, and manufacturing processes. Having support from the riders has allowed me to keep developing more products for sliding on snow. It’s a dream come true to do this. 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 never pushed a shop, rep, or distributor to take more product. There has never been a five-year plan or sales incentive goals. The objective is to keep the products from going on sale and have an empty warehouse come spring. 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.
POW and Jones have brought me a lot of joy, challenges, and excitement. But none of it replaces the fulfillment I get from time outdoors. It is where I have clarity, where issues get solved. I do not see this changing when I stop getting paid to snowboard professionally. I value freedom and time above money. This is how to create change from the heart.