It won’t surprise you to hear that Jeremy Jones is really good at snowboarding. What might surprise you is that Jones, at 37 years old, is riding the most serious terrain he’s ever ridden, a product of 25 years reading the mountains and building his skill set. That should give any rider cresting into middle age hope that the best days are still yet to come. But what’s the key to making sure that happens? Stay at your fighting weight. Protect your days on the hill. Don’t be afraid to back down when it’s not the right conditions. Don’t ride through pain. Get out of the resort and splitboard more. And don’t bomb frozen moguls. Follow these directions, and your biggest days won’t be at 25, but at 35, 40, even 50 years old.
Interview by Ryan Dunfee
Jeremy Jones summits a peak this past spring in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska while filming for his two-year snowboard movie Further. Photo by Chris Figenshau.
As I’ve had more success, I’ve had to deal with more business. When you’re coming up trying to make it as a pro, no one’s asking you to do anything, and you get to snowboard all day, everyday, and go home and get ready for the next day. As you have success, you start getting pulled in all different directions. You have to really protect your days on the hill. … I’ve always been pretty good about blowing off the real world and prioritizing snowboarding everyday, and I’m still really good at doing that.
From a risk perspective, I’m much more selective on the days that I hit serious lines, but I’m riding bigger, more serious terrain than I’ve ever ridden. I’ve always tried to stay away from secondary exposure… and in general, I’ve gotten really good at turning my back on the mountains and backing down and waiting ample time for lines. I turn back way more than I used to.
For me, I’ve been able to look at guys that are 10 or 15 years older than me, you know, Laird Hamilton-type guys (48), or Jim Zellers (47) or Tom Burt (48) who all continue to kick my ass in the mountains and I see that people have gotten smarter about how to get in shape, how to recover, what’s going to hurt you down the road, what’s not, etc. Having these phenomenal athletes who are farther down the road than me, and studying them, has been a huge help for me.
You have to stay fit. Weight is a huge deal with a lot of people. There’s a lot of people that put on an extra 10 or 20 pounds [as they get older]. That’s going to do more harm than anything. That’s that much more stress on your ligaments. Trying to stay at your fighting weight is something that is really important.
I’m also being really selective on airs and charging in hard snow. I ride a lot of hard snow, but I’m not bombing hard moguls like I used to. That kind of abusive riding will catch up with you. I can watch a lot of guys who are 25 and know that unless they change their riding style drastically, it’s only a matter of time before they start getting injuries. That’s, generally, just guys going big to flat and stomping flat landings. That eventually catches up with you, and as soon as you have an injury, you blow your knee or wreck your back, it becomes very hard to go back to being able to go 40 feet to flat again.
I listen to my body and I don’t push it. If I’m in pain, I really back off my riding. I won’t ride through pain.
I spend so much time splitboarding now that I actually have a lot less aches and pains than I used to have 10 years ago. … I used to ride about 70 percent resort freeride days, and even on pow days there’s still a lot of abuse if you’re riding in-bounds. [While splitboarding] it’s generally smooth conditions, it’s not a lot of chattery, hard, moguly conditions. And [by virtue of splitboarding], the vert I’m getting in a season is way down.
The stuff I’m doing now, I couldn’t have gotten here five years sooner. I look for terrain and mountain scenarios that require my full skillset, and I’m doing stuff now that I couldn’t have done even two years ago. I’ve spent a lot of time progressing in steep terrain, and you can’t ever skip steps. It’s so much about reading the mountains — the riding is almost secondary.