Jess was raised in Vernon, British Columbia, a small town in the south central part of the province. “I grew up playing a lot of sports. I just lived sports,” she recalls. “When I was a toddler I wanted to wear pink and play with dolls, but if I fell I never cried. I played rough, but I hadn’t discovered the whole world of dude stuff because I grew up with an older sister and a mom that was very mom-like.” She sought the outdoors with childhood friend Dave Vest, building forts and running wild in those younger years.
The mountains were part of family tradition too. “My mom was huge on skiing. Every year we would get a season pass to Silverstar and go to ski school every weekend.” Then all her friends switched over to snowboarding. “When I was 12 I tried it a few times and I sucked so bad I just thought it was stupid,” she remembers. “I had both a board and skis, and I’d try snowboarding in the morning but would get so frustrated because I couldn’t turn, then end up throwing it back in the locker and taking my skis out.” That passion all changed one day when she was 14. “We saw some kids had built a little jump by the parking lot, so we went and checked it out, but they said, ‘This is a backflip-only jump!’ So I said, ‘I can do a backflip!’ since I grew up doing gymnastics. But they said, ‘Yeah, right!’ So I rode straight into the jump, since I couldn’t turn, and did a backflip. I didn’t land it—I just tomahawked down the hill. But I thought, ‘Holy shit! You can jump and stuff!’”