Sport

Jeremy Jones' journey from pro snowboarder to climate activist

Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT) February 10, 2022
Share
01 Jeremy Jones protect our winters C2E spc intl01 Jeremy Jones protect our winters C2E spc intl
1 of 11
A legendary big-mountain freerider and snowboarding movie star, Jeremy Jones (pictured) has devoted his life to winter sports. But over his 30-year career, he noticed that the season was getting shorter. Ming T. Poon/Protect Our Winters
Climate change has led to winters starting later and ending earlier, and extreme weather has become increasingly common. In Lake Tahoe, California, where Jones is based, a lack of snow meant ski resorts weren't able to open in November last year, as they usually do. A month later, a massive snowstorm shut down resorts because there was too much snow, says Jones. Ming T. Poon/Protect Our Winters
Research predicts that by 2050 the ski season will be cut in half in the US, and that in as little as 35 years winters in the western US will regularly have low or no snow cover. Witnessing the effects of climate change firsthand and reading scientific reports to back it up, Jones decided to take action. Ming T. Poon/Protect Our Winters
To reduce his own climate impact, Jones gave up helicopter trips to the top of mountain ranges, in favor of his own two feet. He now climbs up mountains and uses a "splitboard" -- a snowboard that splits into two halves and can be used as skis for the ascent and a single board for the descent. Ming T. Poon/Protect Our Winters
In 2007, Jones went a step further, founding Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization that brings together the outdoor sports community as a unified voice on climate change. Today it has more than 130,000 members and operates worldwide. Chris Wellhausen/Protect Our Winters
"The winter sports community has ... given me a voice," says Jones. "I feel like it is my responsibility to use my voice and say ... we need to come together to help the long term health of our community." Andrew Miller/Protect Our Winters
Leveraging the voices of some of POW's most famous athletes, the organization applies pressure on policymakers to create change. In 2017, Jones and others from POW testified in front of Congress about the impact of climate change on outdoor sports. Forest Woodward/Protect Our Winters
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the US snowsports industry generates $72 billion annually and supports 695,000 jobs. But low snow years are losing the industry an estimated $1 billion and more than 17,000 jobs a season. Ming T. Poon/Protect Our Winters
The environmental impact of less snow is also significant. It can harm plants and animals that rely on snow for insulation from sub-freezing temperatures and it puts water supplies at risk. California, for example, relies on snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountains for 75% of its agricultural water, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Adam Clark/Protect Our Winters
Less snow and earlier snowmelt also increases the likelihood of drought, leading to severe wildfires in some regions, says Anne Nolin, a snow hydrologist from the University of Nevada and a member of POW's science alliance. Last year the Caldor Fire ravaged the Tahoe basin, including the Sierra at Tahoe ski resort (pictured), which remains closed due to damage. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Seeing forest fires become a "new norm" is frightening, says Jones, and poor air quality and smoke is affecting his outdoor lifestyle. He wants to preserve the mountains and the seasons that have brought him his life's passion. "The mountains are just the greatest teacher," he says. "They challenge me, they make me feel alive, they ground me." Ming T. Poon/Protect Our Winters