Shredder and film star Jeremy Jones blames global warming for lackluster snowpack, and he’s taking his beef to Capitol Hill.
By Tim McDonnell on Fri. January 13, 2012 3:30 AM PDT
A few years ago, Jeremy Jones was cutting up one of his favorite runs down a glacier in Chamonix, the legendary French ski area high in the Aiguilles Rouges mountains. Jones has been a regular at this spot for the last 15 years, coming for a few weeks every winter to hone the skills that have made him one of the world’s leading big mountain snowboarders. But on this occasion, he did something he doesn’t often do: stop short. The glacier, he said, had receded a few hundred yards up the valley, effectively chopping off the end of his run. “That’s kind of a drastic deal,” he told me, and not because he was bummed about losing the powder: “Glaciers aren’t supposed to move that fast.”
The experience was representative of something Jones, 36, said he’s been noticing more and more on his globe-crossing expeditions to the world’s sweetest slopes: warmer winters, less snow, and generally lame ski conditions. The culprit, he says, is climate change, and it’s not just impacting skiers and snowboarders: The $67 billion snow sport industry includes businesses near ski spots and the locals who run them, and their survival depends on robust winters. Just ask ski-area business owners from Vermont to California, who are still slogging through a major bummer of a winter this season. Climate scientists agree that global warming, unsurprisingly, is bad news for snowpack.
To fight back, in 2007 Jones created Protect Our Winters, a nonprofit alliance of snow athletes that raises money and lobbies politicians to pass legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions and supporting clean energy. This fall, Jones, along with a team of scientists and other snow athletes, traveled to Washington, DC, (where the battle over climate change is “gnarly,” he said) to meet with lawmakers from snowy states, including Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). I called Jones to talk about the link between snowboarding and climate change, and the experience of swapping beanies and down jackets for a suit and tie.