Story by Jeremy Jones
When I got off the plane at Jackson airport in 1992 and saw the Tetons for the first time, my eyes were blown away. The mountains were breathtaking. But little did I know that the sight of these peaks would be a life-changing moment. A week later when I left for my first pro contest in Snow Summit, my priorities in life had drastically changed. No longer was a GS racing World Title the Holy Grail. My new envy was the life of dishwashers in Teton Village that got to ride Jackson every day. The Jackson locals I met on this first trip were my new heroes.
Jeremy Jones draws a heavy line in the Jackson Hole sidecountry while filming for TGR.
From that day forward the Tetons became an important part of my life. Not a year went by that I did not spend a couple of weeks chasing my brothers around the mountain and the handful of years I lived there in the late 90’s helped me take my snowboarding to another level. Living in Jackson when the boundaries opened was one of the highlights of my 25 years of snowboarding. The Tetons were also one of the primary motivations to start the DEEPER project.
Riders ready to drop into Jackson’s North Shore. Photo - Miles Clark/snowbrains.com
Eight years ago, while rushing to beat a pack of riders to the North Shore, I looked out on the range at unridden, untracked mountains and realized I needed to work a little harder to find what I was searching for. The crowds had made it to the outer limit of where I could travel in a day and it was pressuring me to ride lines the day after a storm that we use to let settle for 2 or 3 days. Grand Teton National Park was calling. It was time to explore the next frontier of the Tetons.
The Skillet Glacier on Mt. Moran. Photo - TGR
My early trips into Grand Teton National Park left a mark. Approaches were long, slopes were big and assessing avalanche conditions from the bottom was intimidating. Mt. Moran was first on my list. Ever since my brother pointed the line out to me I was captivated. It is the ultimate snowboard line, a 7k couloir with a direct fall line and no exposure. The goal was to get it in winter snow that would allow me to fire the line. -20 temps greeted us when we made the first attempt in mid-February. Half-way up the mountain we ran into a wind slab that was unavoidable so we bailed.
Three months later I was back on Moran again. Recent fresh spring snow had made for ideal conditions. Starting in the middle of the night in hopes of beating the power of the spring sun we made good time. 3/4 of the way up the peak we paused to watch the sun rise. It felt like the temps spiked 20 degrees instantly with the rising sun and we would have to turn around do to rapid heating. However clouds came in, temps got cold again and we continued to climb. Any chance of filming was ruled out. If the sun came out we would have to turn around. If it stayed cloudy we could keep going. A few hours later we topped out in a snow storm. Dropping into white out conditions but perfect snow I rode the longest run of my life in near perfect conditions. The run was all for the love of it as the cameras did not come out that day.
Climbing with Jimmy Chin and Xavier De Le Rue on a warm up day for a planned attempt on the Grand Teton. Photo - Jeremy Jones
With Moran behind me, my focus shifted to riding the Grand Teton. The Grand is a mountain I have always been in awe of, but up until recently had never looked at as rideable. For my first attempt in 2011 we rounded up the ultimate crew - Jimmy Chin, Xavier De La Rue and myself. The trip got off to a bad start when camera man Renan suffered a major head injury coming out of Rock Springs a couple days before we were planning to climb. Our luck only got worse as a few days later on a warm-up mission on Shadow Mountain, Jimmy Chin got caught in a major class 3 avalanche. Thankfully a pair of bruised and shattered egos was the only toll. We called off the attempt and I left Jackson mentally shattered.
Jimmy Chin, Xavier De Le Rue and Jeremy Jones calm their nerves after Jimmy was swept by a major avalanche.
Facing a sputtering spring in the Sierra, I get the report of stable snow in the Tetons and an approaching storm. A few days later I am in Jackson preparing to climb the Grand again. For this attempt I round up an incredible crew of Teton locals - Bryan Iguchi and a couple of the Exum Mountain Guides.
The Otter Body route on the Grand Teton.
The storm hits so we ease into the mission with some bottomless days of tree riding in the park. Iguchi is on fire and in top form. His riding is flawless and I watch him put on a free riding clinic bouncing down pillows, hitting tight trannies, landing everything. Not since my trip to the Arctic with Terje have I seen such complete, polished snowboarding.
Jeremy climbing technical terrain on the Grand Teton.
Launch day is close. Feeling good about the crew and where our heads are at. Who knows if the Grand is going to go down but regardless it will be a good couple days in the mountains. At times I get hit with moments of fear and death. It wakes me in the middle of the night and it is the first thing I think of when I wake up. It is no different then any other fall you die line I have ridden in the past. If you are not thinking about the consequences of your actions then you are ignorant to the risks you are about to take. Fear is important. If I can turn fear into confidence then I will ride the line. If I can not get over the fear I will turn around. Rational thinking leads me to positive thoughts on the mission. The big question is, can we gain enough confidence in the snow pack to put ourselves on the face for hours on end over exposure? If the window is right we will take it. If not we walk away. Getting close to it yesterday only added to my anxiety. From Disappointment Peak the view of the crux is daunting. Airy, truly edge of the world type stuff. Is it really that steep?
Jeremy riding the Otter Body route on the Grand Teton.
It was only three days in the mountains but I feel like I was on a different planet. It took me to a mental space I have never been to before. Standing atop a mountain that I have been in awe of for over twenty years made my legs shake and my breath short, but mentally I was calm. The rollover covered my horizon, 3,000 ft below lay my finish line. In between me and safety were huge panels of deep, steep snow broken up by a 100 ft rappel and a 400 ft rappel. I had envisioned riding the Grand many times in my head, but none of those visions included knee deep powder. Dropping in was surreal and indescribable. Maybe my ultimate moment as a snowboarder. Perfect snow, huge exposure on the tallest mountain for hundreds of miles. Three hours in a "no fall" zone and I am safely at the end of the final rappel. I am not sure if it was the 2100 ft of rock climbing in -20 temps or that much time over exposure but I was cooked, a tear rolled down my cheek.
Jeremy Jones and Bryan Iguchi on the summit of the Grand Teton.
That night sleeping on the upper saddle with hopes of an attempt on the Middle the next day, clouds rolled in. An approaching storm came quicker than forecasted. The window had closed. It could take years to get another day like yesterday. The Tetons finally laid down for us. It is a day I will never forget. The ultimate crew, the ultimate conditions and the ultimate line.
Watch Jeremy and Iguchi shred the Otter Body in HIGHER! Find out when the premiere tour stops near you here: