Teton Gravity Research: A family affair for snowboarder Jeremy Jones
Growing up on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, the Jones brothers were as active, curious and adventurous as three young boys could be. They wrestled each other, played street hockey and soccer, and invented their own recreational activities, like jumping off of the roof of the house onto a perfectly positioned trampoline. The trio was always searching for a new thrill, but it wasn’t until they discovered the mountains that Todd, Steve and Jeremy Jones found their passion and ultimately, the foundation of their current enterprise, Teton Gravity Research.
From hiking on the Cape’s Jailhouse Hill to spending the winters in the mountains in Stowe, Vt., the brothers were eager to move out west near the Rocky Mountains. Their action sports media company -- TGR for short -- began as a way for Todd and Steve to create a better representation of the youthful snowboarding and skiing culture in films.
"Todd and I were skiing in films out in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and we tried to bring the cameramen out to these backcountry locations, and they were resistant," says Steve, 42. "We were disenchanted with the product."
In 1995, Todd, Steve and a friend named Dirk Collins pooled the money they had earned as commercial fisherman in the summer to buy a 16-millimeter camera and equipment. A year later, the venture became a true family affair, as Jeremy joined the group to star in the company's maiden film, The Continuum.
Eighteen years later, TGR has developed into action sports’ powerhouse for award-winning and gravity-defying films. With Todd as the tech-savvy mind behind the production and the spearhead behind the company’s digital initiatives, TGR has produced television series for networks including NBC and Showtime and has 32 original films featuring top athletes, such as Jeremy, Ian Walsh and Angel Collinson, among others. With Jeremy in front of the lens and Steve and Todd, 45, behind it, the concept of Deeper, Further, Higher was born. The trilogy began in 2010 with Deeper, which took viewers on a journey with Jeremy through nighttime hikes, –20° weather and epic snowboarding adventures. Two years later, Further was released and showcased free riding on nearly-vertical lines on secluded mountains. And just last month, TGR unveiled the final installment, Deeper, which chronicled Jeremy's snowboarding career and perhaps more important, gave a look into his personal struggles and growth.
"The goal of the film was to put together a really compelling, thoughtful and multi-layer piece that was more than just snowboarding," says Steve. "We wanted it to transcend the mainstream, have a conflict and a layer of insight that none of other films in the trilogy has."
While the first two chapters of the series give a small taste of Jeremy’s life off the board, Higher illustrates the conflict he faces with his career and family at home and explains his mindset before the long trips.
“It shows a little bit of the timeline of how I got here, from being a little kid to present day,” says Jeremy, 39, about the last installment of the trilogy. “You will get a really good understanding of where I came from and where I am today as a snowboarder and as a person.”
Jeremy says what makes Higher different from the other two parts is that the film is based around three massive, difficult descents that he had never completed before. TGR dedicates time to teach camera crews and athletes safety drills, rescue procedures and avalanche certifications, but with Jeremy’s push-the-boundaries attitude, Steve says it can be tough to watch his little brother take on such perilous tasks. While it may be risky, the Deeper, Further, Higher mantra is how Jeremy says he has been making decisions with snowboarding for his entire life.
“In the beginning of the process we started with a larger cast of people that helped tell my story,” says Jeremy, who is founder of his own free-ride-oriented and sustainable snowboard brand, Jones Snowboards. “With the third film, we really brought it inner circle -- with my wife, brothers and my parents -- so we could really tell that story more deeply.”
In one part of the film, Jeremy’s son tells his father he doesn’t want him to leave, right before Jeremy is set to begin a long trip. Although Jeremy says it’s hard to leave his family and there are days on the mountain when trepidation and anxiety set in, as soon as he steps on the mountains, “it just feels like that is where I belong and what I’m doing makes total sense.”
“Leaving home, leaving your kids, losing friends -- Jeremy has been through a lot and that is just as important to watch,” says Steve. “The film emulates the base human spirit of anyone on a quest.”
While TGR’s business is booming, the core of the company lies within the three brothers’ relationship. Steve remembers having “two built-in best friends” as a child, and today, the trio hasn’t lost their love for the mountains, or for each other.
“At TGR we have 'love-of-sport days' where we turn the cameras off and ride for ourselves,” says Jeremy. “My brothers and I have maintained this lifestyle of getting in the most beautiful mountains in the world. We’re living our dream.”