Higher - The Review

Words by Andy Malton

Collapsing in a heap at the bottom of a 65 degree face, the world’s most celebrated big mountain snowboarder is in bits – “That was the hardest run of my life.” When your name is Jeremy Jones, that’s quite a statement. Jones has just picked his way down a 65 degree face of – quite literally – Himalayan proportions, a line that marks the end of this part of his life and wraps up the film project that has had such a big impact on big mountain snowboarding – the Deeper, Further, Higher trilogy.

Deeper appeared the year before The Art of Flight and, despite sharing several cast members, it was in many ways the polar opposite. Costing a fraction of the amount as Brain Farm’s project to produce, Deeper represented a new type of snowboard film – at least to the mainstream snowboard media. There were no state of the art Cineflex cameras, no heli to heli shots, just a bunch of dudes camped out on glaciers for weeks on end in order to climb and then ride some of the biggest lines on some of the biggest peaks in the world. As Jones says – “It’s about going past the existing boundaries, finding new terrain and riding those epic lines.”

The second instalment in the trilogy followed a couple of years later. Further was longer and slicker than its predecessor. The production quality increased a little and the whole concept behind Deeper, Further, Higher began to take form.

Higher was released to the world this autumn at a time when Jones’ influence can be seen all over snowboarding. Back in 2009 you could count the number of snowboard manufacturers with a splitboard in their range on one hand, now it seems like every major brand has at least one split to offer. Backcountry snowboarding is bigger than ever.

The film runs for a lengthy 1hour 40 minutes and in the main man’s words is “my story from growing up on Cape Cod and following my passions, letting nothing get in the way of snowboarding and culminating on the high peaks of the Himalayas.” We get to know the Jones family and see how Jeremy’s life has led up to this point. We hear his thoughts about life, his family, snowboarding.

It’s hard for me to imagine living my life a different way… is precious and taking stupid risks is definitely irresponsible but my kids need to see people living life and drinking life up as much as possible

In a similar way to the Hollywood style trailers for Higher, Jones can occasionally come across a little dramatic and is sometimes prone to hyperbole. However, many viewers will no doubt connect with his thoughts on the balance between family life and snowboarding – “It’s hard for me to imagine living my life a different way… is precious and taking stupid risks is definitely irresponsible but my kids need to see people living life and drinking life up as much as possible.”

The first part of the film ends with Jones’ racing career coming to an end as he discovers Jackson Hole, freeridng and the ski bum life. This segment rolls nicely into the account of his and Bryan Iguchi’s descent of the Otter Body; an infamous line on the Grand Teton with super high consequences. It’s not difficult to appreciate the seriousness of this line – the idea of back edging into the first rappel as the terrain gets narrower and steeper is enough to make you feel sick and is perfectly captured on the film.

Photo: O'Neill

Although there is less actual snowboarding throughout Higher than is usual in a shred film, when the action comes, some of the footage is both ground breaking and mind blowing. There are some really great moments to enjoy. The helmet cam shots of the first turns on the Grand Teton are outrageous and the stoke as Bryan Iguchi pulls up to the first stance is palpable. Jones riding a gorgeous line off an un-ridden Alaskan peak to Nothing Else Matters by Metallica is perhaps a little predictable, but a full-on goose-bump moment all the same.

The film culminates in the Himalayas with Luca Pandolfi – the segment is intense, full of colour and pretty much like nothing ever seen in a snowboard movie before; monkeys in Kathmandu, shots of Everest, Jones taking a long ride as he gets sluffed off a huge face. In the film’s final moments, as the camera pans out on Jones a couple of turns into the line, it looks like he could be perched on the edge of the world.

The Shangri La segment feels like the end of a chapter, obviously in Jones’ life, but also perhaps in a wider sense too. Earlier in the film Bill Briggs, the man made the first descent of the Grand Teton talks about passing the torch down and I think by the film’s end Jones hints at the same – ‘hopefully future generations will take it from here.’

Ultimately Higher is about adventure, about following your dreams, whatever they are. It’s the antithesis of your average snowboard film – 45 minutes of the same riders hitting the same shit to the same tunes. It represents what you can do if you take an idea and run with it. Higher completes a trilogy of snowboarding films that will cast their sense of spirit, ambition and adventure over our sport for years to come.

Whitelines Rating: 7/10

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