Suiting Up | The Jeremy Jones Interview

He’s conquered countless peaks and revitalised splitboarding; but will cracking the world of outerwear be Jeremy Jones’ toughest challenge yet?

What disease did I fear the most prior to 2020? That’s an easy one: the dreaded ISPOla. Spend a few days trawling the grim halls of Munich’s annual trade show, absent of any fresh air, healthy food or natural light, and it’ll get you every time. When the 2021 edition pivoted to an online-only format, few tears were shed. Our immune systems had enough to deal with, after all. 

Of course, in the precious hours before the snowboard hall starts to resemble a particularly bleak episode of The Walking Dead, events like ISPO offer patrons a first look at the new and innovative products set to come their way the following winter. With the launch of his outerwear collection, freeride legend Jeremy Jones actually had something worth catching the lurghy for. “It would have been great, actually. It’s been so many years in the making, and we put so much into it, we’re super proud of it. The thought of introducing that and launching it at a show would have been a nice reward.”

“Does the Jones offering have what it takes to shoulder its way into the market? And does it even deserve to?”

As one of the biggest names in snowboarding, just about anything he does is likely to get attention, and will hardly sink or swim based on the number of available hype-building opportunities – so perhaps an ISPO-less launch was no great loss. Even so, this latest enterprise has its work cut out for it. With the high-end outerwear market dominated by a few household-name companies, most of which enjoy the economies of scale that you get by also catering for the skiing and climbing crowds, does the Jones offering have what it takes to shoulder its way into the market? And does it even deserve to?

Jones outerwear is, of course, only the latest arrow in the brand’s quiver. Since the boards and splitboards first appeared in 2009, that familiar mountain peak logo went on to adorn bindings, backpacks, apparel, skins and poles. Producing quality jackets and pants feels like a natural progression; if you’re going to spend hours shuffling up the skin track to reach places where Mother Nature doesn’t mess about, you’d best come prepared.

Jeremy Jones, summiting Mt Shasta, CA, in the Shralpinist Outerwear – built for the most discerning splitboarders and demanding conditions (Photo: Andrew Miller)

In a sense, this debut season of jackets and pants has kept things relatively simple. The three collections – ‘Uphill’ for keen splitters, ‘Shralpinist’ for serious adventureboarding, and the more resort-friendly ‘Mountain Surf’ – contain just one outfit each for now. There’s also a single technical mid-layer, the Re-Up Down Puffy.

It’s still more than enough, Jeremy explains via video call from his home in California, to deliver on his original vision. “There’s just not a lot of energy put into high-movement, breathable clothing that works for high-output snowboarding. For example, if a snowboarder like that wanted a soft-shell pant, they’d probably have to go with an ‘alpine’ climbing pant that is designed to walk up hills. It’s not designed to go over snowboard boots.” Snowboarders – and splitboarders in particular – will certainly benefit from these extra considerations. Another case in point: “Our High Sierra pant, it’s got a patch on the butt so when you do sit on snow, you’re more protected. Same with the knees, which are in the snow a lot.”

“On the technical side of things, the Jones outerwear division is refusing to play it safe even in its inaugural year, opting for never-before-seen materials in unique configurations”

On the technical side of things, the Jones outerwear division is refusing to play it safe even in its inaugural year, opting for never-before-seen materials in unique configurations. A visibly proud Jeremy talks us through the makings of the Peak Bagger jacket: “I mean that’s four-way stretch, 40k breathable, 20k waterproof…. you know, I’m not aware of a jacket like that out there, and certainly not with the little intricacies that you want from a snowboard jacket.” 

“There’s nothing like us,” he continues. “For example, this puffy that I happen to be wearing.” He leans back in his chair, tugging at the collar. “There is not another puffy in the world like this here. Yes, it looks really simple, but to have upcycled feathers, recycled fabric, 750-fill… it’s the only one in the world.”

Mobility and stretch in outerwear isn’t just helpful on the ascents, as JJ demonstrates with a backside slash for the ages (Photo: Andrew Miller)

Getting to this point, he says, required a huge amount of work – and in many ways has been even more daunting than launching the Jones brand from scratch. If you’re thinking that the COVID-riddled nature of our present times is the key factor, remember that his company dropped its initial high-end, premium-priced hardware offering at the peak of the global financial crash. No, for once the ‘rona’s not to blame. 

“For me with the snowboards, I got to a situation where it was so clear to me that I needed to do that on my own. I just desperately needed really good products to achieve my snowboarding goals, so I did not lose a lot of sleep over starting Jones Snowboards… but there’s virtually no hardgoods company that has had success in outerwear. So out of respect to all the ones that have struggled, I had to say, ‘who the hell am I to have the answers to crack the code on this?’ Yeah, it was tough to wrap my head around.”

“I just desperately needed really good products to achieve my snowboarding goals, so I did not lose a lot of sleep over starting Jones Snowboards”

He wasn’t going in cold, of course; much as his 19 years at Rossignol gave him a fine knowledge base upon which he could craft a line of snowboards, so too did his time at O’Neill outerwear provide an outerwear apprenticeship of sorts. “Both those relationships were amazing, and I would not be here without O’Neill or Rossignol, but it got to a point, like, ‘you know what? I really feel like I got a good understanding of how to develop product’.”

“Test, Tweak, Repeat” Jeremy clocking multiple hours and overnight adventures to put his gear to the test (Photo: Andrew Miller)

Be that as it may, no-one truly ‘goes it alone’ in this line of work, and Jeremy relies on a crack team of industry lifers to help him realise his vision. “We have a clothing developer, Chris Westen, who’s been developing textiles for a really long time. That’s been his life’s work. He knows these different fabric manufacturers and is very close with them, and is going, ‘hey, we need you to prototype this fabric that you’ve never worked with, and we want to start testing it’. That’s a lot of energy; we’re not just handed a fabric menu. There are no shortcuts; test, tweak, repeat.”

Westen’s fellow recruits include Josh Neilsen, formerly of Patagonia, Nikita founder Heida Birgisdottir, and Martijn Linden, who joined the team from Burton last summer. Then there’s the man Jeremy calls the ‘Clothing Yoda’, Lee Turlington. “He’s been in the clothing industry since 1976, when he started at The North Face. He helps keep us from walking off the edge of a cliff… It’s really exciting. I’ve sat around a lot of design tables, and this one is the best.”

There are no shortcuts; test, tweak, repeat”

Combine top tech with a hive mind of expertise, and sure enough you’ll end up with a finished product that sets a new standard for high-performance snowboarding outerwear. ‘What’s the catch?’ you’d probably be asking, were the answer not already blindingly obvious: if you want the best outer shell, you’ve got to be prepared to shell out. For the cost of the Jones Shralpinist jacket alone, one could instead buy a new splitboard, or a season pass, or even a serviceable pre-loved banger to get you to the hills. Realistically, they’re only an option for those already fully invested in snowboarding – and perhaps the stock market too.

If you’re heading out in the worst conditions, you’ll want the best gear (Photo: Andrew Miller)

With all this talent to hand, would it not be put to better use designing something long-lasting at lower price points? That is, after all, where most of the ‘churn’ is happening in the outerwear world; from newcomers hedging their bets with more affordable gear, to fashion-conscious riders jumping on the latest trends. 

As much as we – and Jeremy – would love to see that, the realities of manufacturing this kind of apocalypse-proof gear make it utterly non-viable (“A piece of our outerwear is really complex to make; it gets touched 450 times… To make a $150 jacket that’s waterproof and breathable you’ve got skimp on manufacturing, on material. You’re gonna have to skimp on labour…”).

There is, however, a solution for those on lower budgets, and it’s one that ticks the environmentally-friendly box of which Jeremy is so fond (every Jones product sold benefits 1% For The Planet, as well as his own Protect Our Winters campaign).

Jones Outerwear is built for long days and repeated use, but will we see an increase in the second hand outerwear market soon? (Photo: Andrew Miller)

 “If you’re price shopping, there’s a lot of really good used gear. So for example, do you buy a brand new really affordable splitboard, or do you buy a two-year-old high-end splitboard for the same price? That’s a super easy answer to me. You buy the used high-end board all day long.

“It’s the same with jackets,” he continues, albeit conceding that softgoods is still lagging a fair bit behind hardgoods in this sense. From what he sees, however, things are moving in the right direction. “More and more websites are on it, so I think that it’s absolutely becoming more of the norm, especially because if you treat the product properly, with the right care, this stuff is really built to last. A lot of what Jones clothing is based around is certain pieces that just stayed in my rotation, for, you know, five years, six years, eight years – where I’m like, ‘wow, this thing is still holding up!”

“If you want the best outer shell, you’ve got to be prepared to shell out”

With Jones outerwear only just out of the blocks, it’ll probably be a while before any of it starts appearing in the second-hand market – but you can’t fault the logic. For now, the first phase seems to be going to plan; early reviews are strong, and we’ll soon be seeing female-specific options added to the line.

So will Jones outerwear buck the trend and stay the course where so many others have fallen? Given that it genuinely offers something fresh for the discerning splitboarder, and may even coax a few more souls into exploring the backcountry, we wouldn’t bet against it. In fact, we’re rooting for it. 

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