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NO PLACE LIKE HOME

A celebration of our backyard - the California Sierra Nevada

Story by Seth Lightcap

So many lines, only one lifetime.

It’s a wonderful problem to have, and a reality that snowboarders and skiers around the world have faced since the dawn of winter exploration.

Jones Snowboards is based in California and our home range, the Sierra Nevada, offers the quintessential definition of this conundrum. Stretching over 400 miles, the Sierra hold thousands upon thousands of worthy lines. Some are accessed by chairlifts, some you have to hike for days just to get a view of them. To even lay eyes on every mountain in the Sierra in your lifetime would be a difficult proposition.

We are extremely blessed and grateful to live and work in a mountain region that offers such stunning adventure potential and a community that inspires us to explore it. From our local resorts to the endless backcountry, we strive to use the incredible opportunity the Sierra provides us to design gear that helps riders around the world make the most of their backyard or wherever they travel. The Sierra are also our muse for showcasing the indescribable beauty of winter and why we’ll never stop fighting to reverse climate change and protect wild lands.

Jeremy Jones detonates a tropical turn above Lake Tahoe.

Photo -  Jeff Curley

From our board designs to our brand ethos, Jones Snowboards is truly a product of the Sierra. The amazing terrain, weather and snowpack we enjoy in our home range has undoubtedly been the biggest influence on the Jones brand in the last ten years. In celebration of our tenth anniversary we are thrilled to share thoughts, photos and videos honoring a few of our most cherished places in this magnificent range as our final TEN YEARS microsite feature.

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TRUCKEE
 

Downtown Truckee aglow after a February storm.

Photo -  Seth Lightcap

The story of Jones Snowboards begins in Truckee, a historic Sierra town ten miles north of Lake Tahoe. While Lake Tahoe takes most of the credit when people reference the region, Truckee has always had a unique personality, both as a mountain town and a snowboarding cultural hub.

Truckee was named after a friendly Paiute Native American Chief who helped thousands of emigrant settlers make their way through the region in 1844. Jumping ahead 150 years, countless classic shred films by Standard Films, Fall Line Films and Mack Dawg were primarily shot in the Truckee backcountry during the golden age of snowboard films in the late 90’s and early 00’s. The productive snowboard scene, combined with Truckee’s amazing backcountry access is what motivated Jeremy Jones to plant roots in the town nearly two decades ago. Jeremy founded Jones Snowboards in Truckee and it is now home to Jones’ North American headquarters.

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Taylor Carlton pops some pillows just above the Jones office in Truckee.

Photo -  Seth Lightcap

What makes Truckee so special for snowboarding is the magical combination of terrain and community. The mountains surrounding Truckee may not be the biggest or most iconic peaks in the Sierra, but they are fantastically textured with granite rock outcroppings that create infinite potential for creative freeriding. The insane backcountry terrain matched with six awesome ski resorts within a 15 mile drive of Truckee has drawn hundreds of talented snowboarders to the town in the past 20 years. Jones team riders Taylor Carlton and Nick Russell live in Truckee, and to no surprise, the world champ Sammy Luebke, was born and raised in Truckee.

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Sammy Luebke has been training for the Freeride World Tour his whole life in his Truckee backyard.

Photos -  Andrew Miller

The terrain around Truckee is truly endless. And you don’t have to be a pro to appreciate it or enjoy it. Just get dialed in with your splitboard, and put your time in at the resorts, and you can ride the same lines you’ve seen in all the films.

Sammy Luebke

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Scenes from the Rally For Rocker - Birds eye view of the 2015 course.

Photo - James Cole

No event brings together the Truckee and greater Lake Tahoe shred community quite like the Rally For Rocker Banked Slalom. For the past six years, a group of local snowboarders led by Taylor Carlton have organized the event as a memorial and fundraiser. The event is a fundraiser for a new Truckee skatepark that will be built in honor of Steve ‘Rocker’ Anderson, a Truckee ripper killed in an avy accident. Taylor and a crew spend a week every April carving out the course by hand amongst the granite boulders of Donner Summit. In 2019, nearly 300 riders raced the Rocker raising over $20,000 towards the new park.

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Scenes from the Rally For Rocker - Taylor Carlton lays one out mid-course, Birds eye view of the 2015 course, Sammy Luebke FS3 on his way to winning the race, Jeremy Jones rips a corner.

Photos:  Drone - James Cole / Action - Seth Lightcap, Ming Poon

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Taylor Carlton in his element in the Truckee backcountry.

Photo - Andrew Miller

“My senior year of high school I decided I was going to move to Colorado. But before I left, I went to my local snowboard shop in Michigan and bought a copy of Standard Films’ Paradox and an issue of Frequency mag with an article by Jeremy Jones in it. The Standard movie was all sick shots from the Sierra and Jeremy’s story was all about how much it DUMPS in Tahoe. The combo blew my mind. I called my friend and said, forget Colorado, we’re moving to TAHOE. I drove out to Truckee the next month and haven’t left. The Sierra is home and it always will be. The access, stability and terrain make it the perfect place to live and shred.”

Taylor Carlton

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​Photos - Andrew Miller

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SQUAW VALLEY
 

Like a dream, KT-22 in absolutely flawless condition in March 2020 while the resort was closed for COVID-19.

Photo - Seth Lightcap

Nestled in a mountain valley ten miles south of Truckee sits Squaw Valley, the ski resort that brought Jeremy Jones to Tahoe in the late 90’s. Much like Truckee, Squaw has a rich and storied history dating back before pioneer days. The first residents of Squaw Valley were Washoe Native Americans who spent summers living in the meadows at the end of the valley. Squaw’s ski history began in the 1940’s when two intrepid ski entrepreneurs, Wayne Poulsen and Alex Cushing, broke ground on their dream of building a world-class ski area in the valley. The pair got off to a strong start in 1949 by installing the world’s longest double chairlift at the time. Squaw’s legacy was then cemented by hosting the Winter Olympics in 1960. Several of Squaw’s best chairlift routes were established for the Olympic Games including one of the most revered chairlifts in the world, the one and only KT-22 aka The Mothership.

“The KT-22 chairlift at Squaw Valley is what inspired me to move to the North Lake Tahoe area twenty five years ago. I had never seen terrain like that accessed by a chair. It’s the ultimate lift accessed training ground. I have ridden Squaw more than any mountain in the world and I never get sick of it. Every season I continue to find new lines on the mountain.“

Jeremy Jones

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Choose your poison - steeps, chutes, cliffs, pillow gardens, MASSIVE hucks. KT-22 has got you covered.

Photo - Seth Lightcap

Rising up 2000 vertical feet through a series of granite benches, what makes KT-22 so legendary is the diversity of steep fall line terrain. Dropping off the top ridge there are dozens of sweet entry points, most of which are seriously steep, and a few of which are ridiculously steep. The true summit of KT-22 is a 60+ degree spine wall that’s perched atop the peak like a crown. Named the Eagles’ Nest aka McConkey’s, the fluted spine wall looks straight out of Alaska after a big storm.

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Beyond KT-22, the resort unfolds above the valley in all directions with a dozen more chairs accessing a ton more terrain. From the steep trees of Granite Chief to the rowdy cliff bands of Silverado, there are a lifetime of lines to be mastered at Squaw. The diversity of both technical and cruiser terrain has also made Squaw the proving grounds for every Jones solid board ever produced. Some boards are built to throttle KT laps, and other boards are designed to surf the upper mountain, but if the design doesn’t pass Jeremy’s Squaw test, it won’t make the line.

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LAKE TAHOE
 

Jeremy Jones enjoys a magical morning above Emerald Bay.

Photo - Ming Poon

If you spend a little time in the Sierra you’ll begin to notice the slight differences in alpine character between micro-geographical zones. It could be the way the trees cluster, or the geometric look of the exposed rocks, or it could be more subtle, like a unique vibe or a feeling. The Lake Tahoe basin is one of those spots that holds an energy unlike any other spot in the Sierra. Whether you are swimming in the lake or standing on a summit above the lake, there’s just something about the view out onto Tahoe’s crystal blue waters that feels especially intoxicating to the soul.

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Jeremy, Nick Russell and Elena Hight out for a walk on Tahoe’s North Shore.

Photo - Andrew Miller

The backcountry terrain found within the Tahoe basin also has a unique character all to its own. The lake is surrounded on all sides by mountain ridges dotted with peaks rising over 3000 feet from the shore. A majority of the terrain is forested with spectacular stands of Pine trees, most of which are perfectly spaced for shredding. Not every peak is forested, though. A few of the peaks along the west and south shore are gorgeously craggy with rock lined couloirs dropping from the summit nearly straight to the lake. And with peaks on every side to choose from, no matter the cycle there’s almost always an aspect above the lake holding primo snow.

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Raised at Tahoe’s many resorts, Elena Hight has forged the second chapter of her career in the Tahoe backcountry.

Photos - Andrew Miller

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I feel very fortunate to have grown up in Lake Tahoe and snowboarding around the Sierras. The more I see of the world, the more appreciation I have for Tahoe and the uniqueness of this area. There is really any and every type of snowboarding to be found in Tahoe, plus the snowpack and weather are unbeatable. Everyday I spend in the mountains at home I am reminded of why I will probably never leave!”

Elena Hight

Lapping Tahoe backcountry runs is where Jeremy and the team have tested all of our splitboard models. The midsize terrain is perfect for testing boards because you can bang out a bunch of laps in a day. The diversity of terrain within even one section of a ridge line also inspires the team to ride different splitboard shapes. Some days they surf the gullies on a Storm Chaser. Other days they’re on the same peak riding the rowdy lines on a Carbon Solution.

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Jeremy tests splitboard float and turn performance in Tahoe before taking his designs to bigger terrain.

Photos - Andrew Miller

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MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN
 

Shaped like a catcher's mitt and perfectly positioned, Mammoth Mountain is one of the Sierra’s most reliable snow magnets.

Photo - Seth Lightcap

Truckee and Lake Tahoe are located on the northern end of the Sierra. Moving south from Lake Tahoe down the Eastern side of the range, the mountains quickly change character. In the span of only 25 miles, the peaks jut up another thousand feet and the topography along the crest becomes much more alpine as the pine forests make way for rocky open slopes and craggy summits.

Drive one hundred miles south of Lake Tahoe and these changes are even more evident. The skyline is dominated by towering peaks and broad ridges that sweep up from the valley floor like massive ramps. In a nod to the alpine character of this Sierra region, the southern 2/3rd’s of the range is locally known as the "High Sierra".

Cass Jones and a friend look out to the High Sierra horizon from the top ridge of Mammoth Mountain.

Photo - Andrew Miller

Mammoth Mountain, and it’s little brother resort, June Mountain, are the only ski resorts in the High Sierra. Located 150 miles south of Lake Tahoe, Mammoth is a true wonder of the international resort universe. Between the unique terrain, snowfall and surf shred culture, there is no resort on earth quite like Mammoth Mountain.

Mammoth was founded in 1953 by a skier named Dave McCoy who noticed that the 11,000 foot tall peak collected significantly more snow than any of the mountains surrounding it. McCoy’s assessment was spot on as Mammoth is a magnet for any storm approaching from the southwest, the prevailing storm direction. Mammoth averages over 400” inches of snow and almost always has an eight month season - November to June.

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From a backflip off the summit ridge to a handplant in the halfpipe, Jones team rider Jimmy Goodman has lived in Mammoth for nearly a decade and is a master of top-to-bottom freeriding.

Photos - Andrew Miller

Mammoth is a classically shaped High Sierra peak with low angle forested slopes that ramp up to a steep upper headwall. The long, open runs on the lower half of the mountain are where you’ll find Mammoth’s legendary terrain parks. The upper headwall is lined with steep chutes that are the ultimate training ground for riding backcountry couloirs. The insane parks and relatively close proximity to the waves of Southern California draw thousands of surfers to Mammoth each winter. The high percentage of sideways sliders on the mountain has created a thriving snowboard culture, both on the slopes, and in the town of Mammoth Lakes at the base of the resort.

San Diego based surfboard shaper Chris Christenson, who designs the Jones Surf Series line, has a cabin with a shaping room not far from Mammoth. Chris comes up to the cabin to escape the distractions of the city and rip laps at the resort and in the backcountry.

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I think it’s important with any craft or passion to separate yourself from what is expected or the norm. Coming up to work and ride in the mountains is my escape and the boards I shape in my Sierra shaping room have been some of my best and most creative work.

Chris Christenson

Chris Christenson crushing pow at the resort.

Photo - Andrew Miller

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Chris Christenson loving life in the Sierra - debating shapes with Jeremy Jones on his cabin porch, and ripping lines in the backcountry.

Photo 1 - Andrew Miller / Photo 2 - Tim Manning

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HIGH SIERRA
 

With a storm brewing in the Owens Valley, Jeremy Jones finds fifth gear racing back to the trailhead.

Photo - Seth Lightcap

Beyond the resorts and beyond the community, what really makes the Sierra so special is the massive scale of the terrain and the limitless potential for adventure that it holds. This is especially true once you venture south of Mammoth into the highest reaches of the range. For over 200 miles, the Sierra is a 30 mile wide sea of 12 to 14,000 foot peaks including Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. For most Sierra explorers, this region is the true heart of the range, and it’s rightfully protected within eight major wilderness areas that make up one of the largest stretches of protected wilderness in the country.

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After a monster 15-mile approach, Allison Lightcap kicks off her boots on the front stoop of the Muir Hut, an emergency shelter built in 1930 that's one of the only man-made structures in the High Sierra.

Photo - Seth Lightcap

Splitboarding in the High Sierra is an exercise in endurance, perseverance and technical backcountry skill. Unlike the Northern Sierra there are no roads accessing the interior. If you want to stand on a High Sierra summit you gotta be ready for a huge approach. What few roads do exist only wander up their respective drainages for a few miles and almost all are gated in winter. But right alongside the steep entrance fee, comes a very hefty reward. The thrill and satisfaction of touring into such raw wilderness on such a grand scale is truly mind blowing.

“The High Sierra is this massive, untouched, virtually unexplored area that can push your limits as far as any mountain range in the world. The approaches that we deal with in the Sierra are often more intense than what I’m faced with on my biggest expeditions, but the weather is usually better, and the snowpack is almost always safer. It’s truly a perfect scenario for fully committed wilderness exploration.”

Jeremy Jones

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Jones team rider Nick Russell is an avid High Sierra explorer who’s always up for a long slog if the adventure demands.

Photos - Andrew Miller

In 2017 Nick and a small crew embarked on a 275-mile bike packing journey from Reno to Mt. Whitney at the far southern end of the range. They stopped at trailheads along the way to shred backcountry peaks. Their journey was featured in the Patagonia film ‘The Last Hill’.

In my eyes, the Sierra holds some of the most impressive terrain in the lower 48, if not the world. On big years, a new level of possibility becomes unlocked for limitless options. The Sierra has the perfect combination of heavy hitting storms followed by high pressure systems, blessing us with a generally stable snowpack and the ability to get on big lines. For the amount of riding potential within a few hour drive from my house, there is no place else I'd rather live.

Nick Russell

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The majesty of the High Sierra has also been prominently featured in several other recent Jones film projects. Jimmy Goodman shared his favorite way to enjoy Spring in the High Sierra in one of our latest Jones Presents episodes.

“I have lived in Mammoth for over a decade and couldn't think of a better place to call home. While the deep days and massive winter storms are epic, I gotta say Spring is my favorite season in the Sierra because I get to combine my two favorite passions - fishing and snowboarding.  For the past couple years I’ve gathered a small group of friends to chase into the high country for our annual Carve and Cast trip. We get to enjoy camping out by the lakes fishing for golden trout and riding perfect corn lines right down to the water.”

Jimmy Goodman

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Hike a line, shred a line, hook a line - Jimmy Goodman enjoys the fruits of spring in the High Sierra.

Photos - Andrew Miller

In 2018, Jeremy Jones and Teton Gravity Research produced a High Sierra focused film called ‘Ode To Muir’. The film documented a 40-mile foot powered crossing of the Sierra with Elena Hight that celebrated the conservation legacy of John Muir.

You can watch the movie here.

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Home on the range - scenes from the first two days of Jeremy and Elena’s 9-day Ode To Muir expedition.

Photos - Andrew Miller

No matter where you ride, your home range is always the greatest teacher. Some lessons are in your face—rocks hurt, stay away from cornices, respect avalanche conditions—but other lessons are more subtle and take years to learn. They are life lessons that only come with time spent in one place. Learning from these faint signs is what teaches you to be humble, leave your ego at the trailhead and be present in the moment. Your home range also teaches you to be at peace with the fact that most of the mountains you’ll see in your life will never see your footsteps. There are multiple lifetimes of lines in the Sierra, so I don’t let myself get tied down by a never-ending “tick list”. When I leave the trailhead my goal is much simpler - to be surrounded by nature, to learn from it, and to become one with it. Just to set foot in these special places, just to know they exist, is the real reward.

Jeremy Jones

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