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The Intern(al) Review: Bellingham Premiere Of Jeremy Jones’ “Higher”

Over the years, I’ve seen dozens of snowboard videos, but only a handful of movies similar to Teton Gravity Research’s latest full-length film, “Higher.” The feature follows mountaineer and backcountry snowboard legend Jeremy Jones on his quest to ride some of the world’s biggest peaks. Opposed to linking clip after clip of mind-blowing tricks and lines like a typical snowboard video would, “Higher” showcases the deep thought, hard work and meticulous dedication that goes into big-mountain snowboarding. If you’re looking for a video full of freestyle, look elsewhere. There was a total of about 720 degrees of rotation throughout the entire film, but it was still one of the most badass and exhilarating snowboard movies I’ve ever seen.

Coming from Albany, NY, snowboarding video premieres in general already come as a new, exciting concept for me. Unsurprisingly, we don’t have many video premiere tours making stops in upstate New York. I’ve just gone to my first few recently in Seattle, and have been thrilled to see the scene thriving as much as it is in the PNW. But “Higher” at the Mt. Baker Theatre — that was something else. Having had my ticket stub collected by an elderly woman in a black, suit-like uniform before proceeding into the theatre with it’s fancily carpeted floors and high arching doorways, I felt like I was getting ready to see a off-Broadway play. That was until I looked past the surprisingly-well-dressed-for-a-snowboard-premiere ushers and noticed a wall and tables covered with snowboards, splitboards, boots and bindings—Jones and Karakorum representatives showcasing the 2014/2015 product line.

Jones and Karakorum representatives showcasing the 2014/2015 product line. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon

By the time the movie was set to start, hundreds of people had scrambled into the theatre looking for a good seat. The audience calmed themselves during a short speech given by Chad Perrin about the recent tragic events in Patagonia, followed by a cheer in honor of the eternal stoke of those we lost, and the crowd exploded with applause. There’s a sense that snowboarding runs deep here, and you can feel it.

It was evident in watching TGR’s production that they had committed countless hours of dedicated labor into every aspect of the film, from the content and riding to how it’s shot, edited and scored. The culmination didn’t leave any viewer bored for a second. The guys at TGR did a phenomenal job in creating a pleasingly flowing storyline, keeping their viewers interested for the full duration of the film.

The movie itself was a trip. Jeremy Jones is not only an extremely talented snowboarder, but is also an extraordinary mountaineer, and all-around inspiring human being. Jones’ unmatched level of big-mountain expertise comes from a calm, calculated approach to every death-defying situation in which he gets involved. It was an interesting experience watching what goes into each line that Jones and his fellow big-mountain riders take. For example, the Himalayan peak, which he called Shangri-La, that took over three months of preparation, leading to a 45-minute run that he deemed the most difficult in his life. It’s a good thing his edges held.

“Higher” serves as an enticing but brutally realistic representation of the ups and downs in the lives of big-mountain riders, their friends and families. Although they get to ride the best powder this planet has to offer, it comes with the price of compromise and fruitful, relentless dedication. But it’s amazing to see what can be accomplished through the latter. Jones took his riding from lapping the lifts of small mountains around the eastern states to climbing and riding the world’s heaviest terrain. Now, who would have thought the world’s greatest backcountry rider would have come from Cape Cod? Go figure, eh?

Jeremy Jones on the ascent in Nepal. Photo: Ben Shanks Kindlon

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