Photos provided by Austin Branham
In 1995, athletes Todd Jones, his brother Steve, Dirk Collins and Corey Gavitt gathered together their resources and decided to create an athlete-run brand, where they could showcase sports in a way that no one had ever seen before. As a pro skier who had been in front of the camera many times, Todd knew what went into producing a film, though, at the time he founded the company, he did not actually know how to operate a camera. However, despite their lack of cinematographic expertise, the four co-founders had a vision, and through relentless perseverance and unwavering determination, Teton Gravity Research, or TGR, was born.
From the beginning, TGR was destined for greatness, but it wasn’t just the immediate success of the brand as a film company that made it unique. Instead, it was the founders’ persistence in preserving its roots as an athlete-run brand. “We started as athletes”, Todd explains, “So we wanted to have a company that had an athlete focus and put the athletes first. This has always been a really important factor to us and I think it is why people often use the term ‘family’ when referring to our team”.
And as if to emphasize the importance of family, just this year, Todd’s own son, Kai, is featured in the most recent film, “Far Out”, presented by REI. “It has been super cool to watch Kai excel in the sport”, Todd says. “I think having a son going off in the outdoors has just made me happier and more appreciative of what TGR is and has become. To be able to share that with Kai is very refreshing. It has motivated me to get back out more and to go bigger and harder.
Nonetheless, Kai’s competitive schedule and filming commitments isn’t something that he was pressured into. Like all great dads, Todd has simply supported Kai in his passion for the outdoors. “I have two kids, Kai and Cam”, Todd explains. “Cam is the younger brother. Both of them have grown up in the mountains and around cameras and athletes. I will say I make a conscious effort to not force anything on them. If they want it and I have knowledge of it, I will give it to them, but ultimately I take their lead”. In the 23 years since the founding of TGR, Todd has not only had the chance to watch the company and outdoor sports evolve, but he has been able to see his kids progress with them. “There has been a ton of evolution”, Todd explains. “The tricks, the parks, the jumps, the equipment have all evolved constantly over the years.”
Todd says that, right now, it seems like a lot of the evolution in winter sports is in the equipment and in the backcountry. As the newest, most progressive shovels out there, DMOS fits right in with the advancement of these sports. “People are going deeper and bigger constantly”, he says, “and I think that better jumps make for more progression, so DMOS helps in that equation. The DMOS tools are great for building jumps. They are super collapsible and allow you to really tune a jump in.”
Todd and Kai know better than anyone how important a well-built jump can be, and good tools build good jumps. Kai says, “I like corks, flips, and really all of [the tricks]. I was just training at the Utah Olympic Park and I learned doubles and Rodeo 720 on the water ramp. It will be fun to try and bring those to snow.” However, despite his skills in the terrain park, he says he is happiest when he is in the backcountry. “Climbing and skiing Mt. Moran was super cool. Central Couloir is one I always remember. Hitting Smart Bastard was sick.” And at only 12 years old, Kai isn’t just talk, he has the skills to back up his claims.
In fact, Kai has been personally mentored by some of the greatest winter sports athletes, including pro skier and TGR athlete, Tim Durtschi. “I think all the TGR athletes I grew up watching are mentors to me”, says Kai. “They are so amazing at what they do and are super nice people as well. Tim is incredible. He helps me so much with different things about skiing. He always gives me good advice on how to hit things and what tricks would be good in a certain zone.”
Tim has played an important role in the development of DMOS as a company, too. From the creation of the first kicker tool, the Stealth Shovel, Tim was eager to test DMOS’ products and give feedback to help in the design of newer and even better tools for athletes like himself. Though DMOS’ customer base has grown and expanded significantly since that time, it will always be a company founded by and for people who pursue adventure or work in extreme conditions, in the same way that TGR is a brand created by and for athletes. Clearly, Tim knows how to find the right companies to work with. We can only hope that Kai will follow in his footsteps and be part of the next generation of DMOS’ collective.
Kai says he is stoked to be in the newest TGR film, especially since he has worked so hard to get where he is today. “I can't believe it happened,” he says. “I did not realize how hard you have to work for it, but I don't mind that. I have learned that hard work is very key in life.” Kai hopes to use his work ethic to help him win the Freeride World Tour someday and, hopefully, ski forever. “My motto is ‘Paint your own canvas’”, he says. “Live true, Be Happy, Treat people nice, Ski fast”.