Going for Broke
If you're a Danger Zone fan, you know Jeremy Simmons. A freerider with a background in cross-country and snocross racing, Simmons is not known to back down from a challenge. We spent some time on the snow with Simmons last winter to catch up with the backcountry rider.
SH: Where are you from?
JS: Iona, Idaho, a small town east of Idaho Falls.
What did you learn to ride on?
My first sled was a 1974 Polaris Cobra. You know, the one with two headlights, no shocks, metal cleats on the track. We would go up to the farm in Bone and ride all over. I spent a lot of time working on them, but looking back it was a good thing. For one, you appreciate being in a position to ride new sleds. They have made leaps and bounds since 1974. I rode older sleds up until I was 15 but it was cool. I think it made me a better rider. I had to try to keep up with everyone that had more advanced sleds. I got a 1992 Arctic Cat EXT 550. I was stoked.
How did you get started racing cross-country?
After the EXT, I got a 1995 Polaris XLT. It was a long track and I never really thought about racing before. My uncle, Jerry Simmons, called me one night and asked me what I thought about racing in the St. Anthony 101. Hey, why not? I had no idea what I was getting in to. I had never even been to a race before. When we pulled into the race I realized I was in the wrong class and under prepared. Most all other racers were on short track race sleds. But I thought I would give it heck anyway. Three miles in I discovered two things: First, I was fast. I left third out of four riders and in about three to four miles, I had passed most all the guys that left two minutes before me. I think there were about eight to 10 teams. Second, I learned that this was a lot harder than I ever thought. By mile 85, I rode so hard up to that point, I was completely spent. I couldn't hold on anymore. Jerry kept trying to push me. You have to go, but I had nothing left. We held them off and came in second. The next day I couldn't get out of bed-that's no lie. My dad had to lift me out of bed. I was so sore, but a fire had been lit. That is all I thought about all summer.
You were involved in a bad crash while racing. What happened?
I went racing snocross and cross-country and it was sweet. I started winning in the snocross Semi-Pro class and we did really good in cross country. I moved up to Pro the next year and did well, but again I was under prepared and way under funded. I put in five up and down years, from bad sleds to no money and my race partner (Jerry) getting paralyzed in a sledding accident. Then came the worst crash I've ever had. I was racing at the World Snowmobile Expo in West Yellowstone, MT. It was like 60 degrees F that day and we could not make those sleds run for anything. I was in second place on the second lap. Coming out of the back corner, I grabbed a handful of throttle and the engine bogged. I came up short over a triple and cased it. I thought I was fine, but then I saw a yellow flash and the lights went out. I woke up strapped to a board with people standing over me. I was pissed, saying "Where's my sled?" and "Get me off this board, I'm fine!" Then I realized my leg was in so much pain, it felt like it was on fire. It was a long ride from there to the hospital and they wouldn't give me painkillers. It sucked. When we got to the hospital in Idaho Falls, they found that I had a severed calf muscle, a concussion and track stud marks up my back. I asked someone what had happened. I couldn't remember anything other than coming up short on the triple. Apparently the sled behind me landed right on top of me a split second after I landed, which explains me thinking I had landed fine and the yellow flash.
Did you want to keep racing after the accident?
I raced a few times after that and did well, but it wasn't fun anymore. I almost gave sledding up. I got married and started electrical school. I was broke but I still had a sled most of the time, so I just started freeriding in the mountains around eastern Idaho. There is some of the most technical riding in the world around there if you know where to go.
When did you get into freeriding and riding for the film crews?
We could do more technical things as the sleds got better. I got into hillclimbing and went away from the jumping and big drops. But as the years went by, I started to get into it again and remembered that feeling of a big drop or jump. I had found something to light that fire again. In 2005, I met Jared Sessions in West Yellowstone. He told me he was going to Canada and asked if I wanted to go. I had never been there but I wanted to, so we headed out a few days later. I met the Extreme Team guys on this trip. Jared said they were making a movie again. I never really thought about being in a movie. When we got to Rocky's house, Norm Leslie asked Jared if we (myself and Eric Robinson) could ride. Jared said I don't know. They said we could and off we went to Lady Bird, about one and a half hours into Canada. It was one of the most fun rides I have ever been on. The snow was awesome and they were really cool guys. Just ride like you always do and if they get it on film, cool. If not, cool again, but it does suck when you do a big drop and the camera is on pause and Rocky's just playing it cool.
If you had a few days and an unlimited travel budget, where would we find you?
If I had a three-day weekend and plenty of cash I'm going to New Denver, BC, with anyone who wants to go. I really want to go to Alaska, too, so if you are going, give me a call.
Whom do you usually ride with?
I get to ride with some of the coolest and most talented riders in the world. Rob Hoff (who, by the way, cannot only huck a sled with the best, he's also a health nut. He won't eat anything that is bad for you and he has all the cool phones, computers, GPS . you name it, Hoff has it. I never would have thought that when I first met him) and I ride with Dan Adams, Jared Sessions, Troy Weston, Dan Elliot and I have some cool cousins, Cory and Brian Simmons. I keep trying to get my cousins to come film with us, but they're hillcliming so it's cool.
Do you ever take an unscheduled departure from the sleds riding like that?
We got into some great snow this year. Big jumps and sweet drops. I had a good year, some big wrecks, big jumps, drops and a lot of fun. Jacob White was there for most of it and he always seemed to get the cool pics. You know how it is the end of the day and you have run out of talent but you hit that jump one last time and that is when you realize yep, out of talent. Down you go. But you have to take a header at least once or twice a day or it's just not a full day's ride.
Cameras are rolling and you are sitting atop a huge drop. You're thinking .?
Either I'm so scared or there's not much going on in there. I can't remember thinking anything, but I do love the feeling of flying off jumps and drops. There's nothing like it in the world. That few seconds keeps me looking for the bigger, better drop or jump.
Do you get into any slides in all your riding?
The snow was also very slidy this year. In late December we were filming in Island Park and there was a slide on the south side of Mount Jefferson. Our group was not involved, but Dan Elliot and I helped dig a kid out of it. Sadly, he did not make it. I have been in a few slides but nothing like this. It was massive. There were a lot of slides this last year so it slowed us down for sure, but we still had a lot of fun in eastern Idaho, western Wyoming and Canada.
Tell us about your sled.
I rode a 2009 Polaris 700 with a Boondockers pump gas turbo. This was sick. It ran awesome. Jared put it in and it never missed a beat. I had ZBroz put its front and rear suspension in it. In my opinion, this is a must for freeriders. I had Paul Hurly put the Fire and Ice vent kit on it to keep it cool. E2 Design Worx did the graphics for me. These graphics are special and mean a lot to me. It pays a tribute to my late friend Jeremy Crapo. We were business partners and good friends before he was killed in a dirt biking accident. He was probably the most talented guy I ever got the chance to ride with on sleds or bikes. All the Crapo boys are like that. Scott USA helped me out with all my gear this year. I don't have too much style, so I was happy to get the help. The clothes rock.
And your sled for this year?
I will be riding the same sled this year with new graphics and some other changes. I love my sled so one more year on it will be awesome.
What do you do in the warm months?
This has been a long summer. I'm ready for snow. I did some fishing and dirt biking with my brother and my two kids, Morgyn and Ryker. I've done a lot of work to save some cash for this winter. I want to take most of January and February off. I've got some big plans, found some huge drops and some new jumps. The snow was too slidy to pull them last year so we will get them this year. I think it will be a bigger year for me, I have the time and a little cash and the equipment to go bigger than ever. See you on the hill!