Matt Philippi has long been a ski star. The industry has given him tons of respect for his work as a competitor and video star. Matt is also the mastermind behind The FullCircle Project, a community works project inspired by the lifestyle of skiing.
1. You began your career as a competitive skier at Carrabasset Valley Academy (CVA). What influenced you to attend that program? Was it the students or the faculty?
Well, I was going to school in Boston, MA and skiing on the weekends in Vermont. My Mom and Dad knew how much I loved to ski and they offered me the option to go to boarding school up in Maine and ski all winter long. I knew that CVA had a good group of skiers and my parents knew that CVA had a strong academic record, so I transferred to CVA my Junior year of high school.
2. You were part of the elite group of CVA students, as I like to call you guys”the First Class.”Reason for that is that you were the first full time members of their freeride program, but more because the group of you, including Corey Vanular, Dan Marion, Taylor Felton, and you were allinfluential in shaping the competition scene today. You guys made consistency a must for any competitor. Was it the group pushing each other or you coach, Nate McKenzie, that caused you guys to be so damn consistent.
Yeah, I rolled into CVA and was super impressed by the level of skiing across the board, even the skiers you have never heard of were crushing it. In two years, Marion won x-games qualifiers, Vanular won the US Open, Taylor Felton won the Grand Prix, I won the East Coast Open… it was a strong group to be skiing with.
We could not have done it with out Nate, our coach. He helped to dial in the fundamentals of skiing and jumping. Even yesterday, hitting a backcountry jump with TGR, I was mentally going back to the basics the Nate taught me 10+ years ago.
3. In your rookie years, Tanner Hall often referred to you as the kid to watch out for. Did that add fuel to your competitive fire?
As a young kid coming up in the competitive ski scene, having Tanner Hall back me was pretty inspiring. It helped me believe in my own skiing.
4. You struggled with a few knee injuries over the last few years. It kept you from competing in pipe. Do you have any intention of coming back to competition to qualify for the Olympics?
Nope. I am out of the pipe. Yea, I blew my ACL a couple of times but that is just part of the game. I could go back and send it in the pipe, no problem. I had a lot of fun skiing pipe and park for 10 years, but I am over it. I haven’t skied pipe or park yet this year.I have been out in the backcountry of Jackson all season long, hiking, skinning, and riding snowmobiles to the spots where I want to ski… and I am having more fun and am more motivated to shred than ever before.
I am psyched for the opportunity that the pipe and park guys have to compete in the Olympics, but I am not interested. I have found the type of skiing I want to do everyday, and it isn’t in halfpipe.
5. You are the mastermind behind the FullCircle Project, a web series dedicated to showcasing a moral obligation of skiers to help others to improve the world. What inspired you take on this endeavor?
I dont know if ‘moral obligation’ is the right word, I am more interested in the showing the ski community and others how great of an experience it can be to give, to help out. As pro skiers, we get to travel across the globe, but rarely do we really get to deeply connect with the places we visit. Through our community service project we not only give back to the places we have the privilege to visit, but we also get to connect with the people of that place on a much deeper level.
6. How do you pick your locations for the FullCircle Project? Is it based more on what part of the world you want to ski or where you think the project can provide the most good?
There is no exact science behind what project we choose. In 2010, we traveled to Chile to help out in the wake of a huge tsunami. I have a friend down in Chile, who’s house was swept into the ocean, he wanted to help in the effort and he helped us get connect to a community service organization. There was skiing only a couple hours away for the epicenter of the quake, so we were able to ski quite close to where we did the volunteer work. In 2011, we traveled to Peru to work on a sustainable agriculture project. However, we skied a couple thousand miles south along the Andes, in Argentina. Right now the unifying thread is the Andes mountain range. Our 2012 project will be in Ecuador, in the Andes.
7. What’s the hardest part about traveling to less developed countries to ski?
Traveling in Peru, Argentina, and Chile (the places we have been so far) has really been quite easy. There are great bus systems in all three of those countries. The hardest part is the quantity of gear we have to travel with. We basically bring all our ski gear, all the camera equipment, and gear for the volunteer project with us. No matter how hard I try to travel light… I always seem to have a ton with me.
8. What are the long term goals of the FullCircle Project?
We are in the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. This will help us in our eligibility for grants and also encourage more donation support (note: all the money donated to The FullCircle Project goes toward the volunteer project, not the skiing portion of the trip). We hope that with official non-profit status, we will be able to fund and work on larger projects.
We are going to continue with one project each summer. This year we are heading to Ecuador to plant a farm in an area that was damaged by a volcano eruption. The ash from the volcano forced evacuations and ruined most of the farms, which are quite important in this poor farming community. The farm is about one hectare (100m by 100m) and we will fund and help plant crops for the people of the community, for the livestock, and some food to sell at market. We may be able to ski the Volcano that erupted in Ecuador, and we are going to head south along the Andes to ski after the completion of the farm planting project.
9. What was your favorite moment in you professional career so far?
Yesterday, heading home into the sunset on my sled after an amazing day of skiing.
10. What athletes or people have most influenced your skiing?
It is really just the people I am around. I try to be the best skier and person I can be because of my friends and family.