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Q & A with Bolle Athletes

Q & A with Bolle Athletes

Our intern, Victoria Barbatelli, sits down with Bolle sponsored athletes Matt Philippi and Jen Hudak. For everything from competition stories to skiing tips (it's all in your feet), these guys ...
posted: 11/06/2009
Jen Hudak for Bolle

Matt Philippi, Bollé athlete since 2007

AGE: 23

MOTTO: Never have a closed mind, have fun, and work hard for what you want.

LAST COMPETITION: Orage Masters in Whistler, 2009. Philippi’s team, Team VOLKL, won the event.

Jen Hudak, Bollé athlete since 2006

AGE: 23

MOTTO: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Thoreau

LAST COMPETITION: Mount Snow Dew Tour and the US Open, Hudak won both events; silver at the Winter X-Games and the Breck Dew Tour; third at World Championships.

HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR SPONSORSHIP WITH BOLLE?

MATT: On top of Hoosier Pass, near Breckenridge, Colorado. I contacted the man, the myth, and the legend: Brett Vogel—we had a pretty solid business meeting in my truck.

JEN: I wanted to work with a company that backs their athletes 100 percent and Bollé was the perfect fit. Not to mention they make the best goggles and sunglasses!

WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A SPONSORED ATHLETE? WAS THIS A GOAL OF YOURS?

MATT: To be able to follow my passion and have great companies like Bollé support me and my vision is an unbelievable opportunity. From a young age I had a passion for skiing and for the outdoors. I didn’t necessarily say to myself “I want to be sponsored,” but I knew I wanted to work hard become a strong competitor in halfpipe skiing.

JEN: I didn’t start skiing competitively with sponsorship as a primary focus or goal. I just wanted to become the best skier that I could be. Eventually I realized that being sponsored was a natural progression for great athletes. The business side of skiing is a big part of the game, and learning how to navigate the waters was quite a learning experience.

ARE YOU ENTERING ANY COMPETITIONS IN THE NEAR FUTURE?

MATT: Well, I planned to compete in the X-Games and the Winter Dew Tour this season, but sadly, I recently tore my ACL and MCL and will have to sit out this season. I will have to wait until I am good and strong next season.

JEN: The first competition of the year will be the Dew Tour stop in Breckenridge, Colo. My competitive focus this year will be all of the Dew Tour stops and X-Games. The rest of the time I will spend shooting, filming and skiing as much pow as possible.

WHAT KIND OF PREPERATION DO YOU PUT YOURSELF THROUGH BEFORE AN EVENT?

MATT: I use a lot of visualization to prepare for events. I like to be able to see my whole halfpipe run in my head before it goes down on competition day. But visualization is the just beginning, for most professional skiers, we are thinking about skiing—our halfpipe runs, or our big air tricks–pretty much at all time. Even as I sit here icing my healing knee, I am thinking about skiing and my halfpipe tricks.

JEN: Even though I have certain rituals, like waxing my skis, organizing my equipment for the next day, and writing in my journal, most of my preparation comes from past experience.

WHAT’S YOUR BEST MEMORY ON YOUR FAVORITE MOUNTAIN?

MATT: My best memory has to be from last season at Laax, Switzerland. I had just won the 2009 European Freeskiing Open Halfpipe event and was hanging out in Volkl tent with the international team manager, Schinka, having a cocktail and sharing a laugh. It was a perfectly sunny day and after the event I skied down this huge mountain by myself, in the sun, perfectly content.

JEN: Two seasons ago I was in Aspen with my coach, Elana Chase, and we were about to head to Summit County to do some early season halfpipe training when it started dumping in Aspen! We decided to stay and ski pow for three days. Ajax was empty the whole time, and we were skiing waist deep pow while everyone else was stuck in Summit waiting out the storm. Good times.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SKIING? COMPETITIVELY?

MATT: Maybe at age two or three. I entered my first competition when I was 12 years old. It was a Thanksgiving big air competition at Sunday River, Maine around the time Simon Dumont was beginning his reign… he beat me pretty soundly.

JEN: I started competing in moguls when I was 12 years old (11 years ago!) and started competing in halfpipe when I was 16.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START COMPETING?

MATT: Well, I grew up playing hockey and other competitive sports, and then realized that skiing was the greatest sport ever. It seemed natural for me to enter competitions because at the time I understood sports through competition. In retrospect I realize you can be the strongest athlete in the world without ever stepping foot into a starting gate. But as a youngster, I wanted to win every little local event I entered.

JEN: Competing seemed like the best way to push myself in my athletic endeavors regardless of what they were. I started and I was hooked. It’s cool because you get to see how you compare to the other athletes, but you also learn a lot about yourself. Like how to control your emotions and not get in your own way.

WHAT KEEPS YOU BUSY WHEN YOU AREN’T SKIING?

MATT: I really enjoy surfing and mountain biking. I grew up in New England and the ocean was a major part of my childhood. Living in Colo. and Utah for the last five years has definitely made me miss the ocean and the lifestyle that goes with the coast. Whenever I can, I get to the ocean. Mountain biking helps me stay sane when I am in the mountains and there isn’t any snow. I also spend a lot of time training on water ramps in Park City, Utah or Lake Placid, N.Y. These water jump facilities help freestyle ski athletes keep their air awareness sharp during the off-season.

JEN: Skiing related things occupy the majority of my time, like photo shoots for Under Armour, guest speaking opportunities and pursuing new sponsors. Outside of that, I spend a lot of time traveling, biking, camping and during the summer I go to school at the University of Utah.

WHEN YOU ARE SKIING AND TRAINING AND TRAVELLING, I’M SURE WHATEVER IT IS THAT KEEPS YOU GOING IS MORE THAN JUST THE CONTRACT. WHAT KEEPS YOU GETTING UP TO SKI?

MATT: Oh yeah, I was skiing before I was sponsored and will keep skiing after my sponsors ditch me for the new young punk (not that my sponsors would ever do that)! There are a lot of reasons why I keep getting up to ski: it is being outdoors all day and it is skiing with friends who I have skied with for years. These friends have skied with me through the worst weather on competition days and those same friends have made the best turns in four feet of blower powder alongside me. It’s the excitement of getting to the hill and not really knowing where the day is going to go and sharing it with people I have met around the world who share a love for skiing.

JEN: I love that every day is a new adventure. You never know what you are going to find on the mountain, especially on a powder day. Even when I’m just going to ski park and pipe, I love not knowing what the day will bring. I know that each day I get up to ski, I have another opportunity to see what limits I can push.

AS A PROFESSIONAL SKIER, WHAT ARE YOU BEST TWO TIPS ON HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SKIING? HOW TO SKI CHOOSE A LINE? HOW TO SKI TREES?

MATT: Two best tips I have: Stay forward and aggressive. Always be standing on your toes and pressure the front on the boot with your shin. Without a strong athletic position you are going to have a bad time. Two: explore different mountains. I feel that that is the one thing that I need to do more in my career. Yes, I have had the opportunity to ski at a lot of different resorts and locations worldwide, but when I am fully recovered I plan to ski a wider range of terrain and mountains.

JEN: Focus on your stance. Skis are designed to function in a very specific way, and turns are generated from the middle of the ski. Being in an athletic, forward and confident position on your skis is the best way control your equipment. This is especially helpful when skiing trees where you need to be able to turn quickly and respond to the obstacles you encounter. If you are leaning back on your skis defensively, you won’t be able to maneuver your skis quickly enough. My few words of wisdom in choosing a line is to approach with caution and never assume that what you see is what you’ll get. Lines can look more obvious head on, cliffs can look smaller, and snow can look deeper and better than what you find.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE SOMEONE EVER GAVE YOU ABOUT SKIING? WHO GAVE IT TO YOU?

MATT: “Have fun,” my dad gave me that advice. He wasn’t specifically referring to skiing, just life in general. Thanks Dad.

JEN: My dad once told me to ski like a gorilla! It was his way of describing a wide stance, with knees, hips and shoulders stacked over your toes and hands forward. The only thing that I wish he added was to stay light on your feet, unlike a gorilla…

WHAT’S COMING UP ON YOUR SPORT AGENDA? ANYTHING YOU’RE PARTICULARLY EXCITED ABOUT?

MATT: Oh, well, a lot of physical therapy and a lot of positivity. I am particularly excited about positivity.

JEN: I’m excited to get back into the halfpipe this season to try some new tricks that I’ve been thinking about. I started doing 900’s and alley-oop 7’s last season, and can’t wait to start experimenting with some variations. I’m also really excited to get into big mountain skiing a bit more—I may enter my first big mountain competition this season.

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