Matt Philippi and Jen Hudak have a few things in common. (1) They’re both 23. (2) They’re both pro skiers with a long list of accomplishments (Philippi won the Orage Masters in Whistler in 2009, and Hudak got first at the Mount Snow Dew Tour and the US Open, second at the Winter X Games and the Breck Dew Tour, and third at World Championships). (3) Both athletes are sponsored by Bolle goggles. Victoria Barbatelli spoke to both of them.
You’ve probably always wanted to be pro skiers, right?
MATT: To be able to follow my passion and have great companies 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.
What is your plan for this winter?
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, Colorado. 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.
How will you prepare for those events?
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.
Favorite ski memory ever. Go.
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.
When did you guys start skiing competitively?
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. 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. 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 do you do when you’re not 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.
Got any tips for how to improve your skiing?
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.