Philippi returning to halfpipe after knee injury
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado – Last season was Matt Philippi’s finest season as a pro.
The 21-year-old fressskier from Breckenridge captured gold at the Aspen/Snowmass Open – his second consecutive victory at the event – and silver at the U.S. Freeskiing Open at Copper Mountain.
The superpipe specialist made another finals appearance on April 21 in Whistler. On his initial takeoff out of the pipe, Philippi heard a pop in his knee.
He tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
“You don’t hear about guys tearing their ACL while taking off, so it was pretty unusual,” said Philippi, who’s a member of the Breckenridge Freeride Team. “I had come down on my knee pretty hard a few weeks earlier while filming in Montana. It was bothering me, but I decided to compete at Whistler anyway.”
Philippi questioned his desire to return to the pipe after he heard about the injury.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to ski again,” he said. “I was upset and tired of being hurt. My enthusiasm for the sport was questionable. Slowly but surely, it came back.”
As his desire to return increased, Philippi decided to take on a grueling physical therapy schedule – four times a week for six months.
“I knew it was going to be a long journey,” he said. “It seemed daunting, but really it gave me something to do. … It was tough until I started seeing improvement. I set small goals for myself; that’s what kept me going – trying to increase strength in my knee every week.”
The hard work paid off when Philippi was finally able to jump on his sticks for some turns in December.
“I had done some low-impact stuff,” he said, “but I was a little nervous about my knee the first time out. I got out there and started doing some of my old tricks. (The doctors) told me I would be at full strength by six months – I was at eight then, so I got after it.”
Amy Sabreen, a team manager for the Breckenridge Freeride Team, said she expects Philippi to hit the ground running, or the snow skiing.
“Matt is an exceptional athlete,” Sabreen said. “He did so well last year. Injuries are a part of the game and it’s always tough to come back full strength right away, but he’s a great guy who works hard. We’re supporting him fully.”
Although Philippi said he’s excited and anxious to get back on the snow for competitions, he’s trying to keep the long-term in mind.
“I have to remind myself it’s a long season,” Philippi said. “I’m definitely going to ski hard, but try to be responsible in the process. My knee feels great, but I’m going to take this season step-by-step.”
Philippi plans to compete in as many events as his knee will allow. His intended schedule includes the X Games (Jan. 24-27) in Aspen and the U.S. Freeskiing Open (Jan. 31-Feb. 3) at Copper. He said competing in this year’s X Games has been his long-term goal since rehab.
“I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “I understand that I’m not going to be at the top of my game, so I guess I’ll play it by year. Hopefully I can put togther a solid season.”
“He’s definitely on track,” Sabreen said. “We don’t really have to push him because he does it himself.”