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Matt Philippi crushes the Wasatch Range in new edit “Shred-uary”

[Editor’s Note: Comments have been made in regards to the skiers’ backcountry etiquette displayed on Mt. Superior at the 00:15 second mark of this video. The comments call to attention the fact the Philippi, an experienced backcountry skier and traveler, triggers a slough slide above his partner. We reached out to Philippi for comment this evening, February 2, 2015; his response is now posted at the bottom of this page.]

Matt Philippi had a pretty damn sweet start to 2015.

“January in the Wasatch was rad,” writes Philippi via his Vimeo page. “I spent my time skiing the classic zones of upper Little Cottonwood Canyon… I have been skiing with local mountain guide and friend Harrison Brickman who knows the zones well and keeps the climbing pace painfully fast. On lazy days, the neighboring resorts of Alta and Snowbird provide hot-laps to keep the downhill muscles in shape and the knee cartilage angry.”

[New] Philippi responds:

I have had some negative response to the opening line of my “Shred-uary” edit. The claim is that skiing so close to my partner was poor backcountry etiquette and that I should not set a bad example for the many other skiers who access the backcountry, especially in the Wasatch Mountains.

To set the scene a little, that day we were skiing one inch of light snow on top of a frozen crust: “dust-on-crust.” The deeper snowpack was “locked-up” and there was minimal danger of an actual avalanche. The interface between the new snow and the frozen bed surface was weak. This made for fast sluff and a dramatic shot but the sluff had little to no power. My partner and I assessed the situation before dropping in as well as multiple times on the descent. Knowing the conditions, being up there six days a week, we decided it would be a fun and unique opportunity to ski tight and get some follow-cam style shots.

Was this poor backcountry etiquette? Would I ski every line this winter 20 feet behind my partner? Hell no. And you shouldn’t either. But this wasn’t everyday, this was a rare moment in the mountains and we made a calculated decision that skiing on top of each other would be OK.

Was this a bad example for backcountry enthusiasts? Is it my job, as a professional skier, to ski in the safest possible manner so that viewers can ski exactly like me? No, it is not. I am not making instructional videos.

Do we apply this “set an example” idea to other professional skiers? Do we tell Henrik Harlaut not to nose-butter triple cork because some beginner will get the idea that they too have that ability? Do we tell Sage Cattabriga-Alosa not to shred that AK spine because somehow, someway, an unskilled skier gets on top of some line and kills himself? No, no we don’t.

Being out in familiar backcountry zones everyday builds a base of experience and knowledge on how the snow will respond to my skiing. I respect the mountain and the risks associated with avalanches. Somedays, when conditions aren’t right, we turn around. On good days, we shred.

Ski guide, BC partner, and green-suit fashionista Harrison Brickman, who voluntarily skied below me, had this to say on the subject:

“On the day Matt filmed us on the South face of Mt. Superior we had received exactly one inch of new snow, combined with winds of +25 mph. In the days prior to this one, Little Cottonwood Canyon had seen temperatures in the low 40’s with bright sun and the South face of Mt. Superior had gone through a significant wet slide cycle. The new inch of snow had also brought with it a sustained period of temps below freezing, combined with wind and clear skies that had resulted in a very stable underlying snow pack. That is why we decided to do a follow cam on the South Face of Superior. The new inch of snow had blown slightly, resulting in very modest, soft wind slabs in and around the rocky top area of the slope; this was probably from a bad interface between the previous surface layer (now well frozen) and the very low density, wind-affected new snow. The surface snow that was moving was small in nature and totally expected, the only danger this amount of moving snow posed would have been to partially bury a rogue rabbit who happened to be on the slope with us. I sincerely hope that this sort of minor surface snow movement is the most pressing snow safety issue I have too deal with in the remainder of this season, but I doubt it.”

Matt Philippi

Related: Backcountry safety: A comprehensive avalanche education center directory

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