Breck local pulls the switch in superpipe |

Breck local pulls the switch in superpipe

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN The run was a winner, for sure. The only question was whether Matt Philippi could actually pull it off. The 20-year-old Breckenridge local believed the Aspen/Snowmass Open skiing superpipe title was his for the taking Sunday afternoon, even after he fell at the end of his first run and found himself in sixth place.Another fall in his final run, and there’d be no prize check to cash today. But if he stuck both of the switch 720s – one to start, one to finish – and the huge 1080 midway through his run, well…

“I felt like all the ingredients were there for a winning run,” said Philippi. “Nobody else had two switch 720s.”Nobody argued with that reasoning, or the judge’s final tallies, after Philippi stomped the culminating 720 in his final trip down the pipe to slide ahead of first-run leader Sean Fields by the slimmest of margins for the win.Philippi initially heard that he moved up to second place, but after Fields’ final effort, the announcement was made that Philippi won by .33 of a point – 85.5 to 85.167.J.P. Solberg of Thornton, N.H., wound up in third with a score of 82.333.”I was stoked,” Philippi said. “Sean is my friend, and I was happy for him. J.P. is my buddy, too, so I’m happy for him. It’s a good podium, either way, but this is icing on the cake.”The second-place finish for Fields marked his first podium in more than a year after a runner-up finish in the pipe at last year’s U.S. Open. The North Lake Tahoe skier finished seventh at the same contest this year, and wasn’t invited back to the Winter X Games.

Not surprisingly, Fields showed up at Buttermilk for his first Aspen/Snowmass Open with something to prove.”It’s not that I’ve gone downhill in skiing, it’s just that the progression of skiing has blown up so much in the past couple years,” said Fields, who could pass for skiing’s “Flying Tomato” with his nest of curly red hair. “Finally being able to pull it together and get some solid tricks. I’m definitely pretty hungry to get back on that podium. … I’m making my comeback right now. Sitting at home watching X Games on my couch made me want to come out here and boost that much bigger and throw it down so much harder. I definitely had that in the back of my head most of the time.”Fields went bigger than any other skier in both of his runs, and his massive alley-oop 900 on the second hit of his final run was arguably the most impressive trick of the day – but his unrivaled air wasn’t enough to beat Philippi’s innovation.Solberg did one switch 720 – a trick he’d never previously landed – and was in awe that Philippi managed two, each on a different wall of the pipe.”Matt is really high above everybody else,” he said.”It always comes down to this in most events,” added Fields. “Someone is going huge, but then someone is throwing a really technical trick and it’s a toss-up between the two. I really don’t think that either one is better. I think when it comes down to it, overall impression is better. Whoever landed their trick more perfectly is going to take it home.”

Philippi earned his first invite to the Winter X Games this year after a runner-up finish in the pipe to Tanner Hall at this year’s U.S. Open.Two weeks ago at Buttermilk, Philippi said he struggled to find a rhythm in the pipe as a result of being nervous. He finished seventh in his Winter X debut.”With that event, there’s just a whole lot of pressure,” he said. ” A whole lot of lights, a whole bunch of people and a whole bunch of drama, I guess. I kind of buckled under it and didn’t ski as well as I could have. But it was a really good learning experience for me. Next year, I’m hoping to come back to the X Games and be on top of my game a little more. I know what to expect.”Fourth-place finisher Taylor Felton of Hamilton, Mass., crashed hard during his second run, but skied off under his own power after about a five-minute course delay. Brent Abrams, another skier from the Lake Tahoe area finished fifth. Local Charlie Lasser failed to make the 10-skier final.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is

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