A few years ago, after mainly competing in superpipe contests around the world, Matt Philippi shifted priorities -- to bigger mountains, deeper snow, filming with Teton Gravity Research and polishing up his farming skills. That agriculture bit is part of the Jackson Hole-based athlete's FullCircle Project, his annual missions to give back to Andean communities and improve daily life in sustainable ways. Launched after the 2010 earthquake in Chile, the FullCircle Project is now embarking on a third mission this summer in Ecuador. We caught up with Philippi to find out how it began and what the future holds.
This year, we are planning a project in northern Ecuador. We are looking at several rural indigenous communities that have recently been affected by natural disasters. It will be another agricultural assistance project; we are going to fund at least $3,000 of the project cost, and put in the labor. We have a few more people helping this year, so we are going down with the biggest crew of volunteers yet. We'll be able to get more work done in the same amount of time.
The conversation about FCP was only a few weeks old when the earthquake hit the Bío Bío region of Chile in February 2010. I connected with my friend Chico down in Chile. Chico's house was actually washed into the Pacific Ocean by the 90-foot-tall tsunami that hit after the quake. He was directly impacted by the disaster and was super motivated to help out and help us out.
It was a life changing experience. By the end, we knew we had to put together another project.
The leader of our group in Chile sent us a video of a local news piece showing kids attending class in the kindergarten we built, so that gave us confidence that the school and playground we worked on really went to good use.
In 2011, we planted an orchard in Maras, Peru. I am looking forward to seeing how much the trees have grown and what else the community in Maras has done on top of the work we put in.
I think we are going to continue to see a natural increase in the size of our volunteer group. I have received emails from people who have seen our videos who are interested in helping in years to come.
This year, I am psyched to have Ahmet Dadali with us. I am really pumped to ski with him in Chile after the volunteer work in Ecuador. We also have Jameson Walter, who is a cinematographer for Teton Gravity Research. We worked together all winter long in Jackson and I am stoked to have his talent behind the lens and to have him as part of the crew.
The ski section of the FCP trip is always a blast, with only a couple weeks to try to put together as much footage as we can. This year, with the addition of Ahmet, you might see a little urban in the mix. What I like about trying to get a ski segment together in a short amount of time is that there are no excuses to not go skiing. No waiting around for perfect snow and light -- we just get on the grind.
[For more information on the FullCircle Project, or to volunteer or donate, check out Thefullcircleproject.com.]