Snowboarding's "Big Air" competition comes to Fenway

ON THIS DATE (February 2, 2016) ...  Fenway Park added a couple other winter sports to its resume: skiing and snowboarding. Standing high above the Green Monster, a 140-foot ski jump was been constructed in centerfield, sloping down to home plate, for the Big Air at Fenway U.S. Grand Prix event.

Some of the best free skiers and snowboarders from around the world gathered inside the historic baseball stadium to compete in front of a large crowd of more than 20,000.

Starting from the top of the man-made slope which stands at about the height of the upper-deck seats, competitors descended on a 38-degree slope to 52 feet before launching into the air to do their stunts before landing near home plate.

While skiing and snowboarding become must-see events every four years during the Winter Olympics, the time in-between usually draws smaller crowds to the mountains to watch the athletes. Big Air brings the action to urban venues around the world, with recent events in Pasadena, California, Beijing, Istanbul, London and Innsbruck, Austria. The only requirement for Big Air to come to a city: Build a jump and have snow.

The temperature was in the low 20s, just fine for making and maintaining snow, when Big Air kicked off at Fenway Park. The deep, packed blanket that lined the full length of Mount Kenmore was produced by a seven-man crew from Killington (Vt.) Ski Resort, working in tandem with Natick-based HKD Snowmakers.

The Killington crew included personnel trained specifically in snowmaking as well as members who typically concentrate on the grooming and maintenance of Killington's terrain park. To get the job done on Mount Kenmore, Killington personnel employed a total of four HKD guns, of both fan and land variety.

Killington and HKD used some 300 tons of crushed ice, supplied by the US Ski and Snowboard Association, to make the snow that boarders flew across in Thursday night's championship.

Olympic hopeful Ty Walker, from Stowe, Vt., was full of joy and eager anticipation about Fenway Big Air during Wednesday's news conference. But within a few hours, Walker's Fenway experience came to a close when she incurred a minor back injury during the afternoon workout.

The US dominated the men's side in the snowboarding qualifiers, with four Yanks among the 10 slots in the final. The red-white-and-blue lineup included veteran Chas Guldemond, along with Eric Beauchemin and Lyon Farrell. American Sage Kostenburg qualified but crashed during a training session and pulled out of the competition.