Fenway Park is morphing into a gigantic ski slope for February competition

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/01/21/fenway-park-is-morphing-into-a-gigantic-ski-slope-for-february-competition/

BOSTON – With cold weather finally blowing in to the city, Fenway Park is undergoing a make-over that will transform the summer ballpark into its first winter games big air spectacular.

On Feb. 11 and 12, Fenway Park will be host to “Polartec Big Air,” a freeskiing and snowboarding competition with famous athletes from around the world. Big air competitions are an extreme version of slopestyle, where competitors either ski or snowboard down a large hill that features a variety of obstacles such as rails or jumps. At the Fenway event, participants will perform tricks after launching off the very high jump.

The show is part of the U.S. Grand Prix and the International Ski Federations World Cup Tour. It will showcase Olympic and world champions, including Vermont snowboarder Ty Walker, slopestyle skiing gold medalist Joss Christensen and slopestyle snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg.

Transforming a ballpark into a big air competition stadium with a 140-foot tall ramp is no easy task.

“It’s a pretty long process – it’s very labor intensive,” said Eric Webster, a spokesman from the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association. “The structure itself, when completed, will stretch from the outfield to home plate, basically. It runs right down the center of the park.”

The ramp being built on Jan. 19, 2016 (Photo courtesy of the Boston Red Sox)

The ramp being built on Jan. 19, 2016 (Photo courtesy of the Boston Red Sox)

The structure will be 155 feet tall, with competitors starting at the 140-foot mark. This will make it 14 feet taller than the light towers in Fenway Park.

“It will literally stand out above the ball park!” said Webster.

One of the biggest challenges is making sure that the ramp will fit inside the ballpark and making sure that it meets world-class specifications.

Fred Olsen, a spokesman for the Red Sox, said, “That has been an extremely long process, a long detailed process, between our two organizations.”

The ramp also has to accommodate two different styles of sports – freeskiing and snowboarding – along with courses for both men and women that aren’t dramatically different but do have some variance, said Webster.

As opening day approaches, workers have been hard at work getting the stadium ready. So far, they have put down a protective flooring to hold the ramp and have started construction on the steel structure, which is scheduled to be finished Feb. 3.

After the ramp is pieced together there will still be much to do. Snowmaking is being handled by Killington Resort in Vermont in conjunction with HKD Snowmakers from Natick, which manufactures snowmaking equipment. The snow will be applied to the ramp both manually and with the help of a 275-ton crane.

The snow will be made between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., the coldest part of the day, and stockpiled in the park. It will be installed on the structure, jump, landing and outrun as well as on the padding and safety netting.

After planning and executing the project for two and half years, Webster is excited to see it edge closer to reality because it will be a great showcase for local athletes.

“It gives our U.S. athletes a chance to compete on home soil and on a large stage, which is really cool,” he said.

The International Olympic Committee accepted slopestyle snowboarding as an Olympic event this past spring but has not yet accepted freeskiing.

A musical component to the event will be announced soon.

Tickets start at $30.

“This event will give people an extremely unique experience in Fenway Park, which is something that you normally wouldn’t get in the summer at a baseball game,” Webster said.