The Polartec Big Air at Fenway: A Ground Level Recap // Ski Industry News
As you probably know, the biggest ski event in Boston’s storied history went down just over a week ago, on Friday, February 12th last Friday at Fenway Park. What you probably didn’t know is that I was there, sans media credentials and comforts. Despite working for SkiEssentials, I didn’t even try to get special access. With so many unknowns surrounding Boston’s first FIS sponsored Big Air Event, the one thing I could be sure of was that in the coming days there would be plenty of recaps from skiing’s biggest media outlets. They’d all be shooting from the same media pit and retelling the same story with the same victorious ending. But that wasn’t my goal in being there. If I was going to cover this thing, I wanted to tell the story from the ground level.
Now, allow me to set the scene. It’s a Friday night in Boston, around 6:00 PM and 20 degrees fahrenheit. All parts of the city are alive as people are doing what people do on most Fridays. My brother and I were taking an Ubër to Fenway Park when I first caught a glimpse of the mega structure. Crossing the Charles River on Mass Ave, I spotted an enormous snow covered structure illuminated against a backdrop of sky scrapers. My first thought, “this thing is huge. It’s literally as tall, or taller than several of the buildings surrounding the park.” Minutes later, our driver pulled over at the corner of Commonwealth Ave and Beacon St. where we thanked him as we hopped out and immersed ourselves into a scene that was simultaneously expected and surprising. All of the sudden, this particular section of Boston looked more like the downtown area of Mount Tremblant or Aspen than the thickly accented streets of a New England metropolis. Partially on account of the cold, and partially wanting to look the part, everyone within eyesight was dressed in their ski resort best, as if they’d just come off the hill and were heading to the aprés ski experience of a lifetime. There were Moncler Jackets, skittle colored XXL’s, ski pants (likely due to the cold), and even a nonsensical number of people wearing ski goggles complete with mirrored lenses. As my brother and I merged into the mass of people flowing towards the entrance, it immediately became clear that we were in for a night of entertainment- one way or another.
After successfully clearing the security gates, we were met with a wall of sound the second we set foot into Fenway Park. Everywhere I looked, people were strategizing on their seats, food, and beers. Somewhere beyond my line of sight I could tell there was a DJ loudly treading the line of family friendly club music in an effort to get the crowd pumped up. Despite a cloud of frozen breathes, it seemed to be working. For the next 30-45 minutes, the stadium was filled with an even mix of music and anticipation. As for myself, I quickly headed towards the fried food and beer vendors. I’d actually never been to Fenway before, so I was curious to see what was on the menu. Turns out, it’s exactly what I would’ve expected. I ended up transacting a Hamilton for some chicken tenders, french fries, and a week’s supply of sodium. Unfortunately, my other Hamilton refused to give itself up for a Goose Island IPA. Ultimately this would be one of the only let downs of the night was that the cost of one good beer at Fenway was almost as much as a four pack of the world’s best beer back in Vermont. After securing nourishments, I headed into the stands as it sounded like the event was about to get underway.
As for the skiing? It was incredible. No, there weren’t any triple flips, but the sheer spectacle of the affair made each run nothing short of thrilling. With what appeared to be a bulletproof landing firmly established and a total lack of comparative perspective, each run became not only about the rotation, style, and grabs, but also whether the skier would be able to find themselves centered enough on their feet and the landing to be able to hold on for the half second they were allowed before having to slam the brakes on in order to avoid running into the barrier. Even for someone who was accustomed to watching Big Air events on TV and understanding the different nuances of each trick’s difficulty, the whole event was entirely captivating.
Without a doubt, the amazement of the event has to be attributed to the venue. The scaffolding that made up the in run, jump, and landing was mind boggling to look at. It was huge- a point that I literally can’t stress enough. Seeing such an enormous structure crammed into the confines of what is typically a huge space really put in perspective the openness of the mountains, something that I’ve always taken for granted. And not only that, but the people. There were so many people at this thing, watching a freestyle skiing event. As someone who began freestyle skiing back in the early 2000’s just after “snowboard parks” were renamed to “terrain parks,” it was nothing short of incredible to see how much attention and excitement the sport was generating in a major city such as Boston.
Finally, after about two hours of braving the cold and wandering around the stadium to find the best vantage point (seating enforcement was very loose), the event began to wind down. All in all, the event has to be considered a complete success. A mega structure was built, a competition was safely held, and a huge audience came out to witness the event. No matter how you look at what went down in Boston last week, it would be impossible to consider the exposure and excitement generated by the Polartec Big Air at Fenway anything other than a positive landmark in freestyle skiing’s growth. With that, it seems entirely appropriate to give a big thanks to Polartec for being the title sponsor, Fenway Sports Group for working to make this happen, and of course FIS for bringing validity to the event by making it a part of their World Cup Series. So thanks to all parties involved, and I sure as hell hope to this goes down again next year. If it does, I’ll be one of the first to buy a ticket.