Fenway a breathtaking site for Big Air

Red Sox host one-of-a-kind event for skiing, snowboarding

Fenway a breathtaking site for Big Air

BOSTON -- Red Sox fans have seen plenty of leaping grabs and diving catches from their favorite players over the years, but nothing compared to the air underneath skiers and snowboarders during the first Polartec Big Air at Fenway Park on Thursday and Friday.

The Red Sox's home turned into a giant man-made 140-foot ski hill that had fans in awe both nights. The two-day event featured more than 75 of the world's most talented big air freeskiers and snowboarders, with competitors representing 19 countries.

First night at Fenway Big Air

"This is an amazing place to have a snowboarding contest. It's definitely the coolest, most creative place to have a contest because it's so unique," said American Julia Marino, who won the women's snowboard competition Thursday. "There's never been anything like this. It's just a big jump in the middle of a baseball stadium, and that's pretty cool to say."

"It was a long way up the stairs, so we were able to get a great view of the city," said Swedish freestyle skier Emma Dahlstrom. "With the crowd and the surrounding skyscrapers, it was an amazing feeling. It really gave you goose bumps."

Dahlstrom came in a close second (173.00) on Friday, losing by just two-tenths of a point to German Lisa Zimmermann (173.20).

Preparation for the event began almost a month ago when the first pieces of scaffolding were assembled. Snow was then brought in and leveled at the beginning of February.

While Fenway looked nothing like a baseball field on the inside, the event still managed to add subtle touches of the game. Ceremonial first pitches were thrown out each night, and "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" and "Sweet Caroline" echoed throughout the park both nights.

On the men's side for Thursday's snowboarding competition, New Hampshire native Chas Guldemond finished in third place behind Canadians Michael Ciccarelli and winner Max Parrot.

Guldemond played to the crowd the entire night, at one point pretending to hit a home run before dropping in.

"I was soaking in the experience," Guldemond said. "It's not going to last forever. I am 28 years old and I am trying to give back to the sport. I was thinking, 'How can I get the crowd riled up?' So I called my shot, kind of like Babe Ruth. It was a sick experience."

Swiss freestyle skier Jonas Hunziker, who finished third on Friday, got a huge cheer from the crowd when he surprised fans by sporting a Boston Bruins jersey during each of his runs. He was joined on the podium by second-place finisher Andri Ragettli of Switzerland and winner Vincent Gagnier of Canada.

"I'm really into ice hockey. My coach bought it for me. I like the Bruins. I thought it would be a good idea to get the home crowd on my side," Hunziker said. "I'm definitely going to keep the jersey now."

Plenty of hype surrounded the event over the past few weeks as residents in and around Boston saw the structure being built and peeking out of Fenway Park.

"We all said we could never [ride] it," laughed Jennifer Abbott, who came with her husband and two kids from South Boston. "I just kept hearing about how high it was. That's what we all wanted to see. I didn't think it would be this big. I had a hard time believing how it would fit in at Fenway Park."

Competitors were excited to bring each sport to a new audience and allow them to get a better understanding of action sports, especially with men's and women's big air snowboarding debuting at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Combined attendance for both nights totaled 27,228.

"We had some really lofty goals, and as I looked at the crowd and the energy tonight, it was humbling. To be able to showcase a new Olympic sport and what the skiers can do, it was an important opportunity to showcase to a broader world," said Calum Clark, vice president of events for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

"The visuals that came out of this venue were stunning. Then to throw skiers and snowboards in front of the John Hancock Tower, it defied reality. The images will last in our sport for a while."

Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.