The Runner Sports

Fenway Big Air: Freestyle Ski Finals

It wasn’t the John Hancock tower, it wasn’t a plane, nor was it a bird; that glisten in the Boston skyline might just have been skiers taking flight under the big lights at Fenway Park.

For day two of the Polartec Fenway Big Air, the athletes of the FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup took the stage to prove humans can indeed soar. Launching themselves off a 140-foot man-made scaffold built right in center field of the Cathedral of Boston, this unique event sets the skyline of Boston as their backdrop, as they wowed an excited but frigid crowd.

With much less wind on tap (something the boarders on Thursday likely wished for) but still nearly as cold, the highly talented skiers took their show to the city; where outside of a mean nor’easter, and some skiing in Beacon Hill, you’re a generous hour away from even the least daunting of bunny hills.

Another big name who was set to highlight the competitor list wouldn’t grace us in the finals, as inaugural Olympic slopestyle gold medalist Joss Christensen, nursing a sore knee, did not ski today. Christensen, sat out after seeing how icy the jump was, and was slated to leave in the morning for South Korea for 2018 Olympic testing. Again, the show would go on.

Lisa Zimmerman, the 2015 FIS Freestyle Slopestyle Champion, was the sole female to drop switch on the daunting ramp, and her 720 ensured she landed switch as well, which means it was a blind landing. It played a big part in her shooting up into first in the final round. Emma Dahlstrom placed in second, despite cleaning up here initial 540 in her final run, it was not enough to overcome the microscopic .20 pts that separated the top two spots. Tiril Sjaastad-Christensen rounded out the podium.

It was a disappointing evening for USA’s Sochi slopestyle silver medalist, Devin Logan, who came into the contest with high aspirations but failed to podium after two wipeouts following a stellar first jump.

The mens’ finals, just as the ladies’, came down to narrow margin differences. The slightest differences in height, grab time, tweaking, and clean landing playing the marginal difference between the podium, and coming just short.

Rocking a classic Bruins jersey, Jonas Hunziker won over the crowd, and did just enough to stave off a mad rush for the final podium spot. It was the two-time X-Games Big Air medalist Vincent Garnier who took the competition in style, however. His two top runs coming off a unique body contorting underflip 360, and a double cork 1260. Andri Regattli, whose highlight switch misty double 1260 made the last runs of the day quite tense, came just short of catching Vinny.

X-Games 2016 slopestyle silver medalist, Tiril Sjasstad-Chrstensen, got the day started with a big clean 900, which netted her a 89.00. Not being gun-shy to start the day either, Lisa Zimmerman threw a clean cork 720, which snuck her into second. Devin Logan started her night out with a deep 720 with a tail grab, but was bumped by top qualifier Emma Dahlstrom on her clean 540.

To open for the men, Kiwi Jossi Wells launched a big-time switch 1080, but after crashing on his second run, was unable to make a run for the podium with his flatspin 900 in his final run. Oscar Wester threw a clean double grab 1260 but it was the guy rocking the home town colors, Jonas Hunziker, who one-upped with a monstrous switch 1260 double grab.  Andri Ragettli ultimately took the first round with a dizzying combo on his 1080 grab, narrowly escaping Fabian Boesch’s double cork 1440.

It might have not won him the event, but the highlight, at least from the sounds of the crowd, came via Oscar Wester’s beautiful switch double backflip. No podium, but he can take solace in the crowd’s trick of the night.

The competition was narrow all throughout, and with high scores outta the first round, the pressure was on. This sport, and more specifically this event of Big Air, comes with plenty of strategy. Since you need to combine two runs to take the victory, you have to find a balance of going big, and taking the safe route when you need some points. That tactical battle was on great display for fans today, and should really establish a new depth to the sport.

There was a handful of crashes (as there usually are) but none that had the crowd silent more than Jossi Well’s second attempt when he under-rotated.  He was quick to get up and garner an ovation from the crowd. Outside of that the day was without any serious injuries.

Following her win, Lisa Zimmerman had only this to say:

“I can’t wait to go out and party.”

We can’t blame her.

Overall the event marks a big win for the Fenway Sports Management, as they continue to diversify their portfolio of non-baseball events held at the park. They needed that in a week where Liverpool supporters gave FSG a mean black eye.

The event also plays as a big win for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), who got the opportunity to showcase the sport in front of a crowd who might not always have the opportunity to see it live.

“We had some really lofty goals,” said USSA’s Vice President of Events, Calum Clark. “To be able to put this sport, in this environment, live on TV was really a great success.”

The event had a two-day combined attendance of 27,228, with Friday’s ski event eclipsing Thursday’s with 15,442.

Tyler Arnold

Tyler Arnold

I am the founder and editor-in-chief of The Runner Sports. I've been an avid sports fan since I was a child and have turned that love into a profession. I will watch, comment, and break down anything I can get my hands on, from football to white water rafting in the Olympics. Your visit means a lot to me, so thank you for your readership.
Tyler Arnold