To bring a mountain to city, New England’s experts pitched in
The organizers of Big Air at Fenway wanted to bring the mountains to the city.
To make it happen, they enlisted the local experts who know the mountains best.
“It’s our first time working with the winter sports industry at this level, and the regional support has been tremendous,” said Fred Olson, Red Sox senior director of special events. “Ever since we announced the event, companies from the area have stepped forward.”
That meant using an ice supplier from New Bedford, snowmakers and terrain park staff from Killington, a snowmaking company from Natick, and grooming machines from Quebec-based Prinoth.
“Our suppliers here in the East made all of this happen, from the snowmaking equipment to the grooming and the institutional knowledge to pull this off,” said Eric Webster, senior vice president of special events for the US Ski and Snowboard Association.
The recent activity in Fenway Park resembled the predawn hours of a New England ski resort, with a snow-grooming machine moving massive piles of snow, skiers stomping about in the outfield, and concessions being converted to mini-ski shops.
“When my boss told me we were going to make snow in Fenway Park, I jumped at the chance,” said Killington snowmaker Will Conroy. “It is surreal to be standing here, in this stadium, making snow.”
But warm winter temperatures put local expertise to the test.
“Initially, a few weeks ago, Fenway ordered 800 tons of ice,” said Joe Swift of Crystal Ice in New Bedford, “but as the event got closer and Mother Nature started to cooperate, the order dropped to 600 and eventually we ended up with 400 tons of ice as the base of the jump and landing area.”
In the last week, temperatures finally dipped.
“Making snow in marginal temperatures is what the ski industry relies on,” said Killington’s Rob Megnin. “So being involved with making snow near the coast in a location like Fenway Park was something our snowmakers have been trained to do.”
Making snow on the massive structure was similar to the challenges of New England ski resort terrain, which is a combination of narrow trails and wide-open spaces.
“Watching the snowmakers rappel down the steep, narrow ramp at night to set snow guns in place was as exciting to me as what the skiers and riders are about to do off the jump,” said Charles Santry, who is co-owner of HKD Snowmakers of Natick, which provided the snow guns.
Once enough snow was made, there was the matter of moving it in the tight confines of Fenway Park.
“For the landing, there is a large amount of snow in a very small area from home plate to the backstop,” said Jim Coughlin of Gilford, N.H., a regional sales manager at Prinoth who coordinated the snow-grooming effort. “Our new small snowcat had the power and the mobility to move around and push all the snow they made in the last week.”
However, the in-run and landing slope were built on scaffolding and could not support the weight of a grooming machine, so they had to be packed down the old-fashioned way — using a small army of local skiers who have been stomping and packing the snow with their skis.
Eric Scharmer, a former professional mogul skier who is now a professional sports cameraman, was one of those helping craft the ramp.
“For me, it’s a clash — contrasting worlds of my past and present,” he said. “I’ve shot so many games in this park; to be here with skis on my feet packing out a landing hill completely blows my mind.”
Follow Dan Egan on Twitter at @skiclinics.