Skiers and boarders ready to have a ball at Fenway

Mount Kenmore, the ski and snowboard mecca that took more than a month to construct, finally comes alive Thursday night when more than 100 World Cup freeskiers and snowboarders take flight in the two-day Big Air Grand Prix inside Fenway Park.

Gus Kenworthy, a 2014 Olympic silver medalist in freestyle skiing, has made his share of runs down similar hills made of scaffolding and artificial snow, but he figures the Back Bay’s Big Air will be markedly different, both for competitors and fans.

“The thing that’s so cool about this one is that you’re literally going to be landing at home plate,’’ said Kenworthy, who grew up in Colorado and knew little of Fenway’s history until first stepping inside the ballpark Tuesday. “And there’s going to be people in all of the seats around the stadium. That’s something new to us.


“We’ve done it with a scaffolding jump like this, when everyone’s been standing at the bottom, but this is the first time it will be a true stadium feel. It’s really cool.’’

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The hill, engineered and constructed by Sutton-based ConsultantZee Inc., runs virtually the length of the ball field, center field to home plate. Spectators sitting behind the backstop, guaranteed Kenworthy, will be sprayed with snow as boarders and skiers finish their runs. Duly noted: No one will be called safe at home.

The FIS-sanctioned event, with competitors from 24 countries, begins Thursday with 62 boarders, including New England’s own Ty Walker (Stowe, Vt.), and wraps up with Friday’s skiers, 52 total, including such US stars as Kenworthy, Joss Christensen, Nicholas Goepper, and another New England standout, Devin Logan, who claimed an Olympic freestyle gold at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Logan, who grew up in Mount Snow, Vt., figures she’ll feel closely connected to her sister, Nicki Eastburne, who lives in Jamaica Plain, when she stands atop Mount Kenmore, more than 100 feet higher than Fenway’s iconic left-field wall.

“I’m told you can see 360 degrees around from up there,” mused Logan, who, despite her New England roots, never stepped foot in Fenway until this week. “I bet you can point out her home up there.’’


According to Fenway officials, seating capacity will be upward of 25,000 each night, with gates opening at 6 p.m. and competition starting two hours later. NBC Sports Network will carry the action live each night, beginning at 8:30 p.m., and NBC will air a highlight show on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Kenworthy, 24, became well-known at the 2014 Winter Games, not only for his world-class skiing, but also for his well-documented effort to bring home five stray dogs that he and his then-boyfriend adopted while in Sochi. Ultimately, three of the dogs survived the long flights to North America, and the mother, Mamuschka, lives today in Telluride, Colo., with Kenworthy’s mother. The two pups, Jake and Mishka, live with Kenworthy’s ex-boyfriend, Robin Macdonald, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Kenworth said the dogs turned into a “healthy distraction’’ for him at the Games and, in part, helped him realize his Olympic dream.

“I was there so long before my event,’’ recalled Kenworthy, who appeared on the “Today” show, alongside Macdonald, with the three dogs soon after the Games. “It was so much time to kind of sit and stew, to get nervous, and I didn’t want to sabotage my event by getting in my own head, as I’ve done so many times.

“So it was just nice to kind of just have something that was distracting me, and have these dogs, have Robin there and figure how we’d get them back.”


When his final competition day arrived, said Kenworthy, he felt his chance for a medal begin to fade away when his first time down the hill ended in a crash.

“It all came down to my second run,’’ he recalled. “I was really nervous, but I felt really good about my run and I had been doing it in practice. I felt like I knew it would do well — and I was able to [land it].

“We were lucky. Our course was perfect. We had great weather. There was a stadium full of people standing at the bottom, and everyone was chanting, ‘USA!’ We had flags everywhere. It was kind of like all the things came together. It was all the right energy.

“If you don’t land the second run, then you don’t get anything, and you’ve come all this way for nothing. So it puts more pressure on.

“And at the same point, you know you have to do it right then and there, and you aren’t going to rely on your first-run score — you don’t have a first-run score — so it’s like, ‘This is it, this is what you came here for, this is what you’re made of,’ and you have to get yourself pumped up.’

“And it worked out for me.’’

Far more recently, Kenworthy captured headlines when he came out as gay, a part of his life he guarded tightly for years. His decision to come out late last year, he said, has not had a “direct correlation’’ with his ability to perform on the hill, but it has made his feel “lighter and more focused’’ during competition.

“Honestly, I think it’s just allowed me to feel a lot more comfortable, level-headed, and clear-minded,’’ said Kenworthy, who noted at the time he came out that he had battled depression and suicidal thoughts.

“It was something I was super stressed about for the longest time, because I didn’t know how I would be received after that, and I didn’t know if it was something I would ever do during my professional career.

“It was just nice to be able to do that and feel authentic and feel genuine. It’s not really changed anything . . . but I think having one less thing to worry about has given me more time and energy to put into an event when I am actually at an event.

“Before, it was always on my mind. I was nervous about it. I didn’t want to be found out. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I didn’t want to outwardly display any public shows of affection.

“Then this year, going into Dew Tour, and Grand Prix and X Games, not really caring at all, I feel I’ve been able to focus just on my skiing. So when I am in the moment of competition, I am truly in the moment. It’s been good.’’

A bruised heel, said Kenworthy, should not keep him off Mount Kenmore come Friday. Anxiety gone, focus sharper, he’ll be ready.

He spent some time Tuesday brushing up on Red Sox history (including, he said, the Curse of the Bambino), and when asked to name a Sox player, he quickly offered up, “Big Papi, No. 34, David Ortiz.’’

Asked to name the year the park opened, he whittled his way down to 1913, but never quite nailed 1912. A local then informed him that the Titanic sank and Fenway opened within days of each other that year.

“Ah, interesting,’’ he said. “With death there is rebirth.’’

Fenway, about to turn 104 years old, stands ready now to give birth to its new sport.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.