Big Air Fenway: One-On-One With Joss Christensen
With only a handful of days until pitchers and catchers report for the upcoming Major League Baseball season, everyone seems to have baseball on their mind in Boston. But at Fenway Park, home plate is buried under snow, along with 140 feet of scaffolding.
One of the sport’s most historic parks, Fenway has undergone a significant change this week as it prepares for Big Air Fenway, a two-day World Cup Tour event featuring a 14-story ramp – three times the size of Boston’s famous Green Monster.
Among the competitors is 24-year-old freeskier Joss Christensen.
Christensen became a household name in the ski community two years ago after taking the first-ever gold medal in slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Since then, the Utah native has battled a number of injuries but now’s back and ready to partake in the biggest New England ski event of 2016.
We recently caught up to Christensen to discuss the event, his recent injury and Trace, his new favorite tech gadget.
CraveOnline: Now, there’s a product you’ve been using a lot lately – can you talk a little about Trace?
Joss Christensen: The Trace device is pretty awesome. I use it when in intense situations and kind of just messing around at my local hill. It’s a fun thing and it’s just kind of cool to figure out all of the information about what you’re actually doing.
It allows for bigger jumps and doing bigger tricks. I mean, I’ve been injured a lot of times in my career so far – and a lot of people get hurt, especially with how quick our sport is progressing, it’s really easy to make a mistake – and the Trace device is pretty crucial in making sure we’re calculated. If we’re not, something bad could happen, like last week I broke my hand and had to have surgery on it just because I tried a trick too hard and didn’t put too much time into the premeditation of the trick.
We need a certain amount of time on a jump to do our bigger tricks, such as a triple flip, and getting things straight and knowing how much [air] time we have on a jump is crucial. I have a lot of fun with it – it’s a fun device but it’s also an important device.
You mentioned you broke your hand, did it manage to cause any setbacks?
It would, but luckily I had surgery and I have a titanium plate now. I’m feeling pretty good about it and not really thinking about it because it’s pretty strong. That’s a good relief for me. It’s something that only put me back for a week.
Is that something that affects how you ski – do you have to take it into consideration?
Definitely. For a few of my bigger tricks, I grab with this hand. I did the same injury last year but didn’t get surgery and it hurt a lot more. At this point, it feels pretty good and the doctors told me I can do anything that feels right. I’ve been kind of testing it out. Fortunate for me, I think it’s going to work out pretty well, especially when adrenaline is pumping – you don’t feel anything.
Going back to Trace. It syncs up to a GoPro, so does that help when you go to edit film?
Oh, totally – Trace has made it so easy. I play with GoPros and I know a lot about it but for the average skier and someone who knows how to use a GoPro, its super simple. You can almost leave you’re GoPro on all day as long as it’s connected to Trace and just sync the information when you’re done shredding. I go home, throw my memory card into the computer, open up the Trace app, put the footage in and within a matter of a couple minutes, I’ll have color corrected and edited video with all of my stats overlaid.
The coolest part I’ve found is the app can cut out footage of when you’re just standing around or waiting to drop and highlights your action – it weeds out the bologna.
Speaking of highlights, you got the Big Air Fenway coming up, are you in Boston now?
Yes, I got here Monday. I’m actually looking at the jump – the top of the ramp – right now from my hotel window, which is pretty cool.
Oh, so you’re over looking it right now?
Yea, I see the backside of the ramp – we’re just across the street.
I saw you tweeted a photo that you were checking out the venue the other day. What was it like when you were walking around the field and taking it all in?
So yesterday, lucky enough, I was able to kind of roam the whole stadium – we were filming a video and I was supposed to actually hit the jump and test it out. But with the warm weather they’ve had the past couple weeks, they weren’t able to make as much snow as planned. We’re ready for us to hit it but it was really cold to go to the top of the drop in and actually kind of check out the specs of the jump and kind of be up there alone and get a little more private time to really focus on what I want to do and how everything is going to work out.
We’ve done a few of these scaffolding structures before – it’s definitely a really tall one but the jump isn’t as big, which is a good thing especially since it’s a World Cup and there’s 47 nations here, so there’s a lot of people I think they’re attending to all different skill levels. It looks pretty safe. I think we’ll have a really good event.
Is this something that’s been done in a football or baseball stadium before?
For skiing, it’s a little new but there’s a competition called Air and Style that Shaun White puts on – and they’ve done that for 20 years now – but I don’t know if the jumps are this big. They do one at the Bird’s Nest (Beijing National Stadium) in China and I think this year they’re going to do one at the L.A. Olympic Stadium next week. But this is, for skiing at least, the first time we’ve done it in a ballpark or in a stadium.
Had you been to Fenway Park before or was yesterday your first time?
I came here in the fall for the press release of the event when they announced they’re going to do it. That was my first time in the ballpark. It was really cool getting to check it out and see everything.
Being from Utah, we don’t have too many team sports. It was cool to just kind of feel the atmosphere and I got to watch a baseball game that night. It was pretty mind-blowing and breathtaking to walk into the stadium yesterday and actually see this ramp. It towers over the whole stadium.
Fenway is really kind of like walking into a museum. It doesn’t usually get lost on anyone when you think about the great baseball players that have stepped on that field and played.
You know the green monster, I got to go inside and sign the wall which was pretty sweet. I know a lot of famous people have been in there and there’s a lot of history, so it is really awesome just to feel the energy that is constantly in that stadium, even when the seats are empty. The cool part about this event is that the upper deck is probably the prime viewing because you’re eye-level with the jump and for a lot of these events, you have to watch from the bottom of the landing and it’s hard to see what’s going on since you’re looking up at this massive structure.
Do the seats end around the foul poles, because obviously you cannot be in the outfield and be able to see what is going on?
I think they’re not going to put anyone past those poles, but you know what, directly from the side, I actually think it would look pretty good as well. You might not see the landing too well but – the view is almost great from every direction except for directly behind it.
Do you like that this event is sanctioned as part of the tour, or do you almost wish there wasn’t as much pressure and you could really just have fun with it?
Having it be an official event is really good for us. It’s a World Cup for snowboarding, since Big Air is in the Olympics for them and there is a lot of pressure but at the same time it is pretty fun and these World Cups and Grand Prixs have a lot more athletes, so it’s kind of a good social event. There’s a lot more work and a lot more qualifying runs here but I almost like that feeling – it brings me back to when I was younger, trying to work my way up in the contest scene.
Do you think it brings more attention to the sport? In a big city like Boston, there’s going to be media coverage, while people driving by wonder what the hell that big thing in Fenway Park is.
Yeah, it’s huge for our sport. This is one of the more important events to kind of promote what we do. A lot of people think we’re crazy and don’t know exactly what we’re doing. In the typical event, the venues are hard to access and I think it is super cool – I mean, there’s so many colleges and universities in the Boston area and I think we’re going to get a good young crowd. There’s just so many seats, I think this might be one of the biggest events, or biggest crowds, I’ll ski in front of. It’s cool to be in an urban environment, it kind of changes everything up for us.
Yea, it’s definitely a change of scenery from what you guys are used to.
Is there one thing in Boston that you want to see, or have to see, while you’re there?
I’m fortunate enough to have some family out here, so I spent quite a bit of time in the city growing up. We’re just going to go roam around, I’ve never been here in the winter when there’s snow on the ground, so we’re just kind of scope everything and just kind of walk around. I’m ready to go downtown and do some shopping. For the most part, with these events going on at night, you kind of just want to sit in your hotel room and rest up so you have energy for the evening.