Bright Lights, Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN – There’s one thing any die-hard skier will notice as he or she
gazes out the porthole window of their plane on the final approach into the
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport: it’s damned flat out there.

My eyes scanned from one horizon to the other for any skiable
topographic features, and unfortunately I batted a big, fat zero. To top things
off, the ground was disappointingly bare. Minnesota skiing had just suffered
through the warmest November on record, and December was well on its way to
matching the let-down of the previous month. As a neophyte to skiing the Midwest,
I began to question my own sanity for embarking upon a weeklong night skiing
sojourn to an area better known as the home of Jesse Ventura, that-guy-formerly-known-as-Prince,
and the Replacements than of ski resorts. It was little consolation that my
mental wanderings had firmly planted an old gem from the Placemats in my mind,
humming that particular little ditty to myself as I stepped off the plane.
Maybe I could yet salvage this trip by turning it into a historical piece
on the 80’s Minneapolis music scene …

The appearance of my skis at the oversized baggage claim window
reminded me otherwise. I was here to ski, and come flat prairie or 40-degree
temperatures, ski I would.


Heading south on Route 52 from St. Paul, Minnesota, the suburban landscape
rapidly transforms itself into a mixture of farming and light industry,
until in the end agriculture wins the battle. Few trees interrupt the broad
expanses of grain and corn fields, and noticeably absent is any distinct
undulation in the terrain. I sped through tiny villages cleverly disguised
as intersections, many of them anchored by farm implement dealerships. As
I neared Welch, I noticed what appeared to be several sodium vapor lamps
a few miles to my south. Oddly, however, I only saw a few, and the ones
that I could see were at the same level as the road on which I was driving.
Concerned, I still did not spy anything that could be liberally interpreted
as a hill.