SPOT CHECK — Minnesota

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SPOT CHECK — Minnesota

WORDS — Tom Wallisch

Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. The birthplace of Honeycrisp apples. The official unofficial nucleus of ice hockey in America. But, for skiers… it beckons. Every winter, for nearly a decade, I’ve traveled to Minnesota to chase down handrails of all shapes and sizes. Guaranteed snow, cold temps and seemingly unlimited features makes Minnesota a must-hit location for any urban film crew, time and time-again. 

The Twin Cities—St. Paul and Minneapolis—cover a massive, sprawling area and newly built neighborhoods, schools and buildings consistently add to the opportunities for urban riding. It seems every season there is somewhere new to explore. Smaller towns like Mankato and St. Cloud are also a huge draw but the most popular city for street hits might be Duluth.

SKIER: Henrik Harlaut
PHOTO: Josh Bishop

In the northern end of the Gopher State, situated on the banks of Lake Superior, this small, undulating town has been a target of skiers and snowboarders for decades. Cascade Park, specifically, seems to be the epicenter for progression, with a few legendary rails, ledges and other features providing a landscape for ski innovation; it’s accessible, snow-covered for months at a time and the local authorities tend to look the other way when people ski in the park. But you didn’t hear that from me.

Back in the state’s capital, Harding High School in St. Paul is a location that’s also meant a lot to me over the years. Every year, when returning to Minnesota to film with Level 1 or 4bi9, we always came back to Harding High School to warm up or to try something bigger and better than the year before. There are a slew of near-perfect double kinks at the school that have seen progressive tricks throughout the decades and, to this day, it’s one of my favorite spots to session.

SKIER: Sean Jordan
PHOTO: Erik Seo

But beyond the cities, the local ski hills in Minnesota offer a bounty of rope tow rail parks. With these tiny, local hills providing an easy way for skiers to lap rail gardens, there’s a noticeable love and appreciation for rail skiing in the state, and likely one of the biggest reasons urban skiing developed in the region. The flow of pros and film crews that travel to the state every season has created a real local culture and love for urban skiing and filming.

While urban skiing isn’t allowed everywhere in Minnesota—as with anywhere—there’s something to the kindness and winter kinship of the community that makes it more welcoming than some other locales. People in the area seem to enjoy seeing someone else out there using the winter landscape to play in any way possible, marking the entire state of Minnesota a freestyle skier’s playground.

This story originally appeared in FREESKIER Volume 25, Issue 02.
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