If the Vikings can get a new stadium, can I get a new mountain for Lindsey Vonn?

Strip away the argument that the Vikings are a cultural asset or that a new stadium would employ X number of people and you get this simple rationale: “I like watching the Vikings, and I’m happy to make other people pay so that I can do that. And lots of my friends think the same way, so it must be OK.”

Since we’re spending tax money to supply our likes, may I propose another project? Let’s dream big. That is, let’s build a big mountain.

Skiing is popular here, but it could be much more with some better facilities. Each winter, Minnesota’s downhill ski areas receive over 1 million “skier visits.” This is despite the fact that our “mountains” can’t even be described as “hills” in Colorado, Montana, or Utah. They’re far too short.

I say it’s time to change that. For the sake of Minnesota skiers, Lindsey Vonn, and indeed, the state’s identity.

Lindsey Vonn

(Creative commons photo)

Vonn, in case you don’t know, is the top-rated ski racer on the World Cup circuit. She’s also a Minnesota resident. Strike that. She was a Minnesota resident until she outgrew tiny Buck Hill and moved to Vail, all for the lack of a suitable place to hone her craft. Since moving away, she has climbed the ranks from top amateur racer to top professional racer. Think of the media exposure the state would get were Vonn–the latest in a long line of world-class, Minnesota-born skiers who had to leave the state for better facilities–actually able to live and train here!

So let’s employ a few thousand people in earth-moving operations to make sure the next Lindsey Vonn doesn’t have to leave. The maximum vertical drop (top-to-bottom skiing distance) in the Twin Cities is about 350 feet, which is clearly not enough. A downhill course on the World Cup must have a vertical drop of at least 750 meters (2,500 feet), so let’s shoot for that. Maybe 3,000 feet if the spring revenue forecast comes in good. We’ll need a large plot of land to make a drop of this distance skiiable, and not merely a sheer cliff. How about, say, the former munitions plant in Arden Hills? That’s not being used for anything, is it?

But wait! There’s more! There are cultural benefits, too. Skiing has a longer heritage in Minnesota than any professional sports team. Lindsey Vonn deserves some world-class terrain. While the Vikings have yet to win a Super Bowl in their 50 years of existence, ¬†Vonn has been winning World Cup events since 2005, and has been the World Cup champion for four consecutive seasons. And while the Vikings receivers may be fast, they can’t match Vonn. I don’t know her top speed, but ski racers can easily reach 80 mph, or more. If you think a football player is tough, consider that Vonn has in her career competed just days after major crashes. Since Minnesotans are already paying taxes, why not support such a gifted and dedicated athlete who, as far as I know, has not been caught running down police officers with an automobile or engaging in crude and harassing behavior?

We’re also concerned about the state treasury and the state’s economy these days, and I’m happy to predict that both would benefit a lot from my “let’s build a mountain for Vonn and for skiers” proposal. Vonn is, I’m guessing, among the fortunate 1 percent, so we could occupy her income through the income tax. I’m sure she’d be happy to pay more were she still able to live here.¬†With a respectable mountain at home, meanwhile, recreational skiers and snowboarders wouldn’t have to make trips out west to satisfy their desire for long descents. They would keep their money here. Plus, we’d get a lot more visitors from Iowa. Economic development, anyone?

Think about this: We could actually save money, too. Downhill skiing (to say nothing of cross-country skiing) is a healthier activity than sitting on the couch eating nachos and drinking beer while watching football. (Remember the joke about football: 60,000 people who desperately need exercise watching 22 men who need rest?) Since government pays for so much of our health care spending, shouldn’t it also shape our lives so as to minimize health care expenditures? Now, I don’t propose a “you must ski” mandate; I prefer a carrot to a stick. Skiing has many physical benefits. Let’s build a new mountain for skiers and snowboarders and they will come.

That would work for me.

One question: Can we use the legacy money for this?