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Snow Angels grants could be at the starting gate

Members of the St. Paul Junior Ski Club sing a Norwegian ski song to the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee April 5. The club, as well as several Olympians and coaches, was there to support HF3757, a bill that would establish a so-called “Snow Angel Fund.” Photo by Andrew VonBank
Members of the St. Paul Junior Ski Club sing a Norwegian ski song to the House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee April 5. The club, as well as several Olympians and coaches, was there to support HF3757, a bill that would establish a so-called “Snow Angel Fund.” Photo by Andrew VonBank

Skiers and snowboarders in Minnesota may have a new reason to hate warm winters.

The House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee approved a bill Tuesday that would appropriate $6 million from the General Fund during Fiscal Year 2017 for grants to build new ski facilities and improve existing locations.

Sponsored by Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska), HF3757 would direct the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission to establish a “Snow Angel” grant program to promote and further develop skiing in Minnesota. It would direct the commission to invite proposals for several ski facility projects, including:

  • construction of two or more ski jumps in a single location that meet standards for Olympic training and qualifying;
  • new jumps at existing facilities;
  • construction of year-round skiing, boarding and jumping facilities; and
  • cross-country ski facility construction that helps promote the sport in high schools.

The bill was referred to the House State Government Finance Committee. The companion, SF2723, is sponsored by Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL-Red Wing) and awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

Economic impact

A number of former Olympians and current U.S. Ski Team members from Minnesota were on hand to lend their support.

Former Red Wing Mayor Dennis Egan told the committee 19 alpine (downhill) ski facilities around the state would be able to tap into the funds and that the bill was also meant to help develop Nordic (cross country) skiing and ski jumping.

Egan said the $6 million in grants would drive more visitors to the facilities and generate an estimated $27 million annually.

He also cited an economic impact study of alpine skiing and snowboarding commissioned by the Minnesota Ski Area Association in 2013. It found that 6 percent of the state’s population downhill ski or snowboard, and that there was a total economic impact of more than $400 million from the alpine skiing resort industry in Minnesota during the 2012-13 study frame. But the study also revealed that one-third of the Minnesotans who downhill ski or snowboard do so outside the state.

“The further we can develop our infrastructure and industry in Minnesota can help recapture those individuals,” Egan said.


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