Linking Turns: Funding Spirit Mountain, NYT on Travis Rice event and MSJ’s true identity

Midwest Ski Journal likes to highlight a few pieces of skiing internet worth your time in Linking Turns. Find the best, most important, least important and otherwise links here each week.

This week we look into a report that recommends Duluth re-invest millions into Spirit Mountain. Then, we see the New York Times dive into Natural Selection. Finally: Did Buck Hill blow up Midwest Ski Journal’s true identity?

Three anonymous shredders take some sunny lunch laps at Buck Hill in Burnsville, Minnesota. (Buck Hill)

TURN 1: Report says Duluth’s Spirit Mountain is a major economic driver; will more public funding follow? (Brooks Johnson/Star Tribune)

The saga of Spirit Mountain’s finances has made headlines for a few seasons now and a new story from the Star Tribune looks into what it would take to keep the ski area afloat.

The number: $23 million to update and upgrade the area’s facilities, but the report did not designate a specific dollar amount the city should invest. The article quotes Duluth Mayor Emily Larson as saying she supports investing in the hill. (Spirit is owned by the city of Duluth, thus pushing its finances into the public eye.)

According to the report presented to the Duluth City Council this week, Spirit Mountain generates $18.72 in economic impact for every dollar of tourism tax given to it.

The proposed upgrades would see Spirit “achieving healthy operating margins that would allow it to weather weaker seasons, reinvest in maintenance and service its debt toward being a self-sustaining operation,” ski industry consultants SE Group found in a study of the mountain. “The recommended investments include a new lift, upgrades to the beginner terrain and lighting, improvements to summer offerings and significant investment [in] the Skyline Chalet and other aging infrastructure.”

Brooks Johnson/Star Tribune

TURN 2: Top Snowboarders Face a New Challenge: Freestyle in the Backcountry (Adam Skolnick/New York Times)

If you’ve read Linking Turns before, you know that stories about skiing and riding breaking into legacy news publications gets me going. So, I was delighted to see the paper of record put together a story on the Natural Selection Tour competition at Jackson Hole from earlier this month.

This competition, if you are unfamiliar with it, is something to behold. Set at Jackson Holde, the terrain is sublime and they closed off a DEEP section of the mountain for the competition which was expertly shot and produced.

The New York Times grabbed onto the fact that many of the participants in the event were former Olympians or X-Games medalists who ditched the bright lights for the backcountry comp.

The snowboarders largely made their names on man-made slopestyle courses, in the halfpipe and Big Air. That type of riding is known as freestyle, where riders pull off jaw-dropping aerials in a groomed, so-called park, setting.

But there were also free riders in the draw better known for shredding steep slopes beyond the boundaries of groomed runs. They slalom trees; launch off cliffs; build jumps from downed trees, boulders and snow; and ride spines so steep and cinematic that they boggle the mind.

In both settings, the degree of difficulty and athleticism is high, and the risks perilous, but these days halfpipes are disappearing from the big resorts, and young riders are increasingly drawn to the authentic experience of riding free on natural terrain. It’s a trend that can be traced to the influence of Rice.

(Adam Skolnick/New York Times)

TURN 3: Did Buck Hill expose Midwest Ski Journal’s true identity? (Buck Hill/Facebook)

We cannot confirm or deny that the founder of Midwest Ski Journal was captured on camera by Buck Hill staff during a sunny, slushy nooner this week.

Here is the evidence:

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