Year ‘Round Skiing?
By GREG FANGEL
Do you dream of kicking and gliding
down those perfect tracks and of skating and floating
up that hill this coming winter? Would you like to see
cooler temperatures during the summer?
Three Minnesota men have a vision that could
make cross-country skiing a year 'round activity in
the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Ahvo Taipale, Jerry
Slater and Greg Fangel pooled their ideas and
resources to form Minnesota Metro Ski Tunnel, Inc.
(MMST) in April of 2000. Their dream is to build
North America's first
indoor cross country
ski facility that will
allow cross country
skiing, on snow all
In April of 2000,
they traveled to
Vuokatti, Finland to
gather information on
the only other indoor
XC ski facility in the
world. The Vuokatti
facility is made of
poured concrete, tun-nel
ground, refrigerated to 10-25 degrees F and is 1.2KM long with
two sets of classical tracks and a skating lane in the
middle. Skiers from all over Europe travel to
Vuokatti, which is 350 miles north of Helsinki, to ski
in the tunnel.
After the meager snow winter of 2000, Fangel
approached Taipale, who had already been talking to
Slater about the possibility of building such a facility
in Minnesota. Before long, a corporation was formed
and research was started on the feasibility of building
a ski tunnel in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area.
Fangel's background is in construction, so his
contacts were valuable in the preliminary design and
budgeting stage. Fangel is also president of the
North Star Ski Touring Club, the largest ski club in
North America. Taipale owns Finn Sisu Ski shop in St.
Paul and he runs a large cross-country ski training
program for local skiers. His contacts in Finland
helped the trio to gather information on the construction
of the tunnel in Finland. Slater is a CPA,
entrepreneur and an attorney, and brings his busi-ness
expertise to the table. During the summer of
2000, MMST, Inc hired Vesa-Pekka Sarparanta,
the Director of the Training Center (Ski Tunnel) in
Vuokatti, Finland to be a consultant on their project.
Vesa was the man that took 6 years to convince the
local community in Finland that he wasn't crazy and
that they needed a ski tunnel. The tunnel in Finland
was completed in 1998 and has over 15,000 visitors a
To date, MMST, Inc. has done much research on
the proposed facility in the Twin Cities, including
enlisting the services of an architect, engineers and
contractors to provide preliminary construction costs. The project is estimated
to cost between $10 and $15 million dollars, without the land for
the 1.5KM tunnel. Over the past year, sites have
been explored in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and
some of the first and second tier suburbs of the
Twin Cities. " We would like to keep our proposed
ski tunnel within 30 minutes of the International
airport in Minneapolis," says Ahvo Taipale. "We will
be getting skiers from all over the world."
Ahvo, Greg and Jerry met with officials from
Ramsey County and the City of St. Paul this past
Spring. Representatives from both entities were
excited about the possibility of having the ski tunnel
in their communities. Research is continuing to nail
down a site, so that final construction costs can be
estimated. "Location, location, location is the key to
this facility," said Fangel. "In addition to the destination
type skiers, we expect to have a very healthy
day use crowd." Fees will most likely be modeled
after health clubs and hockey arenas, where yearly
memberships are sold, in addition to day use fees.
Time will be reserved for open use and team or
"It took six years to build the tunnel in Finland,"
says Taipale. "We're continuing to move forward to
reach our goal."
For more information, visit http://www.xcskitunnel.com