A group of high school ski coaches wants equal access to lanes at the Hyland Hills Ski Area that they say Hyland and the Three Rivers Park District have restricted for years.
The group, dubbed Citizens 4 Hyland, has collected about 530 signatures demanding that the district change scheduling to allow high school skiers access to all of the Bloomington public ski park’s lanes. It says that Hyland’s best lanes are unfairly reserved for the Team Gilboa Alpine Ski Team, a private organization.
District officials disagree.
“Everybody has use of all the lanes. It is not exclusive to Gilboa,” said Boe Carlson, Three Rivers’ superintendent. “We try to get everybody an opportunity to race on all the lanes.”
Team Gilboa members contend they have rights to the lanes because they are training a United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) team.
But while high school teams may use Gilboa’s designated lanes on weekends, coaches prefer to practice during the week. And Gilboa monopolizes three lanes Monday through Thursday.
“Gilboa would be happy to work with all the race teams out there to improve the whole space,” said Bill Guidera, Team Gilboa’s president.
About 22 teams use 11 lanes at Hyland, located on public land and operated as an enterprise similar to a golf course.
Team Gilboa has had a relationship with the ski park since 1978. When it was first formed, the team was owned by Hyland and the Hennepin County Park District. It eventually became private and independent.
Team Gilboa and the park district agreed on a land lease in the 1990s that allowed the team to use Hyland’s competition center as its hub. It also has an operating agreement with the district that provides space, training and coaching at a professional level, Three Rivers spokesman Tom Knisely said.
Cindy McDonnell, a team supervisor at Hyland, formed Citizens 4 Hyland in 2013. She said she hoped Hyland this year will offer times for high school ski teams to improve their techniques on the alpine lanes.
“They have the ability to make a change,” she said. “They are choosing not to. They are going to let this inequity continue and the safety problems that accompany it.”
Mark Conway, head coach of the Minneapolis Alpine Ski Team (a cooperative of all the city’s schools) and a Gilboa board member, said the team has sacrificed enough after reducing its use of the lanes from seven days a week to four.
But Steve Lindemer, Minnetonka High School Alpine ski coach, said time slots should be rotated between all the lanes. A and B lanes, he said, “are the best apples on the tree. Everyone should get a bite of that apple.”
Citizens 4 Hyland presented its argument at a Three Rivers commission meeting Thursday. Bill Marceau, director and head coach of the Three Rivers Ski Racing team and a USSA technical delegate, said that opening up all the lanes would alleviate congestion and prevent accidents. “It’s an extremely unsafe situation,” he said.
The park commission suggested looking into long-term plans to improve capacity at the park. Carlson said the solution was not as simple as fixing the schedule.
“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “And we try to do the best we can.”