A Skier’s View of the Mall of America

For someone in an outdoor mountain sport, I’ve had a surprising amount of ski-related encounters with the Mall of America. The first time I went, I was in the Twin Cities for Junior Nationals in 2011. The group of us, 12 or so 13-19 year olds from Idaho and Montana, took the train (also a big moment) from Minneapolis to Bloomington in explore one of the great wonders of America.

Once there, it took about two seconds to for me to realize I was in over my head. Two and a half hours of crowd pushing, ride riding and non-stop stimulus left 18-year-old Annie vowing never to return to the MOA (what the locals call it, which I’ve pretty much become in the last two weeks). It’s populous halls and unapologetic worship of consumerism were too much, I was glad to have seen it, but didn’t need to experience it again.

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Then I turned 19, and all bets were off. En route to a ski race in Montana, my college teammates, coach and I were stranded in Minneapolis for a night. As you may know, the creators of the MOA built it a convenient stone’s throw from the airport, so, naturally, we chose to stay at one of its neighboring hotels. The second time in, I knew what was up. I knew to expect more than shopping, I was ready for the museums, shows and theme parks. I maneuvered the crowds rather than running from them. I entered with a plan, to find a dance outfit, and didn’t let anything distract me from the goal (ok, I stopped at one kiosk, where I got my hair crimped for free). I left with my pride, and a snakeskin sequined biddy skirt, so I felt like a winner.

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I had conquered the beast, and thought I would never revisit it.

To that sentiment, I say: LOL.

After leaving the dark, destitute lands of the Bermuda Michigan Triangle last week, I was ready for all the civilization I could find. In the week at Nationals, I wore every single article of clothing I had packed (which, consequently, was every single article of clothing I own). And, most of the time, I was wearing all of those articles AT THE SAME TIME.

When my teammate suggested the single layers and indoor setting of the MOA, I was all “commerce, get at me!”

And the third time around really was the charm. I was neither shocked nor over focused. I sat back and let the MOA show me what it had to offer. I know, it’s tempting to frown upon the MOA and it’s overt appeal to convenience and the mass corporate commercialization of America and its minions. But, despite all that, I kind of liked it. Desperate for self acceptance, I spent much of my trip rationalizing why it was ok for me to like the mall.

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Here’s what I came up with:

1. There’s an LL Bean store there. Right at the front, as if to say “Don’t worry, Annie, athletic, outdoorsy people shop here, too.”

2. There are mile markers around each level of the mall. I may or may not have logged it.

3. They have tons of comfy places to sit. So, if you’re like me and live the interval lifestyle, you can really bring the intensity in stores knowing that you’ll have a spot to recover after.

4. Along those same lines, two words: Recovery Food. And it’s EVERYWHERE.

5. You don’t have to feel totally awful about not supporting small businesses, because many independently owned shops have their home in the MOA. Examples include, but are not limited to: The Alpaca Connection, Almost Famous Body Piercings and I Heart Minnesota.

6. You also just might find love. According to my sources, the MOA is a common place for first dates. If things go poorly, it’s easy to run away and hide amongst the Lego sculptures. If it goes well, there’s a wedding Chapel on the first floor, right next to the bridal shops. I’m all about efficiency.

7. There’s a brain store, for those of us looking to sharpen our race mentality.

8. As mentioned in #3, you can track your training in the mall. There’s also a team you can join for your walking workouts. A team that offers prizes, free food and MOA discounts. Suddenly, walking club is looking a lot more lucrative than Nordic skiing.

9. More proof that sporty people love the MOA: it’s the host of the 2015 Midwest Cheerleading Championships this week. I said burr, it’s cold in here.

10. Like reality television, the MOA also has the virtue of letting you see how other people in the world live, a sight that reminds you that you really like your life and your friends and your activities.

Now that I’ve been three times, I can legitimately say that I probably don’t need to go back again. Until next year, at least.

I missed the Star Trek exhibit. I have to go back.
I missed the Star Trek exhibit. I have to go back.

AP

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