Iowa's Landscape: Not so Flat After All

Sep 22, 2014

In our collective imagination, Iowa is often depicted as nothing but a flatland covered in corn. But is it really?

According to Tony LoBianco, lead ski instructor at Sundown Mountain in Dubuque, the definite answer to that question is “no.”

If you think Iowa is flat, explore the state on a bike. It's not flat. - Jane Milosch

“The plastic ski boot was invented in Iowa, and that revolutionized downhill skiing. We always like to tell people that,” he explains. Bob Lange, who lived in Dubuque, worked on the boot with Jean-Claude Killy, who was a triple Olympic champion in alpine events in the 1968 Winter Olympics.

During this hour on River to River, we hear about Iowa’s place in downhill ski history; then host Ben Kieffer talks with Anna Hajdik and Jane Milosch about Iowa’s landscape in popular culture. Hajdik says Iowa gets a bad rap because of movies like the “Field of Dreams,” but Milosch, who curated the first showing of Grant Wood’s work at the Smithsonian Art Museum, says artists have painted the state to its benefit. Greg Borzo, author the new book RAGBRAI: American’s Favorite Bicycle Ride, also joins the conversation. 

 Editor’s note: All this week, Sept. 22-27, on Iowa Public Radio’s talk shows River to River and Talk of Iowa, we’re exploring some unexpected things about the state as a part of Iowa Week, a series meant to highlight and uncover the things that make Iowa, well, Iowa. What do you think is unexpected? Tweet at the hashtag #IowaWeek or send your notes to our talk show team at