With temperatures pushing toward 50 degrees, the wool and down layers will come off this weekend as Minnesotans flirt with spring.

But remember: It’s still March and it’s Minnesota. It’s a “wild-card” month when you can have spring one day and winter the next, said Eric Ahasic, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.

Snow or the dreaded snow-rain combination could fall next Tuesday — the first day of spring. So enjoy the weekend, Ahasic said.

The high temperature in the Twin Cities is expected to hit 47 degrees on Saturday and 46 on Sunday, he said. “It might not hit 50 on the thermometer, but with no wind and a bright sun, it’s going to feel like a very nice day for mid-March,” he said.

For the record, the mercury hit 47 degrees on Jan. 26 and Feb. 27. But that was merely a brief winter interlude. In February, Minnesota reported the lowest temperature in the nation seven times — the most of any state in the country — in what was 28th coolest February in 145 years of record-keeping, said climatologist and meteorologist Mark Seeley.

On average, the Twin Cities hits 50 degrees by March 3, Ahasic said. “So we’re a little behind schedule,” he said.

“If there was no snow on the ground, we probably would be hitting 50 [this weekend],” he added. “Once it’s totally gone, that will really warm things up.”

Mike Frattallone, part owner of 21 Ace Hardware stores in the Twin Cities, is looking ahead to spring, but knows that winter hasn’t completely lost its grip on Minnesota. This is the time of year when he moves lots of lawn mowers and grass seed onto the sales floor but keeps snowblowers, shovels and snowmelt products nearby.

“This is a huge snowmelt time for us,” he said. “It hits 40, snow melts into puddles on your back walkway and then it refreezes at night.”

But excitement for spring is rising, Frattallone said. Customers are looking for things to make their homes look better, such as paint and plants, he said. “We sell a ton of gas grills because people aspire to have a party on the patio.”

One last ski outing?

Others plan to enjoy the winter that’s left.

Alpine skiers are reveling in a bit of spring skiing. At Buck Hill in Burnsville, a 25-inch snow base is clinging to the ski runs. The ski hill had closed by this time the last two years, said Nick Dietrich, ticket office supervisor.

The ski runs can stay open provided night temperatures stay below freezing and next week’s precipitation is snow instead of rain, he said. If it rains and nighttime temperatures push above freezing, the snow will disappear in a matter of days, Dietrich said.

For cross-country skiers, this weekend is likely to be the last hurrah for many, said Brian McCollor, who fits skis and shoes at Gear West in Long Lake.

The time of year when winter and spring converge offers “the best of both worlds,” he said.

“It’s freezing overnight and 50 degrees during the day,” McCollor said. “It’s perfect. You can ski in the morning and bike in the afternoon. You can do it all.”

But even die-hard skiers are getting the itch for spring. “They’re ready to put their gear away,” he said. “A couple of 50-degree days and they’re on to the next adventure.”

 

Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report. marylynn.smith@startribune.com 612-673-4788