This is typically the coldest week of the year, but the recent run of 40-degree temperatures is giving Minnesotans the chance to both hoist their golf bags and lace up their hockey skates.
Springlike conditions prompted the Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids to open its driving range Thursday — the first January opening on record.
Meanwhile, organizers of the this weekend’s North America Pond Hockey Championships were nervously watching but were optimistic that ice conditions would hold up so the 70 men’s and women’s teams could play as scheduled on Lake Minnetonka.
Only in Minnesota can a January warm spell turn the sports calendar topsy turvy
The unseasonable warmth — 20 degrees above average — might actually bode well for the pond hockey tournament, even if the 18 inches of ice turns a bit slushy, said spokesman J Lindsay.
“Pond hockey in the elements, that makes it Minnesota,” he said. “If we wanted perfect ice we would rent an arena. This might be a fantastic year. Ninety percent of the people are spectators. When it’s 10 below it’s tough to have lots of people.”
As of 9 a.m., nobody had shown up to Bunker Hills, but the main tee area was plowed off and ready. That doesn’t normally happen until February or March, said Tim Anderson, director of golf operations.
“We are selling hope that winter will come to an end,” he said.
For the foreseeable future, however, skaters will be on the sidelines in Minneapolis. The Park and Recreation Board has closed all outdoor skating rinks, but broomball rinks will remain open, as will the refrigerated Wells Fargo WinterSkate rink at Loring Park.
The middle week of January sees the lowest average temperatures of the year with highs of 23 degrees and lows around 7, said the National Weather Service’s Eric Ahasic. But temperatures have risen above 32 four days this week and the forecast calls for above freezing temperatures for the next eight to 10 days. While not a record for January — it happened for 18 consecutive days in 1944 — “this will be a good stretch,” Ahasic said.
High temperatures will be in the upper 30s and low 40s Thursday through Sunday, dropping to near freezing by the middle of next week. But the sunny conditions that reduced the snowpack to 2 inches at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport by Wednesday night won’t prevail. Clouds will take over and will bring a chance of light rain, snow, drizzle or a wintry mix Thursday night through Sunday.
For sun lovers, “this will be a rough week for that.”
But don’t get too used to it, Ahasic said. “Winter is not over. We will have more cold shots.”