Golfing, skateboarding and pickleball in January? Minnesotans embrace record warm weather

Published 5:40 am Thursday, February 1, 2024

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In late January, Minnesotans are used to hunkering down and doing what it takes to get where they need to be in spite of subzero temps. That’s what we did during the polar vortex of 2019 when temps around the state dipped to the negative 50s. But Wednesday was a completely different story.

Instead of bundling up and bracing for bitter winds, it felt more like spring outside. Folks were closing out this record warm January doing all kinds of decidedly un-wintry activities.

Maple syrup is usually tapped in early spring, or when daytime temperatures rise above freezing. Temperatures are certainly above freezing, but Jim Morrison, the owner of Sapsucker Farms in Mora, said it’s not yet time.

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“There are a number of factors that one needs to consider as to when the flow is beginning, and temperature is but one of them,” he said. “The cycling of the temperature, frost in the ground, incidentally I went out and tried to drive a stake in the ground, a metal rod, and there’s still a lot of frost in the ground.”

He said the perfect time for maple syrup in Minnesota is usually around mid-March.

Other Minnesotans are changing their outdoor sports routines to better align with the weather.

Oak Marsh Golf Course east of St. Paul opened its season yesterday, and players were teeing off today.

Tony Scheuerman, who lives in Woodbury and coaches golf at St. Paul’s Johnson High, is all for it. “That’s just a great way to start off the year. I mean, who can say that you played in January in Minnesota in golf?”

Emerald Greens in Hastings was open today, too, and Joel Holden was there achieving a goal he didn’t really think was possible.

“I needed January and February to golf every month in Minnesota. And I’ll be golfing tomorrow,” he said. “I grew up in International Falls — so way up north by Canada – so I’m used to the cold weather, but I hate it.”

There’s another thing he hates. “Climate change is awful and, and everything heating up is awful. But if I can golf year-round in Minnesota, I’ll stay. I’ll never have to move south.”

Marco Torres was just doing his job — installing fiber optic cable for Comcast in downtown St. Paul.

“The recent incline in temperatures has been perfect. It melted most of the ground, easy to dig,” he said. “It’s a lot more productive right now than it was last year,” Torres said.

Torres said he’s been busier lately. Next week, that seems likely to continue. Forecasts show the first week of February running 20 degrees warmer than average.

Why is it so warm?

“It’s really kind of a meteorological triple-whammy,” said MPR Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner. “First of all we’ve got this mild Pacific air that we’ve had most of the winter. Today we’ve got the bright sun. And bare ground – that’s the third thing.”