How the endless winter is affecting Minnesota

Golf balls aren’t flying; ice cream isn’t selling; and farmers aren’t planting.

After enduring the Winter That Won’t End, we checked how daily life was being affected in the land of 10,000 ice-filled lakes. Some snapshots from the cold front:


Resort owners wonder if northern lakes will be free of ice for the walleye fishing openers.

The Wisconsin opener is May 4, with official festivities planned for the Cable area. The Minnesota opener is May 11, when Gov. Mark Dayton and others will descend on Park Rapids — where more than 2 feet of ice remained this week.


In a typical baseball season, “we’d probably be about six games in,” said Chad Sexauer, activities director for the South St. Paul schools.

This spring, he said, “we’ve not played a baseball game, we’ve not had a track meet, we have not had anyone on the golf courses.”

When play finally starts, the remaining schedule will be squished together. Teams will play on Saturdays, play shortened games and squeeze in a game or a match wherever they can.


Some good news: Trollhaugen ski resort in Dresser, Wis., is experiencing its longest season ever, its marketing director, David Sutton, said.

Skiers and snowboarders showed up by the hundreds when the resort reopened last weekend. It was scheduled to be open again Saturday, April 20 — as the ski season nears the six-month mark.

“This is basically one for the history books,” Sutton said. “At this point, my personal mantra is ‘Go for May.’ ”


When springtime doesn’t arrive, neither do chimney sweeps.

Lingering snow “basically puts your business at a standstill,” said Joe Spoden, owner and operations manager of Jack Pixley Sweeps of Andover. “It really hurts businesses like ours.”

After winter nights by a roaring fire, homeowners often get their chimneys swept in the spring because creosote residue create an unpleasant smell on warm, humid days.


Last year at this time, Bayport Marina had moved one-third of its boats into the St. Croix River from winter storage.

This year? None.

That’s because there is still 17 inches of ice in the marina’s bay, marina manager Cliff Lewis said.

“It hurts a little bit because boaters can’t spend any money until they get into the water,” Lewis said.


Target Corp. had high hopes going into this spring. But selling summery clothes and patio gear turned out to be tough sledding as the Midwest faced weeks of snow and cold.

This week, Target finally conceded that sales were slumping in “seasonal and weather-sensitive categories” and that first-quarter profits wouldn’t

Fresh snow blankets stacks of deck chairs outside of an Ace Hardware store on Nicollet Avenue in South Minneapolis on Friday, April 19, 2013. (Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin)

be as sunny as hoped.


At the Eagle Valley Golf Course in Woodbury, operations supervisor Dan Moris called this spring “Mother Nature’s cruel joke.”

The back-and-forth weather forecasts have been especially annoying.

“It looked like the weather would change, then — oops! — another snowstorm,” Moris said. “Then it would look promising. Then another snowstorm.”

He’s hoping the course opens April 24. That’s six weeks later than last year, and would be the latest opening in its 15-year history.


You’ve probably heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a common wintertime depression. This year’s extended winter seems to be making many folks glum or grouchy.

Nice Ride bikes at a rack near Shepard Road in St. Paul did not get much use as snow and sleet hit the Twin Cities on April 18, 2013. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Are we all suffering from SAD?

Dr. Alan Steed, a clinical psychologist at the Allina Clinic in Eagan, thinks not.

“I think everybody’s just fed up with the weather just because of expectations” that by April we should be outdoors enjoying sunshine and warm weather.

“This is just seasonal fed-up disorder,” he joked.


At Gertens Greenhouses & Garden Center in Inver Grove Heights, owner Lewis Gerten expects a short-but-intense spring season.

Gerten said the business typically does 90 percent of its flower sales from May 1 to June 1.

But with the late start this year, he said, “Instead of doing five weeks of business nice and even, we’re going to do five weeks in three weeks.”


A pedestrian walks through Rice Park in downtown St. Paul as snow and sleet hit the Twin Cities on Thursday, April 18, 2013. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)


Bad weather has been good for movie theaters.

“The first few gorgeous, warm weekends usually hurt our business a bit, and it hasn’t happened yet this year,” said Hugh Wronski, senior regional publicist for the Landmark Theatres in Minneapolis and Edina.


The ideal window for planting corn in Minnesota begins next week. But there’s no spring planting when fields are snowy. That’s making farmers antsy, although crop specialists are preaching patience.

“We’re not late yet,” said Dave Nicolai, a University of Minnesota extension specialist. “People shouldn’t panic. What makes such an impact now is, we’ve had so many days of snow cover. There’s something psychological about snow cover.”

Corn growers need the soil to reach 50 degrees for seeds to grow properly. In western Minnesota this week, soil temperatures were only 33 degrees — and had actually fallen over the past two weeks.


Washington County maintenance workers had an unusual job for mid-April.

“We had guys out moving snow piles from parking lots this week, but usually this time of year they’d be out fixing potholes,” said public works director Don Theisen.

Theisen foresees no major weather-related delays to road projects or maintenance. But, he added, “It’s going to put more pressure on our parks, because the weather will get nice and people will all of a sudden want to start camping.”


Cold is good for storing ice cream. But it’s terrible for selling ice cream. Ask Jeff Sommers, co-owner of Izzy’s ice cream shop in St. Paul (and in June, opening in Minneapolis, too).

Sales are running about half of what they were last year, Sommers said this week.

How is he surviving? “One day at a time,” Sommers said.


It’s tough on deer and pheasants “when we’ve had winters that linger this late,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife manager at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

But this extended winter had a few helpful twists, at least for wildlife.

“There’s been some thawing and significant reduction in the snowpack — even though it keeps coming back,” Merchant said. He anticipates some deer losses but suspects “things don’t look too bad for pheasants.”


For the city of Stillwater, the springtime routine of pothole patching, street sweeping and opening city parks has been delayed. That will push routine spring maintenance deeper into May and June.

Even popular Teddy Bear Park, which normally opens April 15, remains closed, said Shawn Sanders, Stillwater’s director of public works.

“We haven’t had time to open up the bathrooms yet,” Sanders said. “We hope to get it open for the weekend.”


Spring is a key season for home sellers and buyers. But with winter hanging on, real estate agents say home sellers are reluctant to put their houses on the market.

The reason: They worry that their homes won’t sell as quickly if potential buyers can’t see the yards beneath a blanket of snow.


Despite last weekend’s cold and snow, “We had a fabulous weekend,” said Cheryl Boer, saleswoman for Twill by Scott Dayton, a men’s apparel store in the Galleria in Edina.

The store is showing pastels and linens, shorts and madras, and Boer has a theory why customers are responding despite the untropical weather: “I think some people are looking for some shopping therapy.”


Minnesota residents have used twice as much natural gas this winter as last winter, according to CenterPoint Energy, the state’s largest natural gas provider.

That has raised heating bills, but less than one might think. Because of much-lower natural gas prices, the average residential bill is up only 20 percent, CenterPoint said.


When it’s cold and snowy, traffic accidents increase. But motorists drive more slowly in winter, so “injury and fatal crashes decrease,” said Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol.

That historical pattern has largely held true in Minnesota this year, Roeske said.

“Compared to last year, we have handled more crashes but fatalities were down,” he said.


“It’s just like February keeps continuing,” said Marty Erickson, manager of County Cycles in Roseville.

At this time last year, the bicycle shop was busy with sales and service. Not so much this year. Erickson said a shorter riding season could translate into a 1 percent to 2 percent drop in annual revenue.

Business also is down at the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center in Minneapolis. But cafe manager Mario Macaruso said he’s been selling lots of soup and coffee to chilly commuters on the Greenway trail.

Article from Pioneer Press.