Ice enthusiasts, event organizers welcome the return of winter-like temperatures

What a difference two weeks makes.

Jan. 4, many were worried the warmer temperatures would ruin winter events. Today, however, plenty of people dotted frozen lakes across the Twin Cities metro area.

By wind sail, bicycle or good old-fashioned skates, a frozen Lake Nokomis had no shortage of winter sports-lovers Wednesday.

Among those who need the ice to stay rock solid are pond hockey players like Jesse Brown.

“I just expected that, being Minnesota, it would eventually get cold enough that the ice would be good,” Brown said.

Preparation for the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships is safely underway.

“They got the first of our rinks up today,” said Jim Dahline, of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.

Dahline says the ice on Lake Nokomis is anywhere from 14-16 inches thick and expanding.

“It’s just really great ice, it’s really strong ice,” he said. “There are very few imperfections.”

While winter sports between the ice columns at Lake of the Isles also glide along smoothly, those who run events like St. Paul’s Winter Carnival continue to hope for the one thing this season still lacks: mounds of snow.

“We were so mild, we don’t have any snow,” said FOX 9 Chief Meteorologist Ian Leonard. “So, cross-country skiing, the Loppet things like that are still in jeopardy.”

What Minnesotans know well is that a lot can change over the course of a couple weeks, especially during the winter.

“We had 11 inches of snow so far this season, that all melted on average we’ll pick up 54 inches for a winter season,” Leonard added. “Now, here’s the kicker: last year at this time, we only had received 9 inches. We ended up with over 78 inches of snow last year.”

Either way, the last ones skating on thin ice will be guys like Brown.

“I think it’s in great shape right now and hopefully they’ll be able to keep it in good shape for the tournament next weekend,” he said.

2,000 pond hockey players from all across the country will participate in the championships, which start on Jan. 24 and run through Sunday, Jan. 27.