It may feel like spring inside a greenhouse, but outside, the weather is more suitable for downhill skiing.
Snowstar Winter Sports Park in Andalusia, Ill., has never made snow on the first day of spring — until today.
“We’re very excited,” Ed Meyer, general manager, said Tuesday, as a Snowcat groomed the slopes in preparation for the ski area to be open one last time this weekend.
The high Tuesday climbed to 38 degrees, or 12 degrees below normal for this time of year. In contrast, this day last year set a high record at 83 degrees.
An electric bank sign heading into Andalusia captured the day’s mood: “Spring. We’re ready. Are you?”
At Wallace’s Garden Center, Bettendorf, manager Kate Terrell escaped the cold in a greenhouse kept at
74 degrees. But she couldn’t escape her customers’ complaints about the weather.
“They come in here because they say they need some spring, they need to see something green,” Terrell said.
There’s plenty of green, with 20,000 geranium plants, 15,000 hanging baskets and a new shipment of baby broccoli, marigolds and snapdragons.
“It’s a good day to come to a garden store, to remind ourselves spring is going to come,” said Lauren Magnuson, who is visiting the Quad-City area from Baltimore.
Terrell said the greenhouse was full this time last year, when spring came early and hot.
“We were selling like crazy,” she said.
The late winter has its advantages for garden stores.
“It builds excitement,” Terrell said. “People get tired of the cold, and when they get here, they go bonkers. They want to spend as much time outside as they can.”
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Back at Snowstar, Meyer was enjoying the late winter cold.
“It’s a chance to make some good pack powder snow,” he said.
He has 35 snow guns around the ski slops equipped with air compressors that break down water droplets and shoot them out about 200 feet.
“The only difference between what we do and what Mother Nature does is that we need the temperature to be even colder, like in the teens,” he said.
Luckily for Snowstar, the low overnight temperatures until Friday are expected to be about 16 degrees. For the rest of the week, the high isn’t expected to get any higher than 37 degrees.
Terrell said while she’s grateful for the extra time to prepare for spring, she wishes winter would finally end.
“If we’re not seeing better weather by Easter, people really will get frustrated,” Terrell said. “It’ll come. Spring will come.”