Temperatures were hovering around zero Sunday morning in Saratoga Spa State Park, but the warming hut where skiers and snowshoers typically gather was empty and the stone fire pit at the center of the room was cold.
Nobody in the parking lot seemed interested in hanging around indoors anyway. They were at the park for the bright sun and the powdery snow.
Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, another favorite winter sports spot, had many visitors Sunday as well.
People showed up at both locations toting winter gear and the occasional dog, their sights set on the sweeping fairways blanketed in white.
“I’ve been out every time there’s been a flake,” said Diane Redbord of Saratoga Springs, who was strapping on her skis in Saratoga Park on Sunday morning. “The other morning when I was here, mine were the first tracks.”
Redbord was at the park with friend Randy Royka, who has 40 years of cross-country skiing experience. He was wearing dark wool knee socks with red accents, which date back to his days as a novice. They were pulled up to his knees, hiding the lower portion of his tan khakis.
“I don’t think they wear them or sell them anymore, but they’re nice and warm,” he said with a grin.
MaryAnna O’Donnell of Saratoga Springs was using skis of a similar vintage out on the trails in Saratoga Park. She purchased them about 40 years ago while living in New Hampshire.
“I just don’t want to give them up,” she said. “I’ll get the new shoes, put new bindings on, but they’re sentimental.”
O’Donnell was at the park with her husband, Scott Averill, their German shepherd, Oscar, and poodle, Ivy. The dogs seemed to be just as happy as the humans to be out playing in the snow.
“It’s a little chilly but nice,” Averill said.
Terrence Rusch of Albany was pulling shiny new ski equipment from his car Sunday morning at Saratoga Park. He tried cross-country skiing 10 years ago and finally decided to pursue it this winter.
“I’m hoping to be able to just pick this up again,” he said as he tightened the red laces on his boots. “The worst that’ll happen is I’ll tire myself out. I figure there’s no harm in just winging it.”
Rusch wasn’t the only novice at Saratoga Park Sunday. Paul and Stephanie May of Malta were there strapping on brand-new snowshoes. It was their second attempt at the sport.
“The first time we tried it was in Lake Placid. They had a storm overnight and a couple feet of snow. It wasn’t very good,” Stephanie May recalled.
“We were the first ones out so it was really deep,” her husband added.
Much of the snow that fell in Saratoga Park Thursday and Friday had been packed down by Sunday morning, so the couple anticipated easier going.
“We’ll see what happens here,” Stephanie May said, fiddling with the straps on one snowshoe. “We’ll see if I can get them on first.”
Schenectady Municipal Golf Course was also full of outdoor enthusiasts Sunday, the air ringing with the squeals of young sledders.
Jim and Linda Yuchniewicz of Schenectady were at the golf course for their first ski of the year.
“I like the winter sports, being out in the snow,” he said. “If you’re going to live in New York, you’d better have some winter activities.”
Bob and Kelly Priestley of Rotterdam were in the parking lot at Schenectady Muni around 11 a.m. Sunday, lacing up their ski boots, eager to get out before the bad weather forecast for later in the day.
The couple said they like the varied terrain the golf course offers.
“This [place] is kind of getting to be a favorite, at least until we get bored with it. Hopefully we’ll have snow all winter and can do that,” Bob Priestley said.
According to National Weather Service Meteorologist Kevin Lipton, rain was set to fall and freeze across the Capital Region starting late Sunday afternoon, lasting well into today.
“We’re not talking about a major storm that will bring down trees and power lines,” he said. “Mainly we’re worried about driving conditions.”
With temperatures hovering around freezing Sunday night, and the ground even colder from previous weather, he said a few tenths of an inch of ice will likely form on roadways, sending cars into ditches.
“It doesn’t take much,” he said, “just enough to separate tires from the road.”
It also doesn’t take much to degrade the quality of ski trails.
“The powdery character of the snow will be lost,” Lipton said.
This morning temperatures are set to rise above freezing for a few hours, then drop abruptly as cold air from the Midwest reaches the area. At that point any continuing rain will turn to snow, Lipton said, possibly replenishing surface powder for winter sports.