Fan Zhang of Cortland skated for an hour Saturday morning around the Homer Village Green, enjoying the exercise and cold — though not so cold as recent days.
He grew up in northern China where he’d skate on an outdoor rink with friends in the cold climate, so he was happy to use the free, homemade facility in Homer, but he was hoping for better conditions.
“I’ve always dreamed of having a skating rink in my backyard, or somewhere in my neighborhood where I could do it,” Zhang said.
But Saturday morning after temperatures had risen from the negative and single digits of recent days, the rink had collected cracks, drifting snow and even some puddles.
Mike Harter, superintendent of streets and parks for the Village of Homer, said the department has been spraying the rink in the early mornings and late at night, to keep a thick covering of ice over the grass. Harter said crews are spraying between 4 and 6 a.m., although on the days temperatures dropped below zero he did not have his crews out.
Harter estimated the ice was about 6 to 8 inches thick Thursday, though he expected over the weekend much of it would melt.
From Friday, when temperatures rose to a high of 10 to 15 degrees locally, Saturday saw highs in the 30s and Sunday in the 40s, while today it was expected to rise to near 50 degrees.
“When we have a thaw we lose a whole bunch of it, it just soaks into the ground,” Harter said. Not ideal conditions for even an experienced skater like Zhang, who also plays hockey.
“If the rink is in better condition, I will bring my stick and puck on the ice just for practice,” he said.
Zhang hoped to encourage his 15-year-old son to drop the phone in favor of a pair of skates, but he said it’s an uphill battle.
However, on the slopes Saturday at Beaudry Park, scores of children had ditched their electronic devices in favor of sledding.
The slightly warmer air made for slick conditions, the sledders said.
Zack Parker and Chris Ray brought their children out sledding Saturday, since recent days saw them huddled indoors.
“We wanted to take advantage of today,” Ray said.
Zack Parker’s daughters, 11-year-old twins Caydee and Cami, and 8-year-old Coleigh, pointed out the slopes they had conquered.
They were: the bunny hill, half-pipe and suicide hill, dubbed by the children who ride them. The notorious dead man’s hill they described as the most dangerous and fastest of the bunch, they didn’t go down.
Tottering up the slope toward the cars, 3-year-old Benjamin Scott had his grandmother Diane Scott in tow.
Diane Scott said she was glad for a reprieve from expensive entertainment, as the free slopes at Beaudry provided.
She had started her day with her grandchildren and children snow tubing at Greek Peak, then a break at Hollenbeck’s for doughnuts, before heading to the hills at Beaudry.
“When my kids were little we used to go sledding here,” Scott said. Now they are 33, 30 and 28. “We had a ball then and we’re having a ball today.”