SWEEP! HURRY HARD! OFF! The Bozeman Curling Club

Thursday Dec. 1st, 2016

It all started one warm winter day at south side park. About 50 people gathered awkwardly on the ice, each of us with the same lack of experience, but eager with anticipation to begin, not knowing how we’d perform.  I had seen the advertisement through Bozeman Parks and Rec several weeks before: Learn to Curl. Today was finally the day. That day got me hooked. I instantly fell in love with the whit, humor, sportsmanship, strategy and skill that the instructors conveyed as corner stones of curling. Fast forward several curling seasons: bonspiels around the state, meetings, fund raising, IRS stuff and the Bozeman Curling Club was born.

SWEEP! HURRY HARD! OFF! Commands shouted by the Skip or captain of the team, along with loud pants, brooms and 40 pound stones are tenants of the sport (well maybe not the pants- they and other costumes are just for fun). The game dates back to 16th century Scotland, but formal rules were not established until 1800. Curling is rather simple really, but surprisingly hard to execute. The team with the stones closest to the button (bullseye) wins the end (or inning) and draws (games) last anywhere from 6-10 ends. Scoring is a hoot to learn too- for some reason we only use 2 sets of numbers when it begs for 3. The competition is always fierce but built into the game is good sportsmanship- complimenting your opponent’s good shot is normal. So is laughing and having fun regardless of the score.

The game is called curling because the stones don’t go straight. With a slight turn of your wrist upon release you can get your stone to travel in an arc to its destination. It can curl around another stone. Then there’s the brooms and sweeping. A good sweeping effort actually melts the ice in front of the stone, allowing the stone to travel farther. Sweeping also allows the stone to travel in a straighter path, and curl less, as the water decreases the friction on the stone. The stones themselves are an extremely dense and virtually non-porous travertine granite which all come from only 2 quarries in the world. One in Scotland and one in Whales. The bottom of the stone is concave to decrease the surface area in contact with the ice. Otherwise, it would be really hard to push the 40 pound stones any distance, let alone the 140 feet of a curling sheet. To give the stones a little help traveling that far, the curling ice is prepped with what is referred to as a pebble. A pebble is layers of water droplets sprinkled onto the ice giving the ice a textured and bumpy surface area, further decreasing the friction.

Curling in the valley has really taken off in the past 4 years in Bozeman. Our Parks and Rec department has hosted 3 outdoor winter leagues at South Side Park, which got some curlers hooked. The Bozeman Curling Club was formed in August, 2015. Since that time, we have hosted 4 learn to curl events at Haynes Pavilion. The first annual Bozspiel (curling tournaments are referred to as bonspiels) was held in 2016 and a team from the Bozeman Curling Club came in 4th place at the Big Sky State Games! The Bozeman Curling Club exists because of the hard work of a core group of volunteers who have breathed life into this organization. In collaboration with the Bozeman Parks and Rec department, BAHA, The Gallatin Ice Foundation and generous support from our local Play it Again Sports, we are now officially a 501c3 non-profit organization.

This year, in partnership with the Bozeman Parks and Rec department, we are about to embark upon our first indoor curling league in Bozeman. Together we now have the equipment to have four games being played at once. Even better the games will be played on indoor ice that won’t melt, be snowed out, or slope 15 degrees to the north! Sign-ups for this league are on our website at bozemancurlingclub.com. We will also host our second annual Bozspiel in March. We are also in the planning stages of working to bring curling to our local schools and youth programs, including the Big Sky Youth Empowerment Program.

Curling might be the only sport where you can have all genders, ages, races and walks of life competing on the same teams without officials, while having fun and complimenting each other!  If you have ever seen curling on T.V. and thought, “Hey I can do that!”, come out and give it a try. No experience or equipment is necessary in any of our events and you’ll be surprised how much fun it is.

Stay up to date with the curling excitement in Bozeman by following the Bozeman Curling Club on Facebook. Check out our website and sign up soon for this year’s winter league and the Bozspiel. Spots fill fast, so don’t miss out!
Good Curling!    

Nathan Green is the President of the Bozeman Curling Club. Find more info on the club at https://www.facebook.com/bozemancurling/