Stones Across The Mountains
While it’s been around for more than 500 years, the sport of curling’s popularity is gaining speed, in spite of the ice “pebbles.” In part, this growing fan base can be attributed to the U.S. men’s curling team’s gold medal win at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Since then, curling’s popularity has swelled with the United States Curling Association now claiming almost 25,000 curlers in the United States, making up more than 185 curling clubs.
And that includes the Cloud City Curling Club in Leadville Today. The sports group’s roots can be found in 2014 when $3,000 in donated stones and brooms, along with a how-to curling class, struck a chord with many Leadvillites. Now six years later, the league has grown, and according to Curler’s President Jason Nepp, has maintained eight, 4-5 people teams for the past 5 or 6 years. And this year, two more teams have been added for a total of ten for the local curling 2020 season.
So if you’re a curling fan – or thinking about becoming one – here’s where you can catch this weekend’s tournament action at the Huck Finn Skate Rink in Leadville.
- On Friday, Jan. 31 the action starts at 6 p.m. and plays until 10:15 p.m.
- On Saturday, Feb. 1 the tournament resumes at 5 p.m. until the last stone is thrown,- usually at 10:45 p.m. according to organizers.
“A curling tournament is normally called a bonspiel,” explained Nepp. “Well being this is our first attempt, we did not want to be too big for our britches, so we are calling it Leadville’s first-ever non-spiel!” Aside from the four local teams, the competition will include three teams from Denver and one representing the Telluride Curling Team.
Curling: What’s It All About
While many refer to it as that game on ice with the big stones, people with brooms and often accompanied by a fair share of competitive smack talk, curling has given more than a handful of Leadvillites something to do on frigid winter nights when the temperatures hover around the teens.
The rules are generally simple with teams of four squaring off by gliding 40-lb stones back and forth across the ice – no pebbles! – with the closets to the bull’s-eye tallying points. Players slide curling stones on the ice towards a target, called the house. There are two teams with four players on each team. Each team slides eight stones, this is called an end. After an end the team with the stone closest to the centre of the house (target) scores points.
But is it really that simple? Like any good sport that draws folks out on a cold winter’s night, it’s generally the comradery and commentary that provide their own entertainment. Well, that and plenty of antifreeze adult beverages. From the Skip’s commands to each stone’s pre-determined rotation giving the game its chance “curling” effect to the “take-out” strategies, the spectator crowds are growing.
In fact, the sport’s Leadville Connection goes back a bit further than six years. Curling’s first big Leadville demonstration happened in the famous Leadville Ice Palace. As noted in the “First Official Souvenir” booklet issued for the Leadville Crystal Carnival 1896, “The Carnival season comprises a varied and delightful round of pleasure…There are snowshoe clubs, curling, hockey, skating, sleighing and coasting clubs which will make it their constant effort to provide entertainment for the guests.”
The Game of Curling in Two Minutes
Curling and Community Outreach
While the first Leadville curling classes began popping up on the recreation schedules back in 2014, it was only ten months ago that the Cloud City Curling Club was formally established as a nonprofit under the Partnership for Lake County Recreation (PLCR) umbrella.
“All of the proceeds from this weekend’s tournament will go towards improvements,” said Nepp. This year, the club was able to create their own curling “sheet,” the official name of the ice rink where the sport is played. And while it is not regulation length, there are hopeful expansion plans down the road.
“For now we are just thrilled to have our own space that is easier to maintain, and we can host any event we want,” explained Nepp, making note of the various public partnerships which helped to make their side rink happen; it’s located directly to the south of the Huck Finn Ice Rink building.
The Cloud City Curling Club has also hosted one ‘Learn-To-Curl’ event that drew 20 people. They have also been working with local organizations and businesses hosting employee party/ learn to curl events as part of their ongoing community outreach model.
If you or your group is interested in curling, contact the club through their Facebook Page or reach out to Jason Nepp, President of the Cloud City Curling Club directly at 719-293-1098. In the meantime, come and catch all the curling action at this weekend’s tournament. See you on the ice!