It’s known as the “Roarin’ Game,” not for the cheering crowds but because of the grating noise the 42-pound granite stone makes as it tears across a 150-foot slab of ice.
Quirky, compelling and unusually appealing — as one wag tweeted, “It combines my love of bowling and frantic mopping” — curling is mostly thought of as an Olympic pursuit, played by adults.
On Friday afternoon in Telluride, a group of youngsters got to try curling, too. They were introduced to the once-obscure sport by a collection of certified curling instructors — members of the Telluride Curling Club — at Hanley Ice Rink.
The club was cofounded by Telluride 4th grade math teacher (and curling instructor) Megan Wise, whose students were in attendance at Hanley on Friday, along with the school’s three other 4th grade math teachers and their young charges. Wise recalled the moment she and her husband J.D. arrived in town several years ago.
“We thought, ‘Telluride truly has everything … except curling,” she said. The Wises had come to the sport the way millions have — they watched it during the Winter Olympics (curling is the most popular Olympic sport of the decade, according to research firm FiveThirtyEight.)
“We Googled, ‘Can we curl in Phoenix?” Megan said, “and sure enough, we could. We signed up for a ‘Learn to Curl’ class with (a club called) the Phoenix Coyotes. There’s nothing better when it’s 110 degrees outside than being on the ice for two hours.”
The Telluride Curling Club is now four seasons on, and 60-members strong. Such is the regional zeal for curling that a few club members drive up from Cortez every week to play it; others have journeyed out of the box canyon to Phoenix or Denver to compete. Wise said an increasing number of kids have been exposed to curling over the past year: “We curled outside during Holiday Prelude and hosted an Open House at the ice rink during the Winter Olympics so people could learn about it.”
Math teacher Jill Anderson is also in the club.
“She and her husband signed up right away,” Wise said. “Our students keep asking us questions about it.” Friday — a half-day in school, with a block of free time at Hanley — seemed an ideal chance for the kids to test it for themselves.
Thirty-six kids showed up, scrubbing the ice, pushing stones and listening attentively to the instructors.
“They’re having a blast,” observed Sandra Bartell, whose son, Ansel, was in attendance.
There’s much about curling that makes it an ideal sport for youth (or anyone else). No special gear is necessary, starting with ice skates: everybody wears tennis shoes. Nor is athletic prowess required.
“Being the strongest, the fastest or the fittest … none of that matters in curling,” Wise explained. “It’s more of a finesse sport. It teaches strategy and focus; they call it ‘chess on ice.’ It lets some kids shine who aren’t necessarily good at other sorts of sports.”
What curling does require is good sportsmanship. Every player is expected to adhere to “The Spirit of Curling,” a code of conduct which extends not only to “the interpretation and application of the rules” during not only the game itself, but “also the conduct of all participants on and off the ice,” according to the World Curling Federation. Its credo can be summed up in eight words: “A curler would rather lose than win unfairly.”
“I’m actually having a pretty fun time,” student Xandr Warren said Friday. He then described one of the benefits of restraint, a skill critical to navigating curling, and life, successfully: “If you push too hard,” the stone veers off course. “If you don’t, it’s just right.”
The Telluride Curling Club, a member club of the U.S. Curling Club, hosts “Learn to Curl” clinics and open-ice practice sessions throughout the year. To learn more, visit telluridecurling.com.