We're a little late with the article, but there is still time! J'Nel is here to tell us about her experience at the Utah Olympic Oval.
With the weather trying to make up its mind between warming up to spring or remaining cold, now is the perfect time to introduce your family to a new sport: curling.
Wait! Come back! I’m serious. The perennial butt of Olympic jokes is a uniquely compelling sport, and it’s gaining in popularity. Plus, Salt Lake City has one of the best facilities in the nation to discover the sport.
To the casual observer, it seems like a lot of lunging and sweeping and yelling at a seemingly unresponsive floating stone. But the sport of curling, and the precision it requires from every team member is surprisingly addicting. To better understand the sport--often referred to as “chess on ice”--think shuffleboard combined with bowling. Then, add a huge sheet of ice.
Originating in Scotland sometime in the 16th Century, curling has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Olympics since 1924, but became a fully recognized event in 1998. To this day, the forty-four-pound curling stones are created from granite quarried from either the island of Ailsa Craig off the coast of Scotland or the Trefor Granite Quarry in Wales. This stone has very low water absorption, which makes it ideal for curling. Utah hosts curling clubs in Salt Lake City, Park City, and Ogden, and enrollment is increasing every year.
The goal is to place your stone closest to the target, known as the house. To assist in its journey, two team members sweep the ice with brooms at a rate that rivals a mom cleaning up the house during her toddler’s naptime. The sweeping motion generates friction, which creates thin water tracks that the stone follows. Sweep too hard, and the stone will go drifting passed its mark, hit the backline, and will be removed from play. That’s bad. Sweep at just the right amount of motion, and you will surely hit your mark. And that’s worth cheering about. Once it’s released, you can’t touch the stone. All you can do is yell at it and try willing it to its mark with sheer mind power. It works! Sometimes. OK, never. But one can still believe.
Throughout the month of March, curling lessons are offered Mondays on the following days: March 6, 13, 20. Lessons run from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with a 20-person maximum class size. Participants must be at least eight years old.
The Friday classes are scheduled March 3, 10, 17, 24 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. And there is special Thursday class scheduled March 30 from 8:15 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.
The $14 fee includes the use of all of the necessary equipment, and the classes are first come, first served. Participants must complete a lesson before they can do free play, like Cosmic Curling, for example. Frankly, you want the lessons. Learning proper technique from an expert will make a huge difference in your experience.
Should you decide to go, here are three tips.
- Wear boots.
You don’t realize how cold the ice can be until you’ve been standing on it for over an hour. So, wear boots or shoes with a thick sole and good traction. The walking areas have been sprayed with pebbled ice to help with traction. I still managed to fall at every turn, but I’m sure I would have fallen more if not for my trusty boots.
- Wear comfortable, flexible pants.
The movement that is required to launch the stone is a little awkward at first. Think a squatting warrior one pose while sliding forward on the slippery ice. People who wear tight jeans or low-riding pants are certain to share an intimate part of themselves with others. So, it’s up to you what you want to expose to the fans.
- Be patient, have an open mind, and be ready to learn.
There is a lot to learn about this sport, and much of it feels a little awkward. But, by listening to your instructor, being patient with yourself, and realizing that everyone else is learning right along with you, I am confident this will be one of your favorite evenings spent with family and friends.
J’Nel Wright is a freelance writer and editor whose work appears in both regional and national publications. When she isn’t writing, she’s planning family road trips, playing tennis, golfing, taking photos of reluctant family members, and searching for the perfect doughnut. You can follow her adventures on instagram.