Skulski: A morning throwing rocks at houses
Drop-in curling session offers opportunity to learn a new skill
In a town known for its Olympic prowess and endless success in winter sports, curling had gone unnoticed for years. It took the dominance of the gold medal-winning U.S. men’s curling team in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games to spark local interest.
Steamboat Springs Curling Club president John Hogan and some others were inspired by those Olympics and immediately began the process of starting a curling club in Steamboat.
“There were a bunch of us that saw a void of another competitive Olympic sport up here,” Hogan said. “This town has more Olympians per capita than any other town in America and there’s no curlers.”
Ahead of the adult winter curling league season starting on Tuesday, Nov. 22, I took the opportunity to join a drop-in session with the Steamboat Curling Club at Howelsen Ice Arena.
When stepping on the ice for the first time and introducing myself to the club members, I immediately noticed the friendliness and passion for the sport these athletes have.
Their willingness to explain the game and discuss strategy or technique offered a calmness that overcame me when preparing to take my first shot. The first thing club member Kathy LeBlanc said is curling is easy to learn but hard to master. She was right.
My first three shots all came short of the house, which is the scoring area where you want your rocks to land. Finally, on the fourth shot, I found the 12-foot ring surrounding the center of the circle.
Following a shot in the house, the next step was to learn the different weights behind a curling shot and how hard you need to push the stone to get it where you want it to go.
The remainder of the morning was spent playing a game with the club and learning the strategies with a hands-on approach. The pressures of shooting a stone or sweeping the ice all went away with club members cheering me and others on.
It was a welcoming experience and a great way to meet new people and compete in a low-stakes environment.
Curling for the first time, Steamboat Springs resident Max Knoedelseder had a similar experience and thought he grew as a curler pretty quickly. He said he cannot wait to get back on the ice again soon.
“I don’t think it took too long to get my bearings around it,” Knoedelseder said. “I had a couple good throws and a couple really bad ones. I hit the ice one time but it’s definitely something I’ll do again and I hope to continue to do a lot because I had a ball.”
After going through the necessary steps with the Parks and Recreation department, the curling club was approved and scheduled to begin activities in the spring of 2020 before it was forced to stop in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The club did not make its official start of activities until the summer of 2021 and has been growing ever since. Hogan says what separates curling from most other sports is how the social aspect many times outweighs the competitive aspect.
He stresses the ability for anyone to pick up the sport and encourages anyone interested to give it a shot.
“Out here, it’s the great equalizer,” Hogan said. “It is what it is and you can either make the shot or you can’t. Some of our best curlers are in their 70s and some of our most inexperienced curlers are in their teens. We’ve had everyone from 18 to 83 out here on the ice with us.”
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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