Steamboat Curling Club continues push to introduce new sport after yearlong wait
In early March 2020 John Hogan was telling everyone he could about the Steamboat Curling Club, trying to drum up some interest and excitement for some curling education events over the summer. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
For more than a year, 32 curling stones have sat in Hogan’s basement and all that excitement and energy he helped generate has been static. Now, Hogan is back and ready to convert all that potential into curling events.
Steamboat Curling Club, a nonprofit, is partnering with Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation to bring a trio of learn-to-curl events to Howelsen Ice Arena as well as a summer league. When the new ice goes in next week, there will be two permanent curling sheets, or lanes, in place ready to accommodate anyone who wants to play.
“Our motto here at the ice rink is, if we want to do something, we want to do it right and do it well,” said Sports League Coordinator Nick Carelli. “We want to offer a good program, a good product. This will be a little more official.”
There will be three curling clinics June 13, 20 and 27 from 5-7 p.m. There will be a cap for participants and registration will likely open next week on the Parks and Recreation website.
After taking the Fourth of July off, Steamboat Curling will host a summer league every Sunday from about 4:30-7:30 p.m. Through fall and winter, ice time is more competitive so curling will be in the morning.
Olympians Tyler George and Korey Dropkin and Sarah Anderson are slated to make appearances, but will likely be after the Summer Olympics.
While competitive people can certainly get into the sport, Hogan thinks curling will take off in Steamboat because it’s inclusive and a lifetime sport. Anyone of any age, size or ability can participate, and unlike football or volleyball, it can be played throughout one’s life.
“In a town where there’s a lot of cycling and skiing and hard percussive sports like that, it’s a great option for people that want to downshift a little bit,” Hogan said. “It’s a social game, and the interest in town has been unbelievable.”
Curling on mixed-use ice is called arena curling because typical curling is done on pebbled ice.
Ahead of curling events, a mist of water is dropped on top of a classic sheet of ice. Those beads freeze and create a pebbled effect.
When curlers sweep, that’s what they are sweeping down, the beads.
The texture of the ice is also why curlers can walk briskly across the ice and push a broom without falling down, because there is traction there.
After stumbling across curling and wanting to help grow the sport, Hogan was supported by Rich and Beth Lepping, who not only hold big roles in the national curling community but have a second home in Steamboat.
Rich, who was previously interim CEO of the U.S. Curling Association, and Beth, who is the current president of the U.S. Women’s Curling Association, live in Wisconsin, but plan to start spending even more time in Steamboat. The curling couple is thrilled to have co-founded the club and have Hogan doing the groundwork in their second home.
“The sport is the fastest growing Olympic winter sport in the country, we think that Steamboat would be the perfect spot,” said Rich in March 2020. “The demographics are great, the Olympic movement and history in Steamboat with the skiing is legendary. We just think it’s time for curling to get there.”
The Leppings donated 32 curling stones to the club and have provided knowledge and contacts to help the club get off the ground.
Curling is growing around Colorado. The Denver Curling club has a large membership and will help run the learn-to-curl events. There is also a new club opening just north of Broomfield called Rock Creek Curling. It will be a for-profit venue that will function similarly to a bowling alley.
Hogan is already envisioning what Steamboat Curling could offer as interest grows. There could be involvement with Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports, with Casey’s Pond, with youth programming and more.
So, Steamboat Curling Club is hopping on one of the first cars, but there is a curling train in Colorado.
“It’s curling. It only takes a little bit of momentum,” Hogan said. “We’ll sweep the thing in.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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The Steamboat Springs Running Series continues at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with the Howelsen Hill Trail Run.