The Mountain Times

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Rutland Rocks curling club hosts a one day bonspiel

Maybe it is our close proximity to Canada that makes curling popular in Vermont. Who knows, but there are four established curling clubs that are active in the state. On Saturday, Feb. 23, eight players from each club came to Rutland to compete in a one day bonspiel (the term for a curling competition) at Giorgetti Arena. The 32 curlers vyed for "Best in Vermont" honors.

Curling is widely believed to be one of the world's oldest team sports. Northern European paintings depicting curling date back to the 1500s. There are also Latin texts recovered in Scotland that date the sport to the 16th century. The modern game of curling gained notoriety as a part of the first Olympic Games in Chamonix, France in 1924.

If you've ever played bocce or shuffleboard, you will more easily understand curling. Two teams of four players take turns sliding heavy granite stones down the long "curling sheet" of ice with targets (called the houses) at each end. These polished stones weigh about 50 pounds and they are designed to be able to "curl" with subtle rotation initiated by the player. Other team members are allowed to alter the ice in the path of the curling stone by using brushes or brooms. Essentially, these brushes melt the ice slightly and allow the players to change the speed and curl of the stone. After both teams have thrown their eight stones, the score is calculated for that "end." A point is scored for every stone that is closer to the bull's-eye on the target than the opposing stone. For example, you may have three stones close to the center, putting you in good position to score 3 points. However, if the opposing curler manages to get his or her stone closer than all three, you won't get any points.

Eight or ten "ends" typically make up a game. There is a tremendous amount of skill, strategy and teamwork involved making it a fascinating game to watch or play. It is sometimes referred to as "chess on ice," (an accurate comparison, in my oppion.)
Worldwide there are 1.5 million people registered with the international governing body. It is not exactly America's favorite pastime, but still surprisingly popular. Most Americans are probably only aware of the sport during the televised Olympics and may know that our neighbors to the north are the most successful curling nation right now. The Canadian men's national team won gold at the last Olympic Games and the women lost out to Sweden to garner a silver medal. In addition to Canada, the USA and Sweden, curling is popular in Switzerland, Scotland, Norway and Denmark. The United States is currently listed as sixth in world rankings, a respectable standing considering it is no where close to the cultural forefront of our country.

The "home team" at last weekends tournament was Rutland Rocks. They competed against members from Woodstock, Equinox, Green Mountain curling clubs.

Rutland Rocks was founded in 2007 by Bill Anderson and Nancy Murphy. There is league play, learn to curl sessions, and open play nights available to the public at Giorgetti Arena. The founders themselves and most of the players are relatively new to the sport so interested players should not be apprehensive to learn. The club is always looking for more members to expand their leagues.

Curling, unlike skiing and snowboarding, is a low impact sport and offers an alternative way for people to be active throughout the winter. Curling is also a very social game, so be prepared to buy the first round of drinks, should your team lose!