Looking for something fun to do in the off-season while working in Anchorage? Consider that the “on” season for curling starts in October and ends in April, making it the perfect Alaska winter social event. Why not join a curling club to make friends while learning a new activity?
What is curling, anyway?
The object of the game is to slide your “stone” down the ice and get as many of them within the target as possible while knocking your opponents’ stones out of the way. Teams win points by being the closest to the center of the target, or “house,” and by having more stones near the house than the other team. Check out this intro to curling by the Canadian Curling Association.
Some key curling terms you’ll want to know
The sport of curling has its own vocabulary, and you’ll at least want to be familiar with some of them before you venture onto the ice with the pros.
- Bonspiel: A curling tournament.
- Guards: Stones that are thrown to try to block the other team from scoring. “Takeouts” are stones that wipe out the guards.
- Hack: The foothold from which the player pushes off to deliver the stone, sort of like the platform a sprinter uses out on the track.
- Skip: Essentially, the captain of the curling team. The skip is the one who determines strategy and does all that yelling.
- Pebbles: Water droplets added to the ice that freeze and strategically change the ice’s surface.
- Stone or rock: The 44-pound thing you slide down the ice. A “burned stone” is a stone that’s touched while in motion by equipment or any player. These stones must be removed from play.
- Sweepers: The players that use special brooms to sweep the ice in front of the stone. This action helps clean away debris, and it heats up the ice to reduce friction, helping the stone move farther. Sweeping also can keep a stone from curling, or moving off a straight trajectory (hence the name of the game). Some stones are delivered with rotation to curl a certain way, sort of like you would with a bowling ball.
Playing the game
The Alaska State Curling Association has member clubs in Anchorage, Barrow and Fairbanks. Clubs often have days or times when they teach the game to beginners or hold fun bonspiels so you can learn how to play without pressure. If you join a club or simply come to watch, understand there’s an etiquette, much like golf, that requires players and spectators to stay quiet, as well as other common-sense guidelines regarding safety and courtesy. If you play, you also must have footwear reserved for use on the ice to help keep it clean.
The Anchorage Curling Club
The Anchorage Curling Club has been in operation for more than 60 years – longer than Alaska has been a state. The club suffered damage but survived the earthquake in 1964. The Anchorage Curling Club is raising funds to repair its ice making system, which broke at the beginning of the curling season in 2014. When the ice is back, the club plans to host Learn to Curl classes for novices. Check its website for updates, to connect to its donation site and to see when the club will be ready for you to get in on the action.