Winter sports aren’t limited to skiing and snowboarding. Head to the mountains this winter and you’ll encounter a host of exciting activities that take advantage of the cold environment. In this edition of Beyond Skis, we’re focusing on one of the most distinctive and iconic winter sports – curling. Broom sticks at the ready!
The aim of curling is simple: two opposing teams aim to get their sliding, granite stones into the centre of a circular target (known as the house) on a field of ice (known as the curling sheet). The team score points based on how close their stones are to the centre of the house. Each team plays eight stones per round (known as an end). Depending on the competition there is typically between eight to ten ends. The team that wins the most ends wins the game.
Yet, as simple as this task sounds, the game is massively strategic and there a multiple tactics that can be employed to outwit your opponents. It isn’t without reason that curling is sometimes referred to as “chess on ice”. The strategy heavy game makes curling an entertaining spectator sport, and even more fun to play.
Curling has one of the most magnificent nicknames of any sport, ever: The Roaring Game. The inspired nickname references the sound the granite stones make as they rumble across the ice. As the stone slides along the curling sheet, sweepers accompany it with curling brooms.
The sweepers influence the direction of the curling stone, by brushing the ice they create a frictionless path. Curling matches are frequently accompanied by the team captain (known as the skip) shouting instructions to their teammates. “Hurry hard!” is the most recognised and often repeated phrase from the sport.
If you’ve seen the curling on TV recently then you might be interested in giving it a go. There are plenty of places you can try curling in the UK – curling is, after all, a Scottish sport. However, for a classic winter experience we’d recommend heading to the open air curling rinks in Wengen, Switzerland.
Throughout the winter, it’s possible to have curling lessons at the Wengen curling rink. The curling rink provides six lessons and the participants are tested at the end of the course. If you successfully complete the course, the tutors will award you with a curling diploma. It’s an interesting and unique experience, which will enhance your winter holiday.
Wengen isn’t the only resort that provides an opportunity to try curling. Neighbouring Grindelwald offers curling taster sessions at the local sports centre, and Seefeld in Austria is another great place to learn and play. In Seefeld there are 12 lanes available for hire at the Tonis Icecurling lanes, in addition to six artificial ice lanes at the Olympia Sports Centre. It is also possible to get in-depth instruction on the game and to participate in local tournaments.
No matter where you might choose to give curling a go this winter, we’d definitely recommend this gripping and much underrated winter sport.