Jennifer Little and Kent Druckenmiller, both skiing enthusiasts, said the lack of snow this year left them searching out other outdoor activities. The couple had originally planned on ice skating at the Running Y Ranch when they discovered the ranch offered curling lessons.
After about 10 minutes on the ice Saturday, Little and Druckenmiller agreed they are glad they made the last-minute switch to curling.
"There's a lot more strategy involved than I thought," Little said.
Dalton Durrell, a Running Y curling instructor, likened the sport to shuffleboard when describing it to the students: Throwers call out commands for direction, sweepers watch for the speed of the "rock," a 42-pound granite puck, he said. When the rock rests near the bull's-eye target, called a house, the opposing team must try to displace it.
Durrell, who began teaching four years ago when the U.S. Olympic curling team came to the ranch and trained him in the game's strategy, said the sport is more technique than ability.
"With practice, anybody can really excel at curling," he said.
The sport is ideal for anyone who doesn't come from an athletic background, Durrell said, but the challenges were apparent as students had a hard time staying upright. Rocks often stop midway down the rink, despite the frantic brushstrokes meant to guide them forward. The houses at each end of the rink mostly remained barren.
Many of the day's students said the action meant to propel the rock to the house, called the "delivery," is the most difficult to execute.
It's the most important step in rock placement, and it looks something like a sliding marriage proposal: The person who delivers the rock, or the "thrower," places a slippery, slider pad underneath one foot, then on bended knee, pushes forward and slides with the rock until it's time to release it.
Although the slider reduces friction for a more fluid delivery, it also lessens the ability to firmly connect with the ice.
"Your foot tends to slide from side to side and to want to go out from under you," said student Tom Vertel, who has been practicing curling since November.
"It's a good way to learn your balance and skills you might not know you have," he said.
Durrell said Running Y plans to start its first curling league in 2014. Daily curling lessons are offered through Jan. 4. After that, lessons are offered twice per week through March.
"Until the snow falls, it's a great alternative to skiing," Little said.
Information from: Herald and News, http://www.heraldandnews.com
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