I’m finally home from my trip to the Jerusalem Marathon. While I sort through all my photos and videos from that trip, I’ve got a few more posts from my February trip to Switzerland and Austria. While there, I completed my own winter pentathlon of sports: running, curling, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and Alpine skiing. I also hit the pool, sauna and partook in some genuinely crazy apres ski.
I already shared scenes from a snowy trail run in Austria. Up next in the pentathlon is an Alpine curling game!
Like most people, my first experience with curling was watching it on TV during the Olympics. When I went to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, I actually got to watch a curling game, interview Team USA, and write an article about how the Olympics have raised the sport’s profile in the U.S.: Curling capitalizes on Olympic coverage.
But I’d never actually played a game of curling…until now.
My Alpine Curling Game
It was a snowy night in St. Anton am Arlberg when my friend, Cara, and I made our way to ARLBERG-well.com, a public wellness center with a gym, pool, sauna, tennis center, skating rink and more.
At first, the woman working the desk simply could not comprehend that the two of us wanted to curl. A proper Alpine curling game calls for teams of four. And, as we learned on the trip, Austrians like to do things the proper way.
But we convinced her that we would still like to play, and plunked 30 Euros to rent a sheet for 2 hours.
I’ll preface it with this: we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. I know the basic rules of Olympic curling. And the rules were similar here; they had them posted next to the rink. But the rock was slightly different and there was no sweeping. So we just made up a “one on one” curling game for ourselves.
They gave us “hacks,” metal wedges to help stabilize your footing. Unlike Olympic curling, players don’t glide across the ice, we learned. You stand in fixed spot and throw the “rock” from there.
We threw the rock standing up.
We pushed the rock while kneeling.
We even gave ourselves a second throw mid-sheet. With the constant downfall of snow, the rocks weren’t sliding too well. Or maybe we’re just really bad at the sport.
The goal? Get your rock closest to the center of the “house” or target at the other end. In Olympic curling, it looks a lot like a bullseye. Here we had a square spray painted green with a puck in the center. But we kept the same scoring rule: the team that got its rock closet to the puck won the point.
You can see here that blue won this point.
The game is certainly less exciting with just two players. With four per team, you have eight rocks on the sheet: more targets to “curl” around and “takeout,” a move where you knock your opponent’s rock out of the way like a pool ball.
I threw a few takeouts, but Cara beat me 5 to 4 in the first half. We played two halves of five points each.
This was one of my winning points, no takeout involved.
At “half time” we headed inside for a warm cup of Glühwein. It was warm, mulled and delicious. I needed it. My feet were starting to get cold.
Then we headed back outside for the second half. The snow was really coming down, so we had to repeatedly shovel our “sheet” of ice to keep it clean.
The rocks don’t travel nearly as far with snow to slow them down. The shoveling turned curling into an aerobic sport.
Once again, Cara bested me 5 to 4 in the second half of our curling game for a 10 to 8 victory.
All told, we were out there for about an hour and a half. It was the perfect way to while away a snowy evening in Austria.