Sunday, March 23, 2014

5. Try Curling

Although this entry is frightfully late - we actually did this one right before the Winter Olympics began -- it still feels vaguely appropriate to post about it now because we seem to be in the Winter Without End.  It's late March and still the snow and ice and sub-zero temps just keep coming.  So, if that's the way it's gonna be, then good.  Because I have a whole bunch of winter activities to write about, beginning with this one. 
Curling!  Here's Jon, showing off the all-important (and expensive $800+) curling stones under the watchful eye of our coach for the day.
So, curling.  That much-maligned, "is-it-REALLY-a-sport?" sport.  On the basis of my one brush with the skills and strategy of this game, I do not feel qualified to answer that burning question.  But I will say that, as with almost every new thing I've tried this year or in the 2010 New Things year, it's certainly harder than it looks.

First lesson of curling: ice is slippery.  Before you can do anything else, you have to learn to keep your balance doing sliding lunges, as Matthew and Christi are doing.
 And all my friends who yawned and politely declined cheated themselves out of an afternoon of humbling realizations about their own limitations with running, scrubbing and sliding on ice. And also, some great poutine. But luckily there were three takers, my perennially good-sport sweetie, Jon, and friends Matthew and Christi, who agreed to journey down from Montreal to meet us at the rink just over the border in Bedford, Quebec.
The four of us signed up for a learn to curl workshop put on by the Green Mountain Curling Club, and were paired with another newbie from Jericho, Vermont to form our four person+1 rotating team. The positions all have great names: lead, second, vice and skip (who, rather than the lead, is actually calling the shots).
 But of course, before we could play we had to learn the moves and the all-important vocabulary. Like bowlers, real curlers wouldn't be caught dead without their own curling shoes and stones, but since they're pricey we newbies got to borrow stones and use curling foot pads that we stepped on with our regular shoes as we learned to throw the stone.  Which, I repeat, was not as easy as it looked -- since it ends with the person throwing the stone lunging and sliding down the ice. And the stone has to make it to the hog line to even be considered in play.
The agony of the defeated stone thrower. All that effort and it didn't make it to the hog line.  But at least I didn't fall over.  Bonus on that one.

Once the stone is thrown, it's up to the scrubbers to help it down the ice and guide its path by running in front of it while scrubbing the ice in its path. 
Christi and Jon spring into action as scrubbers.

And there's the skip calling down from the opposite end of the rink telling everyone what to do (and if a skip doesn't realize that she just got promoted from vice skip to skip and it's her turn to pay attention and yell "scrub" down the ice really loudly it's possible she will get yelled at by her frustrated curling coach).
The skipper must also strategize about where the stone should be thrown to knock the opponent's stones out of position -- another task that in which I was less than stellar.

Despite offering several hours of our lives putting our best efforts in (and taking some embarrassing slides) to learn the fine art of curling, we lost our match, but we didn't care.  Our consolation prize was the best possible one a person travelling through rural Quebec can get -- poutine, of course.  Curling is definitely not going to replace ice skating in my book, but when it comes to junk food, it's Quebec for the win.
The all-important apres-curl.  Featuring Christi, Matthew, Jon and a couple of big plates of fries, cheese curds, and gravy -- junk food of the Gods.

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