Hidden in an old drill shop left from Calumet??s mining era are the sounds of rocks roaring across ice. This is where the Copper Country Curling Club practices their sport.
Gary Lassila, member and instructor at the Copper Country Curling Club, said curling is a game of strategy, earning it the moniker, ??Chess on Ice.?? The main objective is to get the 42-pound stones closest to the center circle down a path of bumpy ice.
??You want to have a little, what??s called, pebble on it so that the stone actually rides across the top of the pebble, kind of like hydroplanes,?? explained Lassila. ??If that wasn??t on there, if it was just bare ice, it would just grind and you??d have a really hard time throwing it halfway down the ice.??
Two teams of four players take turns, each sending eight stones down the ice while trying to knock out the other team's stones. Once all 16 stones are thrown to the other end, they turn around and do it all again, nine more times for a full game.
Gary and his team showed me the ropes, and, to be frank, they made it look pretty easy. So, I grabbed a broom and got out on the ice to give it a shot. It couldn??t be that hard, right?
Apparently, it??s much harder than it looks. After falling about a half dozen times, I eventually found my footing. I was shocked at how difficult it was to send the stone to the other end of the ice; it took me another half dozen tries to get the stone to the circle!
??Some people pick it up fairly quickly in a matter of hours where they come to a point where they can get rocks in play,?? Gary said. ??Otherwise, I would say like a half a season before they get fairly good at it.??
Contrary to what it seems, throwing the stones mostly utilizes your leg muscles for momentum and balance. Gary said sometimes you have to give the stone a little push with your arms, but most of the work comes from your lower body.
As it turned out, I wasn??t so great at throwing stones. I tried sweeping because Gary said it tends to be a little easier to pick up, but it was no surprise to me to discover I wasn??t good at sweeping right away either.
In order to be a good sweeper, you have to be able to stay ahead of the stone, which, unless you have an incredible natural ability for running across ice in tennis shoes, is also challenging.
??What the sweeping does, if it??s done properly, very rigorous sweeping, it warms up the ice slightly and it basically lubricates a little bit of the ice in front of the stone, and the stone will go straighter and farther,?? Gary said.
Maybe curling just isn't my calling. Nonetheless, it??s a surprising challenge.
And as a forewarning to anyone wanting to give it a try: it's also very addicting!