Curling in Aspen with The Legion of Broom
Until about two weeks ago, I only knew of curling as that strange ice-brushing sport that I turn the channel to avoid during the Winter Olympics.
But when a friend asked me to join a local curling team, I signed on — mostly out of curiosity. I also was encouraged by the fact that he said I needed no skills or even basic knowledge of the rules of the game in order to curl. Wearing flat-bottomed shoes, it seemed, was the only pseudo-requirement.
It turns out that curling — under the auspices of the Aspen Curling Club, running since 2006 — is really a thing in this ski town. Four games were going at once my first night on the ice, each with two teams of four curlers. There are four sessions a week, each with four games going, in an annual eight-week tournament between 32 teams. That adds up to 128 people (!) curling every week at the Aspen Ice Garden.
In week one, my team, Legion of Broom, lost to a guy from a local pizza shop and his friends. In week two, we beat Aspen’s city manager and his friends. So, there’s a legit cross-section of our community out there throwing stones and sweeping ice. Some are more competitive than others. Some wear matching outfits — ugly-Christmas-sweater chic and ironic lumberjack get-ups. Most bring beer.
I haven’t contributed much, if anything, of value to the team yet. In week one, I mostly asked questions about how the game works and tried not to fall down (I fell down a lot). In week two, I felt like I mostly had the rules down, asked questions about strategy, attempted to use some curling lingo (“Good stone!”) and tried not to fall down (I fell down less).
There is no aspect of curling that I’m good at. Not at this point, at least. Yet, the 75 minutes of ice time sort of fly by. You’re always either throwing a stone, chasing a stone down the ice with a broom or standing at the end (as what curlers call the “skip”) to give the thrower a target and direct the sweepers. It’s hard not to get — ahem — swept up in the competition.
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Oregon’s Laurenne Ross and New Castle’s Alice McKennis Duran both announced their retirement in recent days and celebrated together during Saturday’s downhill. McKennis Duran is a local namesake who grew up skiing at Sunlight in Glenwood and formerly trained with the AVSC.