Interest in curling grows in Flathead


Interest in curling grows in Flathead

KALISPELL, Mont. - Curling made its debut as an Olympic winter sport 90 years ago.

In the Flathead, curling has seen its sport grow in popularity in the recent years.

"It's a great sport, it's a lot of fun," said Jack Minnich.

Minnich started the Whitefish Curling Club five years ago. When they started out, they barely had enough people to have a match. Since then, they've started a league tournament, holding weekly matchups against teams.

The rules are pretty simple and the game is like shuffle board.

"It's like chess on ice," said Minnich.

Here's how it works -- Each team is comprised of four members. One team member throws a stone down the ice, trying to land it as close as they can to the middle of the bullseye target, called the button.

While the stone is traveling down the lane, teams have sweepers who brush the ice in front of the stone, trying to speed it up and get it to travel farther. A team scores a point by being closest to the button.

Teams play 10 ends, which are similar to an inning in baseball. The team that scores the most points wins the match.

Strength and balance play heavily into the game.

"For first-timers it might be really awkward and scary and dangerous, but I encourage people to come on out and do it.  You get the bug and it's fun, and like I say sometimes the best players throw horrible, the worst players throw great.  Sometimes everybody throws OK, it's really the luck of the draw," said Andy Apple, a Whitefish Curling Club member.

Minnich hopes to see the club grow even more, especially outside of Winter Olympic years.

"We just started doing it and all of a sudden we got hooked on it, and really it was just one good shot was all it took. You're just trying to repeat that afterwards, and then four years later we're still trying to make that one good shot."

Anyone looking to learn how to curl can catch one of the club's learning sessions on February 27 or March 4 at the Stumptown Ice Den in Whitefish.

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