Romancing the stone at Ogden Curling Club

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 2:37 PM

Jon Oglesby, Standard-Examiner Correspondent

OGDEN — Everyone knows curling — it’s that sport that television networks show when all of the skiing events are snowed out during the Winter Olympics.

But, do average sports fans really know curling? Do they understand the skill, coordination and camaraderie that are synonymous with the sport?

If the Ogden Curling Club has its way, fans of all ages will. And, as the expansion of The Ice Sheet at the Weber County Sports Complex in Ogden gives the club additional practice time, fans of the ancient Scottish sport note the club’s membership has nowhere to go but up.

For just a basic review, curling is where players try to slide polished rocks across the ice towards a target area, accumulating them in a certain area. It requires pushing off against block to get going, and then scraping the ice with a broom to influence the speed and direction of the stone.

For Ogden, curling enthusiasts began to organize after the sport was featured in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, with the driving force behind the organization being the Salt Lake Olympic Committee.

“The SLOC provided the money so we could form a curling club, because very few people here in Utah knew what curling was” said Carl Wolfram, one of the club’s original members. “So, we had to learn right from the beginning. They also sent instructors down from the U.S. Curling Association, and they helped us get started.”

Wolfram said the upcoming Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002 provided a strong motivation for people to get involved with the sport.

“Many people were actually interested in volunteering, and when they found out there would be an event right here in town, we had quite a number of people, and it grew,” he noted.

Erwin Weil, who has long been involved with the club, said the Ogden area was a perfect match for the Salt Lake games’ curling venue.

“We had the U.S. Olympic Association come here to see if we would be chosen as the curling venue,” Weil said. “The way we did it was we brought them here and they saw the beautiful Ben Lomond Peak. And then, we took them up to Pine View Reservoir and let them curl up there because in Scotland, that’s how they did it.”

Besides the chance to compete at the highest levels, club president Tim Irish said the game is just a fun way to engage in competition.

“It’s a social sport that anyone can do,” Irish said. “You do not have to be a professional athlete to do this. You can come out here and curl, learn it in an hour, and have fun with your friends.”

Chris Klinkenburg was introduced to the sport at a team-building event, and said he was immediately hooked.

“I went from thinking, ‘Oh, what a stupid game-this sweeping on ice,’ to ‘Well, this is not easy,’ ” he stated. “I had some friends who had been doing it for a number of years, and I finally decided it was time for me to enjoy a team sport where everybody affects every stone.”

There is a much greater opportunity to affect someone else’s stone, because the club has been granted additional practice time at the Ice Sheet.

Irish noted the expansion will make a huge difference in the numbers as the club moves forward.

“A lot more people are involved,” he said. “We have a lot more ice, so we can do more hockey, more curling, more figure skating; everything about it has doubled our ice size.”

Weil said the additional room has given the club a chance to really expand its reach.

“By opening up more time, we can do more learn-to-curl events,” he said. “We’ve tripled the time, and interest. It opens up a lot of possibilities with the Olympics for people to know about it, and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got that right here in our community.’ ”

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