On ice

Lake Tahoe Epic Curling

Curling practice at Lake Tahoe Ice Arena.

Curling practice at Lake Tahoe Ice Arena.

PHOTO/EDITH LONDON

The next “Learn to Curl” class will be held on Dec. 2, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Lake Tahoe Ice Arena, 1176 Rufus Allen Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, California. Learn more at laketahoecurling.com.

The winter season is just getting started, but winter sports are already underway in the region. In recent years, curling has become popular. In the Reno-Tahoe region, people can give it a try with Lake Tahoe Epic Curling.

“It’s like shuffleboard or chess,” said Edith Loudon, Lake Tahoe Epic Curling company president. “There’s a lot of strategy involved.”

Curling, a Winter Olympics sport, originated in 16th century Scotland and has continued as a tradition of competition and camaraderie ever since. Curling tournaments termed bonspiels are played internationally.

Lake Tahoe Epic Curling holds “Learn to Curl” classes and bonspiels on Sunday evenings at the Lake Tahoe Ice Arena, 1176 Rufus Allen Blvd., in South Lake Tahoe. Classes begin with 20 minutes of instruction, and participants learn the basics of curling and history of the sport. Afterward, they split into groups and are taught expert moves such as curling positions, sweeping and shooting at targets. Newbie curlers try out their skills with a game at the end of the session.

In a game, two teams of four players compete by pushing curling stones across the ice to targets at a distance of 140 feet. Players score points by knocking opponents’ stones away to get closest to the center ring of the target.

“The purpose is to outwit your opponent and beat them at their own game,” Loudon says. “You can be competitive on the ice, but the club is really a big family, and we have a lot of fun off the ice too.”

Learn to Curl classes are led by experienced volunteers as well as Loudona longtime curling competitor and former Olympic athlete.

Scottish native Loudon is a former member of Britain’s Olympic curling team and competed in the 1998 Winter Games in Japan. It was an important year for curling—the first year the game was considered a full-medal sport—and Loudon counts it as one of her biggest achievements.

“I felt very privileged to be in that position,” she said. “It was one of the most awesome experiences of my life.”

Loudon said that although curling is a fairly new sport in California, it’s gaining momentum every year.

“People are really enthusiastic about the game and just want to have fun on the ice,” she said.

The Lake Tahoe Epic Curling Club was founded in 2011 by South Lake locals Eric Hazard and Ray Sidney. An avid fan of curling, Sidney wanted to bring the sport to his hometown and purchased equipment and curling stones for the club. At $5000 a set, curling stones aren’t cheap, but now Lake Tahoe Epic Curling has state-of-the-art curling equipment and 55 members.

Currently, Lake Tahoe Epic Curling plays in South Lake Tahoe, but the club plans to open a new ice facility the summer of 2019 in Stateline, Nevada. The new arena will be the first facility in the state dedicated to curling.

Those who want to try the sport can sign up for a class throughout the winter at laketahoecurling.com. Classes cost $20. Loudon said all people need bring are shoes with good tread, warm clothes and some enthusiasm. “It’s a fun new sport to try,” she said. “People make new friends and gain a better understanding of the intricacies of the game.”