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Stones roll into Park City

For the first time ever, curling was just a stone’s throw away for Parkites last weekend.

The Park City Ice Arena played host to a curling bonspiel – or tournament – kicking off the festivities with the first draw Friday night, followed by two more days of sliding. Twenty teams turned out, with three coming from as far as Canada and others driving in from nearby states.

The Olympic sport of curling, which is essentially a version of shuffleboard on ice, is thought to have originated in Scotland in the middle of the 16th century. Teams take turns sliding eight polished granite stones toward a target (the "house") with two sweepers chasing the stone after the throw to alter the ice and change its speed and direction.

The team with the most points – determined by the proximity of its stones to the house – wins the "end," and the team that wins the most ends wins the match.

A college team from Lethbridge, Alberta, took the championship trophy back to foreign soil, leading a strong performance for the three Canadian teams. Meanwhile, the best finish of the three Park City teams was eighth.

Park City Curling Club(PCCC) President Greg Basrak was pleased with the turnout, even though it fell to him to accommodate all the visitors during their stay in town.

"You want to make sure everybody enjoys themselves," Basrak said. "Our ice was perfect. Everybody complimented how well it was playing."

No small feat, considering the Canadians are accustomed to dedicated ice sheets in their homeland, where curling is a more popular sport. The ice crew – many of them coming from the Ogden Curling Club, which also provided equipment – began work Tuesday to transition the hockey rink to a curling sheet.

Workers first hosed down the ice until about a quarter of an inch covered the rink, then waited for it to freeze and leveled it off with a specialized blade. They repeated the process multiple times on Wednesday and Thursday, getting the rink surface as flat as possible, and then used a garden sprayer on Friday to "pebble" the ice precisely with water droplets. The tiny bumps created by the droplets are melted by sweepers to affect the stone.

Speaking of the stone, it’s not cheap. The blue hone granite required by most international curling sanctions has only been quarried – and can be quarried no more – on an island off the Scottish coast protected by preservation laws. At about $400 apiece, Basrak estimated that Park City Municipal donated between $20,000-$30,000 for the stones.

The PCCC invited Richie Smail, a 26-year-old blind man with cerebral palsy, to begin the opening ceremony Saturday morning by delivering the first stone as music was played by, what else, a bagpiper. Ogden had held the event in past years, but Park City took its date this year – in part to draw teams from out of town.

"We’re not sure yet if it’ll come back," Basrak said. "We’re still frazzled from running the whole event."

The PCCC, one of about 135 clubs in the United States, will host a 10-team league in September. Prior to that, it will offer training sessions for beginning curlers throughout the summer months. Go to http://www.parkcitycurling.com for more information.


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