CONWAY — A new curling wave is sweeping the valley.
Forty-four beginners took to the ice at Ham Arena Sept. 10 for an inaugural learn-to-curl night and while there was some initial slipping and sliding, all were hooked on the sport by the end of the evening.
The second scheduled learn-to- curl night took place the following Saturday, and while the turnout was smaller, with just 17 in attendance, interest was high. The MWV Curling Club plans to hold a third session Oct. 1 from 5 to 8 p.m. and will launch an eight-week league in mid to late October and another one in January.
"Things went pretty well," said Pat Kittle, president of the MWV Curling Club, of the first session, noting that it attracted people of all ages from pre-teens to would-be curlers in their 70s.
"I don't think there was a single person who said they didn't like it," he said. "What we did hear is a number of people who said Saturday nights don't work for me. If that's the case then we may have to look at other options."
The league is scheduled to run on Saturday nights.
"We'll have a short session from mid to late October for eight weeks," Kittle said of the plan for the league. "I would imagine we'll do another open house and learn-to-curl nights in January before we start up another league."
Curling is a sport in which players slide stones across a sheet of ice toward a target area. Two teams, each of four players, take turns sliding heavy (weighing between 38 to 44 pounds), polished granite stones, also called "rocks," across the ice curling sheet toward the house, a circular target marked on the ice.
Each team has eight stones. The goal is to accumulate the highest score for a game, points being scored for the stones resting closest to the center of the house at the conclusion of each end, which is completed when both teams have thrown all of their stones. A game may consist of eight to 10 ends.
Kittle said MWV Curling Club has received a collection of little rocks from a club in New York that weigh 18 pounds apiece and are designed to be thrown by children.
Over 100 people turned out in September for the initial Curl-A-Palooza in which members of the Nashua and Merrimack curling clubs put on a demonstration of the sport with the inaugural match played on the West Main Street ice sheet.
People in attendance applauded shots and were keen to learn more. Members of the Mount Washington Valley Curling Club were throughout the rink answering questions about everything from the costs of brushes (starting at around $70 on up to $200 for a carbon fiber brush) to the different types of footwear curlers wear (they actually have a Teflon base on the bottom of their shoes).
Kittle said it's not too late for anyone who still wants to curl.
"If people are interested in coming [Oct. 1] they're certainly welcome," he said. "It costs $15 for the session to come and play. You should probably show up by 5:30 p.m. if you are a first-timer.
Cost for memberships vary. A full membership is $120 for people who want to curl weekly. A trial membership is $60, which entitles a player to curl the first half of the season to see if he or she like it. A third option is a social membership, which costs $75 and allows a player to take to the sheet two times a month. A $15 fee is charged each week for ice time.
For updates, call the Ham Ice Arena at 447-5886 or go to the MWV Curling Club on Facebook.