Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Curling In Dawson

If tourists asked me what people in Skagway did during the winter, they certainly asked the question of Dawsonites in Dawson City, Yukon, some 400 miles even farther north. It seemed inconceivable to visitors that people would actually live way up there.
“Do you see the green building to your right?” I’d ask, less than a minute out of the Breezeway, motor coach full of the curious. “Well, that’s the curling rink. They curl.” 
And this is what I intend to try, I’d think to myself. Lucky me, last week I did just that.
        First of all, scoring is complicated. The easy part is that you play the ice first one way, a team of four going through eight rocks (40-pound circular stones with a handle on the top) and then playing the ice the other way. Each is considered an “end” and the game is over after eight ends—or unless the losing team loses heart and quits. And this does happen. Too far behind to catch up, people give up.
            I first watched four games at Dawson City’s 114th International Bonspiel, fascinated by the skill, strategies, and scoring, perfect strangers happy to answer my questions and teach me the finer points of what was going on. I could hardly wait until Thursday night—when I could try it for myself.
          It’s harder than I thought. I’m not strong, and you’ve got to figure out how to push off, keep yourself balanced on the ice, and get enough oomph to spin the rock down the ice far enough to “get in the house.”
I played with a friend I was staying with, two strangers, and a Swiss woman I’d made friends with during the bonspiel. All were patient and helped me along, which was all part of the fun.
            I actually got off two good shots, and when we played girls against boys, the girls won. Meet the winners: Myrta, Me, and Larissa.
            So curling is one thing at least that people do in Dawson during the winter.