Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

On the eve of its largest annual event, the Pittsburgh Curling Club has plans to increase Pittsburgh’s appreciation for its intricate sport.




PHOTOS by john zavinski

 

Pittsburgh may be a hockey town, but there’s room on the ice for a 42-pound granite stone and a pair of brooms.

Curling — the quirky Scottish sport that many Americans rediscover when the Winter Olympics roll around — is alive and thriving here, thanks to the Pittsburgh Curling Club (pittsburghcurlingclub.com).

Founded in 2002, the club was started by locals and expatriate Canadians who wanted to bring the sport to the city, according to board member Marie Rose. She and her husband, club President Steve Buffington, have been members of the club since its inception.

While in Canada in 2002, the couple happened upon a competition and was immediately fascinated. When they learned that a club was forming in Pittsburgh, “We headed right over,” Rose says. “We had to try it — and just like everybody else, we got hooked.”
 


 

NBC’s coverage of curling during the Winter Olympics serves as the typical entrée into the sport; it’s how both club Vice President Leonard Jarabek and five-year member Robert Suhr found the PCC. 

“It is just so different than anything I had ever experienced before,” Suhr says. “I thought that I would enjoy it when I tried it, but when I threw my first stone ... it just clicked for me. I just wanted to keep doing it.”

So how does one curl?

Curling is played by two teams of four people each. The teams attempt to slide “stones” — 42-pound slabs of granite mined on the Scottish island Ailsa Craig — approximately 150 feet down a sheet of ice and land them in the center of a bullseye 12 feet in diameter. Each team slides eight stones and also can block the target with stones to keep competitors from scoring or knock the opposition’s stones off altogether. The team whose stones are closer to the center gets a point for each stone closer than any opposing stone. Teams do this between eight and 10 times, depending on the level of competition, to complete a full game.
 


 

So, what’s the deal with the brooms? As the stone is hurtling down the ice, two curlers race ahead of it, brushing down the ice with specially designed brooms. The sweeping, done at the direction of the team captain, known as the skip, affects the distance the stone travels and how much it “curls.”
“It’s basically golf and chess on ice,” Suhr explains. “It’s a thinking-man’s sport.”

There are slightly fewer than 100 members of the PCC, which lacks a dedicated home. The club plays at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center, with limited access to the ice. 

Members are hoping to change that this summer. The club is in the process of purchasing land in Stowe Township for a dedicated curling facility. 

“We have a lot more demand for people who want to curl than people we can actually put into our competitive league,” Jarabek says; a dedicated facility would allow for many more active members, as well as more installments of the club’s popular “Learn to Curl” events (which have a waiting list hundreds deep).
 


 

The building project, estimated to cost upwards of $1.4 million, also ensures the club will have a more professional ice surface on which to play and the ability to create more revenue by hosting “bonspiels,” or friendly competitions with other curling clubs.

For the past 12 years, the PCC has hosted the TropiCurl bonspiel in late June/early July; this year’s takes place from June 29 through July 2. It’s one of the largest single-location bonspiels in the United States; TropiCurl hosts 48 teams from across the U.S. and Canada.        

While a timeline isn’t in place for construction, Rose hopes for a summer groundbreaking and a ready-to-curl facility sometime in 2018. The timing is fitting: With the Winter Olympics six months away, interest in the sport is about to peak again.  
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in July

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in July

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Can You Really Learn CPR in Pittsburgh in Five Minutes?

Can You Really Learn CPR in Pittsburgh in Five Minutes?

We put two of our interns to the test at the Carnegie Science Center.
Important Things to Know About the Furries

Important Things to Know About the Furries

The Furries are in Pittsburgh this weekend for their annual convention. We’ve got a list of do’s and don’ts to make them feel welcome.
Pittsburgh Workers Use the Most Vacation Time in the Country

Pittsburgh Workers Use the Most Vacation Time in the Country

Project: Time Off reports that just 40 percent of Pittsburghers end the year with unused vacation time.
Duck Donuts Opens Its First Pittsburgh-Area Location

Duck Donuts Opens Its First Pittsburgh-Area Location

The shop promises a “taste of the Outer Banks” without the 9-hour drive.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in July

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in July

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

On the eve of its largest annual event, the Pittsburgh Curling Club has plans to increase Pittsburgh’s appreciation for its intricate sport.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Can You Really Learn CPR in Pittsburgh in Five Minutes?

Can You Really Learn CPR in Pittsburgh in Five Minutes?

We put two of our interns to the test at the Carnegie Science Center.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Look for some big changes at the Upper Lawrenceville restaurant, which is expected to shutter for at least a year.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


Condado Brings the Build-Your-Own Model to Tacos

Condado Brings the Build-Your-Own Model to Tacos

At the new Downtown taco-and-cocktail joint, you can get anything you like atop your tortilla shell — but can your creation stack up to nearby alternatives?

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pittsburgh Pirates Looking for Relief from Their Bullpen

Pittsburgh Pirates Looking for Relief from Their Bullpen

The just-completed, pivotal 10-game stretch began and ended the same way for the Pittsburgh Pirates –– with no one having an answer for the faltering bullpen.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

The Strip District-based woodworker's cutting boards can be custom made with the wood of your choice.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Reviews of "Cars 3" and "47 Meters Down," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Brewing Up Romance: A Couple Comes Together over Beer

Brewing Up Romance: A Couple Comes Together over Beer

See how this couple used their love of beer and breweries to create their special moments.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
New! Black Cherry Design Opens Retail Store

New! Black Cherry Design Opens Retail Store

Lauren Piasecki and Stan Adamik’s brick-and-mortar lifestyle boutique in Lawrenceville carries high-end furniture, lighting, new upholstery, candles, vintage goods and more.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

On three days this summer, the college will host visit days for prospective students.

Comments

Edit Module