What: Curling clinics
When: Sundays in January, various times
Where: Boulder Ice Rink, 1801 13th St.
More info: bouldericerink.com
The granite curling stone barreled from one end of the Boulder Ice Rink to the other.
"Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!" yelled members of team "Curl Me Maybe" on Thursday night. "Wait, don't sweep! Don't sweep! Stop sweeping!"
Too late. The 25-pound curling stone crashed into the wall. The team then issued a collective groan while their competitors, The Klunkers, prepared for their next throw.
For the first winter ever, the Boulder Ice Rink is giving Boulderites the chance to learn a new icy sport -- curling. The rink will host curling clinics each Sunday in January and a five-week curling league on Thursday nights, complete with costumes, curling-themed team names and friendly competition.
Because special curling changes must be made to the ice, rink manager Cindi Indermill said there will be no drop-in play.
"We offered it this year just as a way to make the ice more inviting," Indermill said. "Sometimes people aren't enthused about ice skating or broomball, so this was something we thought might be more appealing."
Four players on the same team participate in each "end," the curling term comparable to an inning in baseball: one thrower, two sweepers and one skip. The thrower -- who actually slides the stone -- pushes off from a foothold, or "hack," with the stone in one hand, his or her legs in a deep lunge.
The two sweepers begin directing the stone by brushing vigorously in front of it. The skip stands in the "house," or the concentric circles at the other end of ice where the stone comes to rest. He or she provides instruction and strategy for which direction the stone should move and how fast or slow it should slide.
Joe Seufert, who will help teach the rink's curling clinics, learned the game with a little help from the Denver Curling Club.
A former ice hockey player, Seufert said curling required many of the same skills as chess.
"There's a lot of math and strategy," he said. "You have to anticipate your opponents' next move."
Because the rink is smaller than a regulation curling court, curlers will play with a junior stone, which weighs 25 pounds as opposed to the full-sized 42 pounds. The granite stones are stored in a special "stones only" freezer near the ice rink to maintain their temperature.
A special machine called a pebbler places individual drops of water on the ice, which creates bumps and canyons on the ice. This allows air to flow beneath the stones, which helps them slide, Seufert said.
Indermill said many employers have approached her about using curling as a teambuilding exercise because it requires collaboration, problem solving and strategy.
Kristen Salo, who directs a team of five employees at the University of Colorado's University Memorial Center, tries to plan an activity for her staff once a semester.
One morning in January, Salo and her crew tried curling.
"I don't know if we'll be professionals in the Olympics or anything, but we had fun," said Salo. "It was trying something new. We were able to laugh with one another and challenge ourselves."
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.