It’s no secret that Zermatt is known as a world-class skiing destination, but did you know it also has a long history of curling? The Curling Club Zermatt is the most successful curling club in Switzerland, and world-class curlers train on the ice in Zermatt. As we took a walking tour of the village with our guide Fabiene from Zermatt Tourismus, we stopped for a while at the two rinks to learn a bit more about curling in Zermatt.
Basically two teams of four players each slide polished granite stones across the curling sheet toward a target, called a house. Points are scored for the stones resting closet to the center of the house. Two sweepers run along the ice and use their brooms to feverishly polish the ice so that the stone gains speed and slides further. The stone must touch at least the outer ring of the target in order to score any points.
- The stones weigh a whopping 38 – 44 pounds!
- Curling traces its roots back to Scotland in the 1500s and in the 1920s, Scotsman had to pack those stones in their luggage and haul them all the way to Zermatt to be sure not to miss out on curling fun.
- A special shoe called a Teflon Slider shoe is worn on only one foot to help glide down the ice when delivering a stone.
- A typical game lasts about 2 hours.
- The Horu-Trophy, one of the largest and best open air curling tournaments in Europe, takes place in Zermatt the third week of January. Around 60 teams from Europe compete.
Clutching steaming mugs of glühwein, we laughed and watched in fascination as 16 games unfolded before us, the players each strategizing like it was a game of chess on ice. The team of four would gather, pointing as they determined the best path for their stone to reach the house. One team member would launch the stone and then the sweepers were off, feverishly brushing the ice to keep the stone from “curling”.
Curling is definitely a social sport. A tent was set up selling glühwein, beer, and ironically, aspirin (you know, for the hangover you’re surely suffering the next day!). Sausages were being grilled up and picnic tables were full of teams taking a break to enjoy the action. Rubbish bins practically overflowed with wine and beer bottles, confirming our suspicion about why aspirin was on offer at the tent.
Would you like to try your hand at curling? Unlike the Scottish hauling their stones in their luggage, equipment rental is available from several shops in Zermatt such as Bayard Sport and Fashion, Glacier Sport, or Julen-sport. Rink rental is CHF 75.00 per rink for 2 hours daily November – February from 10am – 7pm.