A day on the ice, learning to curl

Curling instructor Nick Kitinski throws a stone at the Las Vegas Ice Center while Jamie Cattanach looks on.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

Curling in Las Vegas

Like nearly every other living being on the planet, I’m unable to peel myself from the TV during the winter Olympics when curling is on. So when word got out that a curling group had formed in Las Vegas, I nearly fell out of my chair. And when U.S.A Curling instructor Nick Kitinski said he’d meet me at the Las Vegas Ice Center for a lesson, I sort of did.

That’s why I’m not going to complain here about the frozen nuggets that used to be my toes, or get discouraged by the slo-mo tumble I took while sliding in a well-intended but terribly executed kneeling position. Despite the early hour, I’m lucid enough to know that this is a golden opportunity. Not everyone gets to vigorously sweep pebbled ice in order to assist a granite stone, “thrown” down the rink by a teammate at the other end.

The Details

Learn to Curl
Sundays (resumes August 5), 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m., $10-$15
Las Vegas Ice Center, 9295 W. Flamingo Road, 350-2875, lvcurling.com

“It’s like chess. Every move is not a winning move. You’re building up strategy,” Kitinski says as we watch local curling enthusiasts play a pick-up game, including Canadian-born Jamie Cattanach. His parents were curlers, and he took up the sport after the Salt Lake Olympics.

Though Las Vegas isn’t yet a curling hotbed, this group is devoted to the centuries-old sport they’ve only recently adopted. “I have high hopes,” says Jeff Schonzeit, who brought his young nephew to curl. “The biggest disappointment for me is that it would die in Las Vegas. I’m hoping for 20 teams.”

That sentiment is shared by Peggy Pennington, a former ice skating coach who took up curling in LA and now lives in Las Vegas, and by Angela Carlson, who got turned on to curling on TV while living in the Upper Peninsula.

But we need not worry too much about curling’s survival here: A funny thing happens with this peculiar sport. People see it and have to try it. The 2010 Olympics brought Kitinski, a Swedish-born LA resident, to town to lead a two-hour lesson for 80 people. Interest waned due to the cost of equipment, but Kitinski revived it a year later, when he offered “learn to curl” sessions and brought Sin Sity Spiel, the first bonspiel (tournament) here. That brought 34 curling teams to town last October, including Olympians and national champions. Kitinski returns to the Ice Center Sundays for the classes and to run the beginner’s league. The bonspiel returns this October and again on New Year’s Eve. I, for one, can’t think of a better way to ring in 2013.

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