A curling competition was held in Les Contamines-Montjoie this past weekend. It is the only open-air competition in all of France. 18 teams from France and Switzerland came out for the event.
It was a gorgeous day for the finals. I spoke with the tournament organizer Jean-Marie Bibollet,who told me the beauty of the Les Contamines competition is that it gets back to the sport’s roots. Playing in open air is a challenge and causes the curlers to take into consideration ever-evolving conditions, not to mention the natural ice rink has a few more bumps and impurities than the indoor arenas to which the curlers have grown accustom.
The game originated in Scotland and was popular among the Scottish aristocracy. Engraved stone were found from as far back as the 1500′s. Originally though, the rocks they used weren’t uniform so the sport was more luck and strength than strategy or skill in its debut.
Do you know why they sweep? I didn’t. I learned that sweeping is done for two reasons: to reduce friction underneath the stone, and to decrease the amount of curl or rotation. Sweeping early helps to increase the distance and reduce how much the granite stones spin, making for a straighter shot.
We didn’t stick around to see the final but I feel these guys should have won simply because they are what I picture a serious french curler to be, which is to say, decked out in plaid, suspenders and a beret.