Cross-country curling – 100 Mile House, Canada

An extract from the book – Sports the Olympics Forgot.

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The citizens of 100 Mile House have invented the ultimate curling contest, which combines the thrills of curling with the unpredictability of cross-country skiing. The cross-country curling course is fifty kilometers in length and contains eighty sharp bends; the curlers must take as few shots as possible to complete the course successfully. Accuracy over distances of 500 – 1250 metres is paramount, as all eighty bends have run-offs behind them, to ensure that stones with too much weight are severely penalized. Sweepers for this event are speed-skaters with brooms.

 

The event was started in 1954 by the town council because they believed that the citizens of 100 Mile House spent too much time puzzling over exactly where they were 100 miles from. The event takes place on February 1st in the countryside around the town and draws teams from all over northern BC. The course is laid out during January and is given a final polish by the local Zamboni owner on January 31st.

 

Each team comprises four people and they each take turns at moving their rock along the course. Teams curl off at intervals of five minutes and no overtaking is allowed unless a team loses their rock in a snow bank. Teams have twenty seconds to make their next shot otherwise they are penalized by the timer assigned to their team. The rocks used are the standard curling stones though the method of delivery is vastly different to the indoor version of curling. At each bend there is a target area that the rock must stop in before the team can continue along the next straight section of the course.

 

The record for the fewest shots to complete the entire 50K course is 257 by the Vanderhoof Vandals team in 1967, who finished 38 shots ahead of the field – another record. This team comprised the four Van Der Voort brothers, who didn’t play curling that regularly but were avid gym-goers, golfers, and cross-country skiers. As a fellow competitor said “The Vandals were a lot of hurling and not much curling, but they never gave up.”

 

As Vincent Van Der Voort said “We used to play it like a round of golf, eh? We knew the yardages of each leg and my buddies knew roughly how far they could hurl their stones to within 10 yards. The idea was to throw the stone, eh, as hard as possible and in a straight line and the sweepers would not sweep until they thought the stone was going to be short. We knew that if we swept like fanatics we could get an extra 20 yards out of the rock. We practiced a lot in the frozen fields and got our distances right.”

 

The longest section on the course is the 1250 metre long Valley of Tired Rocks which is downhill for the first 650 metres but then rises for 350 more before flattening out over the last 250. In 1976 Pat McMaster became the only person to ever throw a rock along this section with such great accuracy that his rock stopped in the target at the bend without any sweeping being required. This celebrated “Hurl of the Century” is celebrated with a plaque at the bend. Unfortunately, McMaster was unable to savour the moment as he was doubled over in pain because he’d given himself a hernia throwing the rock along the course. Even the Vanderhoof Vandals took 4 shots on this section in 1967.

 

Every shot that’s taken counts towards the final score unless the rock hits a large animal such as a bear, moose, or coyote in which case the rock should be returned to its previous position and rehurled. Play can be suspended if the bear in question refuses to leave the course in case it tries to interfere with another rock or to eat one of the competitors.

 

The most shots ever taken was 872 in 1978 by the Pemberton Boy Scouts although this is only an approximate amount as their counting judge may have fallen asleep on occasions due to the slowness of their play. The boys didn’t have the arm strength to throw their rock very far and their inexperience showed especially when the local squirrels realized that the curling stones were an easy way for them to hitch a ride through the snowy landscape.

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