Photo by Joe Esenther
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Curling Takes Big Sky

BY: Marc Peruzzi | JANUARY 23, 2024

Need proof that the Big Sky Curling League is the hot winter event on a Friday night? Well, the sport’s popularity has soared so high that the longtime favorite, Trivia Night, had to abandon Friday due to dwindling attendance and switch to another night of the week. As for Broomball, the powerhouse non-gravity sport of mountain towns everywhere, it quickly went out of vogue once curling appeared, and appears to have exited the Big Sky scene.

Don’t take that to mean that Big Sky’s curlers are elitists like Canadian curlers. Jeff Trulen, who helped bring this sport of kings and Wisconsin beer drinkers to Big Sky and now oversees management of the all important ice, is the first to recognize that curling in Big Sky is still a bit rough. For one, it takes place outside, which only happens in Canada and the Midwest for special promotions—like the NHL’s Winter Classic, but with less fisticuffs and more teeth.

“When we started,” says Jeff, “the ice was not anything to be proud of. The concert venue that became the ice rink wasn’t flat. There would be ten inches of ice on one side and two inches on the other end with grass poking through, and every time it warmed up a little we had to cancel. For curling, the Zamboni is an imperfect ice finisher.”

With the addition of a chilled concrete slab a few years back, things got better for the local curlers. But it’s still not exactly a premium venue. The big curling clubs flood their ice and use hand tools to finish it to a mirror-like gloss. They would crack a bottle of Leinenkugel over the head of anyone that dared to skate on it. The Big Sky lanes, meanwhile, are set on shared skating ice. And yes, the curling still happens outside.

But to back up. In those dark days before Big Sky Curling, the hockey league was hoping to get more people using the ice so they could help pay for the Zamboni. Jeff, who has hockey kids, suggested curling. “Great idea, Jeff,” they said. “You are now in charge.”

By Big Sky standards, Jeff had a long history of curling. He’d been playing in Bozeman for two full winters. And although he never touched a hack or a rock box or a pebble head growing up, he is a native of Wisconsin. With those credentials, he became the “purchaser of stones,” a highly esteemed position that also sees Jeff placing the 44 pound stones in a trailer after competition and for the long off-season. “I became the instant guru in curling, which I was not,” says Jeff. “Then I had to teach everyone.”

Photo by Joe Esenther

Photo by Joe Esenther

In January of 2018, the first Friday Night Curling event went down with 16 teams and two sessions. Flash forward to today, and curling is such a hot ticket that the Big Sky Community Organization took over most of the logistics. Team openings are filled long before anyone thinks to advertise the opportunity. Jeff estimates that 90 to 95 percent of the people he taught to curl are still active. This season on Friday nights at the rink, 24 teams of four will sweep in front of rocks on four lanes over two sessions. The last curler to walk off the ice will do so around midnight. Jeff and BSCO get there two hours early at four o’clock to prep the surface. He doesn’t take offense when visiting Canucks stop and say: “That’s not proper curling. That’s just throwing stones, like we would do on a pond.”

“Some people take it seriously. But curling in Big Sky is mostly a chance for developers to hang with lifties and have a beer with realtors and line cooks.” -Jeff Trulen, Big Sky resident who started the curling league in Big Sky

Photo by Joe Esenther

Photo by Joe Esenther

As the Canadians walk off shaking their heads, Jeff cracks a beer. “Some people take it seriously,” says Jeff. “But curling in Big Sky is mostly a chance for developers to hang with lifties and have a beer with realtors and line cooks.”

The league has become a community hangout. Come down and cheer on the “Big Sky Rocks,” or team “I Swept With Your Wife.” The all-woman team in faux fur is the “Slippery Beavers.” They are a fan favorite.

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