Bonspiels – A Gentle Introduction

There’s a lot more curling going on than just our weekly league games. If you’d like to curl more, consider attending a bonspiel.

A bonspiel is a tournament. There are different kinds of bonspiels. Some are meant to be non-competitive and fun, which are great for new curlers to participate in, and others are competitive (and also fun), but are more suitable for experienced curlers. There are different categories of bonspiels:

  • Women only
  • Men only
  • “Mixed” for teams of two men and two women
  • “Mixed Doubles” for teams of one woman and one man – a variation on the traditional game of curling.
  • “Open” where any combination of men and women may play as a team (These are great for new curlers!).

There can be further restrictions within these broad categories. Just some of these are:

  • Juniors – for young people.
  • Seniors – for those with age on their side.
  • Stick bonspiels for those who use a stick to deliver a rock.
  • Wheelchair bonspiels.
  • College students only.
  • “5 & Under” for curlers with less than 6 years experience.
  • “Lefty” bonspiels for left handed curlers only.
  • And the list goes on…

National Playdowns are a special set of bonspiels that lead to representing the United States at an international level. As you can imagine they are very competitive. There are National Playdowns for men, women, senior men, senior women, junior men, junior women, mixed, senior mixed, mixed doubles, youth, university men, university women, and wheelchair.

Club Nationals are competitive bonspiels that lead to the National Club championships. Currently there is a men’s and women’s Club National tournament. There is no international competition for Club Nationals.

What people are saying about bonspiels

Here are a few notes from bonspiels attended in 2012: The Bonspiel Diaries

How to get Involved

Our good friends at the Rochester Curling Club in Rochester, NY host a “friendly” for us in early April after our season is over. It’s a one day, “open” bonspiel on a Saturday. We rent a bus and head up for a great day of curling on “real” curling ice.  It’s a great way for new curlers to be introduced to bonspieling, and for many it’s the first time they have ever played on dedicated curling ice. When the sign up sheet comes out be sure to sign up for this one. You don’t need a team, just sign up and we’ll fix you up with a team.

Throughout the year there’s a series of one day, friendly, “open” bonspiels hosted by local clubs in the area that are ideal for new curlers. There’s be one at each of these clubs: the Columbus Curling Club, the Clevelend Skating Club, the Mayfield Curling Club Emails will be sent out to join in. You don’t need a team to participate in these bonspiels. All participants are mixed up so you get meet meet lots of new people.

On any given weekend there’s a bonspiel somewhere in the United States and Canada. There are even bonspiels in the summer (You may have heard of Tropicurl.) Many are close to Pittsburgh. There are lists of bonspiels in our area on the GNCC Calendar and the USCA Calendar.

If you haven’t been to a bonspiel before look for an “Open” bonspiel in the calendars.  Team up with an experienced curler and give it a try. Many experienced curlers in the club like to have one or two new curlers on their team at any of these “Open” bonspiels.

A bonspiel is a great, winter weekend getaway. And inexpensive too. Most spiels are within driving distance so a team can travel in one car and share the gas. The host club always makes arrangements for discounted hotel rooms, and the host club always feeds you… too well.

Once you try it you may want to go further. In the past few years members of the Pittsburgh Curling Club have curled in Canada, Austria, Czech Republic, and Las Vegas (sort of a separate country).