AAA Magazines

Where to see curling in Northern New England

Curling stones Curling stones, shown here at New Hampshire’s Merrimack Valley Curling Club, weigh 44 pounds. Photo by Craig Michaud Photography

Intrigued by the curling you’ve seen in the Olympics? Baffled by how it works? For some insider insight, check out one of Northern New England’s curling clubs, all of which welcome spectators. If you’d like to slide onto the ice yourself, sign up for a learn-to-curl session. If you’re experienced and ready to join, you’ll find that many clubs welcome new members. The local groups listed below generally play from late fall to early spring.

Age is not an obstacle: “We have people in their 20s to 80s, all on the same team,” says Belfast Curling Club’s Steve McLaughlin. Don’t be surprised, however, to find it’s harder than it looks on TV. “There’s a lot more exertion—especially when sweeping—than people expect,” says Jim Carbone of the Merrimack Valley Curling Club.

Learn more about the game after these listings. Whichever club you visit, you can be assured of a warm welcome punctuated by a hearty, traditional wish: “Good curling!”

Curling in Maine

A bagpipe player performs to kick off a Belfast Curling Club tournament

A bonspiel, or tournament, gets under way at the Belfast Curling Club. Photo courtesy Belfast Curling Club

Daytime and evening play takes place Monday through Friday at the Belfast Curling Club’s excellent facility from November until early April.

Two-hour learn-to-curl sessions ($40, applicable toward membership) occur on weekends in late October and early January prior to each half of the curling season. Following a 15-minute explanation of the game, instructors take groups of 4 onto the ice to practice throwing the stone and sweeping. “In 2 hours, you’ll learn to curl and can play a game,” says Steve McLaughlin, the club’s learn-to-curl organizer and membership director.

The club also offers limited 3-hour private rentals with instruction for groups of up to 8. Visitors are welcome to watch from the warm room through large windows overlooking the ice.

Pine Tree Curling Club members curl from September through March—and sometimes later into the spring, says member Derek Campbell—at Portland’s William B. Troubh Ice Arena (formerly the Portland Ice Arena). Playing in leagues on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, they range from newcomer to experienced.

In addition to curling at the arena, members often travel to events at other clubs. Learn-to-curl sessions, which sometimes sell out, are held throughout the season and have drawn hundreds of new participants to the sport. The club also hosts private events for up to 40 people.

Read more: 7 cross-country skiing spots in Northern New England

Curling in New Hampshire

Members of the Merrimack Valley Curling Club playing

An overhead view of the houses, or targets, at Nashua Country Club, home ice of the Merrimack Valley Curling Club. Photo by Craig Michaud Photography

Members of the Merrimack Valley Curling Club play on the designated curling ice at nearby Nashua Country Club from late October to early April. Sessions are held on Sunday afternoons and evenings and on Tuesday nights.

The club holds an annual open house with curling instruction near the beginning of the season in late October. After league play begins, the club is usually unable to accept new members, but spectators are always welcome. Club member Jim Carbone suggests visiting and chatting with players—“Curlers love to talk about curling,” he says.

Mount Washing Valley Curling Club member gliding on the ice

A player uses a stabilizer at the Mount Washington Valley Curling Club. Photo by Paul Valle

The Mount Washington Valley Curling Club plays in Conway’s Ham Arena on Wednesday evenings from late September to early April. Membership is currently oversubscribed, so no learn-to-curls (usually $25) are being offered this winter. Club President Paul Valle recommends signing up now for one of the learning sessions in the fall. Likewise, experienced curlers who would like to join the club can ask to be added to the membership waiting list.

In the meantime, Valle encourages people to come and watch on Wednesdays. “I love to see people in the stands,” he says. “I go out and explain what’s going on.”

Read more: Where to go snowshoeing in New England

Curling in Vermont

Curling stones on the ice

The Rutland Rocks Curling Club offers numerous participation opportunities for all ages. Photo by Suzi Media/

Because the Rutland Rocks Curling Club reserves time at the Giorgetti Arena on Wednesday evenings, Sunday afternoons, and Sunday evenings during its November-to-March season, it can accommodate more members than clubs that only play once a week. New members are welcome, and there are frequent Sunday-afternoon learn-to-curl sessions ($15, applicable toward membership). Novice players are quickly integrated into teams with seasoned curlers.

The club also nurtures middle-schoolers in a youth curling program (interested parents should contact the club or their child’s school) and facilitates a curling club at nearby Castleton University.

Members of Upper Valley Curling don’t just enjoy the sport in the wintertime. In the colder months, they play at the Barwood Arena in White River Junction; come summer, they move to the Union Arena in Woodstock and, says board member Patricia Bray, invite experienced curlers from the region to join them. The club always seeks new members and puts on learn-to-curls ($30) early in the winter season and again in January or February.

As part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, in conjunction with Dartmouth College, the club also offers curling sessions for seniors. In addition, it oversees an adaptive curling program for veterans, many of whom use wheelchairs.

Read more: No skis needed for these fun winter activities at New England resorts

The cold, hard facts of curling

Belfast Curling Club members playing

A team at the Belfast Curling Club sweeps the ice as its stone approaches the house. Photo courtesy Belfast Curling Club

This curiously cool sport, which originated on the frozen lochs of Scotland back in the 1500s, has been an Olympic medal event since the 1998 Winter Games. While some observers equate it to shuffleboard, Belfast’s Steve McLaughlin disagrees. “It might look the same, but it’s really not,” he says. “It’s chess on ice. The strategy is complicated.” Mount Washington Valley’s Paul Valle adds, “It’s all about what shot to make and what shot not to make. It’s very cerebral, as opposed to using brute force.”

Two teams of 4 people—or sometimes just 2 per team—play a game consisting of 8 “ends,” or innings. In each end, each player delivers 2 rounded, 44-pound granite stones down a sheet of ice, aiming for the “button” in the center of the 12-foot-wide “house,” a red-and-blue bull’s-eye 150 feet away.

When releasing the stone, a player puts a little spin on it to make it “curl” slightly while traveling down the ice. As it slides along, team members use a specialized broom to “sweep” or scrub the ice in front of it to affect its direction and speed. The ice surface is “pebbled” with tiny bumps that allow a stone to glide more easily. As the heavy granite stone travels over the little bumps, it makes a wonderful roaring sound.

For beginners who worry about falling when delivering the stone, a handle-shaped device called a stabilizer slides along with the player to help maintain balance. And if creaky knees prevent a player from getting down into the low-lunge stance, a delivery stick allows the player to send the stone down the ice while standing. The stick also makes play possible for people who use wheelchairs.

Each team’s captain, or “skip,” calls the shots, advising the person delivering the stone of the desired target and strategy, and then telling the others to sweep or not sweep as needed. Tactics include throwing a stone that blocks or “guards” the opponent’s access to the house, and one that knocks the opponent’s stone out of the house (called a “takeout”). At each end’s conclusion, the team whose stone or stones remain closest to the button scores points. After 8 ends, the team with the most points wins.

Socializing and a sense of community form an integral part of the curling experience. After the games comes “broomstacking,” an informal gathering usually enjoyed over drinks in the warm room. “It’s customary to stay for an hour or 2 after the game, talking and making new friends,” says Dean Mooney of Rutland Rocks. Many clubs also hold day- or weekend-long tournaments called bonspiels, inviting other clubs to join them in friendly competitions and other festivities.

Mimi Bigelow Steadman writes about New England regularly for AAA’s publications.

Follow us on Instagram

Follow @AAAAutoClubEnterprises for the latest on what to see and do.

Read more articles

You'll find more of the articles you love to read at AAA Insider.

Travel offers & deals

" "

Hot travel deals

Get the latest offers from AAA Travel’s preferred partners.

" "

Travel with AAA

See how we can help you plan, book, and save on your next vacation.

" "

Entertainment savings

Save big with AAA discounts on tickets to your next adventure.

" "

Travel with confidence

Purchase travel insurance with Allianz Global Assistance.

back to top icon