LEADVILLE — For about a decade, Cloud City Curling has been hard at work growing the game of brooms and stones in the Leadville community. While it's a game that's typically played indoors, this jovial, coat-bedecked crowd plays under the stars, surrounded by the shadows of some of Colorado's tallest mountains.
The club traces its start back to 2012 when Tom Whitman, a member of the Denver Curling Club (described as a part-time Leadville local), trucked a set of curling stones into town and hosted a few "learn to curl" events for the town.
Following what's been described as a "particularly competitive session" accompanied later by a "boisterous agreement" at a local bar, several locals would set the wheels in motion to bring curling to Leadville in the 21st century.
Before things could get too far, interested locals (who would go on to become a few of the club's founders) realized they needed to procure their own curling stones. Utilizing connections in Manitoba, Canada, they were able to secure a donation of 48 stones in the winter of 2013.
Initial interest from the "learn to curl" events was limited to about a dozen people; however, that number rapidly increased! By the time the club held its inaugural season in 2014, enough locals were interested to comprise eight teams (approx. 32 people).
The first four seasons, each one inciting more and more interest from the community, were hosted on the Huck Finn Ice Rink before the club decided to create its own curling dedicated ice for the 2019/2020 season.
This decision appears to mark the creation of the only current outdoor rink dedicated solely to the sport of curling within Colorado.
In 2022, the increasing community interest prompted Jason Nepp, a co-founder and the Cloud City Curling Club president, to partner with Lake County's Parks, Recreation, and Open Space department to utilize a portion of Leiter Field.
Of course, the creation and maintenance needed to keep the club's ice sheets operational takes a considerable amount of time.
"There's 16-20 hours of volunteer work per day, per Tuesday and Wednesday," said Nepp, "and then it's just countless beyond that."
Part of those countless hours includes fabricating, flooding, and maintaining the club's icy arena before tearing it down at the end of the season.
According to Kevin Linebarger, another co-founder and the club's senior ice technician, the acquisition of the new space resulted in the already popular endeavor taking on a "Field of Dreams" feel.
"We just kept increasing the width of our sheets and adding a new sheet and adding a new sheet," commented Linerbarger, "and the teams just sign up and come."
Growth has continued and now the club reports that Cloud City Curling is hosting more than 30 teams, "Every year there's another 20, 30, 40 people," said Nepp.
"Now we have about 150 curlers up here," commented Tom Whitman, "in a town the size of Leadville (approx. 2,600)."
According to organizers, the real draw for the club is the sense of community.
"There's folks you see around town, there's folks you see in the grocery store [and you'll say], 'hey, good curling match yesterday,'" commented Linebarger, "and it's folks that you don't happen to see all of the time, so it's good to have another outlet for folks to come out during the winter."
The club also hosts an annual tournament during January that draws folks from out of town and out of state to compete at Leadville's lofty elevation.
In terms of the club's future, Nepp says that the club might be at the right size currently; however, if they decided to grow again, it might mean adding another night of curling instead of expanding their ice.
For more information on Cloud City Curling, you can visit their website.
Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.