By GARRETT NEESE
CALUMET - After taking a year off for building repairs, the Copper Spiel again drew curlers from throughout the Midwest to play on natural ice.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Nick Hilvak of the Michigan Technological University Curling Club sets off toward the house during the Copper Country Curling Club's Fifth Copper Spiel hosted in the Calumet Drill House.
This is the fifth year overall for the event, put on by the Copper Country Curling Club. Last year's had to be canceled due to needed repairs from a wind storm blowing off the roof.
This year's tournament drew 11 teams, both local and from other places in the Midwest such Midland, Mich., Madison, Wis., St. Paul, Minn., Marshfield, Wis., and Wauwatosa, Wis.
Many teams come for the natural ice, which is a rarity for a permanent location, said Gary Lassila, vice president of the Copper Country Curling Club.
"There's some people that might play the weekend on a frozen pond, but our main rink is natural ice," he said.
Lassila said the teams also enjoy the atmosphere of the Calumet Drill House, which still carries remnants of the days when the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. used it to manufacture and sharpen drill bits.
The club itself has about 70 members, which Lassila said is bigger than many more-populated cities.
"We have a lot of curling in our area for the size of our community," he said.
The Madison team's trip was the idea of one of its members, who had been up to the drill house a couple of years ago.
The natural ice contains more minerals, which makes for a less uniform surface. That makes the stone or rock's travel slower and more unpredictable, said Madison team member Donnie Henry.
"There's a lot more intricacies ...," he said. "This ice is really good. Better than I expected."
Henry said they've enjoyed the trip.
"It's very unique," he said. "It's what we're looking for."
Games began Friday and continued until Sunday. Teams play a minimum of three games; after that, Lassila said, the tournament's structure gets complicated.
"It's even hard for us to explain," he said.
Some people watched the action from a walkway above the ice fitted with a couch. More got a break from the cold inside a warming hut.
Midway through Saturday, Lassila said, the tournament was a success.
"Everybody seems to be happy," he said. "The ice is good. That's important. People having a lot of fun, enjoying themselves."