If you have watched curling before, you have most likely seen it be played on dedicated ice. There are two types of curling ice called:
Dedicated ice is considered to be ice that only curlers will use. There will never be any ice hockey players or figure skaters using the same ice surface. On dedicated ice, you will see all of the curling lines and houses painted under the ice. Additionally, the hacks are already frozen into the ice, and are not removed.
Since curling ice is best kept between 22-24 degrees Fahrenheit, dedicated ice is able to be maintained at this temperature. The colder the ice is, the better playing surface you will have for your games. Typically, curlers will wear a pair of shoes that they only wear on the ice. This helps keep any dust or other debris off the ice, and keep the playing surface clean and consistent.
On arena ice, the ice rink may paint all of the curling lines and houses under the ice. Otherwise, the houses are scribed into the ice during setup, and the hacks are frozen into the ice. Usually, arena ice will not have the sidelines painted, which means your curling club will use some other marker on the ice (like cones) to indicate where the sidelines are located. Since other people utilize the same ice, it is not kept as cool and clean as dedicated ice.
REMEMBER: Do not let arena ice discourage you from playing! There are many curling clubs across the United States that only use arena ice. Curling clubs will work with the people at the ice arena to help get a clean, level playing surface for your games.
Regardless of whether you play on dedicated ice or not, the curling ice will still be prepared the same way. By learning how to prepare your curling ice, you will be able to help your curling club setup the ice faster, which means you'll have more time to play your games.
If curlers were to slide curling stones on smooth ice, a curling stone would travel no more than 20 feet. By texturing - or pebbling - the ice, the stone can travel farther.
To pebble the ice, a pebbler is used. A pebbler is essentially a backpack that carries hot water with a hose that comes out the bottom. We will learn more about the pebbler in Curling Pebbler. At the end of the nozzle is a pebblehead, which looks similar to a showerhead, but points upwards.
After the pebbler is filled with hot water, a person will begin to pebble the ice. This is achieved by moving the pebblehead in a horizontal arc while walking backwards (as you do not want to step on the pebble that was just created). This process is repeated until three or four coats of pebble are on the ice.
After pebbling, it is important to cut the top part of the pebble off. This is because each pebble looks like a peak, and can have different heights. By nipping the top of the pebble, a uniform, level playing surface is created.
This is where the nipper comes in to play. We will learn about the nipper more in Curling Nipper, but we will give a basic overview here. A nipper contains a large metal blade, about six feet wide, that is pushed along the ice to cut, or nip, the top of the pebble. Around the blade is a guard so that nobody will harm themselves from the blade of the nipper. Lastly, a mop follows the blade to collect all of the nipped pebble peaks (ice shavings).
In some cases, arena ice may not have the houses painted under the ice. Thus, it is the curlers' job to etch it in the ice. This is achieved by using a scriber to etch the house into the ice. Then, a large mop follows the scriber to collect all of the ice shavings that were formed from etching the house into the ice.
If you are using arena ice, your curling club's hacks will also need to be frozen into the ice. This is done by pouring hot water on to the bottom side of the hacks. Then, the hacks are placed into position (given by some reference point or marker on the ice), and stood on for five to ten minutes. This ensures that the water has time to freeze around the hack, thus creating a tight seal so the hack stays in place for the entire game.
Lastly, the scoreboards for curling are usually on the walls of dedicated ice curling centers. If you are using arena ice, make sure that your scoreboards are placed on the ice so that they may be used. Typically, the scoreboards are placed a few feet beyond the boards.
Whether you play on arena ice or dedicated ice, pebbling and nipping must occur. If you play on arena ice, more setup may be required before you can play a game of curling.