The pictures are captivating, showing eight curling sheets on a frozen lake, with snow-capped mountains in the background. Some of the pictures depict gloriously blue skies, while others show the scene illuminated at night by lights strung up between the sheets.
These pictures are of the annual Bonspiel on the Lake, which took place for the 36th time earlier this month on Lake Windermere in Invermere. The event is extremely popular; the 64 team spots fill up quickly with teams from around BC, Alberta and the United States, and there is usually a wait list.
The bonspiel, which serves as a fundraiser for the Invermere & District Curling Centre, was first started in the 1980s when the club was in need of financial assistance. The club’s building required renovations, and they managed to secure a lottery grant which would cover a third of their costs provided that the club could raise the remaining two thirds.
Renovations began in 1981 and expenses began to pile up. With the club in deficit and work incomplete, the executive resigned and the future of curling in Invermere looked dire.
However, Leo Kienitz, a local businessman and non-curler, offered to take over as club president. A new executive was formed and the club put its efforts towards fundraising to finish covering the costs of the renovation.
“Several fundraisers were in process when then ice maker Joe Peters was asked if he could create a four sheet rink on the lake,” said Invermere & District Curling Centre President Rick Luyendyk.
Peters set up four sheets at Kinsmen Beach–the location the club continues to use today–for the first ever Bonspiel on the Lake fundraiser in January of 1982.
While the 34 teams in attendance at the first event did not actually end up getting to play outdoors (a last minute Chinook forced the bonspiel inside), the fundraising idea stuck, and the club has since enjoyed many seasons of outdoor curling fun.
Many hours of preparation and volunteer commitment are required for the event to be possible. Perry Horning (the ‘lake ice guru’, as Luyendyk calls him) starts preparing the ice two weeks prior to the event.
Weather permitting, large groups of volunteers are brought out to help install the perimeter and interior boards and vertical posts as well as to router and colour the houses, hog lines and backlines. They also install a building on the lake for food.
The outdoor environment creates a one-of-a-kind experience that attracts curlers of all ages and abilities.
“The cracks, bumps, speed create havoc for the most seasoned curler,” said Luyendyk. “We have numerous non-curlers participating and they have a riot.”