Bonspiel FAQ

What is a bonspiel?

It’s a curling tournament! German in origin, the word is used all over the world. Typically bonspiels are fun social tournaments. Typically the competitive ones are referred to championships, cashspiels, or events. You don’t want those.


How good do I have to be before I go out to a bonspiel?

All skill levels can go out to a bonspiel. There are some ones that are more competitive, ones that award cash prizes known as cashpiels that are pretty competitive. For the most part other bonspiels that are near us are just a fun tournament. As you get further north, they typically get more competitive, but that’s not always the case. I’ve been to bonspiels where people have been participating just weeks after their first learn to curl.


Do I need to bring my own equipment?

This will vary from club to club. Just about all arena clubs will have step on sliders. Club brooms and stabilizers are generally available, but they may be limited.


I heard some brooms aren’t allowed in competitive play, what’s the deal with that?

This is a rule for competitive play that most clubs don’t really care about. Go ahead and bring your Hardline icePad.


How do I travel with equipment?

If you have to fly, you can check a broom bag pretty easily. Golf bags and ski carriers work well. Flying Southwest you can typically check those sports bags for free. It is recommended you carry on your curling shoes. In case your luggage gets lost, you can always borrow a club broom, you can’t really borrow curling shoes.


What is broomstacking?

Broomstacking is quite possibly one of the best traditions in curling. At a bonspiel there will be a designated broomstacking area of tables. After a match is played, the winning team buys the first round for the other team. You exchange club pins, stories, and generally have a good time.


Do I have to be a USCA member?

A: USCA requirements are only for national tournaments such as arena nationals, club nationals, and their respective playdowns.


Do we need to have a team uniform?

Only for national events is it required. But for bonspiels, wear whatever you want. Some teams do like to have a costume/outfit.


How does the tournament work?

Most bonspiels will have everyone start in the A Event or championship bracket. If you lose your first game, you’ll typically drop down to the B Event. Most bonspiels will have 3-4 events depending on amount of team entries. Most will be a 3 game guarantee, once you’ve made it to your third game, lose and you are done. Usually the first round will be held over a couple of draws on Friday. The bracket maker will typically give out of towners preferences so you can ask for the later game on Friday. You’ll typically play one game Friday, then depending on the bracket, you may play again at 8am on Saturday. Expect to play 2-3 games on Saturday and if you lose your third game you may be out of the event. If you do get eliminated, no big deal. Typically the last draw on Saturday night wraps up around 10pm so most people either plan to hang out at the arena with other curlers or go out.


How much time do I need to plan for a bonspiel?

Most bonspiels will go from Friday early evening to Sunday around noon. If you survive Saturday and play on Sunday, congrats! That should be your goal is to stay alive until Sunday. Usually things will be wrapped up by 2pm and most people will go ahead and head home. If you can afford to do so, I always recommend taking the Monday after a bonspiel off. Travel, sweeping, and broomstacking can be tiring.


How much do bonspiels cost?

Aside from travel costs, there aren’t too many expenses to account for. You can expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $125 per person. Most events will have a host hotel where you can get a club rate on it which is an easy way to go. I’ve done AirBnBs for groups of odd sizes. Food expenses are usually minimal as the host will provide some food. Friday meals are iffy, usually they provide food for most of Saturday. Usually donuts, bagels for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and then usually decent Saturday dinner. Or you can explore around town for some local places. Some bonspiels will offer some drink tickets as part of your entry fee, but there is typically a cash bar setup as they do it to raise funds for the club. There are also places like Kansas City which will have a few kegs included with your entry. It is also common to see that at a dedicated facility. Bonspiels will also typically have various raffles. They will do 50/50s or raffle off prizes. The prizes vary greatly, usually a lot of booze, gift cards, local sporting event tickets, and curling equipment. I’ve won a broom and a broom bag before at a tournament.


How different is it curling at a dedicated facility?

Dedicated facilities are great! They’ll have a warm room for broomstacking and hanging out in between games. Often they have some sort of setup for a bar. But the best part is the ice. The ice will be flat allowing you to throw the stone both ways and will act in a much more predictable pattern. Also the ice is much, much faster. You won’t have to slide out or push as hard. A word of caution is that there are no dedicated facilities near here. The closest ones are Denver, Phoenix, and Atlanta. Typically because they are dedicated facility for curling, the level of competition is generally much higher.


Are there any bonspiels geared towards newer curlers?

Yes! There are bonspiels that are designated as 5 and unders. These are for players that have less than 5 years of experience. There are also over/unders where 2 players need to be under a designated experience level, typically 5 years. Other places like Omaha will run 2 events at the same time. One for experienced and one for inexperienced.


What are some good bonspiels to go to?

You can view a site maintained on the USCA website here.

Arena Clubs:

The one I always recommend to people in my travels is the Kansas City BBQ bonspiel. Held the first weekend of August, it’s a very fun, social atmosphere. BBQ Sunday dinner is a great meal. Kegs are provided and for the most part it is filled with curlers that are arena curlers just like us. It’s a great, social atmosphere. If I could do one a year it would be this event.

Omaha hosts a bonspiel around St. Patrick’s Day which is always a fun event. The hosts are always very nice. They offer an experienced event and an event for the newer curlers. They also have the best ice outside of a dedicated facility. Unfortunately they don’t have an area for broomstacking at the arena, but there are plenty of restaurants and bars nearby that they setup an area at.

St. Louis will host a spiel over Labor Day weekend in early September. Another arena club, this event has been on my calendar the past 2 years and I will likely go again this year. Depending on the amount of registered teams, sometimes this is a 4 game guarantee which is nice.

Dallas Fort Worth holds theirs in April. It’s Dallas, so yeah.

Austin has theirs Memorial Day weekend. They will have a curling class available to sign up for. Typically they are taught by a former Olympian which is fun.

If you want to go check out a dedicated facility, there are a ton out there. I haven’t had a chance to go to a majority of them but I can talk about a few of them. You can always ask me.


How do I get onto a team?

You can always contact the host club and say you want to sign up as an individual or a pair and they’ll get you setup on a team. Or if you only have 3, then you always ask the host club if they have an individual they can put on your team. However if you are looking for other people from within our club, the best thing to do is just ask around. You can always ask me and I’ll see if I can help coordinate some teams. Typically that’s easier to do for the ones that are within driving distance. Again the one I recommend is Kansas City in August. That one will likely sell out this year so it’s important to try to get signed up for that one sooner than later.


Conclusion

Hopefully that helps answer any questions about bonspiels. Last thing I would say anyone looking to bonspiel is go into these events to socialize and have a good time. You may win some games, but at every bonspiel there are going to be some teams that unfortunately finish 0-3. I’ve been there myself, but still had a good time at that event spending time with friends. If you’ve enjoying curling at our club but wish there was more social interaction, bonspiels are great. If you have any questions, feel free to give me a shout at markwngo@gmail.com