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How do technicians get curling ice both smooth and bumpy?

"It looks like the skin of an orange," said a Denver Curling Club technician.

DENVER — Curling ice is not as smooth as it looks.

When it comes to the ice that the world’s best curlers are on at the Winter Olympics, it’s better if that ice is bumpy.

At the Denver Curling Club, Brian Brown is one of several ice technicians who have the job of making the ice perfect for curling, and that means making sure that it's both slick and bumpy.

"The most common description everyone is comfortable with is an orange peel,” Brown said. “It looks like the skin of an orange.”

Curling rocks aren’t flat on the bottom. They have a small ring that acts like a suction cup, and curling ice has to have texture so that the rock can slide farther. That means making sure the ice has tiny bubbles on it.

To do that, ice techs carry backpacks with water and custom-made water nozzles to spray thousands of droplets onto the ice.

“It’s a technique called pebbling,” Brown said. "We basically make it rain inside the building with a canaster on our backs and walk backward, and it puts droplets on our flat ice.”

That reduces friction for the curling rock.

Creating the perfect curling ice has become an art as much as a science, and it's why curling centers like the one in Denver take a lot of pride in their ice. 

Skaters can’t use it. Hockey players can’t. Only curlers.

"When you're dedicated to curling, you have that luxury of curling on perfect ice,” Brown said.

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