'More oomph' required for human curling in cold Calgary weather

The annual Human Bonspiel sees teams run, jump and slide on giant inner tubes toward curling rings on the ice at Olympic Plaza, all in support of KidSport Calgary.

Calgary Corporate Challenge hosts finals Wednesday at Olympic Plaza

The Human Bonspiel event, put on by Calgary Corporate Challenge, sees people run, jump and slide on inner tube rings across the ice at Olympic Plaza to get as near to the button as possible. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

With temperatures forecasted to dip below freezing Wednesday, Calgarians participating in the annual Human Bonspiel finals will have to run a little bit faster and jump a little bit harder to propel themselves across the ice at Olympic Plaza to the button on the other side.

"If it's cold out, you've really got to give it a lot more oomph," said Dave Ford, general manager of Calgary Corporate Challenge, which has been hosting the event for roughly 15 years.

The multi-day, human curling competition is a non-contact sport, with players taking turns sliding down the ice toward curling rings at the other end.

The Human Bonspiel event raises money for KidSport Calgary. 0:43

"​There really is no strategy," said Ford. 

"There's no taking out other people. There's no setting up guards. There's definitely less strategy than there is in actual curling," Ford said.

Each participant on a four-person team slides twice, and the day's winning team is determined by the cumulative distance of all its sliders from the button.

The winners from each day of competition are invited back for the final round.

Dave Ford says the ice is slicker when it's warm and sunny out, so sliders should try to be 'more gentle' when pushing off in those conditions. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Origins unknown

The origins of the human curling event are unclear, said Ford.

"Who came up with the idea is a great question that we don't really know the answer to, at this point. Nobody at Calgary Corporate Challenge now was around at that time," he explained.

Ford says the event has been gaining new attention in recent years.

In 2017, the event was featured on the Rick Mercer Report, prompting groups from across Canada to reach out to Calgary Corporate Challenge for more information about the games' rules and where to find appropriate equipment, Ford said.

"I think it's popular because it's so unique," Ford said.

Roughly 80 teams representing Calgary companies were expected to compete in this year's Human Bonspiel.

A quarter of the registration fee, or just under $40 from each team, goes to KidSport Calgary, a non-profit organization that provides grants and programs to help families facing financial barriers get their kids involved in organized sports.

With files from Monty Kruger