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Summer outside, winter inside at men's world curling championship in Las Vegas

Canadian second Brett Gallant prepares to slide out of the hack while third Mark Nichols, left, prepares to sweep and skip Brad Gushue, centre, surveys the arena during Friday's practice at the men's world curling championship at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Friday, March 30, 2018. The temperature is forecast to hit 31 degrees celsius outside the arena during the tournament, but Gushue is confident icemakers can maintain the ice. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Donna Spencer
March 30, 2018 - 6:33 PM

LAS VEGAS - When it comes to curling ice, the old saying is true. It's not the heat, it's the humidity.

When the temperature hits 31 C outside the Orleans Arena during the men's world curling championship in Las Vegas, desert heat is manageable as long as the ice plant and air conditioning are working in the building, according to the icemakers.

"If the power goes out, we're done for," joked ice technician Shawn Olesen.

The 13-country men's championship kicks off Saturday with defending champion Brad Gushue of Canada opening against Russia's Alexey Timofeev and then against former world junior champion Bruce Mouat of Scotland.

This being the desert, the Orleans lacks a dehumidification system. Rain would be a problem. Damp air creeping into an arena causes frost to build up on the ice.

But zero precipitation is predicted for the entire nine-day tournament.

So Olesen, USA Curling's assistant head ice technician, is confident the ice crews can handle sunscreen-and-shorts temperatures outside.

"It's hot, but it's not a problem," he said. "If the weather hangs in, frost won't be a problem. As long as all the equipment in the building is doing it's job, you can keep it cool."

While a dry forecast allows the icemakers to relax somewhat, Olesen says air that is too arid can erode the pebble that allows stones to slide smoothly.

"When it is good and dry, you just do a little different pebble," he explained. "You might go a little bigger."

Temperature at ice level was below freezing during Friday's practice sessions, while at the pool less than 100 metres away, people soaked up the rays in 27 C heat.

Curlers and spectators dress for winter inside the Orleans, but there will likely be more sunburned faces than usual at a curling vent.

"That's probably going to be me at some point this week," Gushue said. "I burn pretty easily.

"There's probably going to be a day or two that I'm going to be looking like the colour of our jackets, but hopefully it turns to a tan pretty quick."

Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second Brett Gallant and lead Geoff Walker out of the Bally Haly Club in St. John's, N.L., can walk from the hotel to the arena in their shorts and flip flops before donning their on-ice gear.

They stow their gear at the arena at most events, so in Las Vegas they won't worry about brooms and sliders warming up on the walk over.

"We're certainly looking forward to getting things started and I'm not worried about the ice or anything like that," Gushue said. "For us, it's just treating it like a normal event even though it's in Las Vegas and there's so many distractions.

"I do think our discipline is going to be a key factor for us this week and help us avoid a lot of those distractions that maybe some teams will take in, or at least hopefully they do take it in."

Gushue says he and his teammates have a compelling reason to spend time at the pool, however, and that's Walker's upcoming wedding Mexico.

"This is our opportunity to get a nice little base tan before we go," Gushue said. "Outside of that, I don't see us gambling much. I don't see us partying at all.

"We're going to be pretty focused and do what we normally do at an event like this other than our rest time might be by the pool as opposed to our rooms."

The ECHL's Las Vegas Wranglers played in the Orleans Arena from 2003 to 2014.

The arena was the site of the Ryder-style Continental Cup of Curling in 2014, 2016 and 2017 pitting North America versus an international roster.

Those events were in January and Olesen was on the ice crews for all three.

"The first time they brought up they were going to Vegas for curling, I said 'you've got to be crazy,' but it's working right?" he said.

"They've had the hockey team here in the past and they've got a fantastic setup for the ice plant. It's just a good old horse. The air conditioning is plenty big.

"As you can tell in here, it's plenty cool. We can get down to where ever we need to be to hold the ice."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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