Published Friday, January 27, 2006
AM Central Time
He's got the ice thing down cold.
By Judie Hintzman of The Times
MONROE -- Bob Rufi has an engaging grin and a hearty -- and frequent --
laugh. He openly
displays warm affection for his family and his friends. And people in
for that matter.
Nonetheless, he's a coldly passionate man when it comes to ice.
Rufi has voluntarily been making ice for the Alpine Curling Club for 31
years and many credit
his efforts as a vitally important component in the group's
to keep the
organization off the slippery slope of indifference toward the
Born and raised on the family farm near Monroe, the Monroe High School
graduate was a
dairy farmer until 1988 when he quit milking and started a commercial
business, which he
operates today. His interest in curling also led him to start Alpine
Supply in 1987.
And all things curling are his passion.
"Curling is a pretty unique sport," Rufi explains, noting it was called
the "roaring game" when it
first began in Scotland and "sweepers" had to sweep the snow off the
to keep the "rocks"
moving. Curling is the same sport all over the world, he says, and it's
especially popular in
Wisconsin, which boasts at least 30 curling clubs.
Bob Rufi of Monroe has been making ice for the Alpine Curling Club for
31 years. He not
only prepares the ice during a weeks-long process before the season
in the late fall, he
returns to the club at least once - often more than once a week to keep
the surface in optimal
Times photo: Brenda Steurer
And, he says, one of the best things about it is that curlers are just
ordinary folks. "Curlers are
'next-door' people," he says.
If he's enthusiastic about the sport, Rufi's equally enthralled with
things related to ice
"A person that makes ice can't have a 'real' job," Rufi laughs as he
the ins and outs
of ice making, which has become much more technical with passing
He even went to ice making "school" in Windsor, Ontario, Canada to
to make better ice.
Rufi starts making ice in October, a few weeks before the season
The process involves
a sand base interwoven with pipes that pump a "brine" of anti-freeze
under the surface
that freezes the ice. A compressor pumps the brine under the ice and
the season ends,
the compressor is shut down and the ice melts. But the process is much
more involved than
that, although Rufi modestly points out that "most of it's just common
sense -- the kind of
things you learned on the farm." In the fall, Rufi first sprays the
several times so the sand
becomes saturated, "cooling everything down." He later floods the area
until he gets about a
half-inch of ice. Once the surface is frozen and prepared, he and other
volunteers paint the
markings on the ice needed for curling, using a special white polarized
The result is a cold room that somewhat resembles a small-scale
or bowling alley
-- except the surface is white.
And very cold.
Once the surface is ready for play, Rufi's ice making chores begin in
sprinkled heavily with words like "pebbles" and "burner" and "scraper,"
Rufi estimates he
spends at least one full afternoon a week maintaining the ice, and, of
course, he's there to keep
the surface in playable condition when people are curling.
The curlers are particular about the ice they play on and Rufi can
take some heat if
a player thinks the ice isn't in optimal condition. But he takes it all
pretty good-naturedly. "I
enjoy coming and making ice," he said and laughed, "then I say 'now we
have to let the animals
His wife Barb also smiles good-naturedly, albeit with somewhat raised
talks about her husband's affinity for the ice. She said he sometimes
maybe too often --
wakes up in the middle of the night to go out to the Curling Club and
on or check the
The Rufi's have five children, Mike, Kathy, Deb, Jim and Mark, and
But ice making isn't the only thing Rufi does for the Alpine Curling
He promotes it night
and day and is especially enthusiastic about getting young people
Call him, he says,
at (608) 325-6365 or take a look at the Web site, which has a quick
on curling, at
Rufi, who has cut his actual curling time down to once a week, enjoys
health and will
keep making ice as long as he's able. But he's determined to pass on
expertise to new
icemakers and hopes some will come along who will want to take on the
Meanwhile, anyone who doubts his passion for ice need only pull up
the Rufi's van at a
stop sign in Monroe. The license plate says it all: "ICE MKR."