Team Altitude misses Olympic cut in Lake Placid, NY

Adam Smartschan

Partner & Chief Strategy Officer

Full disclosure: Altitude Marketing is good at a lot of things. But curling isn’t one of them.

You’ve seen those Canadians and Swedes in the Olympics, sliding on one knee, throwing their stones with pinpoint precision, consistently leaving them on the target? That’s not us.

We take a corporate retreat every year, giving us time away from the office to recharge, refresh and figure out how to make things better for ourselves and our clients.

This time, we headed to Lake Placid, N.Y., for three days. The highlight – other than the time on the water – was a morning spent curling at the Olympic Center.

The rink where we learned the basics of curling is the same rink where the United States beat the Soviets in the 1980s “Miracle on Ice.” For those of you too young to remember, that event was the symbolic end of the Cold War.

It’s safe to say we were a little awed. But that didn’t last long after the curling equipment came out – hockey helmets, granite pucks with handles, and what are essentially industrial Swiffers.

If you’re not familiar with the game, curling is essentially shuffleboard on ice. One team member – the shooter – slides the stone toward the target (“the house”), while two sweepers try to influence its speed and direction by sweeping the ice. Finally, a member of the opposing team gets his own chance to sweep, with eyes on sending the stone out of the scoring area.

It sounds a lot easier than it is.

After dividing into teams of five, we took our first few shots. We slipped. We slid. We overshot. We undershot. We dropped brooms. We ran into each other. We couldn’t figure out who should be shooting, or sweeping, or playing the skip. Our curling coach for the morning, a Scotch-American veteran of the sport, looked about ready to cry.

But then something funny happened. As we got more comfortable on the ice and with the equipment, things got easier. We started working together as teams, with everyone doing their part. We communicated. The stones started going more or less where we wanted them to go.

Captains barked orders. Shooters shot with increasing accuracy. Sweepers sweeped – er, swept – in tandem. Strategies and rotations came together.

By the time we walked off the ice, we were still far from all-stars. But simply by slowing down, taking our time, communicating and working as teams, we’d become curlers. You won’t find us in the Olympics, but you will find us using the lessons learned on the ice every day.

Adam Smartschan

Adam Smartschan heads Altitude's strategic marketing and branding efforts. An award-winning writer and editor by trade in a former life, he now specializes in data analytics, search engine optimization, digital advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization and technical integrations. He holds numerous industry certifications and is a frequent speaker on topics around B2B marketing strategy and SEO.