Scotland’s ice rinks were the breeding ground for Team GB’s only medals at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Eve Muirhead’s rink took gold and Bruce Mouat’s silver earlier this year as curling delivered an impressive double.
However , right across the country which produced such champions, the ice rinks where the next generation of Olympians is playing are facing tough times.
Rising energy prices are having an dramatic impact at locations which have higher power demands than most.
Duncan Gracie is chairman at Lockerbie Ice Rink which became a charity at the start of the year – partly to help improve access to potential funding sources.
They are proud of their record of producing big names in curling like David Murdoch and Anna Sloan.
Mr Gracie said it was proving expensive to provide facilities to those inspired to emulate such players.
“We have traded as a charity since the beginning of January – the whole year up until now has been a fight against the energy crisis, ” he said.
Their annual bill used to be about £50, 000 to £60, 000 but this year this individual said that was heading towards almost £200, 000.
“That’s a three to four-time increase in our costs – purely for energy, ” he said.
“We need that energy to make the snow – there is no way round it. We are essentially running a massive freezer. ”
He said that unfortunately those costs had to be passed on to users which meant people use the ice less.
“What we have tried to do is maintain costs with regard to junior curlers, we are trying not to affect the junior curlers, ” he added.
The efforts to bring in extra money have been pretty much constant.
“We have managed to secure some funding, ” he stated.
“Every day we are applying to funders — we are trying to get funding from anywhere we can. ”
Keen curler Rae Graham said the Lockerbie site was more than just a sporting venue; it was a key part of the community.
“I started curling when I was about 10 or 11, ” he said. “It has been the centre of my life for 50 years.
“It really has been a local focal point for 50-odd years. inch
The energy cost struggle is being mirrored around the country as price deals come to an end at rinks dotted across Scotland.
Many miles west, in Stranraer, Ian Donnachie who is general manager at the North West Castle Hotel, said the rise at its rink had been “dramatic”.
He mentioned it had been forced d in order to “reassess” operations to try to reduce the impact and make the rink more efficient.
“It is important to the whole community that the curling rink continues to operate and that the company will make every effort to maintain this strategic asset for the town of Stranraer, ” he or she said.
Further north Scott Neil, manager of Murrayfield Ice Arena in Edinburgh, said they had only reopened on 28 October after Covid and expected their first energy bill after that to be “colossal”.
“Prior to closing for Covid our own energy bill was £14, 000 a month, ” he said. “Now the annual estimate for energy bills is between £230, 000 plus £270, 000. ”
He said they were putting a “lot of time and effort” into cutting costs and getting more efficient to keep the rink going.
The story is much the same at the Inverness Ice Centre.
Chief executive Gordon Barron said monthly electricity costs for its refrigeration plant alone were £10, 000-a-month which they expected to double.
“This will put an incredible strain on our ability to provide ice sports going forward, inches he admitted.
Sport Aberdeen managing’s director Alistair Robertson said the energy crisis was the “number one issue” for leisure operators in the UK.
He said the cost of operating glaciers rinks could become “almost impossible” next year and many services faced “certain closure” in 2023 without an extension of the energy price cap to cover charitable leisure and trusts.
Mike Ferguson, who chairs the Scottish Ice Rinks Association (SIRA), said the situation around the country was “very serious indeed”.
“The increased cost of utility costs will be crippling and simply not affordable over the long term with increases of up to 600% quoted, ” he said.
“Most rinks are doing their own very best to combat the situation while at the same time trying to pass on as little of the pain to their customers and members with rinks managing their businesses on a month to month basis. ”
Talks are being held with governing bodies, utility firms and the Scottish government to find a way forward but he said it was complicated by different ownership arrangements at each site.
“The key issue is to make rinks around the country more resource efficient and funding is provided to enable the necessary projects to proceed, ” he added.
Otherwise, there may be fewer opportunities for future stars of winter sports to hone their skills.