SHERIDAN — If hiking and biking are associated with outdoor summer sports, perhaps no other indoor sport is more closely linked with winter than bowling. Sheridan’s Cloud Peak Lanes offers hundreds of bowlers the opportunity to practice their sport all winter long.
“In my mind, anything that involves a ball is sport,” said Cloud Peak Lanes Co-owner Mike Hardesty. “It is good exercise. And you get out. It is something to do in the winter. That is what is has always been. It’s just a fun way to get out and meet people too. You bowl a different team each week.”
Several afternoons and evenings during the week, the parking lot at the lanes is packed with team members competing on one of several leagues.
While some league members have been playing for years, others are just getting their start, including Kelsey Vine, who joined and is the sponsor for the Little Bear Cupcakery team at the invitation of her mother-in-law and some friends.
“I started last year,” said Vine. “There is a definite learning curve. Every week my average usually goes up. Last week I had a 168 game which is good, considering my average is 108. Generally, that is the goal, try and improve.”
“It’s a fun way to get out of the house and see people and get some exercise out of it too. We are the laid back league,” she added about the Wednesday afternoon Sparrette leagues she plays on. “It is more friendly competition. There are definitely more competitive ones out there.”
Vine’s mother-in-law, Cherie Vine, has been playing on a league since 1978 and has traveled to nationals in Reno, Nev., Charlotte, N.C., Oklahoma and other places. She said bowling in a league has offered her the opportunity to meet people and enjoy the social aspect of it, as well as the competition and exercise.
“We’ve moved around so each time I’ve gone to a new city the first thing I do is go sign up for bowling,” she said. “It is a good way to meet people and you find out what is going on around town. It is just fun. I do it for fun.”
Hardesty said the lanes offer several league options including three to five team members, women’s only leagues, men’s only leagues and mixed-gender leagues.
The seven different leagues run for 32 weeks, starting the week after Labor Day and running through mid-April.
While some league players are just getting started, one league bowler measures her participation in decades.
“Actually probably the first bowling I ever did was here in Sheridan and it was duckpins,” said LeLoie Brewer, who guesses she first bowled in the 1930s. “It was not the pins we have now. It was a small ball and the lanes were down to where Carroll’s Furniture is now. That is the first time I was introduced to it.”
She said she got more serious about the sport in the 1950s when she moved to New Jersey. She joined a league at that time and has been in one ever since. She is now 91 years old and bowls on two leagues.
“I enjoy the company of the gals,” she said. “They are all fun and it is enjoyable. It gets me out and it is a thing I have to do every week.
The camaraderie is what I like. It’s a good game. I have carried as high as a 150 but that is going back 20 or 30 years ago. I am in the low 120s now.”
Brewer said she and her late husband both bowled regularly and often traveled together to national competitions. They moved back to Sheridan in 1983 and she joined a league in 1984, with continuous participation ever since.
“I like both,” said Brewer, who also golfs. “This one is easier in that you make a mistake and the ball goes in the gutter, it comes back to you. You make a mistake in golf, then you have to go look for your ball!”
Vine, Brewer and Hardesty all noted that they sometimes hear from people that don’t want to join a league because they believe you have to be a dedicated, top-scoring bowler already, in order to join a league. However, they all insisted that while there is some friendly competition, most league players, including themselves, are there for the fun.
“If you look out there, everyone is laughing and having fun,” said Hardesty. “It is quite enjoyable. It is a fun recreation. Anyone can do it. You don’t have to be super coordinated and make three pointers or dunk a basketball.”
“Some people get very competitive and then there’s some of us that it is just a fun time,” said Cherie Vine. “It is nice to win, but if you don’t, whatever!”