The countdown begins for the much-anticipated St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship where glitz, glamour and excitement takes center stage at one of the world’s top snow polo tournaments and only snow polo event in the U.S.
By Sharon Robb
In front of an expected sellout crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, action gets underway Friday, Dec. 15 with qualifying games at Aspen Valley Polo Club and continues Saturday, Dec. 16 and Sunday, Dec. 17 at Rio Grande Park.
Defending champion Flexjet with players Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder and Jesse Bray.
For the fifth consecutive year, Aspen Valley Polo Club owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi, named to The Salonniere 100 annual list of the nation’s best party hosts in Aspen for 2017, will host the star-studded event along with polo ambassador and St. Regis Connoisseur Nacho Figueras and his wife Delfina.
Audi, Flexjet, Moet, St. Regis Aspen Resort, U.S. Polo Assn. and Aspen Valley Polo Club are the event’s major sponsors.
An evening of fun is set for Thursday night, Dec. 14 with the always entertaining draw and team introduction at St. Regis Aspen Resort where team pairings and schedule will be announced.
Audi’s Grant Ganzi scoring one of his game-high five goals in the 2016 consolation game.
Last year’s champion was Flexjet with team captain Melissa Ganzi and first-time snow polo players Jason Crowder and Jesse Bray, who was named Most Valuable Player. Flexjet knocked off defending champion U.S. Polo Assn., 7-4, in the championship. It was U.S. Polo Assn.’s third finals appearance. Tampa Glitter, a chestnut mare ridden by Ganzi and owned by Wellington, Fla.-based Santa Rita Polo Farm, was named Best Playing Pony.
Ganzi is the first woman to win the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship. In January 2016, Ganzi made history as the first woman to compete in the St. Moritz Snow Polo World Cup Tournament in Switzerland since its inception in 1985 and will return to compete in January, 2018.
The coveted St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship trophy.
In the consolation game, Audi (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) defeated St. Regis (Bernie Uechtritz, Carlitos Gracida, Nacho Figueras), 7-4. Figueras was named MVP.
Flexjet joins past champions: 2013, St. Regis (Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips) defeated Audi (Facundo Pieres, Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini), 1-0; 2014, Piaget (Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan) defeated U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Brandon Phillips, Tommy Biddle), 4-3; and 2015, U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini) defeated Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Juan Bollini), 10-5.
2016 MVP Nacho Figueras of St. Regis follows up his shot.
The three-day tournament is a major attraction for the local community and fans from all over the world. The breathtaking scenery, venue and great polo action among some of the world’s top players is a major allure for the Aspen community and surrounding areas.
Rio Grande Park, host of the weekend action, is Aspen’s largest multi-functional park within the city’s limits and just minutes away from the St. Regis Aspen Resort.
The soldout VIP tent cheers for the teams during traditional post-game ride around the arena.
The sport was first played on a frozen lake in St. Moritz, Switzerland, created by Swiss hotelier Reto Gaudenzi in 1985 and has been growing in popularity ever since, attracting thousands of spectators and top players from around the world. In addition to St. Moritz, it’s played in winter sports communities Aspen, Cortina, Italy, Kitzbuhel, Austria, Courchevel, France and Tianjin, China.
In the U.S., snow polo is held exclusively in Aspen, Colorado. Snow polo is a modified version of regulation polo. Games are played on a snow-packed field surrounded by fencing to keep the ball in play. Teams have three players instead of four as in typical polo. Play consists of four chukkers. The horses have special cleated shoes to provide better traction. The ball is larger and lighter and will be lavender this year for visibility on the snowy surface.