The highly-anticipated St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship will be held December 17-22 and for the first time will feature the inaugural Snow Polo Gala.
By Sharon Robb
|St. Regis World Snow Polo 2017 champions Juancito Bollini, Grant Ganzi and Nic Roldan of U.S. Polo Assn.
The glitz, glamour and excitement takes center stage at one of the world’s top snow polo tournaments and only snow polo event in North America.
In front of an expected sellout crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, five days of events will be held during the final stop on the World Polo Tour.
The week of activities begin with the team presentation and draw on Monday, Dec. 17 during a cocktail party at St. Regis Aspen Resort Hotel.
|St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship 2017 runner-up Flexjet players Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini and Melissa Ganzi.
Polo action will take place Tuesday through Thursday at Aspen Valley Polo Club and Rio Grande Park. Two preliminary qualifying round robin games will be held Tuesday at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
Action moves to Rio Grande Park Wednesday for Media Day and games for fifth and six places and Celebrity Polo Chukker. The final and subsidiary games are Thursday followed by a VIP tent party. Each night a dinner for players and sponsors will be held.
Activities conclude Saturday with the inaugural Snow Polo Gala benefitting the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation at St. Regis Aspen Resort Hotel.
|Actress and singer songwriter Kelley Jakle sings the National Anthem.
For the sixth 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 and 2018, will host the star-studded event along with polo ambassador and St. Regis Connoisseur Nacho Figueras and his wife Delfina.
Last year’s champion, U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) will return to defend its title. Ganzi is a member of Team USPA and Bollini is a Brand Ambassador for U.S. Polo Assn.
Flexjet, the 2016 champion, will feature Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini and Alejandro Novillo Astrada, two-time United States Arena Handicap Tournament national champions.
|Juan Bollini of Flexjet scores with his son Juancito Bollini, of U.S. Polo Assn. defending.
Melissa Ganzi is the first woman to win the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship in 2016 with Flexjet and teammates Jason Crowder and Jesse Bray. 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. In January, 2018, Ganzi with Bendura Bank teammates Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Tito Gaudenzi, won the 16th Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbuhel.
In addition to U.S. Polo Assn. (2017) and Flexjet (2016), past St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship winners include: 2013, St. Regis (Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips); 2014, Piaget (Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan); and 2015, U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini).
Pablo MacDonough, one of the world’s top players rated at 10-goals, will make his Aspen snow polo debut with the Richard Mille Polo Team. Mille is the official timekeeper for the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship. Mille created the RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo MacDonough for his Brand Ambassador.
|Fans were treated to various food and drink stations in the VIP tent.
While team sponsors are still being finalized, St. Regis will return as a team sponsor with team captain Nacho Figueras, the sport’s ambassador and face of Ralph Lauren.
For the first time in event history, the Snow Polo Gala will be held Saturday as a benefit for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, now in its sixth year as a non-profit solely focused on encouraging philanthropic support for the current and future needs of Aspen Valley Hospital. The Snow Polo Gala is expected to be the social event of the holiday season.
During the summer polo season at Aspen Valley Polo Club, a club record $537,200 was raised at its annual Chukkers, Champagne and Cavier fundraiser, topping the 2017 total of $366,000. Tickets for the tournament and gala will go on sale soon.
The snow polo 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.
|The soldout VIP tent enjoyed an array of food from the St. Regis Aspen Resort.
Rio Grande Park is Aspen’s largest multi-functional park within the city’s limits and just minutes away from the St. Regis Aspen Resort.
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. 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 a specific color for visibility on the snowy surface.
With the breathtaking 12,965-foot summit of Mount Sopris as a backdrop, Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the busiest and fastest growing USPA-sanctioned clubs in the nation with a membership increase of 75 percent over five seasons.
|Mixologists making their specialty drinks. Photos by Nick Tininenko
Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi founded the club in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly grass and arena tournaments, Gladiator Tuesdays and Asado, Kids Polo, The Polo School and Polo On Demand. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the weekend tournaments.
The Ganzis are avid players and patrons and “have created a polo paradise” according to Piocho player-sponsor Tom Barrack. Players, sponsors, community leaders and fans share Barrack’s sentiments.
All ages are welcome to enjoy polo at Aspen Valley Polo Club. Admission, food and refreshments are free for fans in a relaxed, laidback atmosphere. An added feature is the club’s Jumbotron which made its debut this summer for the fans enjoyment.