Carbondale has long been known for being “green,” but this summer it’s become a lot greener with the addition of two polo fields on the McClure River Ranch property, which sits off the Highway 82 frontage road near Catherine Store.
The new, perfectly manicured fields are the canvases on which the game of polo is played and where the art of high goal polo will grow in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Mark and Melissa Ganzi are founders and owners of the Aspen Valley Polo Club, where, for the last four years, they have been hosting polo games on their property behind Catherine Store on County Road 100. In addition to offices, some living quarters and the regulation-size grass polo field, there is both an indoor and outdoor polo arena on the property, as well as a large barn, a row of permanently covered stalls on the highway side of the field and outdoor paddocks that now have portable covers that are easily removed depending on weather.
The Ganzis partnered with McClure River Ranch to put in the new polo fields which are generally located next door to The Waldorf School.
“With the addition of the new fields, our goal is to make this valley a polo destination. We want it to be ‘the’ place to play summer polo in America,” Melissa Ganzi said.
“We want the game of polo to continue to grow in the Roaring Fork Valley, and by putting in fields it not only creates a beautiful open space, it should also have a positive economic impact in this area,” she continued. “Not only will [the fields] attract and bring more teams from across the U.S. and Argentina to this area, one of the objectives is to bring a higher level of polo to this valley and the Aspen area.”
The Ganzis also co-founded the World Polo League which, according to one website, “is the only 26-goal polo in the world outside of Argentina. The league was created to preserve the highest level of polo and its rich, hallowed tradition in the United States.”
With the addition of the fields and the goal of bringing in more teams and horses, the Ganzis also are adding a new barn on the McClure River Ranch property. Currently, 170 polo ponies are here, having been transported from Florida. With the goal of bringing in more teams, they’ll need additional space for more horses. The barn is under construction.
The majority of summer polo destinations in the U.S. are located on the East Coast, but polo clubs also can be found across the Midwest and along the West Coast, according to the U.S. Polo Association.
“Interestingly enough, I think polo is growing here in the Aspen area because there are so many things to do,” she said. “There’s something for everybody in the family, like hiking, fly fishing, the rivers and rafting, and there are wonderful golf clubs here where you don’t have to be a member to play.
“So you can play polo in the morning, and in the afternoon you can golf, fly fish or hike.”
Polo at Aspen Valley Polo Club is family friendly, not only for players, staff and their families, but for locals and visitors who want to enjoy a day outside watching the action on the field. In addition to the three ponds (not for swimming) on the McClure River Ranch property, there are some unusual creatures that kids and adults alike can feed and interact with.
Those creatures include five miniature horses (“minis”) and two “zorses” whose names are “Zorse” and “Of Course.” For the unfamiliar, a “zorse” is a cross between and zebra stallion and a horse mare, and that’s exactly what they look like, a horse with stripes.
According to Melissa, there also are plans to add a more kid-friendly area and to bring in someone to make pizza.
Tournaments are played on the McClure River Ranch fields on Saturdays and Sundays. All matches are free and open to the public and on weekends it’s not unusual to see cars lined up along the fields with people tailgating. There also are some picnic benches and small tables at the venues.
“For sponsors and players, we have an indoor/outdoor stadium that we use for viewing in Florida which we transported here for the summer. It’s actually a semi-truck which folds up and it looks like a transformer. It’s really cool,” Melissa said.
The Aspen Valley Polo Club’s season usually ends on the last weekend in August, but this year the club is adding two extra weekends in September since the Food and Wine Aspen Classic is set for Sept. 10-12 — a departure from its usual date in June — which means the summer tourism season will be extended.