ASPEN, Colo., December 17, 2021—Let’s get this party started.
By Sharon Robb
The atmosphere at the St. Regis Aspen Resort was fun and festive Thursday night for the ninth annual St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship draw.
Seven teams including defending champion World Polo League were introduced during the cocktail party for players, sponsors, family, friends and media.
The evening kicked off with the traditional St. Regis champagne sabering that dates back to John Jacob Astor’s 1904 founding of the St. Regis New York. The art of champagne sabrage has become a signature St. Regis ritual that marks the end of the day.
Tournament co-host Marc Ganzi served as Master of Ceremonies for the draw which determined bracket pairings for Friday’s qualification games at Aspen Valley Polo Club’s world-class indoor arena in Carbondale.
“We are delighted to be back here at our second home here in Aspen, the St. Regis Hotel who are always so accommodating not only to the players but our family,” Ganzi said.
“We have seven teams this year,” Ganzi said. “It’s going to be a very, very competitive tournament. It’s hard to predict who is going to win this year.”
Action gets under way at noon MST with Richard Mille playing Aspen Valley Polo Club. In Game 2 at 12:45 p.m., World Polo League plays Chukker TV. Each game is three chukkers.
In Game 3 at 1:30 p.m., the runner-ups will play a one-chukker playoff. The winner advances to the Aspen Cup and runner-up advances to Saturday’s round robin High Alpine Cup.
In Game 4 at 1:45 p.m., the winners will face off in a one-chukker playoff. The winner advances into the final and runner-up advances into the Saturday round robin High Alpine Cup.
Game 5 at 2 p.m. will feature a round robin between (5) Casablanca, (6) St. Regis and (7) Edmiston to end a full day of polo.
Action moves to Rio Grande Park for the weekend. On Saturday, the High Alpine Cup is 1:15 p.m. A round robin will determine the fifth, sixth and seventh place teams. A Celebrity Polo Chukker will follow at 2:30 p.m.
On Sunday, the final is 1 p.m. followed by the Aspen Cup at 3 p.m. The trophy presentation is 4:15 p.m. featuring all seven teams.
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 event will follow COVID-19 guidelines. Per local state and county guidelines, those attending the games must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result (within 48 hours prior) before entering the event.
The star-studded lineup is headed by Argentine 10-goalers Pablo MacDonough and Juan Martin Nero; 9-goalers Nic Roldan and Tommy Biddle; and 8-goalers Juan Martin Zubia and Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
In addition to returning as title sponsor, St. Regis will return as a team sponsor with team captain Nacho Figueras, the sport’s ambassador and St. Regis Connoisseur. Figueras will play with Melissa Ganzi and Nic Roldan.
Team sponsors and rosters are:
Casablanca (15): Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Juan Martin Zubia, 8.
Richard Mille (17): Sarah Siegel Magness, 0, Jesse Bray, 7, Pablo MacDonough, 10.
Edmiston (16): Cable Magness, 2, Jason Crowder, 7, Sugar Erskine, 7.
Aspen Valley Polo Club (14): Alecia Seidler, 0, Juan Bollini 4T, Juan Martin Nero, 10.
ChukkerTV (14): Vinny Sangaline, 1, Martin Pepa, 4, Tommy Biddle, 9.
St. Regis (16): Melissa Ganzi, 1, Nacho Figueras, 6, Nic Roldan 9.
WPL (15): Riley Ganzi 1, Hilario Figueras 6, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8.
The celebrity teams feature bull rider Landon Miller, actor and director Miss Saye Yabandeh and another player to be announced, playing for ChukkerTV and actor Sterling Jones, Vinny Sangaline and Nacho Figueras playing for Aspen Valley Polo Club.
Players will take center stage at one of the world’s top snow polo tournaments and only snow polo event in North America. It is one of Aspen’s major international sporting events and kickoff to the holiday social season in Aspen.
For the ninth consecutive year, Aspen Valley Polo Club owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi, will host the event along with Figueras and his wife Delfina Blaquier in front of a local crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience. It is the final stop on the 2021 World Polo Tour.
After Sunday’s games, a check will be presented to Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation and Calloway Young Cancer Center. The tournament is a fundraiser for the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation, the designated philanthropic charity. Donations are welcome.
“All the proceeds of the ticket sales will go to the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation,” Ganzi said. “Whatever you do in terms of where you put your money it’s coming right back into the community which will help fund not only our hospital and the foundation, but keep our community safe. Our first responders have been incredible over the last two years. We have kept our community safe and I’d like to keep it that way personally.”
In addition to defending champion World Polo League (Riley Ganzi, Hilario Figueras, Alejandro Novillo Astrada), other past winners include: Richard Mille (2019, Edouard Pan, Pablo MacDonough, Louis Jarrige); Richard Mille (2018, Marc Ganzi, Martin Pepa, Pablo MacDonough); U.S. Polo Assn (2017, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan); Flexjet (2016, Melissa Ganzi, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, Juan Bollini); U.S. Polo Assn. (2015, Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini); Piaget (2014, Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan); and St. Regis (2013, Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips).
The sport was first played on a frozen lake in St. Moritz, Switzerland, created by Swiss hotelier and polo visionary 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.
Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi resurrected the Aspen Valley Polo Club and polo in 2014, polo has increased in popularity in Aspen and surrounding cities with the club’s offerings of various weekly grass and arena tournaments, Arena & Asado Nights, Kidz Polo, Kids Wheely Polo, The Polo School headed by former 8-goaler Juan Bollini, and Polo On Demand. In addition, the club offers practice sessions for teams competing in the club tournaments.