A Who’s Who in polo players from around the world will compete in the much-anticipated Dec. 16-19 St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship at Aspen Valley Polo Club and Rio Grande Park.
By Sharon Robb
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 Roldan.
The seven 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 will 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, four days of events will be held during the final stop on the 2021 World Polo Tour.
The week of activities begin with a virtual draw and traditional St. Regis champagne sabering on Thursday at 7 p.m. at St. Regis Aspen Resort Hotel.
Polo action will take place Friday with preliminary qualifying games at Aspen Valley Polo Club’s indoor arena in Carbondale. Preliminary games are 1 and 2 p.m. followed by a round robin at 3 p.m.
On Saturday at Rio Grande Park the High Alpine Cup is 1:15 p.m. The 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.
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.
The event will follow COVID-19 guidelines. Per local state and county guidelines, those 12-years-and-older must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result (within 48 hours prior) before entering the event.
Edmiston, a world leader in the super yacht industry will join world-class partners St. Regis, Aspen Valley Polo Club, Richard Mille, Casablanca, NetJets and World Polo League as major sponsors. Edmiston will also co-host the Dec. 28-30 Audi Ajax Cup at Highlands Mountain with Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club.
Nestled at the base of the majestic Aspen Mountain, the St. Regis Aspen Resort, a five-star luxury hotel, is between the mountain’s two primary base ski lifts and within walking distance to all of Aspen’s shops, restaurants and entertainment. It delivers a benchmark of personalized service and attention to detail amidst the relaxed spirit of the Rocky Mountains.
Richard 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.
NetJets will be an event sponsor for the second year. NetJets boasts a global network unmatched in private aviation. With more than 750 aircraft (equal to the world’s fourth largest airline), the company operates more than 313,000 flights annually worldwide. Figueras is NetJets Brand Ambassador.
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 snow polo tournament is a major sports attraction for the local community and fans from all over the world. The breathtaking scenery, venue and great polo action is a major allure for the Aspen community and surrounding areas.
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.
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.
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. In the U.S., snow polo is held exclusively in Aspen.
Since Marc and Melissa Ganzi resurrected the 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.