‘Glamorous and Chic’: Snow Polo Is a Hit With the World’s Elite Winter Travelers

Snow polo has been moving hotel suites in St. Moritz and Aspen for years—and for good reason. The sport produces the most elite mix on the social calendar.

On a recent morning in St. Moritz, professional polo player Malcolm Bardwell taught a group of VIP’s the basics of the game. “The main rule of polo is to follow the line of the ball,” he said. “The second goal is to look good.”

Looking good is half the fun at any polo match, but there’s something about snow polo, the sport’s winter cousin, where all of the aesthetics feel that much more heightened. Lithe players galloping on muscular horses, grandiose mountain backdrops, glittering snowscapes—it’s a rare sport that is as thrilling to watch as it is aesthetically pleasing. 

Perhaps the world’s best known player, Nacho Figueras, has a soft spot for playing in the snow. 

“There’s something very glamorous and chic about horses on the snow, and all of the great outfits spectators wear since it’s cold,” he told Robb Report. “It’s a lot of fun, but everything that happens outside of the game is also fun. My family and I love to ski, so we usually mix in some skiing when we are at snow polo events.”

Snow polo has become a major selling point for the St. Regis in Aspen.ST. REGIS ASPEN

Figueras isn’t the only one who mixes snow polo into his family’s travel routine. Each year crowds fill the St. Regis in Aspen to watch cleated horses battle on the ice. It’s a similar story at the Palace Badrutt’s Palace in St. Moritz, where balconies overlook the frozen lake where the game is played. 

Many sports drive tourism but snow polo events—which occur in just a handful of lofty locales each year—have become a status symbol like few others, even within the already rarefied world of polo. That’s trebly true for those who wish to do more than spectate, since there are only two ways to play: fund a team, or be an existing polo pro. Most simply write the check. 

Nacho Figueras, 32, six goal international polo player with Black Watch polo team, at Black Watch farm along with Melva, (L), and Capocha Tuesday in Wellington.
Nacho Figueras has become and ambassador for the wintertime version of the sport.ZUMA PRESS INC/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

For a patron like the UK-based Lidia Gauss, however, it’s a worthy investment. The leader of Team Mackage at the 2024 Snow Polo World Cup in St. Moritz, she brought her team to victory—and in doing so became only the second woman to win in the event’s 39-year history.

 “It’s priceless to see yourself growing,” said Gauss. “You can’t get this experience anywhere. . .I started riding horses and playing polo late in life so for me it was like discovering a new way of walking, breathing, or thinking. Nothing is like polo or even similar to it.”

How does the game differ from the summer sport? First, the pitch is smaller, so there’s a lot more defensive contact between players, which makes for a more thrilling spectator experience. Second, instead of a high-impact plastic ball, snow polo uses a slightly larger, inflatable ball—which, being closer to a balloon than an actual polo ball, can be tricky to hit strategically, especially in windy conditions. And, of course, the game is played on a surface of snow and ice that has been groomed much like a ski trail. 

Want to mix snow polo into your routine? Here’s how to do it like a pro. 

Kitzbühel, Austria

Game 1 Veuve Clicquot vs Casablanca on Sat 13th of Jan at the Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbühel 2024
Champagne brands like Veuve Clicquot sponsor teams at the Bendura Bank Snow Polo World Cup Kitzbühel.@KITZPOLO | @REINHARDTUNDSOMMER

There are just three flagship snow polo events that occur annually. Kitzbühel, Austria is one of them. (Tournaments have also been held, albeit not consistently, in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Patagonia and Mont-Tremblant as well).

Kitzbühel attracts serious polo players year-round, and its snow polo tournament in mid-January is the largest in the world. Not only do eight high-level teams compete, but this year the organizers added a pre-tournament for medium-level teams to compete, too. 

To round out your Tyrolean experience, stay at the Hotel Tennerhof, a Relais & Châteaux.The award-winning signature restaurant Tennerhof Restaurant is the best fine dining in town, and the neighboring Römerhof Stüberl offers authentic fondue and raclette. Austria’s ski towns are known for their aprés-ski scenes which extend into the wee hours, and Kitzbühel is no exception. Book a table at Club Take Five, which offers a house helicopter transfer service should you need it. 

Aspen, Colorado

Snow polo in Aspen
The ponies love the snow in Aspen, according to Figueras.ST. REGIS ASPEN

The unofficial snow polo circuit kicks off at this annual December event put on by the Aspen Valley Polo Club, which is owned by two of the sport’s most illustrious patrons, Marc and Melissa Ganzi. To clink champagne glasses with the players, make your way over to the St. Regis Aspen Resort, an official sponsor of the event (and home to the infamous party palace Snow Lodge, the winter iteration of Montauk’s Surf Lodge). The Silver Queen Suite features floor-to-ceiling windows with mountain views, a baby grand piano, and St. Regis Butler Service. The St. Regis is also home to RAKxa Wellness Spa, the best place in town to massage tired legs after a day on the slopes.

So what do the horses think? 

“If you look at the history of horses and how they came to America, they came down through Alaska from Siberia, so they prefer the cold more than the heat,” said Figueras. “If you ask me if they’re comfortable playing in the desert in Abu Dhabi, I think the horses are more comfortable in Aspen.”

St. Moritz, Switzerland

Snow polo in St. Moritz
St. Moritz is the sport’s motherland.NATHAN GALLAGHER

Originally developed by Swiss hotelier Reto Gaudenzi, the alpha and omega of snow polo events originated here in 1985.

 “The St Moritz Snow Polo World Cup is an event unlike any in the world,” said Tanya Golesic, CEO of Mackage, who has sponsored the event this year. “[St. Moritz] is one of the most coveted destinations catering to the world’s luxury clientele.” 

Stay at Badrutt’s Palace if you want to be seen in the center of the action—the annual Snow Polo Gala happens here and is one of the most coveted tickets in town. The hotel’s iconic Tower Penthouse was famously rented by a single resident for thirty years until 2022, and is currently on the market for a cool $30,000 per night. Conversely, book a suite at the more hushed Kulm Hotel St. Moritzfor a relaxing, under-the-radar experience. Either way, don’t skip town without sampling the truffle pizza from Chesa Vegliaor taking a twirl on the ice at the Saint Moritz Ice Skating Club.The mark of a truly successful St. Moritz trip, however, is scoring an invitation to the exclusive members-only Dracula Club, wherethe late-night disco dancing is as thrilling as the polo itself. 


  • Todd PlummerTodd PlummerTodd Plummer is a Boston-based style and travel writer. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Harper’s Bazaar, New York Times, Vogue, W and more.

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