Von Sharon Robb
Fotos von Nick Tininenko
The countdown begins for the highly-anticipated St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship, 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, action begins Monday, Dec. 19, with qualifying games at Aspen Valley Polo Club and continues Tuesday and Wednesday at Rio Grande Park.
On Sunday, Dec. 18, the always entertaining draw and team introduction will be held during a cocktail reception at St. Regis Aspen Resort where team pairings and sponsors will be announced. On Monday, the qualifying matches will be held at the club’s indoor arena in Carbondale. On Tuesday and Wednesday from noon-4 p.m., action moves to Rio Grande Park in downtown Aspen where the semifinals and celebrity matches are Tuesday and final and trophy presentation are Wednesday.
For the tenth consecutive year, Aspen Valley Polo Club owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi, will host the star-studded event along with polo ambassador and St. Regis Connoisseur Nacho Figueras and his wife Delfina.
Heading the field will be some of the world’s top players including Pablo MacDonough, Gonzalito Pieres, Alejandro Novillo Astrada and Figueras.
The event has joined St. Moritz as one of the world’s top snow polo tournaments and one of Aspen’s major international sporting events. It is the only snow polo event in North America, final stop on the World Polo Tour and kickoff to the holiday social season in Aspen.
The snow polo tournament is a major attraction for the local community, attracts fans from all over the world, and is a major allure for the Aspen community and surrounding areas.
Last year Richard Mille made history at the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship. In front of a soldout heated VIP tent, Richard Mille (Sarah Siegel Magness, 0, Jesse Bray, 7, Pablo MacDonough, 10) won its third title with an impressive 9-6 victory over St. Regis (Melissa Ganzi, 1, Nacho Figueras, 6, Nic Roldan, 9) on the final stop of the World Polo Tour.
Richard Mille has won the tournament three of the last four years. MacDonough, the only player on all three winning teams, was named Most Valuable Player.
Bray earned the High Scorer Award after scoring 12 goals in the tournament. The 30-year-old scored a game-high five goals in the championship. He also scored four goals in his team’s 10-7 opening tournament win over Aspen Valley Polo Club and three goals in a 3-2 win over defending champion World Polo League. It was Bray’s fifth snow polo tournament appearance and third final. It was also the first game his 2-month old baby Dorothy Lily watched him play.
It was the most competitive final in the nine-year history of North America’s only snow polo tournament and fitting way to kick off the holiday social season in Aspen.
Best Playing Pony was home-bred Centauros, played by Bray and owned by Wellington, Fla.-based Santa Rita Polo Farm.
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.
With the majestic 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.
Aspen Valley Polo Club finished another successful and historic season in club and Rocky Mountain Circuit history this past summer. Aspen Valley Polo Club has become the world’s destination spot for summer and snow polo.
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.
By Sharon Robb
Images by Nick Tininenko