Rein-ing champions: Snow polo was introduced in the Swiss resort town of St. Moritz in 1985. In the US, professional snow polo is played exclusively in Aspen.
It is the sport of kings and future kings, played on grass fields around the globe—and now, for the first time, polo has found a home on the snow-covered flats of Aspen.
In August, Marc and Melissa Ganzi opened the Aspen Valley Polo Club in Carbondale, a place where the best players in the world compete in tournaments, children receive polo instruction, and Valley residents are encouraged to watch matches for free.
Marc Ganzi, 44, grew up in Aspen and has a longtime love of equestrian sports. His father, Wally, had a ranch in Rifle, where Ganzi first learned to ride. He has been playing polo for 13 years. “I’m a homegrown product of Aspen,” says Ganzi, who, with his wife, also owns Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Florida.
His hometown got its first taste of the sport when snow polo was introduced in 2001. A modified version of grass-field polo, the game is played in a snow-packed arena. Polo ponies are shod with cleated shoes to provide traction, and, perhaps most notably, the ball is larger, lighter, and red in color.
The sport initially received a lukewarm reception from Aspenites due to lack of publicity and involvement, so the original event organizers enlisted Ganzi, who also serves as president of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, to take on the event and build a fan base. He and Melissa have grown the World Snow Polo Championship into an international affair, attracting players from around the world.
Snow polo is played over the course of four seven-minute chukkers (periods).
“We wanted to take it to another level and make it more accessible to residents and visitors,” he says. The Ganzis did this by moving the event from Rio Grande Park to the more highly visible and interactive Wagner Park, adding a VIP reception area, and making games easier for local residents to watch.
While the winter sport is popular in St. Moritz (Switzerland), Bariloche (Argentina), and Cortina (Italy), Aspen is the only city in the United States to host professional snow polo events. Last winter, onlookers were treated to the beautiful spectacle of six horseback riders (as opposed to the eight riders common in field polo) set against the backdrop of mountains and snow. Perfectly timed after the Argentine Open, the competition drew players such as Nacho Figueras and Nic Roldan, who hoped to add final points to their seasons’ tallies.
“Aspen is now a meaningful stop in the summer and winter international polo circuit,” says Ganzi. Indeed, this summer’s Rocky Mountain Open at the Aspen Valley Polo Club attracted around 600 spectators. “With the World Snow Polo Championship, World Cup skiing, the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge, and the X Games, people can now consider Aspen home to four major international sporting events. That is something that the city of Aspen can be proud of.”
Read more at http://aspenpeak-magazine.com/living/articles/all-you-need-to-know-about-snow-polo-season-in-aspen#cYUphfpQ6yLeHkFF.99