By Amiee White Beazley | December 7, 2017 | Lifestyle
Thanks to Marc and Melissa Ganzi, Snow Polo is heating up the Aspen Valley again this season.
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 from Wellington to Jaipur—and in the past few years, polo has found a home in the Roaring Fork Valley.
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 and adults receive polo instruction, and Valley residents are encouraged to watch matches for free.
Marc Ganzi, 47, 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. “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 top players from around the world.
Snow polo is played over the course of four seven-minute chukkers (periods).
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. Onlookers are 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 has drawn players such as Nacho Figueras and Nic Roldan, who hope to add final points to their seasons’ tallies.
This year's roster features several of the highest goal players in the world. In particular, two exciting young talents to watch will be Grant Ganzi and Juancito Bollini.
“Aspen is now a meaningful stop in the summer and winter international polo circuit,” says Ganzi. “With the World Snow Polo Championship, World Cup skiing, and the X Games, people can now consider Aspen a home to major international sporting events. That is something that the city of Aspen can be proud of.”
The World Snow Polo Championship finals will take place December 15-17. Preliminary rounds will be held at the Aspen Valley Polo Club in Carbondale. Game viewing is free for spectators and tickets are available for the VIP viewing tent, catered by The St. Regis Resort Aspen. All proceeds go to the Aspen Education Foundation. Sponsored this year by The St. Regis Aspen Resort, Audi, Flexjet, Moet Hennessy, U.S. Polo Association and Aspen Peak. worldsnowpolo.com
Photos Courtesy of The St. Regis Aspen Resort by Josh Bishop