ASPEN, COLO.–Dec. 20, 2013—In front of a large hometown crowd and sold out VIP tent, St. Regis defeated Audi, 1-0, Friday to capture the Piaget World Snow Polo Championship at historic Wagner Park.
As a steady snow fell, Nacho Figueras scored the winning goal with 4:18 left in the second chukker with an assist from Wellington’s Nic Roldan.
“There were three good teams here, and it was whoever had the luck,” said Roldan, named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “It was a war today, no one was going to let up.
“With this new snow, it made it tougher to get the ball,” Roldan said. “It seemed like the way to get the ball clean was to lift it up out of the hole and hit it out of the air and place it somewhere.”
Roldan did exactly that, knocking the florescent red ball toward the Audi goal with a well-placed shot. A quick-reacting Figueras, the sport’s international ambassador and face of Ralph Lauren, tapped the ball in for the only score of the game.
“It was hard conditions because of all the snow, but we ended up winning so it was a great day,” Figueras said. “I’m happy and proud. To be able to play polo in this environment and with this background is really fantastic.”
St. Regis Hotels & Resorts (Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips), Audi (Facundo Pieres, Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini) and Piaget (Gonzalito Pieres, Marc Ganzi, Kris Kampsen) competed in the three-team, round robin tournament on the final stop on the 2013 World Polo Tour circuit.
The elite pro field added to the high-end event which one day could rival the annual St. Moritz Polo World Cup and become one of the hottest social events in Aspen, the only American city to host a snow polo tournament.
Several local community and media members, sponsors and players called snow polo and Aspen a good fit.
“This is the best snow polo in America,” Kampsen said. “The teams are excellent. There’s never been a level this high as far as competition is concerned.
“It was extremely competitive,” Kampsen said. “Conditions weren’t ideal. They had the field perfect on Thursday but then it snowed quite a bit which slowed the field down.”
In the opening game, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts Polo Team defeated Piaget, 2-0, behind goals from Figueras and Phillips.
In the second game, Audi defeated Piaget, 2-1, with two goals from Melissa Ganzi, who scored the first goal on her first touch of the game. Bollini took the throw-in and found Ganzi open for the goal. She scored the game’s winning goal on a penalty shot with 1:15 left to play to advance her team into the championship final. Marc Ganzi scored Piaget’s lone goal after hitting a nice shot across the arena and following it up with the score.
Phillips suffered a bloody split lip when smacked by a polo mallet during the final.
Melissa Ganzi and Figueras shared tournament leading scorer honors with two each; Phillips and Ganzi each had one goal.
“We had our chances, it became harder as the game went on,” said Melissa Ganzi, who turned in one of her best all-around games with several steals and scoring barrage. “It was really competitive today,” Ganzi continued. “Every team wanted to win and we really had strong players.”
“The biggest surprise was that it all happened and we were able to pull it off,” Ganzi said. “The weather actually made it more beautiful and what more could we ask for.”
Ganzi’s horse Open Quarzo, a 7-year-old Bay stallion, was named Best Playing Pony.
Polo fans seemed to enjoy the world-class snow polo from the opening two-chukker match. VIPs and sponsors watched from the heated VIP Tent while enjoying mountain fare from The St. Regis Aspen Resort, including the brand’s signature Afternoon Tea Service along with cocktails from Johnnie Walker Blue.
Melissa and Marc Ganzi of Aspen Valley Polo Club, sister club of Wellington, Fla.-based Grand Champions Polo Club, along with Nacho Figueras and Larry Boland, president of Piaget North America, hosted the two-day event.
“My husband has roots here in Aspen,” Melissa Ganzi said. “He attended Aspen Country Day School, raced skiing here and his parents live here year-round.
“We would like to take snow polo to another level, to make snow polo and the City of Aspen synonymous. We’re really fortunate that we have our wonderful local partners and our partners from Florida. We have invested in building our own infrastructure. We went the extra mile.”
St. Regis Hotels & Resorts was the official hospitality partner and Audi served as the official car.
Said Boland: “What other city in North America could compare to Aspen as far as snow polo is concerned? Aspen Mountain is the perfect backdrop for a snow polo event.”
The arena stadium was beautifully set up. The VIP tent featured alpine luxe furnishings and fine array of food from The St. Regis Aspen Hotel.
The playing surface was perfect with the help of the Aspen Skiing Company which layered artificial snow on top of the already 16 inches of fresh snow from the last two weeks. The man-made snow spread and rolled made for a quick-playing surface on Thursday for the stick-and-ball and practice chukker. However, snow flurries on Friday made the ball harder to maneuver in the snow because of the deep divots.
All proceeds benefitted Sopris Therapy Services and Aspen Sister Cities.
Sopris Therapy Services is a non-profit organization that provides Equine Assisted Therapy and rehabilitation in a ranch-setting to children and adults with various disabilities.
Aspen Sister Cities’ mission is to share ideas and cultures through the international exchange of students and All proceeds benefit Sopris Therapy Services and Aspen Sister Cities. Both charities depend on community support.
SNOW POLO FAST FACTS
Snow polo was first introduced in 1985 at the resort town of St. Moritz, Switzerland and attracted several hundred spectators. In the U.S., snow polo is held exclusively in Aspen, Colorado. Snow polo is a modified version of 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 arena polo. Play consists of four seven-minute chukkers. The horses have special cleated shoes to provide better traction. The ball is larger and lighter and bright red for visibility on the snowy surface.
ASPEN VALLEY POLO CLUB
CONTACT INFORMATION: Phone: 970-710-1663 and email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE CLUB: The nation’s newest private polo club still in its’ developing stages features a complete facility offering stick-and-ball field, club house, wooden horse polo pit, exercise track, indoor school, arena, pony hire, livery, coaches, stable and turn to hire and grooms accommodations.