Despite adamant remarks from Mayor Steve Skadron, snow polo will take place in Wagner Park on Dec. 19 and 20.
After receiving 3-1 approval from the Aspen City Council on Tuesday, the event will be subject to a number of conditions: There must be a compacted snow base of 6 to 8 inches. If additional man-made snow is required, Aspen Skiing Co. will provide it, either by trucking it from Lift 1A or by making it on-site with two snow guns and two generators. Council members said the preferred option is to make the snow on-site between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. because of noise. If the temperature is not low enough during the daytime, the default option is to make snow at Lift 1A.
In an initial agreement with the Aspen Valley Polo Club, city staff required an 18-inch, unpacked snow base.
After hearing from event organizers at Tuesday’s work session, Skadron laid out why he is opposed, saying snow polo is a niche event not significant enough to take place in Wagner Park. He also said the event’s history — which includes the death of a polo mare in 2011 — wasn’t properly explored when the council gave approval in November.
“What I can’t buy into ... is that we have snowmaking in the park or the idea that we’re going to have 200 or 300 or 400 or 500 trucks of snow,” Skadron said. “That speaks against our core values in this community.”
Snow polo organizer Marc Ganzi insisted that initial estimates for the trucks were overblown. He also noted that the weather pattern in the coming weeks looks favorable.
“If we get 6 inches of natural compaction, how many truckloads do you think that will be?” Ganzi asked. “Maybe 20. Great. It’s coming from 1A and back down to Wagner. With certain hours, we can deliver that snow.”
Ganzi added that organizers from this year’s event are separate from those who previously put on snow polo in Aspen, arguing that he has an established track record of organizing competitions all over the world.
The USPA World Snow Polo Championship is a two-day event, with an exhibition on day one and the finals on day two. Organizers will pay a standard $7,500 events’fee to Aspen, with snow polo up for an official vote at next week’s council meeting.
Council member Adam Frisch said he has full confidence that the turf will be protected, that staff will uphold the agreement and that organizers will maintain safety of the animals. However, he said all eyes will be on this year’s event.
“If there are substantial hiccups, ... it will be a long time before it ever comes back again,” Frisch said.
Deric Gunshor, Skico’s event marketing manager, said on-site snowmaking will be provided by city fire hydrants, which Aspen can meter. Environmentally, he said taking the trucks out of the equation would be the most ideal option.
Andy Israel, who lives near Wagner Park and has attended three council meetings on the issue, said there are too many moving targets for snow polo to be successful.
“We got 16 inches of snow (last week). That was gone in a day and a half,” Israel said. “Say it snows this week. How do you compact the snow in the park? That means the park gets closed. We’re talking five to seven days, not two days.”