Snowmaking necessary for Aspen’s annual snow polo tournament

Snow gun at Rio Grande Park could fire up this week

Riders compete at the World Snow Polo Championship on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, at Rio Grande Park in Aspen. The event returns to the park in December.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

With a dry, balmy forecast in the near future, organizers helping to produce an annual polo tournament at Rio Grande Park are prepping to fire up the snow gun this week.

In order to protect the turf of the park, the city of Aspen is requiring that there be an 18-inch base of snow for the event, which is scheduled for Dec. 18-19.

Even though the city declared a stage two water drought earlier this year, in-stream flows from Maroon and Castle creeks are holding steady and the municipal government is prepared to provide between 50,000 and 80,000 gallons, according to Tyler Christoff, director of utilities.

“We have a buffer and are comfortable” that the city and event organizers can meet conditions set for snowmaking.

The cost of the water and associated staff labor will be covered by the event, which Tyler estimated at a couple of thousand dollars.

The Aspen Skiing Co. will provide a snowmaking machine and a generator, which the event organizer, the Aspen Valley Polo Club, will pay for.

This will be the eighth consecutive year in which Mother Nature hasn’t provided sufficient natural snow to meet the city’s parks department’s lease requirements.

In those cases, the club has contracted with Skico and made snow specifically for the event.

“We have helped snow polo on this event for many years, so we have a pretty smooth communication with city of Aspen staff and event organizers. This year is not different,” said Derci Gunshor, director of event development for Skico.

In 2018 when the city was under stage two water restrictions, Aspen City Council at that time voted to move forward and approve the snowmaking if all conditions were met, which they were, according to Tyler.

The snow gun this year is scheduled to operate from Dec. 7-8, and can run from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily.

Because of where the water source is located near the park, Rio Grande Place will be closed during snowmaking overnight from Mill Street to the parking garage entrance, although it will be open and accessible from Spring Street.

The event, officially titled the World Snow Polo Championships, has been in Rio Grande Park for eight years, and was in Wagner Park prior to that.


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