Ganzi, Flexjet win World Snow Polo Championship in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Ganzi, Flexjet win World Snow Polo Championship in Aspen

Want to know the reason for all the snow this weekend? Turns out it was Melissa Ganzi's doing.

"We were laughing because we really needed snow in Aspen," Ganzi said. "I bought a really great hat at Performance Ski store that said 'Pray for Snow,' and I was wearing it and I was praying for snow. And apparently I got too much snow."

Ganzi, who co-founded the Aspen Valley Polo Club with her husband, Marc Ganzi, got her wish, only it caused some difficulties for the 2016 World Snow Polo Championship, held Saturday and Sunday at Rio Grande Park in Aspen.

“Footing was awesome; the horses were good. It was a really fun tournament.”

— Jesse Bray, Flexjet

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The fourth annual event — co-hosted by the Ganzis alongside Nacho Figueras, who is considered to be the international face of the sport — had its semifinal games called off Saturday after the storm that dropped nearly 2 feet of snow on Aspen Mountain made field conditions unsafe for the horses, which were brought in from Florida.

Instead of games, a quick shootout took place, leaving team Flexjet and U.S. Polo Assn. to face off in Sunday's championship.

"After testing out the field (Saturday), we had to make a tough decision, but it was in the interest of the horses and their safety," Melissa Ganzi said. "Our equine athletes are just too important to us."

Ganzi, one of the most accomplished women in polo, played for Flexjet on Sunday, and alongside teammates Jason Crowder and Jesse Bray, defeated the U.S. Polo Assn. threesome of Bash Kazi, Ricky Cooper and Tommy Biddle, 7-4, to win the 2016 World Snow Polo Championship.

While the rosters looked a lot different, U.S. Polo Assn. had been the defending snow polo champion entering the weekend. Grant Ganzi, the son of Melissa and Marc Ganzi, was on that championship team in 2015. Marc Ganzi was on the 2014 championship team, Piaget.

"We had a good game plan and we stuck to it and we finished strong," Bray said of the championship match. "This is such a fun tournament to come play. I'm from California, so I'm really cold right here. This is a whole another world for me."

Bray and Crowder, who both hail from California, had never played together before this weekend, nor had either played in the snow. Even so, it was Crowder who won the shootout over St. Regis' Figueras on Saturday to get them to the finals, and it was Bray who was named the most valuable player after Sunday's championship match.

"It means a lot. It means all the hard work through my whole career is paying off," Bray said of his MVP honors. "Footing was awesome; the horses were good. It was a really fun tournament."

In Sunday's consolation game, team Audi, led by Nic Roldan, defeated St. Regis, although it was Figueras who was named the consolation game MVP in defeat.

The World Snow Polo Championship brings an end to the World Polo Tour season, but Melissa Ganzi sees it as the start of Aspen's busiest stretch of the year, and already has high hopes for 2017.

"I am excited for the future," Ganzi said. "I see this as kicking off the high season of Aspen. I look forward to it and I hope other people look forward to it as the kickoff to the season."

acolbert@aspentimes.com