Snow Polo Championships back in Aspen for fourth year
December 16, 2016
Nacho Figueras, one of the best polo players in the world, isn't in Aspen this weekend to play polo. Well, there is a good chance you will find him on horseback today and Sunday for the 2016 World Snow Polo Championships, but that's just a byproduct of his admiration for the Roaring Fork Valley.
"My wife and our four children, they all love to ski and they love Aspen, so we kind of made it our thing now," the Argentinian said. "Polo is the excuse. We love polo, but really, we love Aspen. So we come here as a family. We ski. We have a great time."
Figueras, along with Aspen Valley Polo Club co-founders Marc and Melissa Ganzi, have brought snow polo back to the valley for the fourth straight season. The final stop in the World Polo Tour, four teams will vie for the snow polo title this weekend at Rio Grande Park in Aspen.
"For us, it's a one-off event. It's done once a year," said Nic Roldan, who is largely considered to be the top American polo player. "Every year it grows more and more. It spreads. I know it's the talk of the town this week. This time of year is probably the best time to be in Aspen. It's a great event. Everybody has fun."
Snow polo, first played in 1985 in St. Moritz, Switzerland, is similar to the full-sized sport; only it's played on a smaller field with smaller teams. Not to mention, the field is covered in snow.
Aspen is the only place in North America that hosts a snow polo tournament, and it now attracts some of the top polo talent on the planet.
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"Pros call us to see if they can play in this event now. The first year we had to call and really convince the pros to come and take time out of their schedule," Marc Ganzi said. "For Melissa and myself, it's a great opportunity at the end of the year to bring the best polo players in the world to Aspen to finish the season. There is no better place to do it than here."
Four teams — Flexjet, Audi, The U.S. Polo Assn. and St. Regis — will compete for the championship. It's a straightforward, four-team bracket, with the semifinals being played today and the championship and third-place game Sunday.
The matchups were determined at the team draw Thursday, hosted by St. Regis Aspen. Today at 1 p.m., team Audi (Marc Ganzi/Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Roldan) will play defending champion U.S. Polo Assn. (Bash Kazi, Ricky Cooper, Tommy Biddle). Following that, St. Regis (Bernie Uechtritz, Carlitos Gracida, Figueras) will square off against Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Jesse Bray).
Sunday's action also starts at 1 p.m., with the championship game to follow the consolation game.
New this year is a slightly larger field, which will increase the speed of the game and more grandstand seating for spectators.
"You can feel the tournament is established. Now people know about it and they are looking forward to it," Figueras said. "It's going to be tough, but I like it tough. Tough is good."
ChukkerTV will live-stream all four games of the tournament.
The tournament is free for spectators, although separate and limited VIP tickets are available. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Aspen Education Foundation.
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