Letter: The many pros of snow polo
December 30, 2013
The many pros of snow polo
I would like to express my thanks to all those who worked so hard to make the World Snow Polo Championships such an incredible event to watch and enjoy, particularly Gavin and Jennifer Guinan for their effort. It was first rate, to say the least. This event was able to make a charitable donation of $10,000 each to two fine charities, the Sopris Therapy riding program and our Sister Cities program.
I am truly sorry there are a handful of folks who have attempted to curtail this event. I cannot imagine why anyone would have an objection to this unique and very special equestrian showcase but, true to Aspen form, there were those, who for some reason, found it objectionable. Everything from "I can't walk my dog in the park during this time," to it will ruin the park and how terrible it is for the horses, or it just doesn't belong here. Really!
I won't lower myself to discuss the "dogs in the park issue" but would like to discuss other aspects of the championships.
First of all, to have the World Snow Polo Championships here is in itself a wonderful honor. Snow polo was first held in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1985 and has since been played in many countries around the world, including a recent major event in China. Now, Aspen has had the privilege of hosting it, thanks in great part to Barry Stout, who was a driving force in bringing it to our valley. Why it had to be held on a Thursday and Friday, rather than a weekend, is beyond me. It makes no sense. I hope that will change in the future.
Polo is well known and played in many places around the world. Like so many of the events held in Aspen, this one is at the top of its class. The players invited here are amongst the best in the world. They are to polo what the top World Cup racers are to skiing. Seldom will you ever get to see this level of players in one place at the same time. The name Aspen is now firmly associated with this level of polo. Polo and now snow polo has followers in many countries like the U.S., Argentina, Mexico, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and yes, even China. Many of those followers will see the name Aspen associated with this sport in magazines and various media. You guessed it, these are all markets with visitors that frequent Aspen.
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As for Wagner Park, this was well thought-out and I believe every possible precaution was taken to assure no damage to the grass would occur. If you want to think about damage to Wagner Park, consider the pressure from Food and Wine, Ruggerfest competition when it is wet, and the X Games concerts. All are fabulous events held in Wagner Park that benefit Aspen. This event has not caused damage to the park as some have cried foul. First of all, the ground was already frozen. Adding 6 inches of packed snow over that is adequate protection. I have seen how compacted the park has been over the years from pedestrian traffic alone, and how in certain years it ices over from freeze and thaw conditions, and it bounces back time after time. Snowcats pack cross-country trails on our golf courses over and over and no damage is done if handled properly. I applaud the people who helped assure this event was done with the best possible consideration for our park and finally came up with reasonable requirements. Bringing in a snowcat to help open the packed snow is another good thing to add to the mix.
As for the horses, I have owned, photographed and been around horses all my life. They are incredible athletes and have been part of our heritage for centuries, from wars, to sport, pleasure, therapy and working our ranches. Polo horses are amongst the best conditioned and cared-for horses in the world. They love to run and it's my experience they love to play. With the special cleated shoes on these horses they horses can, and did, run very safely on the field. Can a horse slip or get injured? Of course. So do all animals and people for that matter.
Mark and Melissa Ganzi, who provided us with this event, are considered one the finest polo organizations in the country and have been awarded numerous awards for their caring of horses and promoting polo. We are fortunate their contribution is helping to bring polo to new levels here in the Roaring Fork Valley both summer and winter.
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