Giddy up: Snow polo on deck |

Giddy up: Snow polo on deck

Tim Mutrie
Players and ponies vie for the ball during the 2003 World Snow Polo Championship at Wagner Park last winter. The fifth annual event returns to Aspen Saturday and Sunday at the park. Aspen Times photo/ Paul Conrad.

With an international field of players and a string of 20 polo ponies provided by a New Castle ranch, the fifth annual World Snow Polo Championship returns to Aspen’s Wagner Park (Polo Grounds) this weekend.The field is four teams strong – Hotel Colorado, Roaring Fork, L’Hostaria and Chase – with qualifying games on Saturday and the finals and consolation finals on Sunday.Wagner Park will be groomed with snowmobiles to make a suitably smooth playing surface that is ringed by snow-fencing. And the polo ponies, fitted with specially cleated horseshoes to provide traction, will provide the power.

“The park’s in great shape,” said Barry Stout of Stout Ranch, who will be playing with the Hotel Colorado team and providing the polo ponies. “We’ve got an international field of players this year, and it’s going to be a great event.”The defending champion Land Rover team from England is not returning this year, Stout said.”Most of these players are players who play all over the world,” Stout said. “So it’ll be competitive, for sure.”

Other players include Melissa Ganzi, Mark Ganzi, Juan Bellini, Tom Taylor, Cali Garcia, Vaughn Miller, Tom Goodspeed and Jim Parr.The rules of snow polo call for three players per team (as opposed to four in the regular turf version of polo), with each game consisting of four chukkers, or periods.The team that shoots the ball – a larger, inflated red ball in this case – into their opponents’ goal the most wins.

“It’s basically polo rules but it’s on a smaller field rather than the regular 10-acre field,” said Stout.The history of polo in the Roaring Fork Valley dates back to the early 1890s, with the earliest games played in Glenwood Springs. Snow polo started in St. Moritz and was brought to Aspen in the late 1990s.