Nacho Figueras, polo’s superstar, continues to grow his love of the sport
1 p.m. Championship Game
3 p.m. Subsidiary game
4:15 p.m. Awards
*All events take place at Rio Grande Park in Aspen and are free for spectators
Nacho Figueras doesn’t buy into the idea that snow polo is any less intense than the sport’s full version. The general festive nature and carefree vibe that comes with being in Aspen can lull one into believing the players don’t care about the scoreboard, but that’s far from the truth.
“You would like to think that, right? We all get here and we are all relaxed and joking,” Figueras told The Aspen Times on Wednesday evening. “When you are an athlete and when you are competitive, it’s in your blood. There is nothing you can do about it. Even if you say I’m going to take it easy because it’s snow polo and it’s the end of the year, you go there and you want to win. I hate to lose.”
The Argentinean superstar has long been the face of polo, and is as known for being one of Ralph Lauren’s most recognizable models as he is for his skills on horseback. He came to Aspen years ago when Marc and Melissa Ganzi, themselves accomplished polo players who founded the Carbondale-based Aspen Valley Polo Club in 2014, put together a little snow polo event in the Roaring Fork Valley.
In 2013, that event evolved into the World Snow Polo Championship, and with St. Regis as its title sponsor has become a signature event in both Aspen and in the polo community. Played each year at Rio Grande Park in Aspen, it’s the final stop on the 2018 World Polo Tour and is the only snow polo event in North America.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been six years,” Figueras said while voicing his pride for having been part of the event’s growth and development. “To be able to play polo there with Aspen Mountain in the back is pretty special. From a player standpoint, yes, it keeps getting better. The players that have been coming the last few years have been amazing. I think from a spectator standpoint and entertainment (standpoint) it has gotten a lot better.”
Wednesday, Figueras helped lead St. Regis to a win over Blade & Bow (Brian Boyd, Gonzalito Pieres and Carlitos Gracida) in the fifth-place match of the sixth annual event. Playing alongside him were Julio Gracida and Hilario Figueras, the oldest of Nacho’s four children. It was the first time the elder Figueras had played alongside one of his kids in the Aspen snow polo tournament.
“I’ve been playing polo for my whole life and I believe I get to love the sport a little more every day,” Nacho Figueras said. “When you think you cannot love polo any more, you play with your children and it’s like a whole another level of satisfaction. It’s really amazing to be able to be in the field with your son.”
The Figueras family has certainly come to love Aspen. Not only do they spend most winter holidays here because of snow polo, but the summer months have also become just as appetizing. They spent all of this past July in Aspen.
But in the end, it all comes back to polo. Snow polo, which is essentially a miniaturized version of the full game, is a good way to introduce people to the sport, according to Figueras. While the never dull VIP tent at Rio Grande Park is likely only for the heartiest of fans, the simply curious are welcome to view the action for free.
At 41, Figueras knows his best playing days are probably behind him. But snow polo will continue to remain a vital piece of his competitive calendar and an important tool to help grow the game he still loves.
“I’ll always continue to play polo because I love it and it’s what I do,” Figueras said. “Maybe not at a super high level, but I think I can continue to do what I love which is also promoting the game and that I will be able to do for longer. I’m not getting out of it in any way.”
This year’s tournament will conclude Thursday when 2016 champion Flexjet will play first-year team Richard Mille in the 1 p.m. championship match. The matchup will pit the husband and wife duo of Marc and Melissa Ganzi against each other on the field.
There will be a subsidiary game at 3 p.m. with a trophy presentation scheduled for 4:15 p.m. at Rio Grande Park.
When asked if he is receiving any insider information on the terrain, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde — the boyfriend of Edwards’ own Mikaela Shiffrin — chuckled and replied, “You probably think so, but I actually I don’t.”