Playing near-perfect polo, the U.S. Polo Assn. won the coveted St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship Saturday at Rio Grande Park
In front of an overflow crowd including a sold out VIP tent, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini and Nic Roldan turned in one of the most outstanding championship game performances in tournament history for an impressive 10-5 victory over Flexjet. On a picture-perfect day with majestic snow-capped mountains as a backdrop, the trio jumped out to a 4-1 advantage in the opening chukker and never relinquished the lead to Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Juan Bollini). Roldan, making his third consecutive finals appearance, was named Most Valuable Player for the third straight year.
The nine-goaler scored a game-high four goals and dazzled the crowd with his booming hits and bouncing the ball on his mallet and out of the air. “The three of us all contributed,” Roldan said. “The footing was great. It was a perfect day. The other team was tough to play against. I had two little assassins up front that let me sit in the back and not do that much.” Halo Polo’s 9-year-old Bay stallion Open Quarzo, ridden and owned by Melissa Ganzi, was selected Best Playing Pony for the second time in three years at the snow polo event.
Last year U.S. Polo Assn., then a first-year team sponsor, (Grant Ganzi, Brandon Phillips, Tommy Biddle) made it all the way to the final before losing to Piaget, 4-3. “The game was fast and good,” said Ganzi, at 17, the youngest player in the tournament. “We hit a lot of back shots. Nic really played well. He had a good eye for the ball. We were disciplined and got the result we wanted.”
The championship pitted mother against son, Melissa and Grant Ganzi, father against son, Juan and Juancito Bollini and former Piaget teammates Jeff Hall and Roldan. “They were a hell of a team, a very tough team,” said Juan Bollini, who sustained a shoulder injury after getting hit with a mallet early in the second chukker but was able to remain in the game. “Granti, Juancito and Nic have been playing together for so many years they know each other. They had the best day.”
The U.S. Polo Assn. was the strongest team with the most chemistry throughout the three-day, six-team tournament. In one of the most competitive round robin doubleheaders in tournament history on Thursday, U.S. Polo Assn. knocked off pre-tournament favorite Audi, 7-5, and ChukkerTV, 10-5. In the consolation game, first-year snow polo team ChukkerTV (Mariano Gracida, Bernie Uechtritz, Martin Pepa) defeated St. Regis (Brian Boyd, Carlitos Gracida, Nacho Figueras), 6.5-5. Figueras scored a game-high three goals, all in the first chukker. “This event was amazing for everybody,” Pepa said.
Uechtritz was named Most Valuable Player and Figueras’ horse Merlot was selected Best Playing Pony. “It was a great game and my first experience on the snow,” Uechtritz said. “It was great organization and great people to play with. It’s a great education to play with such great players out here and that helps.” Melissa and Marc Ganzi, co-founders of Aspen Valley Polo Club, along with Figueras, polo ambassador and St. Regis Connoisseur, were hosts of one of the world’s top snow polo tournaments and final stop on the World Polo Tour for the third consecutive year. The three-day polo extravaganza attracted sponsors, players and fans from around the world and endless praise for the Ganzis, organizers of the event. “Marc and Melissa go over the top to make this a world-class event,” said St. Regis’ Brian Boyd.
“We need more people like Marc and Melissa in polo,” Bollini added. “This was a fantastic event. It just doesn’t happen in one day. What they do for polo all over the United States is unbelievable. I don’t think people recognize what they do.” Returning sponsors Audi, Flexjet, U.S. Polo Assn. and Aspen Peak Magazine along with new sponsors One Sandy Lane and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., joined St. Regis Hotels & Resorts as major sponsors of North America’s only snow polo tournament.
During Saturday’s action, polo fans were treated to world-class snow polo action from the toasty VIP Pavilion while enjoying mountain fare from The St. Regis Aspen Resort, including the brand’s signature Afternoon Tea Service and cocktails. ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting, exclusively live streamed the entire tournament for the first time. ChukkerTV, an independent media company based in Wellington, Fla. captured the glitz, glamour and excitement of the three-day tournament. Entertaining polo announcers Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz provided play-by-play, colorful commentary and post-game interviews.
All proceeds benefitted Sopris Therapy Services and Aspen Sister Cities. Sopris Therapy Services is a non-profit organization that provides Equine Assisted Therapy and rehabilitation in a ranch-setting to children and adults with various disabilities. Aspen Sister Cities’ mission is to share ideas and cultures through the international exchange of students and community members from Aspen and its respective sister cities.
The St. Regis Aspen Resort
Nestled at the base of the majestic Aspen Mountain, the resort is between the mountain’s two primary base ski lifts and within walking distance to all of Aspen’s shops, restaurants and entertainment. The hotel is just 10 minutes away from Aspen’s airport and has convenient access to all four ski releases. The resort underwent a $40 million redesign in 2011. It delivers a benchmark of personalized service and attention to detail amidst the relaxed spirit of the Rocky Mountains. The resort is located at 315 East Dean St. Call 970-920-3300 or 888-627-7198.
Rio Grande Park
The park is Aspen’s largest park within city limits just south of downtown. It contains professional size rugby field, state-of-the-art skate park, Theater Aspen, basketball court and John Denver Sanctuary. The multi-functional park is used for major sporting events. The park is located at North Mill St. and Rio Grande Place. For information call 970-920-5120.
Aspen Valley Polo Club
The exclusive Aspen Valley Polo Club is one of the nation’s fastest-growing clubs. It offers polo in the summer for players and spectators. The Polo School is available to all ages and all ability levels from beginner to advance. Individual and group lessons are available in both arena and grass polo. For spectators, there are great field side views for tournament action and also the Aspen Valley Polo Club Boutique. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere with food and refreshments provided by Aspen Valley Polo Club. Admission and parking are free. For Polo On Demand price rates of group and private lessons, arena chukkers, grass chukkers and individualized “Polo Experience” packages email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Snow Polo Fast Facts
Snow polo was first introduced in 1985 at the resort town of St. Moritz, Switzerland and attracted several hun dred spectators. In the U.S., snow polo is held exclusively in Aspen, Colorado. Snow polo is a modified version of polo. Games are played on a snow-packed field surrounded by fencing to keep the ball in play. Teams have three players instead of four as in typical arena polo. Play consists of four seven-minute chukkers. The horses have special cleated shoes to provide better traction. The ball is larger and lighter and bright orange or red for visibility on the snowy surface.