St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship Begins Friday; Team Presentation, Draw Thursday Night At St. Regis Aspen ResortThe much-anticipated St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship, featuring some of the world's top players, gets under way Friday with qualification games at Aspen Valley Polo Club in Carbondale.
By Sharon Robb
Set against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains, the three-day tournament is a major attraction for the local community and fans from all over the world. One of the social events of the year is a major allure for the Aspen community and surrounding areas.
The event kicks off Thursday night with the team presentation, tournament draw and cocktail party at St. Regis Aspen Resort at 8 p.m. MT. The draw and entire tournament will be live-streamed worldwide by ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting.
Shootout action in last year's tournament.One of Aspen's biggest international sporting events has attracted six teams for the three-day tournament.
Argentine 10-goaler Nico Pieres, coming off the Argentine Open, heads the field that also includes brothers Alejandro and Nacho Novillo Astrada, Magoo Laprida, Mike Azzaro, Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan and Luis Escobar.
For the fifth consecutive year, Melissa and Marc Ganzi, co-founders of Aspen Valley Polo Club, along with polo ambassador and St. Regis Connoisseur Nacho Figueras and his wife Delfina, will host the star-studded affair. Figueras is one of the sport's most popular and well-recognized players in the world.
Sellout VIP tent watches snow polo action."Aspen is now a meaningful stop on the summer and winter international polo circuit," said Marc Ganzi, who grew up in Aspen. "With the World Snow Polo Championship, World Cup skiing and X-Games, people can now consider Aspen a home to major international sporting events. That is something that the city of Aspen can be proud of."
Six teams including defending champion Flexjet will compete in North America's only snow polo tournament and final stop on the World Polo Tour.
Polo players in action at the St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship. Photo courtesy of St. Regis Aspen ResortThe teams and rosters are:
Aspen Valley Polo Club: Bernie Uechtritz, Carlitos Gracida, Nacho Novillo Astrada.
Audi: Jim Miller, Luis Escobar, Magoo Laprida.
Flexjet: Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini, Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
Moet: Bash Kazi, Mike Azzaro, Jason Crowder.
St. Regis: Marc Ganzi, Nacho Figueras, Nico Pieres.
U.S. Polo Assn.: Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan.
Iconic St. Regis Bloody Mary cocktail will be served in the VIP tent.In front of an overflow crowd and soldout VIP tent, last year's tournament winner was Flexjet with team captain Melissa Ganzi, the first woman to win the event, and teammates Jason Crowder and Jesse Bray, the tournament Most Valuable Player. In the final, Flexjet defeated defending champion U.S. Polo Assn. (Bash Kazi, Carlitos Gracida, Tommy Biddle), 7-4.
In the consolation game, Audi (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Nic Roldan) defeated St. Regis (Bernie Uechtritz, Carlitos Gracida, Nacho Figueras), 7-4. Figueras was named MVP.
Flexjet joined past champions: 2013, St. Regis (Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips) defeated Audi (Facundo Pieres, Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini), 1-0; 2014, Piaget (Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan) defeated U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Brandon Phillips, Tommy Biddle), 4-3; and 2015, U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini) defeated Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Juan Bollini), 10-5.
Snow-covered mountains serve as a breathtaking backdrop for polo.Photo courtesy of St. Regis Aspen ResortThe glitz, glamour and excitement of one of the world's top snow polo tournaments is a major attraction not only for the local community but fans from all over the world that fly in for the breathtaking scenery, venue and world-class polo action.
Tournament action opens Friday at Aspen Valley Polo Club with qualifying games. Following a barn tour and blacksmith demonstration, two round robin games will be held at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. MT followed by the popular grooms' race at 2 p.m. MT.
On Saturday and Sunday, Rio Grande Park will host the action. On Saturday, a four-chukker game will be played to determine the fifth and sixth place finishers at 1:08 p.m. MT followed by the Celebrity Polo Chukker at 2:15 p.m. MT.
The coveted St. Regis World Snow Polo Championship trophy.The Celebrity Polo Chukker will feature St Regis (Saye Yabandeh, Tucan Pereyra Iraola, Nacho Figueras) against U.S. Polo Assn. (Sterling Jones, Sarah Siegel-Magness, Nacho Novillo Astrada).
Also on Saturday, the local and international media will get the chance to meet the players before the game.
On Sunday at 1 p.m. MT the final and subsidiary final will be held followed by the trophy presentation at 4 p.m. MT with all six teams.
Rio Grande Park is Aspen's largest multi-functional park within the city's limits and just minutes away from the St. Regis Aspen Resort.
Guests in the VIP tent will be treated to signature St. Regis Aspen Resort rituals including afternoon tea, light fare and iconic St. Regis Bloody Mary cocktail. A packed house of fans is also expected to enjoy the game from along the sidelines.