ASPEN, Colo., December 17, 2016---Defending champion U.S. Polo Assn., making its third finals appearance in four years, will meet Flexjet Sunday in the World Snow Polo Championship at Rio Grande Park.
The game will be televised by ChukkerTV at 1 p.m. MST (3 p.m. EST) to a worldwide audience. The consolation game featuring Audi and St. Regis will follow at 2:30 p.m.
An overnight snow storm dumped two additional feet of snow in the arena forcing tournament officials to change the opening qualifying format from two full games to two shootouts.
Officials met with players on Saturday and decided for the safety of the horses and players a shootout featuring one player from each team would determine the finalists.
“We have been watching the field and they tried to prepare it but it was just too deep so we ended up with a shootout,” said St. Regis player Bernie Uechtritz. “It was a level playing field any way so the shootout was the great equalizer. It was a roll of the dice.
“Either way whether you are in the first game or the second game as a result of this shootout, it doesn’t matter. It’s going to be a great time, good competition and great for spectators.”
In bone-chilling 9-degree weather and light snow falling, each player had two 15-yard and two 25-yard penalty shot attempts.
In the opening shootout, U.S. Polo Assn.’s Ricky Cooper of Wales and Audi’s Grant Ganzi went one-on-one.
Cooper led his team to a 3-1 victory over Audi after converting both his 15-yard attempts and one of his 25-yard shots to clinch. His first 25-yarder that hit the post and came across the scoring area came under review before it was determined the ball hit the back of the wall for the clinching score.
Grant Ganzi converted his second attempt at a 15-yarder.
Cooper will be joined by teammates and recently-engaged Tommy Biddle, rated at 10-goals in arena polo, and Bash Kazi. It is the third time in four years U.S. Polo Assn. has advanced into the final. They were runners-up in 2014 to Piaget.
In the second game, Flexjet’s Jason Crowder, making his snow polo debut, and St. Regis’ Nacho Figueras were pitted against each other.
Crowder and Figueras each converted their 15-yarders to finish in a 2-2 tie after the opening round.
Crowder hit his first 25-yarder to give Flexjet a 3-2 lead. Figueras’ attempt sailed wide left. In the second round of 25-yard attempts, Crowder missed, setting up Figueras’ possible tying shot. Figueras’ shot, however, went wide enabling Flexjet to win, 3-2 win.
“This was a blast,” Crowder said. “It just keeps getting better.”
St. Regis’ Bernie Uechtritz, Carlitos Gracida and Figueras will play the consolation game against Audi with America’s top player Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini and father and son Marc and Grant Ganzi, splitting time.
“It was still competitive because the penalties are not easy,” Gracida said. “It gives everyone a chance.
“They made the right decision going to a shootout,” Gracida said. “You don’t want to make a dangerous sport more dangerous. It was still competitive and it was safe.”
A sellout VIP tent and crowd is expected for Sunday’sfestivities.
For the fourth consecutive year, Aspen Valley Polo Club co-founders Melissa and Marc Ganzi, are hosting the star-studded event along with Figueras, polo ambassador and St. Regis Connoisseur and his wife Delfina.
U.S. Polo Assn. won last year’s tournament with Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan and Juancito Bollini, defeating Flexjet, 10-5. Roldan was named MVP for the third straight year. In the consolation game, ChukkerTV defeated St. Regis. Bernie Uechtritz was named MVP.
Other past winners were: 2013, St. Regis (Nacho Figueras, Nic Roldan, Brandon Phillips) defeated Audi (Facundo Pieres, Melissa Ganzi, Juan Bollini), 1-0; and 2014, Piaget (Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Nic Roldan) defeated U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, Brandon Phillips, Tommy Biddle), 4-3.
Glitz, glamour and excitement is sharing center stage with one of the world’s top snow polo tournaments and only snow polo event in the U.S.
The tournament is a major attraction for the local community and fans from all over the world. The breathtaking scenery, venue and great polo action is a major allure for the Aspen community and surrounding areas.
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.
On Friday afternoon, sponsors, players and guests were treated to a barn tour at Aspen Valley Polo Club.
The tour featured meeting the horses, getting a polo lesson from Figueras and other players, foot mallet polo and demonstration by a farrier. The specialist in equine hoof care talked about trimming and balancing the horses’ hooves and special shoes on their hooves for playing in the snow.
ChukkerTV, an independent media company based in Wellington, Fla. and leader in polo broadcasting, is live streaming the snow polo tournament.
ChukkerTV was the first to introduce state-of-the-art polo live streaming technology in January, 2014 at Grand Champions Polo Club, where it was well-received for its cutting-edge technology and ability to promote the sport to a larger audience. It continues to build and improve its technology.
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. 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.
Has been a member of the Directional Aviation family of companies since 2013. They are committed to creating premium travel experiences and providing access to the most modern, technologically-advanced aircraft in the industry on a daily basis, going above and beyond world-class private travel experiences.
Rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, Audi is a valued sponsor with a rich winning tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world including West Palm Beach. Audi, founded in 1909, oversees its worldwide operations from its headquarters in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany.
THE U.S. POLO ASSN.
The brand carries an extensive collection of classically styled, high quality, casual clothing from polo shirts and tees to khakis and hoodies for men, women and children as well as watches, luggage, sunglasses, handbags, home furnishings and much more. The brand products are authentic and officially sanctioned by the U.S. Polo Association, the sport’s governing body. USPA Global Licensing Inc. manages its’ licensing program in over 135 countries through independent retail, department, online and U.S. Polo Assn. brand stores.
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.
SNOW POLO FAST FACTS
The sport was first played on a frozen lake in St. Moritz, Switzerland in 1985 and has been growing ever since attracting thousands of spectators and top players from around the world. 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.
ASPEN VALLEY POLO CLUB
CLUB ADDRESS: 3275 County Road 100, Carbondale, Colo. 81623
POLO HOTLINE: 970-710-1663
The exclusive Aspen Valley Polo Club is the nation’s fastest-growing polo clubs. It offers polo in the summer for players and spectators. The Polo School is available to adults and juniors. It offers individual and group lessons for all levels and ages. For spectators there are great field side views for tournament action, indoor and outdoor arenas and also the Aspen Valley Polo Club Boutique. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere with complimentary food and refreshments. 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 or log onto www.aspenvalleypoloclub.com.