As town’s coveted summer season begins, the Aspen Valley Polo Club and its rising young stars advance the legacy of a sport steeped in tradition.
Look at me and the ball, not the stands,” instructs Nacho Figueras. It’s 10am on a bluebird December morning in Aspen, and a small overnight storm has blanketed Wagner Park with 4 inches of fresh snow. During this second year of the World Snow Polo Championship in 2013, as the editor of Aspen Peak at the time, I’m receiving a pregame snow polo lesson from Figueras. Considered the face of polo, his striking features graced Ralph Lauren’s national ad campaign. The VIP tent is packed—a festive mix of Aspen locals, visiting CEOs and the first wave of town’s holiday revelers. On the field’s sidelines, professional polo players Marc and Melissa Ganzi—founders of the Aspen Valley Polo Club and owners of the Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Fla.—prep their horses alongside top international athletes.
Attempting to calm my nerves, I take a deep breath and firm my grip on the reins, hoping Figueras doesn’t notice me blushing. Leaning over the right side of a graceful horse, I swing my wooden mallet at an orange ball, and to my surprise, after repeated attempts of missing it entirely—thwack! Success. Down the field we saunter, my confidence boosted by the most recognizable ambassador in polo...
With the help of Figueras, Marc and Melissa Ganzi—both with long-standing family ties to the valley—have successfully placed Aspen on the global polo circuit. What began as an idea to stage a snow polo tournament in our little ski town in 2012 has evolved into year-round, high-level playing. The goal? “We want polo to thrive here, and we want Aspen to be the summer polo destination in America,” says Melissa Ganzi, who last winter became the first female player to win a championship in St. Moritz, the birthplace of snow polo.
Leveraging Aspen’s penchant for open space, the Ganzis founded the Aspen Valley Polo Club in 2014 and quickly built its Carbondale headquarters. During its short history, Aspen polo has quickly garnered international appeal. The 2018 World Snow Polo Championship drew a well-heeled crowd of around 3,000 attendees and benefited the Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.
The club’s summer season, which kicks off July 4 and ends the first weekend in September, hosts four to eight teams every weekend, in addition to several special events.
Spectators will witness the next generation of polo, including Nic Roldan and Figueras’ son, Hilario. These rising stars—many of whom count their polo-playing fathers as mentors—are elevating the legacy of the sport both on and off the field. “They play together as friends, which is how polo started,” Melissa Ganzi explains. “A new generation is bringing back the traditions of the older one. It preserves the future of polo, and that’s important.” Here are the ones to watch:
The son of Marc and Melissa Ganzi, Grant is one of the youngest players in the nation playing 26-goal polo... Read more.
An impressive eight-goaler, Roldan competes for Audi in the 26-goal World Polo League. When he was just 15 he became the youngest player... Read more.
A member of Team USPA, Calle started competing at Grand Champions six years ago. He has won several 12- and 20-goal tournaments... Read more.
The United States Polo Association brand ambassador became a U.S. citizen in November 2018. He also won his... Read more.
Photo by camilo rios