The breathtaking St. Moritz is known as the birthplace of winter sports. Even before hosting the Olympic Winter Games twice in 1928 and 1948, the Swiss town has always been a popular choice amongst affluent circles and royalty because of its mineral springs, metropolitan ambianca, and unparalleled landscape scenery. More than 12,000 private jets land in its private airport each year to witness and/or play in the exciting sports activities.
Having it as his hometown played well for hotelier Reto Gaudenzi. Growing up in the Alps, he played lots of winter sports and enjoyed watching horses racing on the frozen lake. “I have loved horses since I was a kid, but I tried riding a bit late when I was about 12 years old,” he says.
Years later, Reto Gaudenzi was introduced to polo by an English gentleman. He immediately fell in love with the sport and, with the desire to get better, flew to Argentina for a few months to learn from the best. He became a 3-goal player after a year.
With his new-found passion for the sport, he formed the first Swiss Polo Team in 1978 and eventually created the Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz in 1985. “We have invented lots of activities in St. Moritz, so we tried to play polo on the snowy lake and it worked!” he cheerfully adds.
Since then, the historic St. Moritz Lake turns into a playground for the world’s best plo players every January. With the incredible success of snow polo and his magnificent event organizing skills, Reto Gaudenzi obtained his rightful title as “The Godfather of Snow Polo.”
This recognition makes him feel very happy and proud. According to him, polo helped in shaping him into the man he is today. It gave him the gift of friendship from his fellow players and an opportunity to have a partnership with fantastic horses. Sharing the event with people who have the same passion and seeing spectators have fun give him tremendous pleasure, too.
Good news to all aspiring snow players! The five-time Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz champion said that you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy snow polo. To help get you started on your journey, he generously shared some useful tips.
Prepare earlier than usual
“The most important thing players have to adjust to is the cold weather. St. Moritz is 1,800m above sea level, and it takes several days for the body to adjust completely to the altitude. Most players come up and bring their horses to acclimatize a week before the start of the tournament.”
Make your horse comfortable with snow
“Horses have the same physiological rhythm as humans. They also have to adapt to the latitude. If the horse has not been on snow, they act funny and start sniffing everything. Go slow in the beginning; once the horses feel they have a good grip, they will get more confident. Then, you can go full speed.”
Train well and learn new strategies
“In snow polo, we use a bigger ball that’s inflated. You cannot control it as much as you can control a small ball on grass. This is the biggest challenge, so you have to learn about different timing and tactics. If you couldn’t train in the snow, train with an inflatable ball. Learning a different swing will greatly benefit you because the impact of your hit on a regular polo ball will not be the same on a snow polo ball.”
Before putting lots of layers on, think about your mobility
“I remember when we started in 1985, we were freezing. Then, we started putting on a lot of layers of clothes and we didn’t feel good. Our mobility is affected. With the clothing technology we have now, this is not a big problem anymore.”
“Apart from wearing warm clothes, play fast and you will stay warm!”
If you’re playing in St. Moritz, don’t be afraid of the frozen lake
“Players get uneasy when they see the slippery frozen lake, but there is nothing to worry about because we know how to do it properly. The ice needs to be at least 40cm thick for it to be safe. We use radar, sonar, and heat cameras to monitor it. Safety is always our priority.”
As the Godfather of Snow Polo’s legacy continues, the 37th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz 2022 is back for another exciting weekend of polo on ice! The world’s only high-goal tournament on snow will be back on January 28 to 30, with six teams competing for this year’s top honors.
Elcin Jamalli (2) heads Team Azerbaijan Land of Fire as team captain. He is joined with members Adrian Laplacette Jr. (6), Raul Laplacette Jr. (6), and Tito Gaudenzi (2)
The second group is proudly headed by the Snow Queen, team captain Melissa Ganzi (0). She will face her competitors with teammates Alejandro Novillo Astrada (8), Jason Crowder (5), and Grant Ganzi (3).
Team Clinique La Prairie, on the other hand, will have Dillon Bacon (2) as team captain. Joining him are Aristide Faggionato (2), Max Charlton (6), and Robert Strom (5).
All hailing from the USA, Team World Polo League will have Riley Ganzi (2) as team captain. His members include Nic Roldan (8), Tommy Biddle (5), and Benji Daniels (1).
Finally, Team Perrier-Jouët, headed by team captain Kutlay Yaprak (0), brought along team members Luca Meier (0), Valentin Novillo Astrada (7), and Isidro Strada (8).
See you at St. Moritz!
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Pámela Piedad is a journalist, author, designer, and the Editor-in-Chief of POLO LADY Magazine.