England takes snow polo crown in Aspen tourney
While their play suggested otherwise, Team England may have been drawn to the fourth annual World Snow Polo Championships in Aspen by ulterior motives.
England dominated the four-team tournament Saturday and Sunday at Wagner Park, beating Aspen 10-4 in the finals to take the crown.
Tim Bown of Team England hesitated when asked why he and his teammates made the long journey.
“We came for the … polo,” Bown said with a grin. “We came on Tuesday, the day after the storm hit, so we hit it good.”
A foot of snow blanketed Aspen Mountain Sunday night and Monday.
“Skiing was always in the back of our minds,” Bown added.
Glenwood Springs defeated Argentina 7-3 to win the consolation championship.
“The whole event was great,” said Barry Stout, the tournament director.
Stout, who owns a ranch in New Castle, provided most of the horses for the event. A rancher for most of his life, Stout breeds and breaks horses specifically for polo. He begins playing them at three or four years of age, and some play until they’re 20 years old. Roughly 25 of his steeds were used in the tournament.
“Raising and training horses is a way of life,” he said.
Snow polo is a modified version of traditional polo, which is played on turf. Aside from the obvious difference of surface substance, the snow polo field is also dramatically smaller ” roughly the size of Wagner Park. Polo is played on a 10 acre field, about the size of three football fields, with four members per team instead of three on snow.
“(Traditional polo) is faster paced and a prettier game to watch,” said Melissa Potamkin-Ganzi, a member of Team Argentina and the only woman in the tournament. Her husband, Marc, grew up in Aspen and played for Glenwood Springs.
“(Snow polo) is more tiring for the horses,” she added.
But Stout said his horses enjoy playing in the snow.
“It’s something for them to do, and feel,” he said.
The horses are outfitted with special cleated shoes for added traction in the snow.
“You have to be quite tactical and adjust to the conditions because the surface gets cut-up quite quickly,” Bown said.
Despite the differences from traditional polo, the tournament attracted top-notch international players, including Hector Galindo, Juan Bellini, Miguel Torres, Tom Goodspeed, Jack Kidd, and Bown, as well as local stars Wayne Ewing, Don Delise, and Stout.
And Sunday morning, the tournament featured its first-ever junior exhibition, with six children ranging from 10 to 14 years old participating.
“It was definitely a great highlight,” Stout said.
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