The Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz is a show like no other. In a town famous for its world-class ski pistes and madcap Cresta Run, perhaps it is no surprise that such a place would host a polo tournament on a frozen lake. Only when the ice measures over half a meter thick is it deemed safe enough for the arrival of the carnival of six polo teams plus their ponies, grooms, and managers; purpose-built stables; last-word-in-luxury hospitality marquees, and over 20,000 spectators. It is three days of exciting sport and glamorous revelry, all with the backdrop of the stunning Engadin mountains.
"Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz is a cocktail of senses," says hotelier, founder, and organizer Reto Gaudenzi. "Polo, the sexiest sport on earth, is played in this beautiful natural arena in front of an international crowd. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it [the event] has one hell of an atmosphere."
And what an atmosphere! Just imagine: spectators in an expensive rainbow of vintage sable and Moncler puffer jackets watch a game of Titans play out in a diamond-caste basin below the snowy peaks, cerulean skies overhead, and a Swiss chocolate box of chalet roofs behind. Perrier-Jouët champagne chills, international accents ebb and flow, and a fleet of sleek ponies and bold players race after the ball, sticks held aloft. When the event first launched in 1985, it took a great deal of vision and persuasion, but to see the magnitude of the spectacle as it stands today is to witness its success. And the 2023 edition may have been the best yet.
Despite a slightly hair-raising few weeks when the region experienced unseasonably warm weather, which jeopardized the necessary conditions of the lake, temperatures dropped, and the event could proceed. With only two weeks to go, the organizers, including the host club, Evviva Polo Club St Moritz, worked round the clock to create in record time – even using helicopters to fly in the infrastructure.
Image: Reinhardt & Sommer Fotografen
"It was built in 10 days only, with 220 tons of equipment – the equivalent to the weight of 80 elephants!" commented Gaudenzi. "We worked day and night; it’s a miracle we finished it all. And The Almighty must be a polo player because He organized perfect weather – it [was] cold for the ice, but sunny for the spectators!"
Over three days, there was a splendid carousel of polo-viewing, visits to the caviar-laden catering courtesy of Badrutt’s Palace, late-night negronis at the Polo Bar at Chesa Veglia, and hastily snuck-in early morning ski runs on virgin snow.
Final’s day dawned – to yet another glorious bluebird day – and it was time for the hotly anticipated finale as an on-form St. Moritz team faced the 2022 champions, the well-drilled Azerbaijan Land of Fire side.
The latter were determined to bag the trophy for a second year running, while St. Moritz players Max Charlton and Nacho Gonzalez were both master-minding a sixth victory. As expected from the first throw-in, the action was fast-paced with attacking play matched with strong defense from both teams.
Azerbaijan Land of Fire played from the outset with their usual verve and enthusiasm, which was equally matched by their opposition. With little dividing the teams, it was too close to call at half-time, with the scores at 3-2 to Azerbaijan Land of Fire. At the start of the fourth chukka, the scores were even, and despite both teams firing on all cylinders, the result was still tied at five goals apiece as full-time was called. Play then went into extra time for only the second occasion in the last 15 years of the tournament’s history. Despite valiant efforts from team St. Moritz, the Azerbaijan team converted a golden goal to reign victorious. Naturally, celebrations ensued.
And then, come Monday, it was time for the journey home. Some took the drive through the winding passes of the Bernina, Julier or Maloja roads; others flew private jets out of Samedan Airport, which, at 5,600 feet above sea level, is the highest airliner airport in Europe. Undeniably trailing a little of that glittery snow polo magic in their wake, having put on a show to warrant a standing ovation.
We’re sold! Lock us in for next year’s event! When?
The 39th Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz will take place from 26-28 January 2024.
Image: Kathrin Gralla
Where are we staying?
You are spoilt for choice! The grand dame is Badrutt's Palace, which as well as looking after guests lake-side, also historically hosts the Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz's glittering gala ball. The hotel boasts award-winning hospitality with outlandish stories of just how far the staff will go to entertain their guests. Perhaps one of the most famous anecdotes from the hotel's 125+ year history is the story of the guest who asked for his wife's birthday gift to be presented by an elephant. The Palace staff then arranged for one to be brought from a nearby circus to the hotel lobby and thus made this sensational gift delivery possible. Or perhaps split your time with Suvretta House? Enjoy morning coffee on their sun terrace and lunch in the mountains at the mountain restaurant Trutz, famous for its impressive view over the Upper Engadine lake landscape.
Image: Badrutts Palace Hotel
And to eat, drink, and be merry?
Chesa Veglia (meaning ‘old house’ in Romansh, the indigenous language of the Engadin region) is the ultimate hangout during the snow polo weekend for delicious pizza and for more local dishes. Also, check out any one of the restaurants at the Kulm Hotel – read rave reviews from the Kulm Country Club – and the fine Asian-inspired cuisine of HATO, one of the snow polo’s official epicurean haunts.
The Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz 2023 Teams:
Azerbaijan Land of Fire (14): Elcin Jamalli (2), Adrian Laplacette Jr. (6), Raul Laplacette Jr. (6), Tarlan Gurbanaliyev (0) & Tito Gaudenzi (2)
Flexjet (15): Daniel Deistler (0), Patrick Maleitzke (5), Clemente Delfosse (5) & Patrick Paillol (5)
World Polo League (16): Melissa Ganzi (0), Grant Ganzi (3), Alejandro Novillo Astrada (7) & Martin Jauregui (6)
St. Moritz (14): Spencer McCarthy (2), James McCarthy (2), Max Charlton (6) & Nacho Gonzalez (4)
Clinique La Prairie (16): Marc Ganzi (1), Matthias Normann (0), Nic Roldan (8) & Fred Mannix (7)
The Kusnacht Practice (16): Eduardo Greghi (0), Nico San Roman (4), Alejo Taranco (9) & Juan Guerrero (3)