Polo teams head for the snow

15th January 2011, by Chris Gill

Snow polo

Snow polo

Ponies, players, polo … add a dash of dramatic alpine scenery, the clatter of hooves across a frozen lake (or firm piste) and a slice of the jet set: Snow polo is coming to Klosters, Courchevel 1850 and St Moritz.

These three top Alpine resorts, renown for their classy nature, are about to host the horsey set for a series of competitions in the Snow Polo World Cup. It’s hockey on horseback really, with snow as the arena instead of a green field. And it’s the highlight of the winter season for spectator sports in Europe’s most glamorous winter locations.

About snow polo

Snow polo was first introduced to the Alps in 1985, in St Moritz – the European playground for all sorts of winter activities. Since then it has grown in popularity and made it across the pond to North America; Aspen, in fact (where else!).

The teams and arena are smaller than in standard polo matches. And the ball is a highly visible orange. The game consists of ‘chukkas’, which are four or five timed units lasting about 7.5 minutes each. The players use their sticks on the right side of the pony, which is known as ‘tapping’; they tap the ball from their opponents towards the goals. The ponies are swapped every two chukkas, to allow them to rest. And whenever a goal is scored the direction of play changes.

Klosters, Switzerland – 20-23 January

Klosters hosts one of the few floodlit evening tournaments. Six national and international polo teams will compete for the Alpine Trophy from 20 January. The four-day event, known as the Berenberg Snow Polo competition, is in it’s seventh year and in 2011 will feature a team from the Financial Times newspaper. Last year, the event clocked up 166 goals and 36 chukkas overall.

Staying there: The Rustico (410 2288) or Chesa Grischuna (422 2222) are good 3-stars. Alternatively, stay in Davos and take the bus or train.

Courchevel 1850 – 26-30 January

This top class French resort will be hosting a weekend of top class equestrian action from 26 January. It all takes place on Courchevel’s airstrip, Europe’s highest snow polo venue. There will be various teams taking part, from Switzerland to Spain. So you can ski up and enjoy the matches from the slopes. Access is free, so anyone can watch. Non-skiers can take a bus from 1850.

Staying there: Flexiski offer short stays in 1850 or 1650. The Saint Louis is a good value 3-star option, newly renovated for 2010/11. Prices start at £140 per person per night. If you want to splash out, the 5-star Annapurna is close to the action, and with pool / spa facilities.

St Moritz – 27 -30 January

Four nations contest the 27th St Moritz Polo World Cup: Switzerland, France, Great Britain and Germany. It all takes place on the resort’s frozen lake from 27 January. Unlike previous years, where the teams competed under the names of their sponsors, in 2011 the competition will be a Nations Cup.

The new format is expected to attract a huge audience. The teams play for trophies each day, with a semi final and final on Sunday 30 January. The lake is an amazing winter venue, overlooked by the ski slopes of Corviglia. It also hosts St Moritz’s top winter event, the White Turf – another fast-paced horsey gathering. For the aprés-polo ‘hob nobbing’, check out the official warm-up party on the Thursday, a Funky Friday’ gig and a ‘Wild Polo’ party on the Saturday.

Staying there: The 4-star Schweizerhof (837 0707) is a relaxed choice in Dorf, or the comfortable 3-star Sonne (833 0363) in Bad – close to the lake.

Other venues: Val d’Isére (which took place 11-14 January).

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