Sand & Snow Polo.
Polo is increasingly being played on the beach, making use of a natural sand surface and beautiful setting. So how does beach polo differ from the established snow and arena polo?
Put simply beach polo and snow polo are quite alike. Both tend to be held as one off annual events. They are organized to be a spectacle and attract both local and national sponsorship. Offering free admission to spectators who are able to get close to the action, these events are good publicity for the sport. Activities following the polo, such as the after party, are just as important to give the crowd the ‘social experience’ of polo.
The most well known snow polo event is held every last weekend in January in St. Moritz. Since 1985 teams from around the world have competed for the coveted Cartier Trophy on the frozen lake. The Snow Polo World Cup St. Moritz is the world’s only high-goal tournament on snow. The three days of the tournament stand for high-class polo played against the magnificent backdrop of the snow-capped Swiss mountains of the Engadin Valley and social events both on the lake and in the first-class hotels in St. Moritz. Kitzbuehel also hosts a three day snow polo tournament which began in 2002. The Valartis Bank Snow Polo World Cup is held on the outskirts of Kitzbuehel in the middle of January. Snow polo originated in Europe and rapidly reached other countries. Events are now being held in prestigious locations such as Aspen, Cortina and Tianjin where crowds have been known to reach over 10,000 people. This year Mont-Tremblant was host to the first ever Canadian Snow Polo competition.
In 2004, polo was played on sand for the first time in Dubai and also Miami. In 2008 the International Beach Polo Association (IBPA) was created. Beach polo is showing spectacular global growth due to the high numbers of spectators it attracts. Beach polo events are held in Ibiza, Netherlands, Italy, India, Thailand, Chicago and Miami, New Zealand, Australia and the UK to name a few. The annual event in the UK is now in its eighth year and held at Watergate Bay, Sandbanks in Poole, Dorset. The newest nation to host an event was Denmark this year with the Scandinavian Beach Polo World Cup at Hornbæk Beach.
Arena polo is altogether different. Played as a winter sport it has more similarities to outdoor polo than beach and snow polo in the way it is run. It is club based and played at club level with chukkas and tournaments, and there are also national tournaments. In the UK the coveted Arena Gold Cup attracts some of our top players, the likes of Chris Hyde. The arena surface is designed to be played on in all but the most severest of weather. Players and spectators frequently have to endure some harsh winter climate, so understandably the sport appeals to a smaller audience than its beach and snow polo siblings.