The Snow Polo World Cup attracted record crowds to St. Moritz in 2020, as Deutsche Bank Wealth Management continued its role as Global Lead Partner.
In the high Alpine valley of Engadine there is a small lake that, for five or six months every year, transforms into one of the world's most beautiful arenas for winter sports. Lake St. Moritz is blessed with a combination of sunny weather (300 days a year), breathtaking views (surrounded by the Albula Alps), and a size and shape that makes it ideal for both spectators and event participants.
Equestrian events have taken place on this natural ice-rink for more than a century, with horses wearing mini-crampons on their hooves. Its famous White Turf races, for example, which first took place here in 1906, combine conventional flat racing with skijoring, in which the jockeys wear skis and are pulled along behind their horses at speeds of up to 50km/h.
The Snow Polo World Cup was founded here in 1985, and has since become a celebrated annual fixture. This year, with Deutsche Bank Wealth Management in support once again as Global Lead Partner, it drew more than 18,000 spectators, who were treated to an electrifying deciding match in which the local side, "Team St. Moritz" won the cup for the first time.
The innovations that brought polo onto ice
It was a local hotelier and entrepreneur, Reto Gaudenzi, who envisioned how the sport of kings could be brought onto the ice in a way that would be safe for the horses and riders, and who still runs the event.
"Polo is different from horse racing, as there is much stopping and turning – the horses have to be secure in their footing so they don’t slip," he explains. Traditional hoof crampons would, under these conditions, quickly become clogged with snow, so in the early days of the sport a piece of leather would be inserted between the horseshoe and the hoof, to prevent the snow from getting in between – a solution devised by a local blacksmith. "Of course, this has now evolved to be much more sophisticated," Gaudenzi says, with the use of plastic materials, "but it was amazing how important this solution was – a simple piece of leather – to getting the whole thing going.
The traditional polo ball also required a redesign. On the ice, "it is too small, becomes brittle and shatters upon impact with the mallet," Gaudenzi says. "We had to come up with resized polo balls, with two or three air chambers inside, which allow for impact absorption. This stops them from blowing up every five minutes."
How the Snow Polo World Cup has changed over 36 sparkling years
“It is unbelievable how many people the event attracts and how much it has grown," Gaudenzi says. "Its success has led to five deluxe hotels, luxury boutiques, and a whole host of other businesses. There really is a genuine feeling of euphoria upon arriving in St. Moritz, with its position and the dramatic vistas, the fantastic hotels and great service. When you throw in the thrill of the game itself – the horses, the snow, the sounds, the scents, everybody coming together each year to be a part of it, and the sheer joy and love of the sport that unites people – it’s a heady cocktail."
Deutsche Bank Wealth Management has supported the event since 2012.