Polo Playing in the Roaring Fork Valley

Meet Melissa Ganzi: the queen reviving the sport of kings.

By Allison Pattillo August 6, 2016 Published in the Midsummer/Fall 2016 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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Melissa Ganzi, who with her husband Marc runs the Aspen Valley Polo Club. 

Known as the sport of kings, polo is fittingly a part of Aspen’s, and the Roaring Fork Valley’s, lore. It was introduced to the area in Glenwood Springs in the late 1800s by enterprising businessman Walter B. Devereux. He saw the sport as a way to entertain wealthy visitors to the Hotel Colorado and the nearby hot springs pool, and created the Glenwood Polo and Racing Association. Under Devereux’s leadership, two polo fields were created in downtown Glenwood Springs.

Some 35 years ago, polo made its way farther upvalley to Carbondale, where Barry Stout, who later founded the Roaring Fork Polo Club and brought the World Snow Polo Championship to Aspen, learned to play. “As a sport, there’s nothing else like it,” says Stout, describing it as a combination of soccer and hockey on horseback. “Horse, man, riding, and a game of strategy on horseback. You really have to have your brain about you.” After traveling the world as a pro player, Stout now operates a private polo facility at his New Castle ranch, where he hosts the annual Devereux Cup tournament.

Nowadays, Carbondale’s polo scene is overseen by Marc and Melissa Ganzi, who also purchased Aspen’s annual December snow polo event—the only such contest in the U.S.—from Stout. Together they run the Aspen Valley Polo Club now in its fourth summer of operations. The club, located off Catherine Store Road, offers lessons for kids and adults, and hosts weekly tournaments throughout the summer—accompanied by authentic Argentinian barbecue.

Polo's Leading Lady

If polo is the sport of kings, Melissa Ganzi is its queen. The Florida native, who with husband Marc runs the Aspen Valley Polo Club as well as Grand Champions Polo Club in Wellington, Florida, took up the sport in 2000 and quickly excelled, the next year becoming the first female player to capture the prestigious Monty Waterbury Cup, winning dozens of other championships, and setting a record for most consecutive chukkers played—30—in 2010. She aims to share polo with the next generation at Aspen Valley, noting, “Watching children progress from barely riding to hitting a ball from atop a horse is incredibly rewarding."

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