Chanel, champagne and caviar inside the glamorous world of snow polo in St Moritz

snow polo st moritz
The world's elite descend on St Moritz to watch the annual snow polo competition Credit: getty

“I’ve never seen so much fur in my life!” said Jerry Tillery, an American football player with the Los Angeles Chargers, as we sat in the VIP lounge of the Snow Polo World Cup in St Moritz, where the Perrier Jouet and chocolate fountains were flowing. 

I had to agree. Everywhere I looked, there was animal skin. You’re clearly no one at this event, which takes place in late January every year, without fur, ideally accessorised with some Chanel ski gear. The Russians were head to toe in it三级成人视频, while infiltrators like myself preferred the less offensive fake stuff.

Jerry, 23, had flown over from the States to meet university pals at the three-day event, a carnival of sporting excellence, excess and frenzied networking. Like me, he was a Snow Polo virgin, and he and his friends were nursing hangovers from a big night at the CHF880 per ticket (about £700) gala held at one of St Moritz’s grande-dame luxury hotels, Badrutt’s Palace. They had teamed up with an older British socialite known only as “Mary” who they met at the sumptuous buffet lunch included with their VIP day tickets (from CHF530/£420), and I overheard plans for them all to meet again at Royal Ascot. 

Snow polo attracts that kind of crowd – jet-setters whose life is all about surfing the international season, hitting up one sporting event after another in between trips to the plastic surgeon. Breakfast at my hotel, the turreted Suvretta House三级成人视频, another long-standing bolthole, was more about people-watching than pancakes. And from the slopes of St Moritz’s surrounding Engadin mountains, I watched as private jets flew in one after the other on Saturday morning. 

三级成人视频Members of Swiss high society make the most of the event, too. I made a beeline for a glamorous old lady, who, it turned out, is the wife of Switzerland’s first ever polo player, Christian Mathis. “I’ve been coming here for 35 years,” she told me.

The annual snow polo competition takes place on the resort's frozen lake Credit: ENGADIN ST. MORITZ/Andy Mettler

British soldiers first played grass polo in St Moritz in 1899, and in the Sixties tournaments were hosted here. Then, in 1985, current Snow Polo CEO Reto Gaudenzi had a brainwave. “We couldn’t wait for the summer to play on grass,” he told me. “It was the first ever snow polo event in the world. We started with two teams and 2,000 spectators and now we have 25,000 spectators.”

Organisers have to wait until the resort’s eponymous lake freezes over before they can start building up the site for the event. This year, it had been so warm they had just 12 days – a record. Over the weekend, VIP guests drink around 1,000 bottles of wine, 2,000 bottles of Perrier Jouet and 115 litres of Royal Salute whisky, while lining their stomachs with 2,800 pieces of hand-rolled sushi and 15 kilos of caviar.

三级成人视频The weather gods blessed this year’s event, with matches taking place in bright sunshine, but players are not always so lucky. Adrian Laplacette Jr, an Argentinian polo player performing for Team Maserati, told me he once had to play in a full blizzard. The horses are flown in a few days early to get used to the altitude, and wear studs in their hooves to prevent slippage.

Matches take place before and after lunch from Friday to Sunday and, miraculously, VIPs did exit the warmth of their tent to watch horses thundering across the ice from the comfort of their grandstand, where fake fur blankets were handed out along with the obligatory glass of champers. Dogs, of all shapes are sizes, are welcome too; there’s even a hashtag, #dogsatthesnowpolo.

三级成人视频I chatted to some of the spectators – Rebecca von Knock was there on a work jolly with husband Fabian, a Zurich surgeon, while Russian real estate agent Ella Zavolokina was soaking up the atmosphere in a pair of enormous mittens and matching hat. During the final between Team Azerbaijan and Team St Moritz, Louise Thomas, a British polo aficionado, explained the appeal of the event: “You’re much closer to the action here than at a normal polo match - it’s one of the most incredible natural stadiums in the world.”

Both she and pro Malcolm Borwick, who regularly plays with Princes William and Harry, were keen to convince me the sport is not just for the elite, despite appearances to the contrary. “All polo events are trying to break down that barrier between people’s perceptions and its real accessibility,” he said.

Suvretta House is just one of the many luxury hotels in St Moritz

三级成人视频But there’s no denying it’s a rich man’s game. “Polo is a pro-am sport – so when we play at the top level we’re playing with team owners who are doing it as a hobby,” Malcolm told me. “Yachting and polo are the only two sports in the world where you can buy the best seats in the house.”

Thankfully that rich man’s game welcomes women, too. Last year, Melissa Ganzi became the first woman to win, with Team Badrutt’s Palace. I tried to find out if polo is as racy as Jilly Cooper makes out in her infamous potboiler. “Oh, the horses are the real sex symbols,” Melissa laughed. CEO Reto Gaudenzi was more straightforward. “In the old days we were saying women were great before and after the polo – now they beat us! Life has changed,” he said.

I asked Adrian Laplacette about the enthusiastic fans who follow him from match to match. “I wouldn’t call them that, I’d call them friends,” he said. It’s clear there’s an inner sanctum who’ve known each other for years, out of reach of the people who only turn up to be seen, and, like winner Robert Strom, many are descended from a long line of players. Polo’s in the blood. 

Revellers at the annual event Credit: getty

I bumped into British umpire Charles Seavill, who’s a retired pro, and his wife Tanya in the VIP lounge with friend Kinny Evans, fresh from a fast ride down the Cresta Run. “Long may it continue,” she said when I asked this refreshingly down-to-earth group what they made of the billionaires gate-crashing their beloved sport. 

三级成人视频I got the feeling the true polo set are very happy to see the cash roll in – especially as it’s paying for everyone to have access to the sport. “We are very discreet about our guests but I can tell you the whole world is here – from the economical side to the world of showbiz,” said Reto. “But the entrance to the Snow Polo is free – anyone can come and watch!”

三级成人视频And it’s true, the vibe was incredibly relaxed. Anyone in town for the weekend is welcome, and I found a morning skiing with my instructors from Suvretta House the perfect foil to an afternoon spent on the frozen lake. 

It was at once the most glamorous event I’ve been to in my life, and also the most accessible – as long as you can get yourself to St Moritz. Never mind the horses – exciting as the sport is to watch, I’ll be here next year simply for the gawping.  

Essentials

The 2021 Snow Polo World Cup takes place from 29-31 January. Find out more at snowpolo-stmoritz.com. Rates at  start at CHF660 (£523) per night half-board in a double room.

三级成人视频The nearest airport to St Moritz is Zurich, around 200km/three hours away.  flies regularly from the UK to Zurich, with one way fares starting from £74 including one piece of hold and hand luggage. SWISS also transports one first set of ski or snowboard equipment and boots free of charge.

三级成人视频The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited train travel on consecutive days, with prices from £185 for three days in second class. For more information visit  , or , or phone 00800 100 200 30. For packages including train and air tickets, email sales@stc.co.uk.