The Swiss polo tournament for the super rich, where the energy crisis seems to not exist

polo player at the st moritz snow polo tournament 2023 – cattaneo

“To become a snow polo millionaire, you first have to be a billionaire,” said Katja Grauwiler as we entered the VIP viewing area of ​​the Snow Polo World Cup 2023 in St Moritz. In the sloping stands, wealthy—or should I say hairy—guests sipped glasses of Perrier Jouet while politely cheering on the playing teams against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.

The tournament is the most exclusive event on Europe’s annual ski calendar, partly due to the luxurious experience offered to guests, but also due to its elevated location on a frozen lake in the posh Swiss ski resort of St Moritz, at 1,800 m above sea level. The Engadine Valley resort invented snow polo in 1985 and revives the sport every year on the last weekend of January, drawing some 25,000 spectators.

I was there on the first day of the tournament to find out how such an event survives when, in other parts of Europe, ski resorts are reducing the capacity of the lifts and turning off the heating amid an ongoing energy crisis.

Rachel Ingram at the 2023 Snow Polo World Cup in St Moritz

Rachel Ingram at the 2023 Snow Polo World Cup in St Moritz

one of a kind

It was a chilly -9°C in the midday “heat”, not that the designer-clad guests seemed to notice as they milled around the sidelines or reclined in seats draped in plush navy throws. When the game was on, a soft murmur of chatter was interrupted only by the occasional rumble of a G6 private jet flying overhead, and we were close enough to the action to hear the mostly British accents of the players cheering each other on, or apologizing for missing a shot.

Between matches, the 750 guests retreated to the heated VIP tent (costing from CHF 350 (£307) to CHF 750 (£658) per person depending on the day), where caviar was served with a choice of Bellini or potato and the oysters shucked. on beds of ice. An international buffet, staffed by the famed Badrutt’s Palace, tempted diners in the main ballroom while in the ballroom, various patrons offered coffee, chocolate, alcohol and cigars to the jovial guests.

polo shirt - cattaneo

polo shirt – cattaneo

While this is not the only snow polo competition in the world, it is the “biggest” due to the sheer size of the field, said Grauwiler, a keen player and executive director of PR/ticular. “There are others in Kitzbühel, Cortina and Aspen but they are played on smaller fields with three against three. In St Moritz, it’s four against four, like normal polo.”

The three-day tournament costs organizers an average of CHF 2.5m (£2.2m) to host, with additional costs paid by the six teams, each bringing at least 16 horses (four per player). ) to the valley. Many horses are from Argentina, “because they are the best horses in the world,” Grauwiler said. “It’s a huge cost for the team owner, but if you win the tournament, you win honor.”

heat wave problems

For the people of St. Moritz, the event is a vital part of the ski season calendar. Organizers estimate that the three-day tournament generates more than CHF 20 million (£17.7 million) in revenue for the Swiss economy.

This year, it was unpredictable whether the event would go ahead due to unusually warm weather, which meant the lake didn’t freeze over as early or as deep as usual. “We need to build this construction on 30 cm of ice,” Grauwiler said. “A local company measures the exact depth with sticks and drones, and you’re not even allowed to start building if the ice is less than 24cm.”

Usually the lake freezes over “around Christmas”, but this year it remained too delicate until January 18, when construction crews gave the go-ahead, just nine days before the tournament was due to start. “It was finished this morning at 10 am,” he added. “You could say it’s due to global warming, but it has happened in the past.”

The ugly truth’

Despite battling a warmer winter, organizers admitted feeling little impact from rising costs due to the ongoing crisis in Europe. At the high-class venues and hotels that cater to tournament guests, business is booming.

One of these establishments is the five-star Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski St Moritz. The large, ski-in/ski-out hotel features a newly renovated lobby with an Art Deco bar offering cocktails and whiskeys up to CHF 720 (£630) a glass, and restaurants including the former two-star Cà d’Oro Michelin starred, and an Italian so opulent that it serves caviar over pasta.

There’s also a large spa with multiple saunas, a heated pool, and a -116°C chilled cryotherapy chamber that’s frequented by Olympians and guests looking to shake jet lag in three minutes. Walking the halls, it’s true, the crisis is far from people’s minds.



“All hotels like ours are still running business as usual,” said Norman Zweyer, marketing manager for the hotel, which is running at 90 percent capacity despite raising its prices. “All the costs have gone up because of energy costs, but I think for the clientele that comes here, it’s like pocket money. It doesn’t matter if they pay CHF 100 or 200 more per night.”

“The ugly truth is that St. Moritz has been full since the beginning of December, and it will be more or less full until the end of February. And the prices are rack rates (the highest rates) but people pay it,” added Grauwiler.

This sentiment will carry through to the entire complex. Designer shops such as Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Cartier and Chopard seemed to be much more lively than on London’s Bond Street. Louis Vuitton even had its own pop-up tent in the snow with a busy outdoor bar.

Kempinski Hall - Elisabeth Fransdonk

Kempinski Hall – Elisabeth Fransdonk

Visitors also spared no transportation costs, Grauwiler said as a Gulfstream G650 flew into the Engadin airport. “I heard that the terminal is full. The jets can fly, but they have to fly to Zurich or Milan and stay there because there isn’t room for the whole weekend.”

Many of these guests fly in from other parts of Switzerland and key markets, including Germany and Italy, as well as newer territories such as South America and Southeast Asia. The war in Ukraine appears to have had little impact on visitor counts. “The fact is that we never had more than 10 percent Russians staying here in St. Moritz,” says Grauwiler. “It was already declining before Covid and the war.”

As the sun set and guests filtered through the booths to continue their evenings in the resort’s well-heated restaurants, it seemed that St. Moritz was a bubble unto itself: its hefty price tag came with the peace of mind of a night’s rest. the problems many face. back home

“Especially since Covid, people want to splurge and pamper themselves and where can you do better than here? You have great mountains to ski, you have events, you have perfect hotels and everything is exclusive,” Zweyer said. “It is a unique place.” Which it certainly is.

How to do it: Rachel stayed at the Grand Hotel des Bains Kempinski St Moritz, where double rooms start from CHF 550 (£482) per night in the summer season and from CHF 750 (£657) per night in the winter season, with breakfast and taxes included. . Visit For more information on the St. Moritz Snow Polo World Cup and tickets, visit

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