Eleven years and counting, the Bukovina Snow Polo Masters has risen to international prestige, attracting teams from around the world that ascend the Polish Alps for 4 days of intense competition in the snow. Team USA, officially sanctioned by the U.S. Polo Association, is led by 7-year snow polo veteran and local Newport player, Alexander King, along with his Newport Polo teammates who will face 7 of the world's top challengers.
The alpine weekend centers around the picturesque resort village of Bukowina Tatrzanska, offering up exciting polo action as spectators watch on-high from the terraces of the Bukovina Resort. Off the field highlights include a thermal swimming pool, and exciting post-polo events, including a private fashion show by one of Poland’s top designers.
Participating from Newport Polo Club are Team Captain, Alexander King, Sam Clemens, and Brendan Tetrault.
Bukovina Snow Polo Masters is distinguished as the only international snow polo event dedicated to competition between amateur players. Played in the style of arena polo, teams of three compete in a 400’ x 150’ outdoor frozen, snow-covered arena, in the high altitude conditions of the Tatra Mountains. Footing made from compacted snow makes play technically challenging. Quick reflexes and expert riding skills are put to the test by uneven and changing surfaces conditions that can send the ball bouncing in unpredictable directions, with more frequent changes in possession of the ball.
While snow polo is played using arena rules, Newport International Polo Series faithful will recognize familiar concepts like the line of the ball, players using their horses to push competitors out of the way, and hooking competitors' mallets to gain control of the ball.
A few key differences between grass and arena polo include:
- The snow arena is about the size of one football field, compared to a grass field which is 9x's the size of a football field.
- The snow arena has high walls that keep the ball in play and are used by players to rebound the ball and change the direction of play, as well as keep the ball away from competitors.
- Snow/arena polo is played with 3 competitors per side, instead of 4, due to the smaller field size.
- Snow/arena polo is played with a small soft inflatable ball, like a mini soccer ball, instead of the hard plastic ball used on the grass.
The basic rules of the game are:
- Direction of Play: before the game starts, the umpires and team captains will have a coin toss to determine the goal that each team will attack. After each period (chukker), the teams will switch directions.
- Throw in: At the start of each new period, and after every goal, the teams will lineup at center-field, opposite the goal that they are attacking, and the umpire will bowl the ball in between the two teams to start play.
- Line of the Ball: Line of the ball is the basis for most rules in polo. The players follow an imaginary line, or right of way, created when the ball is struck by a player or bounces off of an object on the field. Like a car entering a highway, the player following the line of the ball has the right of way, and other players on the field must yield to merge safely onto the line.
- Ride Off: One of two main defensive plays in polo. Opposing competitors and their horses make contact to push each other off the line of the ball. The ideal ride-off is done shoulder to shoulder, moving at a similar speed. Players can't come into a ride-off at a wide angle or excessive speed.
- Hook: A defender will use their mallet to hook an opposing player to prevent the opposing player from hitting the ball. Defenders cannot reach across another player's horse to make a hook, and the hook must be made below the horses' back.
Get updates on Team USA's progress in Poland on our Facebook page & in the next issue of our monthly Emagazine.