The horses had been all set. The gamers had been prepared. As had been the spectators, a lot of whom had arrived on the idyllic winter wonderland of St. Moritz, Switzerland, with smooth fur coats and classy moon boots. The whole lot was in place for the Snow Polo World Cup.
However the climate didn’t play alongside.
Due to excessive temperatures, the frozen lake of St. Moritz turned too slushy and slippery for the horses to gallop. Because of this, the occasion’s founder, Reto Gaudenzi, referred to as off all matches for the thirty ninth installment of the event which was held from Friday by means of Sunday, and resorted to a few days of slower, extra stationary penalty shootouts as a substitute.
The occasion, which encompasses a variation of polo performed on packed snow atop the frozen lake floor, attracts hundreds of individuals to St. Moritz, a luxurious ski resort city, many from the very best echelons of the 1 p.c. It’s sponsored by corporations promoting personal jets, unique retreats and top-shelf champagne, and included a gala dinner that the organizers described as “the most popular ticket on the town.”
Organizers tried to maintain an upbeat tone: “With the climate gods smiling, maybe delivering an excessive amount of sunshine in St. Moritz not too long ago, the ice depth is nice and fully secure,” they mentioned in a press release. (Whereas there was no danger of anyone falling by means of the ice, there was concern over horses falling on the ice.)
Temperatures had been nicely beneath freezing in latest weeks, however the week earlier than the event they swung as excessive as 50 levels Fahrenheit throughout the day. At night time, temperatures dropped again beneath freezing, however not lengthy sufficient to forestall puddles from forming on the frozen lake.
These temperatures had been unusually excessive, if not unheard-of, for St. Moritz, which is about 6,000 toes above sea degree.
“That is very gentle for the mountain areas,” mentioned Lionel Peyraud, a forecaster at Switzerland’s climate service, MeteoSwiss. “The air is de facto fairly heat.”
The snow polo event nonetheless had about 25,000 guests over three days, organizers mentioned, with a lot of them wandering across the lake consuming meals, listening to music and consuming champagne regardless of the truncated competitors.
“It’s the place to be,” Markus Berger, a spokesman for Switzerland Tourism, mentioned, including that a part of the rationale to attend was to “see and be seen.”
“It’s like a category reunion for a lot of of them,” Mr. Berger mentioned.
Late January is excessive season for winter tourism within the Swiss Alps. On the tiny Engadin Airport, which caters to non-public jets, about 25 jets landed and took off every day over the weekend, mentioned Christian Gorfer, the airport’s chief monetary officer and a local of the area.
“It’s loopy in the meanwhile,” Mr. Gorfer mentioned. “As an airport now we have to take a look at the stability of motion and the surroundings.”
The tourism trade in Switzerland, which depends closely on the winter vacation season, is nicely conscious of local weather change. Communities at decrease altitudes, specifically, have been making an attempt in recent times to search out totally different technique of revenue by attracting folks for actions apart from snowboarding.
However St. Moritz is excessive sufficient that the consequences of local weather change shouldn’t be felt as intensely but, Mr. Berger mentioned.
“I don’t understand how the scenario in St. Moritz will develop, if that is an exception or if this may change into a brand new regular,” he mentioned.
Whereas the Snow Polo World Cup normally doesn’t obtain plenty of mainstream media consideration in Switzerland, the occasion’s issues had been nonetheless significant for the remainder of the nation, Mr. Berger mentioned, as a result of it was all a part of “the picture of the Swiss winter.”
The following occasion on the frozen lake of St. Moritz is scheduled for this weekend: the White Turf horse race. 1000’s of individuals attend the occasion, which is greater than a century previous and is held over three Sundays in February yearly. However the White Turf may face the identical points that plagued the Snow Polo World Cup: Temperatures are anticipated to remain within the 40s Fahrenheit throughout the day this week, in keeping with MeteoSwiss.
Regardless of the sunny skies and the comparatively heat temperatures, Dennis Schiergen, the top of racing for the White Turf, expressed optimism that the race could be held. “Now the temperatures are fairly secure and the lake is recovering,” he mentioned.
On Friday, the primary day of the snow polo event, Alessandra Fenyves, who was in St. Moritz each as a polo fan and as a contract journal journalist from Italy, mentioned the environment was totally different than in earlier years. It was her seventh time there.
“It’s disappointing,” she mentioned in a telephone interview, including that she had seen folks go away the stands, that are normally packed. “It’s like if you change off the music at a celebration and the waiter comes and takes away the final chips on the desk.”