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Polo: A Sport for the Rowdy and the Regal at the Hotel Colorado

The sport of polo has a pedigreed past as a favorite game among the world’s aristocracy, European royalty and East Coast blue bloods. Though originating in India, polo became known as the “Game of Kings,” in part because it was used as a training drill for cavalry units in the king’s royal guard. Fashion designer and lifestyle arbiter Ralph Lauren’s best-selling Polo brand menswear and cologne are named for the highbrow equestrian sport. In 1890, Hotel Colorado builder and entrepreneur Walter Devereux brought the sport to Glenwood Springs. To foster competitive and spirited matches, elitism was bucked and any skilled riders, including cowboys and women, were welcomed and taught to play.

Hotel Colorado Bar Pays Tribute to the Game and History
Dark green walls, sturdy wooden tables and leather upholstered furniture set the scene at the Hotel Colorado Restaurant and Bar, but it’s the large black and white photographs adorning the walls of the bar-room that draw the eye and curiosity. The images feature men on horseback wearing the riding garb of the day—buttoned-up white shirts with ties, pants tucked into riding boots, with a polo mallet in hand or flung over the shoulder. The women portrayed are dressed to the nines in their best garments. Not all of them were spectators, though. One photo shows three women wearing riding habits, complete with silk hats and cravats, which was the required dress code for ladies until 1925.

When the Hotel Colorado opened in 1893, it wasn’t long before the polo grounds located south of town (near the present-day high school) gained a reputation of world-class standing.

Maintaining the tradition of excellence, the bar’s signature cocktails are made with premium spirits, including some with the locally crafted Woody Creek Vodka. Like the game of polo in Glenwood Springs, the names of the drinks recall the Hotel’s storied past. Specialty concoctions to enjoy include the Defiance Manhattan, Doc’s Old Fashioned, Taft’s Presidential Margarita, Capone’s Corpse Reviver, Molly’s Cosmo, Colorado Bulldog, Vintage Sidecar, Penelope’s Paloma and the Yampah Spring Elyxir.

Horsemanship, Not Class or Gender, Most Valued Attribute
The Hotel Colorado builder and Glenwood Springs visionary was not just an accomplished businessman and engineer, he was also a champion polo player. With his associates, Devereux formed the Glenwood Polo and Racing Association in 1890. They recruited the local cowboys and pack-trip guides—all proficient riders—to the game and taught them how to play. The mix of affluent, well-dressed Englishmen and Easterners practicing with gun-wearing cowboys must have been quite a sight.

While women were less represented, they still played alongside the men. One such accomplished horsewoman and avid polo enthusiast was Miss Lulu Long, whose family owned a lumber company. She was famous for arriving in town aboard her private railcar with an entourage of friends and her horses. After a match, Lulu would host wild, unforgettable parties at the Hotel Colorado that became known as “Lulus.”

Hotel Colorado Still in the Game
These days, instead of polo, people come to the Hotel Colorado to enjoy a host of other Glenwood Springs fun and games including hot springs, skiing, hiking, fishing, cycling and so much more. Whatever the activity, visitors can count on the always welcoming hospitality of the historic Hotel Colorado. 

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