BRECKENRIDGE — When Bond Camp and Worthy McCormick first decided to renovate a small lodge here into a premium hostel, they hesitated to use the H-word after another local businessman got the wrong impression.
"There was this reaction like we were setting up a homeless shelter for snowboarders," McCormick said.
"People tend to have preconceived ideas of what a hostel is, and they think of a hostel as slumming. But it doesn't have to be."
The Bivouac stands as proof. It's sleek, thoughtfully adapted and handsomely appointed.
It's designed to appeal to, yes, shredders — but the sort of riders willing to spend $40 a night for a bunk bed. (The price includes breakfast.)
But the Bivvi — as they call it for short — offers private rooms ($165 and up) as well as its four dormitory rooms, making it upscale enough to appeal to their parents as well. Especially adults drawn to the craft beer on tap and the rotating, well-chosen wine list.
As undergraduates (Camp majored in finance; McCormick in economics), they spent winter and spring breaks surfing in Central and South America, Europe and Asia. They stayed in hostels and low-rent accommodations, and toyed with the idea of operating a hostel one day.
After graduating, Camp moved to Maui and worked as first mate on a performance sailboat that took tourists to prime snorkeling locations. McCormick became a part owner of The Goose , a popular bar on The Hill in Boulder. The two stayed in touch, and talked about opening a hostel together, considering Ecuador before deciding to return to Colorado.
McCormick sold his interest in The Goose, and Camp rounded up money for a down payment on a mountain lodge. Last June, they found what they wanted in the Allaire Timbers Inn, which had languished on the market for months before being de-listed.
The two kept the lodge in business as the Allaire Timbers Inn during the 2013 summer season, "making bucks to put into the renovation," Camp said, "and seeing what worked and what didn't."
They closed for business in September, hired Katie Schroder and Erika Rundiks of Atelier, a Denver interior design firm, to help develop a bohemian-industrial look that was inviting and slightly edgy. Then they got to work.
The first thing they did was get rid of the toy bears that the previous owners crammed into the rafters, on the windowsills, on the mantel, in odd corners and even in the great room's bathroom.
Next, they did some demolition. They removed a rock wall that separated the basement from a sunken conversation pit. They tore out the sea-foam green carpeting, installing on the top floor a soundproofing layer made from recycled car tires under the carpet padding and new charcoal gray carpeting. (They'd learned about the need for a noise buffer during their summer as Allaire Timbers Inn proprietors.)
They painted the exposed wood on the great-room ceiling with gray wash, giving it the look of weathered timber. They covered the walls with bright blue and other jewel tones.
They covered some of the walls with textured, durable wallpaper whose patterns suggest Quechua weavings and African mudcloth. They brought in electricians to replace the light fixtures, choosing industrial chic metal lamps and sconces.
McCormick and Camp installed the antler chandelier that's practically legally required in mountain lodging, but they added a twist: The Bivvi's antler chandelier is painted electric blue. Edison bulbs glow in the sockets.
Below the blue antlers is a matching blue leather sofa, and comfortable chairs with their own eccentric edge — wingbacks with ultra-tall backrests, and in the bar area, a pair of facing banquettes that evoke the seating in a Pullman smoking car.
The sunken bar, which replaces the Allaire's rock wall, is made from granite, but its finish is leather, not high gloss.
The bar's footrest is made from the sturdy metal cables that once held the Colorado Super Chair lift. So are the exterior door handles. Those, like the metal baseboard radiator, were made by a local ski patroller who also has a job at Inferno Metalworks.
"We wanted this place to look different from everyone else," McCormick said.
Another difference: The Bivvi's guest policy excludes children under age 12. McCormick and Camp say that Breckenridge offers plenty of other options for families, and they're interested in drawing adults. Any grown-ups nostalgic for the sound of little feet can pet Fin, the golden retriever puppy who's become the Bivvi's mascot.
Though the Bivvi's been in business only a few weeks, it's already collecting praise from Snowboard Magazine and online travel forums whose users dole out high praise: "Sickest place I've stayed in a ski town!" wrote Jonathan Glass. "Seriously bada**" wrote Alex Guzzo, employing a phrase that helps explain the Bivvi's PG-13 policy.
"So far, it's been great," Camp said.
"We get the nicest people. And everyone is so grateful to have a bed in Breck for $45, when the average price of a bed is $250. People are stoked to be here."
Claire Martin: 303-954-1477, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/byclairemartin
Upscale hostel in Breckenridge
Forget preconceptions about down-at-the-heels furnishings; The Bivvi is thoughtfully appointed, with comfy communal spaces and cozy private rooms that appeal not only to 20-somethings and 30-somethings, but their parents as well.