Today my guests are Worthy McCormick and Bond Camp, two college friends who have surfed and skied around the world and now are building a business in Breckenridge, Colorado called The Bivvi. It’s a new take on a hostel. We’re going to talk a little about that and what it’s like to live in Breckenridge, Colorado. Thanks for joining us today.
Worthy: Absolutely. Thanks for being in touch.
Bond: Glad to be here.
You guys not only live in one of the most beautiful places in Colorado but you started a business there. Tell me a little bit about your business in Breckenridge.
Worthy: We started a modern hostel essentially and took influences from other places that we’ve been in Asia and Central America and South America and brought them to the States and really trying to do something different that not a ton of Americans have seen. That’s what we’re doing.
How long have you guys been in business there?
Worthy: We just opened up December 3rd, so it’s not even a year yet.
Wow. Okay. You guys are in the thick of it then. That’s huge. How long have you guys been in Breckenridge?
Worthy: Just about a year since June 6 of last year is when we fully committed to the property and moved up here and then started renovating and developing the entire concept.
Had you lived in Breckenridge before?
Worthy: We hadn’t but Bond had lived down in … We both went to Colorado University. Bond had lived there for five years and then I’ve lived in the Front Range, Boulder and Denver for 10 years. When you’re living in the Front Range, you obviously spend a lot of time coming up into the mountains. Breckenridge is not foreign to us at all but we are living in the Front Range for a lot of that time.
Okay. Tell me about Breckenridge. What is the town like and why did you guys decide to finally pull up stakes and move there?
Bond: The town is great. The best part of that is it’s so close to Denver so we get a lot of visitors and that’s a lot of the reason we ended up up here. Also, in the area, there’s just so many activities, so much to do not just in the winter. Obviously, in the winter we have the skiing and the snowboarding side of things, but in the summer we have biking, hiking, mountain biking, fly-fishing. You can do a little bit of everything up here, so that’s what drew us to the area.
Breckenridge is more of a town than some of the other ski resorts. It’s developed. It seems different in that way say from Crested Butte which is kind of like one or two streets… What are the special things that you feel make Breckenridge unique?
Worthy: I think especially being so close to Denver it’s one of the few places that maintains its Colorado vibe. If you were to compare it to Vail where Vail is very new and constructed all around the resort in the mountain and Breckenridge has been around for so long and there’s a lot of history and they’ve done a great job at maintaining Main Street and keeping that historic feel. It really just has an incredible vibe when you’re here and the locals as well are just great people and very outdoorsy.
Would you say it’s probably got more of a year-round feel to it even on shoulder seasons maybe because it’s a real town?
Worthy: Yeah. I’d definitely say it does more so than a few other places, but still there’s definitely a little bit slower time but the people that are living here really do enjoy it because it’s so hectic which is good for work and everyone is very happy being a part of a little bit more of a bustling Breckenridge. It definitely slows down a little bit but it’s nice that everyone can relax for a second.
You went to Breckenridge with the whole idea of starting a business, so you didn’t do the ski bum kind of thing. You already had plans in mind. How did you go about establishing yourself there, finding out who you need to talk to and how to get established in that town?
Worthy: I think it just comes down to meeting people and making friends. It’s not a huge town. I think there’s only about 3,900 people year-round, so it’s a pretty close community and it just comes from going out and meeting people and being a good person.
Yeah. These towns are all about who you meet and really getting out there and just talking to people to get yourself going.
Worthy: Right. Definitely.
Bond: To go back to what we were talking about making it a year-round town, also I wanted to point out that the chamber of commerce here does a great job through gobreck.com and sites like that just making sure that there’s always events going on all summer which make it more of a year-round destination rather than just a ski town as well.
How about for starting a business there? What’s the climate? Did they really help you get a business going or are you on your own to make that happen?
Worthy: The chamber and gobreck.com have been fantastic from really everything especially the social media side of things. They’re very active in Instagram and Facebook and especially getting out there to the younger generations so we’ve been able to work with them a ton and just provide great content that shows how incredible Breckenridge is. We both worked together and tag each other in a lot of things and really try and present Breckenridge in the best light possible.
That’s cool. Tell me a little bit about the mountain and what that’s like to ski because I got to be honest, I have not skied there. I’ve been a ski bum in a few places, but that’s a mountain that I don’t know much about. I don’t know that there’s a giant reputation out there for a certain … Like you’ll talk about Jackson which has steeps or Taos or things like that. What would you say that Breckenridge Mountain should be known for?
Bond: I think Breckenridge should be known for its appeal to anybody. A family of five that has never been on skis in their entire life is going to have a great time here whereas maybe at Jackson Hole it might be a little out of their league. Also, a really advanced skier can go over to some of the new stuff over on Peak 6 and then have a great day over there or do some of the Horseshoe Bowl or Imperial Bowl. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone and that’s what I think makes it a great mountain and also a great place to have a business like ours.
Would you say that it gets crazy overcrowded like Velda’s or is it somewhere between Vail and Copper where Copper you really don’t have as many lift lines but Vail gets overwhelmed during peak and that kind of thing.
Bond: Well, I mean of course in the peak of the season, Christmas and around spring break, it gets pretty busy on weekends but I would say it’s in-between. I don’t think you see the lift lines like you hear about over in Vail where they can apparently see them from outer space. Yeah. I mean it definitely gets crowded from time to time but in most days, I don’t feel that the crowd is too bad and you could definitely find some fresh tracks if you know where to look.
Worthy: Especially with the whole expansion, this year they just opened up Peak 6 and put a new chair over there and then they increased ski bowl acreage by close to 600 acres. That really helps spread people out. It’s more lift access. Then I believe they’re replacing some of the other chairs with more high speed this year. There are a lot of people that come here but the mountain has done an awesome job just catering to that and spreading everyone out across all the peak.
Would you say when you talk about Peak 6 and all that, are there big back bowls that intermediates can go to? What’s it like on the mountain for … Are there places to go and disappear? Do you have to be an expert to do that?
Worthy: The Mountain is so wide and there’s such a huge range of everything that you can absolutely disappear. I mean you just have to ask around and know where to go and I think that’s where you can get away from people is if you dial it in on the secret places to go and the real powder stashes and things like that.
If you’re going up to the top, there’s definitely a small part of ski or a hikable access terrain where it does get pretty aggressive up to 45, 50 degree pitch but then if you ski down under the lift I think any intermediate skier could ski down under the lift. You just gauge it on ability. If you want to hike farther over into some of the steeper chutes you can do that but you can also ski down right under the lift of Imperial Bowl.
All of the resort towns have their signature events that really make them unique. What would you say about Breckenridge for either winter or summer, some events that really make it stand out a little different from the other ski towns?
Bond: In the summer, I think a really popular event out here is the U.S. Pro Cycle which is coming up pretty soon here. I’m not sure of the exact dates but …
Right. August. Yeah.
Bond: Yeah. It’s a pretty big event. People get really excited about it. Then we have some other ones. We have Ullr Fest which is very unique to Breck. It’s like a whole festival and Kingdom Days. They race porta potties down the street. It’s kind of for the miners. They’re like miner heritage. It’s pretty cool.
Worthy: It’s more local events, too. It’s not as corporate-driven as some of the events like in Vail and some of other mountains where there’d be the GoPro Games and things like that. I feel like ours are more local-driven and really fun.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s awesome.
Bond: Then in the winter we have the Dew Tour that comes every year and that’s always a really fun week as well.
You’ve got to talk a little bit more about the … What was the one where the porta potties are parading down the street. What is that? What’s that event (laughs)?
Bond: That’s Kingdom Days. It’s just about their heritage, our mining culture I guess. People make porta potties and then they race them down the street.
Worthy: It’s a team of four or five people.
Sounds good. (laughs)
Is that in the summer time then?
Bond: That’s in the summer time. Yeah.
Okay. A little bit more about you guys. The two of you guys are pretty young to … I mean relatively I guess 29 starting the Bivouac which is a very unique hostel idea but it’s not really strictly a hostel. Can you tell me a little bit more about what it is? Is it more like a B&B I heard and a little bit hostel and kind of this unique combination.
Worthy: We’ve really embraced the hostel culture and community. Maybe people use the word bead and breakfast just because it’s a nicer establishment. They associate maybe hostels as being somewhat crummy or dirty and maybe there’s some common misconceptions about hostels.
Worthy: I don’t see us as a bed and breakfast at all.
Okay. It’s …
Worthy: I guess they have misconceptions about bed and breakfasts as well so I guess it goes two ways but we know we’re really here for the passionate skiers and snowboarders and that’s where the entire concept is derived from. I don’t necessarily see the luxury hotels or the bed and breakfasts catering to the true outdoor enthusiasts and I think that’s our niche and that’s what we’re here to do and we’re trying to provide accommodations for.
You know what? I love what you guys have on your website. Where you have bookings, it says, “Must read. The Bivvi is a hostel. We like to play rock ‘n’ roll, adventure in the Rocky Mountains, drink tasty draft beer and make friends with the other awesome guests. If the above is not to your liking, please visit another booking site and reserve a more conventional hotel.”
Worthy: Well, we just have to be straightforward we figured.
No. That’s great.
Worthy: Yeah. I mean it’s a place where we really think that the atmosphere is incredibly important to the Bivvi, so we might as well be really straightforward with everyone and make sure that if they wanted a … This is why I go back to the bed and breakfast thing. If they wanted a quaint bed and breakfast that maybe that’s not exactly what we are, we just don’t want people to be upset with their stay if they come here. We only have 10 rooms so we’d rather just get outgoing social clientele that we’re after.
Right. You’re evaluating them as much as they evaluate you. (laughs)
Worthy: Yeah. Exactly.
Worthy: We have limited space here. We’ve got make sure we have some cool guests.
That’s right. The other thing I’m wondering – You know about certain resort towns is that some of them are filled with a lot of empty houses and things. People only live there for a week a year, two weeks, or a month or something like that. Does Breckenridge have any of that? Because every time I go, the town just seems like it’s really alive. There are locals right in town. You don’t have to live a million miles away. What would you say to that?
Worthy: I think a small amount of that does exist but I think you don’t really see it because there’ll be a big mansion back in the trees on Baldy Mountain looking out over Breckenridge. Maybe those places are empty and maybe not rented out all the time, but there’s such a great group of locals here and everyone lives in town or close to town or walking distance so people are jumping on their bikes all the time and biking around town and that’s the common mode of transportation.
People are grilling out on their decks right on Ridge Street really close to Main Street and even now on Main Street in those condos people would be grilling out right in the mix of things. I think close to town, you don’t see them I think if they are just heading back in the woods.
Yeah. I mean that’s one of the great things I love about the town is it’s full of locals and there’s always something going on. What about looking for a place to live there? What kind of advice would you say to someone who wants to move up there and is looking for a place like where to live and how to look for it and what’s the best arrangement? What’s the best part of town to live in that is affordable for a normal person?
Bond: Right, right. Obviously, we’re in a resort town so everything is a little bit escalated on pricing wise. It does get a little bit cheaper if you head out towards Blue River which is a great area. It’s really pretty out there and it’s a little more rural. The best way to find a place is to just jump on Craigslist. There’s always people looking to rent their condo or their house.
Also, people are just looking for roommates. If you were just planning on coming out here for the season, there’s always people on there just trying to find roommates so they can all keep going together on a place and be able to afford it.
Does the ski mountain offer any employee housing or does employee housing exist in Breckenridge?
Bond: It does. Yeah. Vail Resorts runs the mountain and they also provide housing for all their employees.
Is it in town? Where is that located then if you work on the mountain of Breckenridge and you’re working for Vail Resorts?
Worthy: I’m not sure. There are a few different spots and I couldn’t really pinpoint it to be honest with you but I’ve known people that are happy with it. We, a lot of times, will have a few people that are moving into town who’ll come and stay with us for a few days while they’re figuring out their housing, so we have a ton of really good friends that come through here and join the Bivvi family. Now, they’re working for the mountain and they’re working in town and have their own place or corporate housing and more established but I think everyone is really happy with all of the housing.
So it’s not nearly impossible to find a place to live inside town?
Worthy: No. Definitely not. There are ton of people that are in our age range like 18- to 30-year-old young adults that are living right in town and really two blocks away from Main Street, so there’s a ton of housing really close.
Oh, that’s amazing. I love what you said too though about the Bivvi family. That really encapsulates the whole idea when you move to a town like this, a resort town. It’s kind of a family because you do get to know everyone and that’s pretty amazing that you guys have that feeling of keeping in touch with people and once they become part of the lifestyle there you guys keep in touch on what’s going on later.
Bond: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Worthy: Yeah. Absolutely. We still have people that come in and maybe stayed for a week or two. They’re figuring out their housing and then they’ll stop in every couple of weeks and just say hi or we’ll see them in town so it’s a really cool community. Good people.
Just curious. I know you guys didn’t have to come there and look for a job, but what would you say are the best employers probably in the area to work for that you know of?
Worthy: It just depends on what’s the job. Obviously, being in a resort town, a lot of it is going to be hospitality. A lot of bar and restaurant work. It just depends on really what you’re looking for.
Bond: I think the mountain is really great to work for as well. We had a friend that we met through the Bivvi as well. He came and stayed for a week or two when he first moved to town. He was really driven and from what I can tell, it seems like the people that are more driven that want to move up in the resort over there have that ability to do that and he’s done pretty well for himself I believe.
Yeah. It’s easy sometimes if you just come up and you don’t know anyone to get the ski mountain job because sometimes they’ll sort out your pass, your living and everything and then you can get to know the town better and then maybe if you stay another year of the summer or whatever, you’re really hooked up and you know what to do and where the best places are.
If you want to make good tips and stuff, what are the hot restaurants that are always packed that you can make probably the best waiter-type money? Do you know that?
Worthy: Yeah. There are obviously places that we love to go as well. I just went last night. There’s a place called Twist and another place called Relish. They’re owned by the same people. It’s just delicious food and everyone that works there is packed out and everyone does incredibly well.
There’s another place, Modis that’s on Main Street right in the center of town and they have a great cocktail selection and amazing food and delicious happy hour. That place is also just packed out on the regular. We have guests and friends that work at those and they’re very happy.
What about local’s deals? Every town has them. What would you say are the best local’s deals in Breckenridge, I don’t know, for skis or activities or just things that people wouldn’t know about unless they’ve lived there for a while?
Worthy: One of the things that they do is during the off season is they have a two for one special and it’s pretty much a town-wide special for eating. The nicest restaurants, everyone participates and it’s basically two entrees for the price of one so everything is essentially half off and it’s really just for locals.
They do it during the off season so it keeps people out and it’s really fun and everyone is in the mix and meeting each other and trying some of these places that might have been a little too expensive to try during the season or they might have been too crowded but they’re cleared out and all the food is fantastic and half off to locals. That’s something to look forward to every off season.
What about places that locals know about, hidden places to camp or hike or ski, back country, things that may be of that line that people wouldn’t know about unless they live there for a while?
Worthy: They’re not going to be secrets anymore.
(Laughs) Everyone’s given me one.
Worthy: Okay. Well, we won’t go into fly-fishing spots. We’ll talk about hiking…
Bond: I don’t know. I mean I guess it’s not a huge secret but a great place to go and camp and you can find a bunch of really awesome hidden little jewels for camp sites is up towards the Mohawk Lake’s area. It’s really pretty up there and there are some really cool spots to camp on the lower lakes not the upper Mohawk but lower Mohawk and … was it Mayflower Lakes?
Bond: Yeah. It’s really nice up there. It’s not a crazy long hike. You can get up there fairly quickly and it’s nice. Oh, or you could go up to Crystal Lake. You can actually four-wheel drive all the way up there if you’re feeling lazy and camp out there as well and possibly catch a fish or two.
Worthy: It’s a lot less crowded than Mohawk’s. A lot of people do Mohawks, one of the most beautiful or the most beautiful hikes in Breckenridge but then next to it is this amazing little track as well and some really beautiful territory and it’s just one gulch over, but no one really goes there and that’s sort of the secret spots where you can camp at.
I knew I could get one out of you (laughs). Just a little bit more about you guys. Tell me a little bit about what
you … You guys both went to college together and then you guys were big time surfers and skiers and that took you pretty much all over the place. Tell me a little bit about some of your travels and what you ended up doing on some of your trips around the world.
Worthy: While we were in college and living in Colorado we were in the mountains all the time so ski travel wasn’t a huge focus because we’re already here within Colorado obviously and Wyoming we were traveling but not that much internationally, but we’d always do trips and we spent a lot of time in Ecuador and we’ve been down through Central America probably seven or eight times together I’d say just backpacking with our surf boards and trying to find waves and cruising around and meeting people and taking in the culture.
Then let’s see. Recently we did a trip to Cuba and El Salvador and Nicaragua. Or we weren’t in Nicaragua in that one. We were in Nicaragua before but Guatemala and El Salvador and then Cuba. We surfed and did rock climbing on our trip to Cuba and just taking it all in and learned as much as we can. Not really expectations of opening up a hostel but just you take it all in while you’re traveling and then we thought that we could put together a pretty fun concept with the Bivvi.
Yeah. I mean-, it is funny if you travel around the world the hostel culture is so much more developed and interesting and conducive to people meeting each other in other countries.
In America, traveling alone through hostels is not the same as other places. I don’t know why that is or why it hasn’t really flourished here because we definitely get a lot of international visitors. I think you hit it on the head that definitely starting that culture is really needed here. I was really excited when I saw you guys start this venture for sure.
Worthy: Well, I’m glad you like it. Yeah. That’s a big part of it as well. For us there’s socialization that goes on in hostels. We try and keep our rooms pretty simple and we really put a lot of influence into just making the common area really nice and comfortable and really get everyone out of the rooms and meeting each other and sitting by the fireplace. We think that is a really special part of the hostel culture and not just sitting in your room with the remote control in your hand watching TV.
Oh, yeah. Are you guys going to start any activities with your hostel guests or are you staying out of that side of it?
Worthy: No. We absolutely are. We’ve been really working to dial things in as far as the business standpoint and we feel like once we get the operations and everything dialed in and everything perfect then we move to work on the activities and maybe we can do some ski touring and little adventures based out of The Bivvi for guests that want to do it. That’s where we’re going.
We’ll be starting in September. We’re doing a little outdoorsmen fest. It’s sunrise yoga and educational bits on back country cooking and knot tying for rock climbing and other fun stuff so …
Worthy: Yeah. We’re doing that in The Bivvi.
Oh, that’s cool. It just makes me think because you guys have obviously traveled a ton and you know how to do it. You could even do trips I guess with your guests on the off season if you wanted to do that. You probably love that month or so when you get to just go off on your own though, I’m sure, and surf.
Worthy: Yeah. We have pretty cool guests. A lot of them are our friends as well so I don’t think you would feel … It wouldn’t feel like we are leading a tour or anything if we did do a little excursion with some people. It’d probably be pretty fun.
Tell me a little bit about how you got the money for the business and decided to take the plunge to start a business?
Worthy: After I graduated college, I started a business in Boulder – a bar and restaurant called The Goose. Basically built that up over four years and then I recently sold it right before we started this. That’s when Bond and I went on this pretty big trip and we were both looking for the next thing I guess and then came across this idea. Part of the capital being raised was just from the sale of that first business to put into this and then just having really nice people to believe in your concept. It’s a solid business plan.
Are there things that you learned along the way that you would give advice to other people for starting a business in a small resort town like this? What would you say is your best advice, things that you would do the same way again and things you would do differently?
Worthy: To be honest with you, I can’t think of anything that I would do too differently. I think we’ve really put it together. With the restaurant, I’d do a ton of stuff differently.
Right. You got to learn a lot before you came up here.
Worthy: Yeah, I learned it the hard way.
Worthy: I think we dialed it in really well for this and we didn’t have any hiccups. I mean we totally had all of these plan B’s and plan C’s and plan D’s if this went wrong and that went wrong. Everything went incredibly smooth. It’s actually really surprising. Knock on wood, but yeah.
Advice for starting a business, I’d say it just is really planning it out and sleeping on any thoughts that you have and making sure that you’re making the correct decision because it’s so easy to get infatuated by these ideas and thinking it might just be the next biggest thing. It’s really important to sleep on an idea and properly evaluate it. We were obviously really excited when we came up with this but sleep on it, do your proper research and just make sure you’re 100% confident in what you’re doing.
Then I guess you did pick Breckenridge over the other towns for I guess what you’ve already talked about which is it’s a town that’s a good place to start a business. I mean did you consider any other towns like this before you settled on Breckenridge?
Worthy: We knew that we wanted it to be within this area, Keystone, Copper, A Basin, Breckenridge area. We got to see this town when we were living on the Front Range. This is mainly where we went to ski. We saw the Bivvi being developed more for Front Range people that really want to be able to come up and avoid I-70 traffic and be able to spend the night and really saw this as a safe haven for them and then that’s why we want to be in this area. We looked at a place in Keystone but it’s just isn’t special as Breckenridge.
Yeah. There’s no there there really. I mean it’s a nice mountain to ski but it’s kind of just a condo spot.
One other thing. I got to say it’s a little unusual to meet two people like you that are backpackers, surfers that have done the months on the road thing and also had a successful business or wanted to sit down and put roots down and start a business. You’re able to juggle both of these lifestyles because you guys were just on another trip recently. What’s your philosophy on juggling that kind of lifestyle?
Worthy: I think it’s healthy.
Worthy: I think for the type of person that likes to be somewhat of a vagabond and travel and just live out of their backpack sometimes. I think that we’re really lucky to be able to do what we’re doing right now and have solid income and work and something that we really care about. Then when it comes to the some slower seasons we can take off a little bit and still feed that desire for adventure and go explore and experience new cultures. I think again it’s the healthiest thing we could be doing.
Yeah. Do you think that you could have settled down with this business if you didn’t have some off-season time to go and pursue other things?
Bond: I mean it would definitely be tough but the business is so fulfilling just seeing people happy and seeing people really stoked when they walk in the door. I could definitely do it for a long time but having that time off is amazing and we really appreciate it.
Yeah, I’ll bet!
Worthy: It’s also when we can bring little bits and pieces of travels and bring them back to the Bivvi as well. That was our original influence but still the Bivvi is an ongoing project so we can change little things or add fun little ideas that we can take in from around the world, so constantly progressing.
Right. You can use it as a base to just do a lot of other things with it.
Worthy: Yeah. Definitely.
What do you guys see yourselves doing in five or 10 years then?
Worthy: I think we’re going to be doing the same thing with the Bivvi.
That feels right to you and Breckenridge. If you had advice to give to someone who is thinking about living and maybe starting a business in a resort town, what would you say to them?
Worthy: I don’t know. I think it depends on what business. There’s so many different forms of commerce. It depends on what they are trying to do.
Bond: Yeah. Like we already talked about, I think the biggest part about what we did is spent a really long time. I think we’ve spent – what – almost six months working on our business plan. We were really trying to think out every possible scenario and write a great business plan so there were no surprises. I think that’s what really made the Bivvi possible, is just having everything so well thought out.
I think that’s great advice for anyone whether or not they want to move to a resort or start a business but it’s to be thoughtful and do your research. That’s for sure.
Well, thank you so much guys. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen with the Bivvi. I can imagine all kinds of really cool things that will spring out of that.
Worthy: Thanks for getting touch with us. When are you going to come up?
I’m ready now (laughs)
Worthy: Oh, well, give us a call.