- Sean K. Holveck
Colorado Springs has plenty of trails, bike shops and scenery to boost its cycling tourism industry, but a new business could really kick it into high gear: the city's first-ever bicycle-themed hotel.
Located at 2 El Paso Blvd., between Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City, the future Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort sits in a cycling sweet spot. It's close to Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Canyon Open Space, and is right off the popular Midland Trail system that connects to other trails throughout the city.
The new resort will be, literally, a dream come true for owner Torie Giffin.
"Everything in my life feels like it's culminated to what came to me as a dream in April last year," Giffin says. "I had this idea for a hotel that would cater to bicycle tourism. It would host bicycle events and be bicycle-themed. There would be single-level entry so you could ride into your room and hang your bike on the wall, and communal spaces so you could have barbecues and events."
The timing for the new concept couldn't be better. The Economic Impact of Cycling Report — released last year after a study commissioned by The Pikes Peak Are Council of Governments — noted that more than 80,000 cyclists visit the region annually to stay overnight and experience the city's trails.
As a longtime cyclist and a community organizer dedicated to promoting and celebrating all things bikes, Giffin was familiar with the needs of the average rider. But she felt she needed to do more research into creating an authentic resort tailored to cycling tourists. After talking with friends, family and community members, she had her answers, and it was time to begin putting her dream into action.
When Giffin recounts her story, nearly every aspect of the endeavor hints at a sort of kismet. Even the property itself seemed to come to her when she needed it most.
Many times during her bike rides, Giffin had passed the Buffalo Lodge — a motor inn and well-known landmark built in the 1930s — but it was a flat tire that made her walk into the building in search of a phone. As she took in the ground-level walkout rooms, the vast community space, the swimming pool and the volleyball court, she realized she was looking at nearly the exact site she'd envisioned for her business.
Giffin still tears up as she tells the story of how she found the owner and told him she was interested in the property if he ever wanted to sell. She was overjoyed when she discovered it was, in fact, already for sale.
"I just started bawling in front of him," Giffin says. "I said to him, 'I don't know how, but I'm going to buy your hotel.'" She laughs, adding, "I had no idea how I was going to back up that statement, but I knew I had a big dream and I was going to commit to it and figure out a way."
Acquiring the property has been a challenge. The hotel exceeded the budget that she and her husband, Nathan, had set, and she needed to build a down payment. But Giffin was not to be deterred. With the enthusiastic support of the cycling community, as well as donors big and small, she was able to secure the funding to begin building her dream.
Giffin hopes to follow the blueprint of the previous owners by keeping the lodge as a family-run resort with the feeling of home. It is being sold as an easily assumable business, so operations will smoothly transition when Giffin takes over.
However, implementing the bicycle aesthetic throughout the resort will take time. Currently, the resort has 46 rooms, all of which Giffin plans to remodel with a bicycle theme.
"Our goal is to do five rooms immediately that we can fully convert to what we dream," Giffin says.
She hopes to update the resort overall with a look that is fresh and industrial, while still maintaining the history and charm that infuses the buildings. Plans include a bicycle washing station, a patio where guests and locals can relax with a glass of wine or a beer, and bicycle artwork for sale year-round.
The resort also has plans to offer guests and visitors guided regional tours, bike rentals, events and festivals. Giffin and her husband hope to host their first event, the ROLL Bike Art Festival, in June.
Giffin says the support from her husband and children Delanie, Levi and Daniel has been instrumental in helping her bring the resort to fruition. When she launched a campaign to personally deliver fudge bars to anyone who donated more than $25, her kids were right beside her on their bikes.
She says she envisions passing the business down to her children one day. Her kids have already begun planning how they'll pitch in to help, be it running the snack bar, or, as they get older, leading tours throughout the city for guests. Giffin's youngest child, 8-year-old Daniel, is enthusiastic about the idea and is proud of his mother's accomplishments as their family begins its new adventure.
"My mom has inspired me and many others to live their dreams," he says.
Giffin expects to close the deal on Buffalo Lodge on May 25.