WEST GLACIER – In the lodging business, as with so many things, it’s location, location, location.
Two facilities in Glacier National Park, whose concession contracts are up this year, have it in spades — unparalleled views, jaw-dropping beauty.
Of course, both are several miles from the nearest road. Even then, guest parking is limited.
They’re only open a few weeks a year. You can’t even get a hot shower at either one.
But holy cow, they’re in some magnificent country, far from the madding crowds.
Sperry Chalet and Granite Park Chalet, two seasonal backcountry lodging chalets inside Glacier, will have a new concessions contract awarded later this year.
The National Park Service on Wednesday released a prospectus for the awarding of the new 10-year concessions contract for the chalets, currently held by Belton Chalets Inc.
Offers are due by 4 p.m. May 19. The new contract is expected to take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
The prospectus estimates an initial investment of $115,000 will be needed, and shows the chalets generated revenues of almost $680,000 in 2010, $537,000 in 2011 and $655,000 in 2012, over about 10 to 11 weeks’ time each summer.
But you’d better crunch more than those numbers if you’re interested.
The prospectus also estimates utility costs at $97,000 in 2015, and that they’ll pass $100,000 starting in 2016. There’s no electricity at either chalet, but the National Park Service provides staff at both to operate the water and wastewater systems, and bills the concessionaire for the cost.
“Solid waste disposal is a major environmental issue,” it states, “as well as a costly responsibility of the chalets.” Helicopters remove it each fall after the chalets close for the season.
The concessionaire must pack out any garbage not removed by guests, and pack in food and supplies by foot or using stock animals.
In other words, it’s not like running a Holiday Inn.
The concessionaire must also offer orientation and environmental education “to enhance the understanding and knowledge of the area,” and provide a base for operations located outside the park boundaries.
The successful bidder is also responsible for maintenance, repairs, housekeeping and groundskeeping at the two chalets, according to the prospectus.
Sperry Chalet, which will celebrate a century of operation this summer, is located on the west side of Gunsight Mountain on an alpine ledge overlooking Lake McDonald. It’s a 6.7-mile hike in from Lake McDonald Lodge, and almost entirely uphill.
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You’ll gain 3,300 feet of elevation on your way in, but have unsurpassed views – weather permitting – of the Whitefish Range, and be surrounded by craggy peaks and cascading waterfalls.
Sperry offers both food and lodging, and has room for up to 54 guests per night. There are no lights (bring a flashlight!), heat (and warm clothes!) or running water in the rustic rooms, which this summer will go for $201 per night for the first person, and $141 for each additional person in the same room, plus tax.
The cost includes dinner, breakfast the next morning and a sack lunch for the trail.
It’s been several years since Granite Park Chalet offered prepared food, but rooms do come with kitchen privileges, and the current concessionaire offers guests the option of preordering off a retail menu so the food is there when they arrive. Packaged food, snacks, beverages and water are also available for sale.
Belton Chalets Inc. calls Granite Park a “hikers’ hostel for the do-it-yourself crowd.” It has a capacity of up to 39 guests per night.
Located north of Going-to-the-Sun Road and below the nearby Swiftcurrent Lookout (elevation 8,436 feet), Granite Park Chalet was built during the summers of 1914 and 1915.
It’s accessible via four trails, the most popular being the 7.6-mile Highline Trail (rated as easy to moderate) and the shorter but steeper Loop Trail.
This summer, rooms at Granite Park will go for $97 for the first person plus $78 for each additional person in the same room. If you don’t bring a sleeping bag, you can rent linens and bedding for $20 per person.
The chalets’ seasons run from early July to the second Sunday in September, with Granite Park opening July 1 and Sperry on July 10.
Over the past decade the two chalets have drawn anywhere from a low of 3,342 overnight guests in 2011, to a high of 4,872 in 2007.
In 2013, 4,713 people stayed in them.
Last year, the National Park Service surprised many people when it broke off a 30-year relationship with Glacier Park Inc. and awarded the largest concessions contract in Glacier to another company.
Concessionaire giant Xanterra Parks and Resorts took over the operation of Lake McDonald Lodge and Many Glacier Hotel, among several other properties, in January. Those concessions generate approximately 30 times the revenue as the two backcountry chalets, or roughly $18.5 million per year.
Xanterra provides visitor services to many national and state parks and monuments, including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Crater Lake, Death Valley, Rocky Mountain and Zion.
Belton Chalets’ contract for Granite Park and Sperry expires Dec. 31. The company can bid on the new 10-year contract, of course.
Hard copies of the prospectus for the chalets are available for a fee and must be requested from the National Park Service Intermountain Regional Office via the NPS Commercial Services website.
All offers on the new contract must be made by May 19 to Jennifer Parker, Chief of Concessions, NPS Intermountain Region, P.O. Box 25287, Denver, CO 80228-0287.