Guests at Glacier National Park’s historic hotels often ask employees questions about the old lodges, but as years go by and more and more old timers disappear from the scene, that information is no longer common knowledge. To address this fact, the Glacier Park Foundation (GPF), a nonprofit organization that works to preserve the historic hotels, is creating a historical orientation program with handout booklets for employees.
The majority of the hotels’ employees are seasonal and, while the mix has changed over the years, they are traditionally college students who work a few summers and then move on to careers in and out of the hospitality field. These employees (bellmen, maids, waiters, housemen, boat crew) generally interact with guests more often than the professional management staff and should be able to make good use of the handbooks.
Author an historian Day Djuff–who worked at the Prince of Wales Hotel–was the lead writer for the foundation’s first two handbooks which were distributed this past summer at Glacier Park Lodge and the Prince of Wales Hotel. Djuff also gave the employee orientations. A GPF director, Djuff is the author of Glacier/Waterton in a Snap and, with Chris Morrison, View With a Room, a well-researched history of the lodges.
The twenty-page handbooks will include information about the hotel’s history, personalities, art and architecture, and stories along with a timeline of notable events.
GPF president John Hagen said that the Many Glacier Hotel and Lake McDonald lodge handbooks should be ready for the 2017 season, with the Swiftcurrent and Rising Sun handbooks ready as early as 2018.
According to Hagen, “Ray Djuff will give the orientation talk at Many Glacier, and Mark Hufstetler (another GPF director, Lake McDonald alum, and a professional historian) will give the talk at Lake McDonald” in 2017.
The hotels are operated by concessionaires selected by the National Park Service. Glacier Park, Inc. and Xanterra’s Glacier National Park Lodges, the park’s primary hospitality companies, have endorsed the GPF project.
Malcolm R. Campbell is a former Many Glacier Hotel bellman and a lifetime member of the Glacier Park Foundation. His article about the 1964 flood at the park appeared the National Park Service’s A View inside Glacier National Park: 100 years, 100 Stories (2009) and in Glacier from the Inside Out: Best Stories from the “Inside Trail,” an anthology edited by Ray Djuff and Chris Morrison (2012). The “Inside Trail” is the foundation’s magazine.
Those who have followed this blog for years know that I worked as a hotel bellman at Glacier National Park’s Many Glacier Hotel while in college and that I’ve returned to the park when finances permit.
I suppose many people have a favorite beach, romantic city, mountain range or scenic highway they call my favorite place, and that for reasons they may not be able to explain, are drawn to it time and again.
Glacier is my favorite place, though it hasn’t been easy falling in love with it inasmuch as I live in the Southeast and travel to and from the park in northwestern Montana takes time and/or money. The historic hotels, many of which were constructed by the Great Northern Railway many years ago, are only open between June and September. This means the primary park season is short and room rates are high.
Most people reach the park by car via U. S. Highway 2 or by air via Kalispell which is near the west entrance to the park. Some people fly in via Calgary, Alberta and then visit Jasper, Banff, and Waterton parks in Alberta before driving south past Chief Mountain into Montana to tour Glacier. Glacier is named for its glacier-carved mountains with a geography featuring horn-shaped peaks, narrow aretes, cirque lakes and stair-step valleys. Existing glaciers add glacial flour (finely ground rock) to the water and that makes for turquoise colored lakes.
Due to an ancient thrust-fault, there are places where you’ll see older rock on top of younger rock. Many rock strata are visible throughout the park. If you take a launch trip on Swiftcurrent Lake, Lake Josephine, St. Mary Lake, Lake McDonald or Two Medicine lake, the guides will point out the rock strata along with glaciers (slowly melting away), waterfalls (a lot, especially early in the summer), primary peaks, wildlife (including grizzly bears), and other points of interest.
If you like hiking, there are 700 miles of trails for you to choose from. My favorite is the Highline Trail which you can use to go from Logan pass on Sun Road to Granite Park Chalet to Many Glacier Hotel on the east side. Many trails remain closed due to snow throughout June, so check with the park service about trail closures if you go early in the summer.
If you have time, take a red bus trip on Sun Road or up to Waterton. These 1936 restored tour buses are fun to ride in and, when the convertible tops are rolled back, give you a great view of the mountains. If your time in the park is short, consider including one bus tour, a launch trip, and scheduling in some time for short hikes around the hotel where you’re staying. Alan Leftridge’s book (shown here) lists the best places to see, grouped by category. It’s a valuable guide for people who only have a day or so for a quick trip.
If you have problems with stairs, you should know that while Many Glacier Hotel has an elevator in the main section, the four floors of rooms in the annex are accessible only by steep stairs. Glacier Park Lodge has no elevators, so try to get a room at ground level. I found the foods served in the main dining rooms of the hotels to be tasty, but overly rich. (Be sure to try at least one of the deserts, drinks or ice creams made with Huckleberries.) If you’re there for a few days, you can venture out to Swiftcurrent if you’re staying at Many Glacier, multiple private restaurants at East Glacier if you’re staying at Glacier Park Lodge, several restaurants at St. Mary if you’re staying at Rising Sun, and a variety of restaurants at Apgar and Kalispell if you’re staying at McDonald Lodge. Bison Creek Ranch a few miles for East Glacier is a favorite of mine for steaks and chicken.
If you’re a light sleeper, take a white noise machine. The walls of these old hotels are thin and the doorways are not tight fitting–you won’t want to hear people talking or snoring in adjoining rooms. WiFi in the hotels is only available in a few areas and is overloaded by multiple guests trying to log on. Cell phone reception is spotty or not available. Take multiple layers of clothes. You may need a jacket at night in August and the wind in the higher elevations can be chilly all through the summer. If you have a small umbrella or a fold-up poncho, take it: rain comes out of nowhere.
Yes, the 2014 season only has about a half a month left to go. Had you been at the park a few days ago, you would have seen a great display of the northern lights. The wind at Logan Pass and elsewhere will be getting noticeably colder. You may see some snow in the higher elevations. If you like to ski or hike with snow shoes, the park is open throughout the Winter.
Glacier is on my mind this month with the release of the new paperback* edition my contemporary fantasy adventure novel which is set in and around Many Glacier Hotel. The reality comes from faithfully including what I remember about the Swiftcurrent Valley, Lake Josephine and the Ptarmigan Tunnel. The fantasy comes from a look-alike universe reached via a portal (which you won’t see from the Lake Josephine Launch) hidden near a shelter lean-to used by hikers. If they only knew how close they were to a very dangerous world–as my young protagonist discovers. He’ll have to learn how to use magic if he wants to make it back to the world of Glacier National Park.
Ian B. Tippet, an employee with Glacier Park, Inc. (GPI)–the Viad subsidiary that manages hotels at Glacier Park–was terminated by the company February 24th in spite of an understanding that would have allowed the former Many Glacier Hotel manager and GPI personnel director to work as a consultant with the company as long as he’s ready, willing and able.
After Tippet posted an update on his Facebook profile two days ago that his promised position for the upcoming summer season at Glacier Park Lodge would not be continued, hundreds of current and former GPI employees as well as National Park Service personnel began offering their support on his page, via phone and e-mail. At the same time, stunned comments of concern and outrage are being posted on GPI’s Facebook page in the “recent posts by others” listing.
KAJ18 in Kalispell, Montana covered the story in Six-decade Glacier NP employee let go, noting that the last time Tippet didn’t work for the company, Truman was the President of the United States.
“I’m very disappointed,” he told MTN in a lengthy phone conversation from Phoenix Tuesday. “As of today I don’t have a job at Glacier. All I have is the ability to go up to my cottage and twiddle my thumbs. What the hell am I going to do?”
When I spoke to him outside his office at Glacier Park Lodge in September, he was looking forward to coming back this coming summer. I hope GPI will reconsider its decision. If you are a long-time friend of Mr. Tippet or a friend and fan of the park and wish to express your concern about this matter, contact Dan Hansen GPI Marketing and Public Relations Manager in Whitefish, MT at 406-863-4703 or via e-mail at email@example.com
Or, you can protest directly to GPI’s top management at Viad Corporation:
Mr. J. K. Fassler, President
Glacier Park, Inc.
1850 North Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 86004
Update March 1, 2014
Ian B. Tippet updated his Facebook profile a day ago, saying that while he will not be working or volunteering at Glacier Park Lodge this coming summer, he had a personal meeting with the GPI chairman. GPI will continue to provide a cottage as well as meals in the employee dining room, while Mr. Tippet works on his book about life and work in Glacier Park over the years. I’m pleased that GPI had the courtesy to meet with him and attempt to make things right after mishandling the situation at the outset.
Glacier Park Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years, byChristine Barnes, photography by Fred Pflughoft, David Morris, and Douglass Dye, Farcountry Press (May 2013), 64 pages.
The Swiss-style Glacier Park Lodge on the eastern side of Montana’s Glacier National Park was built by the Great Northern Railway (now BNSF) one hundred years ago as a tourist destination for railroad passengers. While the railroad sold its lodging facilities in 1957 and ended its passenger service in 1971, the rustic hotel with its central roof supported by massive Douglas firs has endured through the years as the “Gateway to Glacier.”
Christine Barnes has captured the spirit of the historic hotel with an accurate overview of “Big Tree Lodge” accompanied by an extravagant collection of archival and color photographs in GlacierPark Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years.
If the Great Northern Railway’s transcontinental route from Minnesota to Washington was the grand dream of tycoon James J. Hill in the late 1800s, the hotels and chalets built by the railroad at the dawn of the new century were the great vision and legacy of Hill’s son Louis W. Hill.
“Louis had taken over from his father, James J. Hill, in 1907, but temporarily stepped down in December 1911 to devote his time to railway-financed projects in and around Glacier National Park,” writes Barnes. “‘The work is so important I am loath to [entrust] the development to anybody but myself,’ he explained to the press.”
As a book of memories, GlacierPark Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years describes the establishment of the park in 1910, the building of the hotel in 1912 and 1913, the railroad’s back-country chalets, and the area’s mountains and wildlife. The book includes a bibliography of standard Glacier references, recipes from the hotel dining room and travel information.
With the help of three talented photographers, Barnes’ experience as a veteran chronicler of old hotels allows her to distil salient facts and images into this small-format book in an accessible style. Her other books include Great Lodges of the West, Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park and Great Lodges of the Canadian Rockies. She was the senior consultant and historian on the PBS series Great Lodges in the National Parks which included two companion books.
GlacierPark Lodge: Celebrating 100 Years is a perfect introduction to the hotel for first time visitors and a keepsake for long-time hikers, climbers and other enthusiasts of the Crown of the Continent.
In addition to three novels partially set in the park, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Bears; Where they fought: Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley and “High Water in 1964” in the National Park Service’s Glacier centennial volume A View inside Glacier National Park: 100 years, 100 Stories.
While spring has hardly sprung, especially in the high country, it’s time to make plans for autumn if you’re interested in this year’s Fall for Glacier September 9-12 experience at Glacier Park Lodge, East Glacier, Montana. Enjoy the following on this exclusive weekend:
Exclusive BNSF Railway Private Train Ride from Whitefish to Glacier Park Lodge.
Three nights stay at the century old Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier including all meals
Blackfeet Reservation and Lewis and Clark historical tour
Special guests and Blackfeet interpretive programs by renowned ledger artist Terrance Guardipee and Native American Music Award winner Jack Gladstone
Red Jammer bus tours
Discover Glacier hikes and scenic boat ride with Park interpretive rangers and researchers.
Glacier High Tea with special guests
Horseback riding and golf in view of the majestic mountains of Glacier
Welcome reception Thursday evening
BBQ cookout and Great Northern Railroad history with special guests on Friday night
Tickets to the Backpackers Ball gala event on Saturday night– dinner, live performance by Jack Gladstone, and a live and silent auction of Glacier art, memorabilia, and outdoor packages.
Call 406-892-3250 for reservations and information or see the website here.
The weekend is sponsored by the Glacier National Park Fund. Stay tuned for information about the Fund’s soon-to-be-implemented Adopt-a-Trail program to help cover the costs of trail maintenance throughout the park.