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Lodging in the Parks: Beware the St. Mary Lodge & Resort

Less than a mile from the St. Mary entrance to Glacier National Park, the St. Mary Lodge & Resort is well situated for a stay on the park's eastern border. With Divide Peak rising high overhead, and Divide Creek babbling along the property, the resort normally is a good basecamp. But a recent stay pointed to some serious problems.

I was so impressed with a 2005 stay at the resort while working on National Parks With Kids that I wrote, "the best accommodations in or out of the park can be found here on the east edge of Glacier National Park. Owner Roscoe Black (who since has sold the resort) has built himself quite an empire. Overall the accommodations are very nice, those in the Great Bear Lodge are excellent -- roomy with large bathrooms, comfortable beds, wet bars, Western and Arts and Crafts style decor, and balconies overlooking Divide Creek, whose rippling waters will serenade you to sleep."

So pleased was I with that stay that I later put my in-laws up at the lodge, and they, too, had an enjoyable stay.

A recent stay, sadly, blew a gaping hole through that earlier praise.

When I placed a call to the resort not quite two months out from a late-July visit, my options for a room were understandably limited, as reservations usually are -- and should be -- made months in advance. But a relatively spur-of-the-moment business trip took my wife and I to Glacier, and so I figured a stay at the resort made sense, particularly since all the in-park lodging was full.

While the reservations clerk told me all they had left were "small sleeping rooms" in the main lodge building, one that's been around for decades, I figured that would be OK, since we'd be spending our days out in the park and only use the room for sleeping. And a blurb on the lodge's website makes the rooms sound OK for such use:

Every room is nicely equipped with either one or two beds, a desk, table and chair, private bath and no television.

Upon check-in we discovered that Room 321 was indeed small -- big enough only for a queen bed, small desk, and a tiny bathroom. And while the desk's paint was chipped and its drawers lacking pulls, that was OK, too, as were the pipes that ran just below the stained ceiling tiles and the view of ventilation fans out the window.

But then we discovered that the linoleum bathroom floor tiles were "squishy." The problem, I discovered later that evening, was that the spray from the shower head was so forceful that it blew the flimsy cloth shower curtain out of the shower stall ... along with torrents of water that flowed across the bathroom floor.

It was quickly obvious why the floor was spongy -- the sub-floor likely was soaked from repeated showers since the start of the summer season -- and closer inspection showed signs of what possibly was a growing mold issue along the outside of the shower stall.

Going down to the front desk to explain the problem, I learned that lobby ceiling fixtures below the room recently had been leaking water. I also learned that there was no other room in the lodge for us to be relocated to, in part because the lodge had somehow overbooked its accommodations.

The next morning the front desk manager, a young woman named "Florie," acknowledged that they were aware that there were problems with the room. She also said that after some searching of her computer system she had found a "similar type room" they could move us into later that afternoon. Rather than chance another encounter with the plumbing, however, we decided to check out and move on.

While Florie might have understood our concerns -- other front-desk staff who overheard our conversation later said they did -- she not only refused to refund our previous night's charge, but also refused to waive the second night's charge, noting the lodge's "30-day cancellation policy" and the availability of a similar sleeping room.

Our short stay raised a couple of questions:

* Why had the lodge kept Room 321 available, even though officials seemingly were aware of the plumbing problems?

* Had maintenance personnel not been notified by other guests or housekeeping staff about problems with the shower overflowing, or inspected the source of the water coming through the ceiling fixtures? Certainly the spongy floor was too obvious for housekeeping staff not to notice when cleaning the bathroom, and I know I'd be curious about the source if my kitchen lights were dripping with water.

* Why was Florie so adamant not to issue a $130 refund for a room that, in light of the plumbing problems and potential mold issues, quite easily could have been deemed uninhabitable, and whose continued use would continue to create leakage problems into the lobby's ceiling and fixtures, leaking that could prove highly costly to address if the sub-floor in Room 321 needs to be torn out and replaced and if mold has spread into the lobby's ceiling and walls.

Is the resort's reputation not worth more than $130? Are they concerned about both the experience and the health of their clientele, not to mention maintenance and upkeep of their facilities?

Hopefully, the resort will address these issues. But until they do, the reputation of the St. Mary Lodge & Resort will be sullied.

P.S. -- Why does the resort blare country music across its parking lot?


I totally agree you should have been refunded "all" your money for a very unsatisfactory stay...Places like this get many college kids who don't care about things like mold or dripping water (those who stay and/or work there) and money is the bottom line for the owner so it just keeps on happening...over booking is common and with unskilled labor it all amounts to a poor stay...what can be done...there is always a unsuspecting guest on the heals of the last one so why should they care...perhaps the health inspectors should be notified...

My husband and I had a similar experience at the "resort". The "only available room" sounds identical to yours but was in a basement, I believe. Very dark, damp, stuffy. We were told it was usually rented to through-hikers who didn't mind. We refused to take the room and moved on to take our chances on finding a room elsewhere...which I might add was no easy task but better than the cellar. Like you, we had a good experience there in the past but won't stay there again.

That is a darn shame!!! They should have refunded your fees and made sure those rooms were not available to the public. They are probably in violation of several laws and should do something about that mold. And blaring country music across the parking lot???? Are they trying to scare off bears or what. Well, we'll take that one off our list. We stayed at the KOA campgrounds there in 1984 with our kids and loved it. We live in Montana now and have been back up to Glacier a couple of times. It is one of my dreams to stay in one of the lodges up there, guess it won't be that one!!!! Thanks for sharing this information!

How in the world did a resort with greed as its business ideal get associated with a great st. Like Mary the Mother of God?

I'm a tent camper and very unconcerned about this, but it is often hard to imagine how any employees in these places enjoy their work. Except for the beautiful views outside their door, working in a National Park over the summer is one grind in which I want no part. If you got management that's greedy and unconcerned with customer service, how much the worse.

I'm a tent camper and very unconcerned about this, but it is often hard to imagine how any employees in these places enjoy their work. Except for the beautiful views outside their door, working in a National Park over the summer is one grind in which I want no part. If you got management that's greedy and unconcerned with customer service, how much the worse.

I think it depends on the individuals. Many are college students, including a lot recruited overseas. I remember a desk clerk at Roosevelt Lodge in Yellowstone. Every employee wore a name tag with their hometown. His hometown was in Finland, and he seemed genuinely happy to be there, even if it meant wearing some hokey western shirt and a cowboy hat. I also remember eating at the Yellowstone Canyon soda fountain a few times, where there was an otherwise retired gentleman from Florida who was serving people from behind the counter, laying it thick with the charm and a southern accent.

Then again - I've told the story of the (sole) server at Bryce Canyon Lodge who encountered a late lunch rush, went ballistic with all the complaints about the food, and finally AWOL with the manager taking over for her.

I can't say anything about the lodging, as I have no experience, but the food at their restaurant was very well prepared and a good buy for the price when we visited 1 and 2 years ago.

Kurt, if you paid with a credit card, you should contact the credit card company and find out how to start the appeal process. Usually, as I recall, you have to submit a complaint in writing. Believe it or not, the credit card compnanies do hold some leverage with these people as they will have a tough time staying in business if VISA or Mastercard should drop them. Usually, just the threat of such an action will cause the company to refund the charges as it is not worth their time and money to respond against your challenge. You would also do well to try to figure out who owns the lodge and write a letter of complaint similar to the one above, including how you were a loyal customer up until now. As to the manager you dealt with, she may well have not had the authority to do what it takes to make things right. I'm not defending her for not making an effort to obtain that authority, but a complaint to the ownership with a reference to this web site may go a long way in getting things settled. But I would hesitate in referencing the web site except as a last resort, and only after you are certain that everything you said is as it happened.

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