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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?


Anon @2:36/14 Aug,

If it is Mr. Noe replying in that post... you may want to skip pointing fingers at your employees when answering complaints by a bunch of customers. If you jump over to (and do a search on resort in question), there are a slew of recent complaints about the St Mary Lodge and Resort.

Wow. My family and I have stayed at the resort a number of times over the past 10 years (the most recent Sep 2007). It sounds like the change of ownership has completely changed the quality of the place. My stays were pretty good (we stayed the newest addition; Great Bear Lodge?.. and the view and rooms were very nice). However, the restaurant was overpriced and the food was nothing special. And the staff... a bunch of foreigners, most of them didn't speak a lot of English. In a word, rude. Thanks to all the folks who posted reviews. I will not be staying at the resort until they fix things.

I read all of these reviews and must say to Michelle "thank you for your comments, it is amazing that you do not mention that you tried to steal $200 before leaving....I guess we know where your morals are. Also be fair the $85 a week I charge is for food and housing, there are no additional charges." As for being better when the Blacks owned the resort, that is the first time I have heard that one, but thank you for the comments. Now to get to the point, the rooms in the Main Lodge are not nice and for sure the client has to look at the room before checking into it to make sure they personally accept the room. Now if the front desk staff did make the extra charge please call the resort and ask them to refund that charge and you can tell them to call me; Johnny Noe. I will let them know to refund that difference, I heard about this case and since then maintenance told me they ripped out the floor and put a brand new one in, that building is 80 years old so maintenance is a constant challenge. Have a nice day.

Since the Black's sold the resort it has gone TOTALLY downhill. I've heard similar comments/complaints for over a year now. Main problem = all the owner wants is your $. And who, making reservations from all over the country, would expect such conditions & service (and ATTITUDE). They're stuck once they get there because there are very few "options". I think contacting the credit card companies is maybe the best option to "get their attention".


I think all these comments should be sent to Johnny Noe - does he understand the following that you have here on "National Parks Traveler".....word of mouth is EVERYTHING and it will definitely spread and business will be dwindling for sure. I certainly would not stay there on your word and will tell friends not to either.
I worked at YNP for Xanterra and I really don't believe any of the employees should be faulted.....I went for a fun summer (and I'm not a kid) and was hassled from the first week. Quit the second week. They treat their employees terribly. Barely pay the foreigners (mostly kids) enough to get home by the time expenses are paid....I know this place isn't run by DNC any longer but it sounds like they still hire kids for the summer. I had figured my pay rate x 40 hrs minus taxes, R&B etc, and I was clearing about $8.00 what can one expect.

I worked at st marys this year for 1 month, July and was shocked at the attitude of management, the owners in how their lack of CARE for the guest. They want your money, and with a 30 day non refundable policy, you are giving them that right to deny you a refund. Johnny Noe loves to call his lawyer, and will rip you off from any discount you should think you deserve. There is no refund, even contractors who are owed money don't get paid. They are paying employees 7.25 an hour, and housing is 385. a month, we're not paid enough to help you get a message to the owners. The nicest accomodations are the great bear, anything else is motel quality, and shotty workmanship. IF you book here, don't expect your money back or a discount.

I had same kind of experience at Cedar Grove Lodge in Kings Canyon.It was like a skid row motel,dirty, noisy, lousy CSR's I could go on.

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