Glacier National Park staffers last week discovered that an avalanche slammed into the historic Sperry Chalet.
The park suspects the two-story hotel was damaged during one of February's major avalanches. Visitors spotted the slide, prompting staffers to head into the backcountry last week to survey the damage. Because the chalet is still snowed in, it was difficult to gauge how much work needs to be done to repair the structure.
Glacier spokesperson Ellen Blickhan says it's clear the avalanche broke a door and ripped shutters off windows, damaging one interior wall. "It did put debris in four different rooms," she says. "Our plans are to go in there and get it out as soon as we can."
The building appears otherwise intact, she adds. "It looks like, structurally, it's still in great shape."
Made of native rock, the iconic chalet, nestled between Gunsite Peak and Mount Edwards, is listed on the Register of Historic Places. At 6,500 feet, it's only accessible via a 6.5-mile trail, by foot or horseback. It has no electricity, heat, or running water.
Railroad tycoon and developer James J. Hill erected the chalet in 1913 to accommodate the wave of travelers making their way across the west via his newly constructed Great Northern Railway. The building survived another avalanche in the 1950s, but, other than a modernized kitchen and the new composting restroom, it looks much as it did nearly 90 years ago.
Chalet Coordinator Kevin Warrington says Sperry's concessionaire, Belton Chalets, plans to open on schedule July 8. The hotel is booked all summer. "The chalets are beloved places here in Glacier National Park," Warrington says.