Crews recently wrapped up work on reconstructing the Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park. Aside for some punchlist items next summer, the two-year effort to rebuild the chalet is complete.
“We met our substantial completion date and we will be back in the spring to button up a few last minute items to help the Park Service get the chalet opened for the summer next year,” project manager Travis Neal of Dick Anderson Construction said in an email to the Hungry Horse News.
Crews left the site on Oct. 11 after starting work on June 30.
“It’s beautiful,” said Kevin Warrington of Belton Chalets Inc., the concessionaire that operates the chalet for the Park Service. “It very much keeps the style and character of the old building, but it’s shiny and new.”
The Warrington and Luding families have operated Sperry and its sister chalet, Granite Park, for decades.
Glacier National Park superintendent Jeff Mow visited the chalet in early October. He recalled that first public meeting in 2017 when 200 people came out talk about the Park Service’s plans to rebuild the structure, with a vision “for the next 100 years.”
When Mow toured the new chalet, “I said to myself, ‘Wow,’” he said. “...I think it’s the right building for the next 100 years.”
Sperry was gutted by the Sprague Fire on Aug. 31, 2017.
All that remained was the stone shell of the 105-year-old building.
Shortly after the fire, the Glacier National Park Conservancy raised about $90,000 in emergency funding to buy materials. Park Service crews then went to work stabilize the structure so it would survive what turned out to be one of the snowiest winters in recent history.
Rebuilding the remote chalet — about 6.5 miles from the road and 3,300 feet uphill in Glacier’s high country just a few miles from the Continental Divide was no small feat. Crews hiked back and forth to the worksite and lived in wall tents for two summers.
The contract for the first phase was $4.08 million, which stabilized the structure and $4.73 million to finish the work. Subcontractor Anderson Construction of Kalispell did the masonry work, rebuilding and cleaning stones and mortar that were damaged in the fire.
The work took a multitude of helicopter trips back and forth to the chalet site, as supplies and equipment were ferried in and out. Helicopters from Minuteman aviation also lifted the roof beams into place while crews bolted them into place. While the beams look like wood, they’re supported by steel. Today the building has a steel superstructure designed to be better resistant to avalanches and earthquakes.
The walls are thicker, too, which should help with privacy. The stairways are also up to code and some of the woodwork is an old Christmas tree that was grown in Montana and was carted across the country to be the Capitol Christmas Tree. Montana Sen. Jon Tester arranged to have the tree brought back to Montana and then used in the chalet.
The chalet overlooks a rock face at the base of Gunsight Mountain.
Warrington said they will begin taking reservations beginning Jan. 13, 2020 for the summer season. The chalet is full service, providing meals and water, but no showers.
The Conservancy raised $632,548 toward the Sperry rebuild. That funding, in part, was used to provide food and support the dining hall staff to feed the crews while they worked at the chalet. Dinners ranged from roast beef and gravy to lasagna and chocolate cake for dessert.
Crews remarked they often ate better at the chalet than they did at home.
Conservancy executive director Doug Mitchell said remaining chalet funds could be used this summer in order to facilitate getting the facility open this spring and finishing items on the punchlist, primarily finish work, like varnishes. They also need to remove equipment that’s still onsite. The chalet still needs to be furnished, noted Warrington, which means beds and other furniture will likely be flown to the site next summer.
He said he expects his reservation servers to be going full tilt on Jan. 13 and the company is preparing for it.
“I’m looking forward to having more robust servers,” he said.
He said it takes about 10 or 15 minutes for both Granite and Sperry to book online each summer and then it takes staff about a week to sort out the reservation requests. When Sperry will actually open next summer hasn’t been determined yet, he said. The chalet often sees fickle weather. In September, during an early fall blizzard, dozens of trees on the Gunsight Pass Trail were blown down en route to the chalet. By using a network of ropes, Michael Warrington, Kevin’s brother, was able to keep trees from falling on the nearby dining hall. The trails and trees have since been cleared.