Yosemite and Death Valley grande dames
AP

Yosemite and Death Valley grande dames

  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}

Yosemite's Ahwahnee Hotel and the Inn at Death Valley date to 1927. But beyond that, their stories are as different as a pine tree and a palm.

___

THE AHWAHNEE

The Ahwahnee has 97 rooms and 24 cottages, all designed in a stately yet rustic style by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who also designed Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park.

The hotel, shaped like a Y, features two big rooms on its ground floor: the Great Room, where visitors sink into couches and armchairs near oversize fireplaces, and the dining room, where rustic chandeliers hang above seating for 300.

Although the hotel is owned by the National Park Service, it is operated by Philadelphia-based Aramark, a concession giant that runs dozens of attractions.

Yosemite is said to be one of the most valuable concessions in the park system, with more than 4 million visitors a year. But the concessionaire's role comes with red tape.

Each year, park concessionaires must submit rates to the NPS for approval, and any changes to historic sites receive close government over sight.

In its review of Aramark in 2018, the National Park Service rated the concessionaire's overall Yosemite operation (including the Ahwahnee) as "marginal," with a score of 69 out of 100.

In September 2018, inspectors from the American Automobile Association reported that the Ahwahnee had slipped. That month, AAA dropped its rating of the Ahwahnee from four diamonds - which it had held since 1991 - to three. In results released in February, AAA again gave three.

Aramark spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro said that AAA diamond rankings tend to reward newer properties and that "due to the historic nature of the hotel, there are key areas that we cannot change."

___

THE INN AT DEATH VALLEY

While the Ahwahnee was rising in Yosemite Valley, the sellers of Borax laundry soap (made from Death Valley minerals) were putting up a hotel at Furnace Creek in Death Valley. It was modest, just 12 rooms on a hillside near natural springs.

One early ad said Death Valley had "all the advantages of hell without the inconveniences." Apparently, the ads worked. Attendance kept growing, and national park status followed in 1994.

Nowadays, plenty is different, including hotel management and the inn's name, which in 2017 was changed from the Inn at Furnace Creek to the Inn at Death Valley.

The inn is run by Xanterra, an Aramark rival that manages luxury operations such as Colorado's Broadmoor Resort, Georgia's Sea Island and Windstar Cruises.

Unlike the Ahwahnee and most national park hotels, the Inn at Death Valley and the land beneath it are owned by Xanterra. And the Inn at Death Valley is not on the National Register of Historic Places.

That means Xanterra doesn't need government approval for price increases, renovations or other matters that are the subject of negotiation in most national parks and historic sites. It's "private property surrounded by Death Valley National Park," said park spokeswoman Abigail Wines.

That may also help explain Xanterra's readiness to invest an estimated $100 million in Death Valley since 2017. Between May 2017 and February 2018, the company undertook a major renovation at the inn that rearranged its rooms and grounds, added 22 high-end casitas to 66 existing rooms and turned the seasonal inn into a year-round operation.

AAA gives the Inn at Death Valley a four-diamond rating, meaning it's in the top 6% of all properties inspected.

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Need to get away?

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

  • Updated

When the state of Florida began enacting stay-at-home measures and closing beaches in mid-March, in response to the threat of Covid-19, Miami-based real estate agent and artist Nadia Bouzid was in the middle of painting a mural inside a new hotel in Cancun, Mexico.

Following a half decade of "never lose money again" financial hubris, the pandemic shutdown has again raised the dreaded "B word" in airline circles. Many airline financial experts are openly discussing the possibility that the weakened economy will again force one or more big U.S. airlines into bankruptcy. Speculation has focused on American and United as the weakest of the big lines, but others may also be in play. And the specter of bankruptcy raises four issues you have to consider in your post-pandemic planning.

  • Updated

Not so fast: If the front desk says they don’t have any rooms available for an upgrade, there’s a chance that some might simply be rooms that are “out of service” — and you might be able to negotiate an upgrade with them. And no, this doesn’t mean you’ll be dealing with a broken shower, says TravelFreak CEO Jeremy Foster.

CHICAGO (AP) — Mariana Ochoa worries about the effect of the COVID-19 crisis on her three boys. Their school is closed. She can't take them to their favorite park at the moment. There is no backyard at their home on the southwest side of Chicago.

The indie pop group lovelytheband doesn’t do things the standard way. Vocalist Mitchy Collins and guitarist Jordan Greenwald began writing songs together and released a single prior to officially forming their group. “broken,” which was released before drummer Sam Price became a member, enjoyed a 76-week run, including the No. 1 spot, on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. Based out of Los Angeles, the trio is promoting their latest single “i should be happy,” which touches on how difficult life can be, even when it seems that everything is going smoothly. lovelytheband stays in touch with fans on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/lovelytheband/), Twitter (https://twitter.com/lovelytheband) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/lovelytheband/).

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — With schools and workplaces closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many Flagstaff families have spent the last months together around-the-clock as their households took on new roles as school, day care, office, gym and more — all at once — to get the family through the pandemic.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alert

Breaking News