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How is the new management of Stove Pipe Wells?

Philadelphia, PA
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How is the new management of Stove Pipe Wells?

On my last few trips to Death Valley, I've stayed at Stove Pipe Wells. Not so much because I like it better than Furnace Creek Ranch (each has pluses and minuses), but mostly because it's been cheaper. Since they are a NPS concessionaire, the prices for food and lodging are regulated by the NPS, and therefore cheaper than at Furnance Creek (which is an out parcel).

Can anyone tell me how things have changed with the new concessionaire at Stove Pipe Wells? I've heard there has been some room renovations, but are the rooms materially different than during the Xanterra days? And what about the grocery store and gift shop? People always complained about the prices at the restaurant, but I actually found them fairly reasonable -- given the location -- and about 20% cheaper than at Furnace Creek. And the food was more than edible. What's the current situation?

I have become alarmed at the constant price increases for Death Valley hotels. When I check the rates for fall, Stove Pipe Wells standard rooms are $130+ tax, or $145/night total. If you're the type of traveller used to getting good deals on hotel rooms, these prices are very expensive. I usually stay at least 2 nights in Death Valley, but I'm thinking of limiting that to 1 night given the expense. I also noted that there are some cabins at Furnace Creek that are only $25 more than at Stove Pipe, so maybe I'll vary my lodging selection this time.

Edited: 10 February 2012, 16:51
Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Dusseldorf
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1. Re: How is the new management of Stove Pipe Wells?

My experience is that very little has changed. The menu is a bit better at the restaurant, prices about the same, and the store last time I was there was well stocked with tourist stuff, not so good on food, and folks running the cash register who were very friendly but had no clue. In short, not much has really changed there at all. I know sometimes I sound like a broken record, but have you tried Panamint Springs Resort? It is family run, cheaper, rooms have no TV or phone, but are clean and some have been renovated. Restaurant is basic good, expensive, but the location and deck are superb. Otherwise, I think we all will agree that SPW or FC each have their advantages but you will not get deals at either. They are too popular and serve a clintele that are either going to stay there or not stay in the park, with the exception of PSR.

ZB

San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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2. Re: How is the new management of Stove Pipe Wells?

It’s been about a year since DV Lodging Co. took over. Changes often come gradually, especially with an established property where the same managers were there for decades.

I’ve been staying at Stovepipe Wells since the 1980s, and have also stayed at Panamint Springs, the Ranch, and the Inn. I like SPW’s more rustic, laid-back atmosphere. Furnace Creek feels like a generic outdoors resort when it’s busy. I stayed at SPW in December, in one of the patio rooms; on that trip I also stayed a night at Panamint Springs and a couple in Beatty.

The patio room hadn’t been renovated, but of course those are not big cash cows. Perhaps some of the deluxe rooms were upgraded. The same furniture was there that I’ve always liked: the rustic wood tables and chairs, wooden table lamps, and Western-theme headboards with the yoke design. I hope they stay and aren’t replaced by something sleek and modern. Instead of individual soap, shampoo, and lotion, there are now dispensers in the bathroom.

The store is similar to what it was before, with limited food and beverage choices (but adequate for most people staying a couple days), and lots of souvenirs and curios. There is also the gift shop for those looking for souvenirs. I wish they had the larger selection of books that they used to have; the Furnace Creek general store has more. The biggest changes are in the restaurant, where the menu is totally different and includes some desert or Western theme items (e.g. piñon green beans, prickly pear glaze, bbq). I liked the food on the old Xanterra menu because it was regular old American comfort food, and the new menu is also good. Furnace Creek Ranch has also tweaked its menus, and I suspect it’s partly because of Stovepipe’s changes and the perceived competition. In the summer and again in the winter, they had bison steak and burger, gazpacho, and several other newbies.

Yes, DV rents have consistently risen. Panamint Springs was $85 in December for one of the tiny but comfortable rooms Zabby mentioned. This may be among the proportionately smaller increases; the last time I stayed at PS was maybe 6-7 years ago and I think it was $65. DV is a seller’s market. If someone doesn’t want to pay, they can stay in Beatty for $55 a night and have to drive into the park each day, and sacrifice the experience of staying in the midst of nature and being immersed in the desert. More rustic choices are Death Valley Junction and Shoshone, but they are still a long drive from most of the main things to see in the park. When I began going to DV in the 1980s, SPW patio rooms were about $40 and deluxe rooms were maybe $70-80. Those were the fun days when management and staff were almost like a family and treated regular guests that way, no one went to DV in summer and there were times I was one of half a dozen parties in the house, much of the parking was still dirt, and there was no direct phone service—incoming callers had to dial O and ask for Stovepipe Wells Toll Station No. 1 and have the operator find the “mark and route” (I learned them, which made the connection faster).

Boston
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3. Re: How is the new management of Stove Pipe Wells?

Rooms at PSR are smaller, noisier, and cheaper, and much loved by regulars. I prefer to pay a few more bucks for better digs. Not that SPW is luxurious by any standard though. My first trip ever to DV I spent 2 nights at SPW and 3 in Beatty to save money - both room, gas, and food - but have always gone back to SPW because it's smack dab in the middle of the desert - walk 50 yards away from the lights at night and its dark and quiet. You don't get that at Furnace Creek but you've got better store and restaurant choices.

Last year SPW extended the WiFi access points around the property but I gather that the outgoing bandwidth is still so limited that you can't rely on doing much with it.

I will be at SPW all next week.

Philadelphia, PA
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4. Re: How is the new management of Stove Pipe Wells?

Thanks for the information. I'm trying to figure out where to stay. I don't think I want to try Panamint because I'm concerned about the location -- and the weather. I'm planning a November stay and I think it would be cooler there. What's Panamint's elevation?

It's somewhat counter-intuitive, but I'm leaning toward FCR because it's now only $25 more than SPW and I haven't stayed there is a while, because the cost differential has been greater than that.

I would like to see the new menus for SPW, which don't seem to be loaded onto their website (the NPS should make this a requirement for concessionaires). As I mentioned, the restaurant prices there used to be more reasonable than FCR, which is important to me because I'm feeding a family. We're also found the service better at the SPW restaurant because, it seems, FCR isn't always able to hire enough personnel.

It's truly a shame that a lot of our national park hotels are getting very expensive. I noticed the same thing at Yosemite. I think I may have to start camping (which isn't easy to do, if you have to fly your gear out with you).

Edited: 13 February 2012, 14:08
Philadelphia, PA
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5. Re: How is the new management of Stove Pipe Wells?

Well, I actually decided to hold a room at SPW. FCR is implementing a resort fee (apparently beginning next month). So their cheapest rooms (the cabins) with tax and fee are $198/night. SPW is more than $50/night cheaper. That's enough to keep me at SPW -- especially since (I hope) the restaurant prices are still regulated by the gov't and cheaper than at FCR.

BTW, the "resort fee" charge at FCR is not well disclosed and quite sneaky. I'm sure it will cause annoyance.

6. Re: How is the new management of Stove Pipe Wells?

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