Death Valley resort redo the latest in national park upgrades

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The Inn at Furnace Creek will be renamed the Inn at Death Valley.
The Inn at Furnace Creek will be renamed the Inn at Death Valley.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts this week will announce a multimillion-dollar restoration of its resort in Death Valley National Park, the latest in a series of upgrades across its national parks portfolio.

Detailing plans that were to be announced June 5, company officials said that Xanterra would spend tens of millions of dollars on what they call a full "renaissance" of the Furnace Creek Resort, which will be renamed the Oasis at Death Valley. 

Plans include a complete renovation of the resort's Inn at Furnace Creek -- to be renamed the Inn at Death Valley -- that will make it the most luxe among Xanterra's iconic park properties.

Xanterra chief marketing officer Betsy O'Rourke said the improvements are in response to increasing traveler demand for better amenities and more luxurious offerings.

"Most importantly, the trend is about collecting experiences and wanting to experience these remote places without giving up the daily comforts," she said. "While the luxury consumer doesn't expect the level of luxury found in an urban environment, they still want their creature comforts in the way of comfortable, well-appointed rooms, great dining experiences and great service."

Over the past several years, Xanterra has invested more than $100 million in major upgrades across the National Parks system, including the construction of five lodges in Yellowstone's Grand Canyon area and a multimillion-dollar upgrade to its historical Mammoth Hotel, which opened in 1887. Renovations to the park's other iconic property, the Yellowstone Lake Hotel, were completed in 2014.

At the Grand Canyon, the company is planning a multimillion-dollar face-lift of the 78-room El Tovar Hotel, which is widely considered the crown jewel of the historical National Park lodges. That project, which also calls for replacing the Maswik South buildings with a new lodge, is scheduled for next year.

Likewise, the Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel was recently refurbished to include all-new rooms, a new restaurant, new retail at the depot and restored railway dome cars.

This summer, Xanterra will complete renovations to the five-story, 205-room Many Glacier Hotel at Glacier National Park, which includes a refurbishment of its original staircase and significant improvements in rooms and public spaces as well as its retail and food and beverage offerings.

'Restoring its original splendor'

At Death Valley, the renovation and expansion of the AAA Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley, a 66-room luxury property set into the side of a mountain range, will make it a standout across the company's portfolio of national park properties, O'Rourke said.

"With the significant renaissance restoring it to its original splendor, it belongs in the rarified class of national park hotels that have significant historical reference as well as the most upscale accommodations, like El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, the Many Glacier hotel in Glacier National Park and the Lake Hotel in Yellowstone," she said.

The Oasis at Death Valley, which in addition to the luxury inn includes a larger hotel and resort area as well as a golf course, is built around an oasis of natural, spring-fed streams, gardens and date groves that offer stunning views of Death Valley. Two hours from Las Vegas and four from Los Angeles, it is where George Lucas filmed scenes for the original "Star Wars" movie.

At the Inn, plans call for doubling to 22 the number of private, two-room casitas surrounding both the spring-fed pool and gardens; updated rooms and lobby; a new wellness center with treatment rooms and a larger fitness area; the addition of cabanas and a poolside bar; and a terraced garden for weddings and other group events that will be called Mission Gardens.

Renovations have already begun at the Inn, which will be closed until November.

Plans also call for upgrades across the public spaces at the rest of the resort, which includes the 224-room hotel, restaurants, a general store, a U.S. Post Office, horse stables, a historical museum and a gas station.

Other updates include a larger bar at the popular Western Saloon, a new check-in area, family-friendly pedestrian areas and hitching posts and troughs for horses.

The Furnace Creek Golf Course, the world's lowest at 214 feet below sea level, will keep its name. It has already been overhauled with more natural landscaping and a focus on reducing water consumption. Though playable now, the company said it is expected to grow in and be ready for prime time in early spring 2018.

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