Creepy or Romantic? Couple Runs Isolated Snowed-In Montana Hotel for Winter

Greg Keraghosian
·Associate Travel Editor

David Wilson and his wife have been all alone at the Many Glacier Hotel in Montana since October. (All photos courtesy David and Rebecca Wilson)

Since October, David and Rebecca Wilson have been isolated from humanity in a vast, frozen outpost of Montana that’s so remote, only a snowplow could rescue them in an emergency and fewer than 10 people have seen them. It’s also been the winter job of a lifetime that’s given them some unexpected Internet fame.

You can keep up with the couple on their blog, A Winter at Many Glacier, which chronicles their solitary work and play at the Many Glacier Hotel within Glacier National Park. They’ve recently been profiled in the Montana press, and David Wilson says the blog is getting 500 to 600 views per day, spiking at 2,300.

“I blame all the reality Alaska shows for the interest in this,” he joked to Yahoo Travel.

The bundled-up couple on one of their many outdoor excursions.

David Wilson has been working as a maintenance man at the 76-acre, 100-year-old Many Glacier Hotel since 2008. The hotel is hugely popular in the summer, getting hundreds of thousands of visitors, but it shuts down in September before the bitterly cold winter.

Even while closed, the property needs upkeep to handle the constant barrage of snow, rain, wind, and wayward critters that get inside, so it annually employs a winter keeper to maintain a lonely watch over the hotel until the spring thaw in April. In October, Wilson got his first crack at the job, and his wife Rebecca joined in the adventure.

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Only the Wilsons can watch this sunset in person.

We know, we know: The Shining, right? The analogy to the Stanley Kubrick horror film set in Colorado is too obvious, and it goes further: Kubrick shot a portion of the movie on Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road.

David Wilson laughs at the comparison, and in his Halloween blog post, he even repeatedly wrote, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” in reference to Jack Nicholson’s character, a caretaker who goes homicidally insane from snowy isolation in a giant hotel with his wife.

The abandoned hotel lobby in winter.

“We watched The Shining up here just because of that and there are a lot of parallels,” Wilson said. “Our hotel isn’t heated and we don’t live inside of it. But as far as the long hallways, that’s similar. There’s also stocking up for food in the winter, which we have to do ourselves. And then of course the snow.”

But the parallels stop there, because David Wilson says the couple loves the extended alone time with each other, and she often hangs out with him while he works. They’ve both spent years in Montana and couldn’t be happier exploring in the chilly outdoors.

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Some local non-human residents.

“Honestly, we would stay here longer if we could,” he said. “There is no cabin fever when you’re in such a beautiful place. I get more cabin fever in the city.”

Wilson spoke with Yahoo Travel over the phone, which wasn’t easy to pull off – the couple’s phone service had been out all day, something that’s happened a few times so far this winter. They do get Wi-Fi inside their lakeside chalet by the hotel, though it’s “like dial-up back in the ‘90s,” and a few basic TV channels.

The Wilsons started their blog to communicate with their co-workers, friends, and family, and many of the posts cover the fun they have in their free time in a gorgeous setting that most people can’t reach. They regularly snowshoe, sled, and hike around the vast area, with the occasional animal encounter. For instance, in October while fly-fishing, they ran across a mother bear with her two cubs, walking straight toward them across a creek. “She looked up and as soon as she saw us, she bolted and almost left her cubs sitting there with us,” Wilson said.

A woodrat that snuck inside the hotel.

That bear and her cubs have since been hibernating beneath the hotel’s employee dorm.

Still, this is no vacation for the couple: David Wilson says he works 40 hours a week, and it’s challenging labor that requires stepping out into zero-degree weather. He spends every day shoveling snow that gets around and inside the massive hotel, repairing wind damage such as blown doors and screens, and keeping the property’s pipes from freezing.

There’s also the occasional animal control, such as keeping a lusty ram from charging the dining-room window, or dealing with a woodrat that snuck inside the employee dorm.

The couple will take this kind of isolation any day.

“One season, a ram took out three windows in the breezeway,” Wilson wrote on his blog. “They see their own reflection in the glass and – bam.”

Wilson says the work is worthwhile, because it’ll make his job that much easier when he goes back to his maintenance role in the summer.

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The couple will be alone at the hotel until April.

Human sightings in the area are rarer than animal ones, because of the barrier to entry: you’d need to ski or snowshoe in, and the closest town is tiny Babb, Mont., about 12 miles away. Wilson said they’ve barely seen anyone since Thanksgiving, but that they had a handful of friends visit, plus two or three strangers who skied in – one of them was a caretaker for Many Glacier in the 1960s.

When will the fun be over for the Wilsons? Whenever a snowplow can break through in April and get the hotel season going again.

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