A Utah-based corporation wants to expand the Holland Lake Lodge into more of a year-round resort destination, but it needs Forest Service approval to do so.

On Thursday, the Swan Lake Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest announced that it was taking public comment on a proposal to expand the Holland Lake Lodge facility near Seeley Lake.

The Lodge property sits on 15 acres of Forest Service land, thanks to a perpetual special-use permit, similar to the type owned by ski resorts. As a result, the Forest Service must approve all modifications.

The original lodge was built on the shore of Holland Lake in 1924 but was consumed by a fire in 1946. The existing 4,600-square-foot lodge was built the following year and includes nine guest rooms and a restaurant.

The property also holds six guest cabins, a gift shop, owner’s cabin and two outbuildings. Altogether, the facility hosted up to 45 guests during the summer months, making it a popular spot for weddings and other events looking for that authentic Montana feel.

Rooms currently rent for $300 - $340 a night, up from the 2019 prices of $200 - $240 a night.

Christian Wohlfeil started managing the Holland Lake Lodge in 1999 and bought the property three years later. Then, in 2017, he put it up for sale. After getting few nibbles, he again listed it with a Bozeman realtor in 2019 for $3.49 million. Wohlfeil has always touted the property’s rustic charm and intimate feel but talked about wanting to make more improvements.

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“My hope is that a new owner really preserves how special everything is and brings it up to 2020,” Wohlfeil told the Daily Interlake in 2019. “I have an attachment myself, but I’m also really excited for someone new to come in and do what they want to do.”

POWDR - an “adventure lifestyle” corporation based in Park City, Utah, that owns 10 ski resorts, including Snowbird in Utah, Copper Mountain in Colorado and Killington in Vermont - soon stepped in. POWDR partnered with Holland Lake Lodge, Inc., and came up with a development plan that they submitted to the Forest Service in April.

The plan is to preserve the lodge, the owner’s cabin and the barn and winterize the buildings so the facility can operate year-round. The old gift shop and cabins would be removed.

In addition, several new buildings will be added, including a 13,000-square-foot lodge with 28 rooms, a 3,000-square-foot restaurant, a 2,000-square-foot welcome center for check-in, 10 650-square-foot cabins, 16 smaller studio cabins and new support buildings for maintenance and employee housing.

The new facility would hold up to 156 guests and will require larger wastewater and sewage systems and parking areas, requiring the removal of several trees. In addition, the East Holland Lake Connector Trailhead parking area would be expanded up to 3 acres.

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Wohlfeil said such changes were needed for the Lodge to thrive.

“This Master Development Plan is intended to preserve the spirit and integrity of what is here, while upgrading facilities so we can share this place with guests for years to come,” Wohlfeil said in a statement.

The Flathead National Forest is taking scoping comments on the development plan until Sept. 21 and will hold a public meeting just to provide information at the Holland Lake Lodge from 5-7 p.m. on Sept. 8.

Public comment might not do much to change the project. Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurtis Steele indicated that he would probably use a categorical exclusion to approve the project, because the proposal involves construction on a recreation site that already has buildings on it.

If that’s the case, the Forest Service won’t conduct an environmental assessment or impact statement, and the scoping period will be the only opportunity for the public to provide comment.

Construction could start as early as 2023.

“Due to an increase of people visiting and living in the Swan and Flathead Valleys, it is desirable to upgrade public facilities and enhance access to the outdoors in areas of the Flathead National Forest designated for focused recreation activities,” Steele wrote in a Sept. 1 letter to interested parties. “Improvements at the Holland Lake Lodge and the East Holland Lake Connector Trailhead would offer the opportunity to satisfy some of the increased demand for outdoor recreation on public lands in the Swan and Flathead Valleys.”

Justin Sibley, CEO of POWDR, said the changes would be soulful.

“POWDR has built its brand on the premise of delivering soulful experiences that matter to guests and reflect the local community. Holland Lake Lodge is a soulful place, where families spend time in the outdoors with the people they love. We look forward to continuing this legacy,” Sibley said in a statement.

Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at lundquist@missoulacurrent.com.

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