What the New Pilot Hotels Got Right

October 31, 2018


Park City is a former mining town of the American old west. It’s home to the annual Sundance Film Festival, and now to a luxury property called the Washington School House Hotel. This limestone building, built in 1889, was originally a schoolhouse. It survived a fire that burned away much of the town in 1898. During the second world war, it was used as a dance hall. By 2011, the building had been acquired by Marcy Holthus, the founder of Pilot hotels. 


Holthus then gutted and re-imagined as a boutique luxury hotel with only twelve guest rooms. Pilot is brazen about the luxury and exclusivity on offer here. The original features of the property are, of course, meticulously preserved and highlighted, with strong modern elements mixed in. A terraced heated pool, lavish common spaces, and a ski lounge are all part of the offering but they have been very targeted in what they wanted to keep and what they want to add.
This is one of two Pilot hotels at present. The other property, the Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé, has a history that runs considerably deeper. Located in the Loire Valley near Paris, this building has been passed down through the hands of nobility since it was built by French nobility in 1764. The grounds include a dream-like central chateau, and expansive manicured gardens throughout. Famous figures from Voltaire to Mozart are said to have stayed here. The property played a role in the second world war as a hospital for soldiers, and a hiding place for famous works of art. The web site provides insights into the original design and passion:


“Baron Jacques Pineau de Viennay was passionate about design and architecture – demanding the most modern ideas for his new château. The Baron embraced the new
 ideas of the Age of Enlightenment and viewed the feudal concepts and medieval design as obsolete.”


The chateau changed hands in 2017, with the hotel expected to open in 2019. Although many of the details are yet to be revealed, the property’s unique history will likewise be preserved and brought into a boutique luxury format. Guests will enjoy picnic baskets with local cheese and pastries, the finest local wines, spa services, and the ability to explore the grounds on bicycle. 


What is unique about Pilot’s vision? 


Both Pilot properties seek to deliver a luxury boutique experience through the lens of historical and architectural significance. Hotels with rich histories already exist, of course – but Pilot is actively creating new ones. The brand is fresh and luxurious, but the context runs deeper. Stories and significance are at the heart of the offering. 


Rooms at the Washington School House Hotel start at USD $1,000 and climb to $4,500 or higher. From the look of it, a stay at the Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé will fetch more than that. Pilot is not making an attempt to democratise luxury, but rather to make it more intimate, more focused, and arguably more sophisticated. The ideal guest at one of these properties is someone who has exacting standards of service, but to whom thread counts and silver platters are not necessarily the most important things in life. Even though they may everything else already, the Pilot guests still want to connect to the local area. And, just as we see in other categories of accommodation, right down to studio apartments in bohemian neighborhoods, hollow surfaces aren’t enough. People want real and unique connections to the present and the past.
Now of course, it is a given that these hotels need locations where their target market wants to be but re-interpretations of the luxury hotel should be refreshing for travelers who can and do seek accommodation in this category. Pilot is a unique effort to create a highly-refined guest experience with emotional and intellectual depth. It reminds us that a luxury hotel can (and perhaps should) be warm and textured, with concern for the people and stories that shape our world. And that even high end patrons like to connect.


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