South Lake Tahoe’s Newest Hotel Combines Sustainable Design, Tranquility and Luxury | South of Lake Tahoe
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Although they’ve been open for two weeks, Monday, August 15 marked the official opening of the Desolation Hotel in South Lake Tahoe. Located on the grounds of the former 1960s Tahoe Villa motel, the new Desolation Hotel is inspired by the tranquility, nature, beauty and adventure of Desolation Wilderness and Lake Tahoe.
Step inside after a day exploring Lake Tahoe and enjoy understated elegance infused with an alpine theme with hints of Norway and Japan.
There are 21 deluxe rooms at the hotel, all featuring soaking tubs on their private balconies, indoor fireplaces, and kitchenettes with Bertazzoni gas stoves, microwaves, garbage disposals, and refrigerators, as well as walk-in showers. and a bathtub.
Rooms are divided into three accommodation types: Alpine Studios, Granite Suites, and three-story El Dorado Townhouses with private garages.
What is described as an eco-luxury micro-resort, Desolation has been designed as an alternative to vacation home rentals, offering visitors upscale accommodation options with all the necessities of home, while being placed between the Heavenly Gondola and Lake Tahoe.
The vision for Desolation Hotel came from co-founders Chet Pipkin and his brother Eric Pipkin.
“We live, work and play in this community, from our founders to many of the team members who helped us build the hotel,” said Chet Pipkin. “We are incredibly passionate about providing our guests with an authentic, local and unforgettable experience of South Lake Tahoe. We provide an immersive luxury destination that offers guests the opportunity to relax and get away and go to adventure, while being responsible stewards of this incredible natural environment that we are lucky enough to call home.”
The Pipkins are no strangers to the local community. Chet is the founder of Belkin, a consumer technology company that also owns the Linksys brand, and he and his wife spend most of their time in Lake Tahoe. Community is important to the Pipkins. The hotel hosted the 2021 Spooky Spectacular, long before construction was even complete at the Desolation. They invested $50,000 and raised matching funds to donate $50,000 to the El Dorado Community Foundation’s Caldor Fire Fund and another $50,000 to the Wildfire Firefighters Association.
The Pipkins are no strangers to the outdoors either. Chet’s son Spencer just climbed K2, the second highest mountain on Earth, Eric climbed Half Dome in Yosemite.
Chet said he drew inspiration for the hotel from the elements of Tahoe – to honor and celebrate them.
“We hope we did a great job, not just physically, but energetically and environmentally,” Chet said.
The architect for the project was Brooke Martone-Ballachey, a South Tahoe High graduate and former member of the US Freestyle Skiing Team, owner of Monarch Architecture of South Lake Tahoe with her husband Brian. Design firm STUDIOETTE brought a unique blend of wood, stone and Lake Tahoe colors – muted forest greens, deep lake-hued blues and rich ambers. Owners Eunji Kim and Irene Yu were on hand to see their visions come to life. Eunji and Brooke were roommates at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo where they both earned degrees in architecture. Irene also has a degree in architecture and attended Cal-Berkley.
Maggie’s is the hotel’s third-floor restaurant with an outdoor terrace that wraps around a tree and offers views of the mountains. The indoor-outdoor fireplace makes the room comfortable all year round. It takes its name from the Maggie’s Peaks hike, a challenging trail loved by locals and visitors alike for its rewarding views. It offers a modern, home-cooked American menu with fresh pastas, a selection of ethically sourced game meats, and a full collection of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Dishes can include spinach tagliatelle topped with prosciutto-wrapped diver scallops or bison tomahawk steak sourced from Humboldt County (with the option of finishing it at the table with a steak stone). The wine wall and bar selection fill out the fare.
Another highlight of the hotel using a Desolation Wilderness name is the outdoor bar, Velma’s, named after Velma Lakes. It is adjacent to the saltwater pool and several outdoor fire pits and is available exclusively to hotel guests. The menu features a rotating selection of seasonal light bites, Maggie’s most popular cocktails and an extensive selection of mocktails. A staff favorite is Velma’s Bloody Mary Thai Basil & Rye Whiskey, served with a flight of homemade bacon.
Chet has also partnered with Jamie and David Orr to create, without ties, the coworking offices in Round Hill. Desolation Hotel manager Richard Dunne said hotel guests can use these offices and meeting rooms when visiting if the hotel’s options don’t meet their needs.
Another Pipkin project is the former Sorenson’s Resort, now called Wylder Hotel Hope Valley.
Chet said he has no plans for any other ventures at this time, but will “continue to be a catalyst for good.” He said he believed in making things better than they were before.
He was the 2018 keynote speaker at the Lake Tahoe Community College graduation.
“Chet is a tremendous role model for our students,” LTCC superintendent/president Jeff DeFranco said at the time. “He’s been hugely successful, but he maintains a sense of humility about his success. He’s also been a big advocate for education, risk-taking and entrepreneurship. Giving Back is a big part of his life, and it’s definitely a message I would like our graduates to hear.
To learn more about the Desolation Hotel, visit https://www.desolationhotel.com/. Room rates start at $349/night.