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GETTING TO KNOW CAROLE MACDONALD - Inn owner gets Mount Baker Chamber hopping

Carole MacDonald


Carole MacDonald, president of Mount Baker Chamber of Commerce, stands in front of her view of Mount Baker and the Nooksack River Monday afternoon at her bed and breakfast, The Inn at Mount Baker.

Linda Kendall Scott, For the Bellingham Herald

Shortly after Carole MacDonald and Bill Snyder built and opened the Inn at Mount Baker five years ago, MacDonald started getting phone calls from people wanting to know what was available in the area.

Was there a grocery store? A gas station? A liquor store? How about a laundry or restaurants?

MacDonald knew something had to be done, so she drove down Mount Baker Highway as far as the North Fork Beer Shrine, taking down names of all of the businesses along the way. Then she got on the telephone.

Question: So you didn't know many business people in the area.

Answer: We moved here about 1995 from Ellicottville, N.Y., where I had an insurance agency and Bill was a commercial pilot. He's now at Alteon, a subsidiary of Boeing and a training center for pilots who need to retrain to fly a different kind of airplane. He works at the Renton center as director of flight standards for the five training centers in the United States. He goes down early Monday morning and comes back Friday afternoon. The inn is my business.

Q: What did you hope to accomplish with your phone calls?

A: I called to see if they wanted to get together to market the area. I held a meeting in November 2000 at the inn. Seventy-five percent of the people I called came. One of them, Phil Cloward, said there had been a chamber that wasn't active anymore. He suggested that instead of forming a whole new group, we resurrect the chamber. I was invited to a meeting in February 2001. When I got there, nothing was happening and people were just chattering. No meeting had started, so I asked who was running the meeting. Phil asked me if I would. They'd met sometime in January and I'd been elected the new president. I've been president of the Mount Baker Chamber of Commerce ever since.

Q: What were your first goals?

A: Our goals were to connect our members with one another and also to various services and agencies in the county. We established communication and have ongoing dialogue with these people, and they've been very supportive. Various members of our board are on other boards in the county. For example, I'm on the Bellingham-Whatcom County Convention & Visitors Bureau board of directors. Good communication and relationships are what life is all about.

Q: What has the chamber accomplished since reorganizing?

A: We started with fewer than 10 members and now have 85 - our goal is 100 - from Wickersham and Deming to the top of the mountain, including Mt. Baker Ski Area. We have some supporting members in the city of Bellingham who do business with businesses out here.

We established a Web site within a year of reorganizing. Then, with financial help from the Nooksack casino and support from (Whatcom County Executive) Pete Kremen and the County Council, in June 2001 we were able to open our visitor center in Maple Falls. We were instrumental in coordinating the effort to build a public restroom facility in Glacier. We've established good rapport with Washington State Department of Transportation, so we know when there will be roadwork up here. That kind of communication helps us work with them to schedule needed roadwork at a time that does not conflict with our busiest time of the year, late July and August.

Q: What's next?

A: We co-sponsored Ride 542 (also known as the Mount Baker Hill Climb) last September, and that brought in about 300 bikers to compete in a ride up Mount Baker Highway. We'll do that another year. We're hoping to have a music festival next summer, and we're planning a fund-raising event, possibly for late summer or early fall, to support the chamber and the visitor center.

Q: How's business this winter?

A: We had a slow start this season. Because of lack of snow, the ski area opened a little later than usual. But things are hopping now. By Christmas, the ski resorts south of us in Washington state hadn't opened yet, and we were deluged with calls from people who wanted to cancel at other resorts and come here. People came up who had never been skiing or snowboarding here before. Now that they've seen how wonderful it is, they'll come back. There's a long-term effect to some events that you don't realize at the time.

Linda Kendall Scott is a freelance writer. For questions or story ideas, contact Dean Kahn at or 715-2291.

Carole the Innkeeper

"Best Places Northwest" - published by Sasquatch Books \A92004, edited by Giselle Brooks

Carole MacDonald and Bill Snyder spent more than three years searching for just the right site for their B&B, then built it from the ground up, carefully positioning it so that all the five guest rooms (three downstairs and two up) have views of both Mount Baker and the Nooksack River. Guests enjoy the same view from the large outdoor hot tub (with and umbrella for rainy nights).

MacDonald stocks her B&B with all the comforts of a fine hotel: feather beds, down duvets, deep 6-foot tubs, rocking chairs; silky, terry-lined robes; flowers; and plenty of space for guests to spread out their belongings. Privacy is respected: your room is made up daily only if you request it. The lower-level guest lounge has an impressive video collection (rooms have TVs and VCRs, but no TV reception) and a kitchenette with chilled beverages and snack fixings.

Gourmet breakfasts served in the view dining room might be apples in puff pastry with roasted garlic-turkey sausage, French toast, or three kinds of eggs Benedict (regular, vegetarian, or smoked salmon).

Business Start-up: The Inn at Mount Baker

Reprinted with permission from Whatcom County Business Pulse. December, 2000

"Every time I drove by, I said, ‘That’s it,’" Bill Snyder remarks.

Snyder was referring to a hill three miles west of Glacier. Its peak offered a magnificent view of the North Fork of the Nooksack River. While following the river upstream through a valley, one’s eyes were led to the splendor of Mt. Baker, seemingly just a few miles away.

This 37-acre parcel ended a four-year search by Snyder and Carole MacDonald for their ideal bed-and-breakfast site. After buying the property in March 1998, they built a 3,000-foot road from the Mount Baker Highway to the top of a hill populated by deer, eagles, hawks and other wildlife.

After construction of the house, measuring nearly 6,000 square feet, by Dykstra Construction Service of Lynden, the couple opened The Inn at Mount Baker and its five guest rooms on Memorial Day weekend of this year.

"The whole design was to point everything at Mt. Baker and the Nooksack River," Snyder says.

Since the couple knew their home would be a bed-and-breakfast establishment, it has design features — such as large bathrooms and wide hallways— not seen in homes converted into B&Bs. Snyder and MacDonald later will add gas fireplaces in each room.

The B&B is only 30 miles east of Bellingham and just 23 miles west of the Mt. Baker Ski Area, ideal for skiers during winters and hikers during summers. Winter rates are $100 for Sundays through Thursdays and $110 for Fridays and Saturdays. Of course, a sumptuous breakfast is included.
MacDonald, a former insurance broker and nurse, is the primary host and is assisted by four part-time employees.

"I enjoy the people and I love cooking," she declares.

While The Inn at Mount Baker offers amenities such as feather beds and an outdoor hottub, the top attraction is its peaceful and stunningly beautiful surroundings.

"The next day, (guests) come out and say they feel so relaxed, so rested," MacDonald says.

— Dave Brumbaugh

Press from the Mt. Baker Experience

This article appeared in the June/July 2000 issue of The Mount Baker Experience

a review from the Bellingham Herald

This article appeared in the July 2000 issue of the Bellingham Herald.