Landowner Spotlight is an ongoing series here on the CTA Blog where we feature Vermont landowners who generously host the Catamount Trail on their land. Today we are spotlighting Peter and Susan MacLaren, owners of the West Hill House B&B. Their Warren, VT property and business is nestled in the Mad River Valley, an outstanding location for year-round recreation just a stone’s throw from Green Mountain National Forest. Peter and Susan have been running their business for nine years and counting. We caught up with Peter this summer to hear more of the backstory of the West Hill House B&B, and how they got involved with the Catamount Trail.
Looking for the Right Place
When I ask about their backstory, Peter laughs. “Almost every guest asks us that question at breakfast time.” Susan had dreamed of running a B&B since childhood, and the idea stuck throughout the years. An early retirement opened the door for the MacLarens, and the only real obstacle was finding the right location. At first, they were open to anywhere in the world. The search eventually narrowed to the northeast of the United States, since they were already familiar with its climate and geography from experiences living in Scotland, Europe, Canada, and the United States.
After a 15 month search, the MacLarens found the right place on 49th property they visited. It was in a “perfect place on a quiet country road,” somewhere folks could rest, relax, and recreate. The location in the Mad River Valley offered four seasons of recreation opportunities thanks to a wealth of trails, waterways, and ski resorts like Sugarbush and Mad River Glen. Within two days of seeing the property, they had a deal to buy. In 2006, the MacLaren’s opened shop, and have been at it ever since.
A Green Hotel in the Green Mountain State
One of the first things you see as you pull in to the West Hill House B&B is a Prius plugged into an Electric Vehicle (EV) charger like a toaster. About two years ago, the MacLarens installed an EV charger to attract electric vehicle drivers. Unfortunately, few people took advantage of the opportunity, due to the limited range of commuter-oriented models. This led to a revamp through Tesla Motors’ Destination Charging Program, which helps businesses install charging stations for Tesla car drivers. The West Hill House B&B now hosts a Destination Charger, with the hopes that Tesla drivers will venture away from highways and superchargers into places like the Mad River Valley. But the EV charger is just one piece of the many initiatives the MacLaren’s have taken to make their B&B environmentally sustainable. By late summer, the B&B will have its electrical needs 100% solar powered. It’s easy to detect the engineer’s excitement in Peter’s voice as he talks about solar panels, charging stations, and high-tech electric cars.
Hosting the Catamount Trail….and its Skiers
When the MacLarens bought the property, they also inherited the Catamount Trail. Their predecessors had been strong supporters of the trail and had granted a trail easement to the CTA. These owners recommended continued support of the CTA, which the MacLarens were happy to do. While they don’t ski much on the Catamount Trail themselves, the MacLarens are steadfast supporters local trails. Just recently, Peter proposed a short re-route on the property that would cut out a road walk and send the trail through a field next to their barn. For the most part they see day users skiing the trail, but every so often, a long-distance skier will stop by to partake in the B&B’s offerings. Peter recounted one exhausted skier who traded in a cold night of winter camping for a warm bed, hot bath, and a good breakfast. Peter also enjoyed meeting 2015 End-to-Ender Bob Ordemann, who spent a night at the West Hill House B&B on his inn-to-inn ski of the Catamount Trail.
According to the MacLarens, hosting the trail is “a great example of Vermont at its best.” Utilizing private property easements to link together recreational resources is something the MacLarens “philosophically believe in as a responsibility as a Vermont landowner. There’s an amazing sort of spirit of shared ownership of natural resource here in Vermont. Everyone is focused on quality of life and quality of environment.”
What’s most evident to me in my interactions with Peter is how much he and Susan love their home in the Green Mountains. As they often hear from their guests, “people feel like they are coming to a family home type atmosphere.” We’re glad the Catamount Trail has a good home where it passes through the West Hill House B&B.
Visit http://westhillbb.com/ to learn more about the West Hill House B&B.
Learn more about our Catamount Trail Protection Program.