Forget, for a moment, the Georgia Straight’s Best of Vancouver issue, wonderful though it is. This week Pique gives attention to the Best of Pemberton, that pretty little community about 30 kilometres north of Whistler.
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An Olympic champion, a Black Squirrel and other things that make Pemberton a special place
Best daytrip destination
Centuries of volcanic activity have helped make beautiful daytrip destinations out of Pemberton and its surrounding areas. From peak to valley, there’s a wealth of options for getting away. The top pick of Pembertonians was Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, attractive for its glacier-laden peaks and its pristine waters. Made a park in 1996, it is known for jagged peaks, rushing streams and turquoise blue lakes. Few others can match its beauty, but also on the list were One Mile Lake, which is located right in town, as well as North Arm Farm, the Pemberton Meadows and Anderson Lake. Meager Creek Hot Springs also figured in the survey, but it’s out of range to any visitors for the foreseeable future due to the Meager landslide – which also figured as a tourist desination all its own.
There’s always a toss-up in this category, and that’s the case again as the Glen and the Pemberton Meadows vied for best neighbourhood. Pembertonians know the Glen as “Vinyl Village” because of the vinyl siding on many of the homes. New homes have moved away from that design but the reputation remains. Located a short distance from the community centre, it’s home to many Pemberton residents. Equally popular, however, was the Pemberton Meadows, the lush valley that extends north of the village. It’s home to some of the best agricultural land in the province.
Votes are still coming in for the Pemberton Festival, but they’ve gradually faded every year that the music festival has not come back. In its place are smaller music festivals and community parties like the Two Acre Shaker, which tops the rankings this year. The full day party happened Aug. 15 and hosted artists such as Jon and Roy, OKA and Knifey Spoony. It’s not Coldplay and Nine Inch Nails, but it’s great for what local organizers are able to offer. Also rounding out the list were the Canada Day community party, the opening party for the Meadows at Pemberton and the Black Squirrel Winter Party.
Best Pemberton trend
Babies have finally been ousted as Pemberton’s top trend, cast aside by bikes. For years, babies seemed a trendy thing in Pemberton. They’ve been popping up all over the place and villagers have been adjusting accordingly, seeking out new recreational opportunities like a skate park, bike park and eventually a water park. One has to hope they all grow up to be cyclists because they’d be continuing a trend people are already seeing in the Spud Valley. Pemberton has a host of great backcountry trails for riding and even just a ride through the Pemberton Meadows can be satisfying enough. The annual Slow Food Cycle is a great example.
Best reason to own a 4×4
4×4’s are essential for the backcountry roads that surround the valley. The best reason, it seems, to use one these days is to access Meager Creek Hot Springs, according to this survey. Accessing the Hot Springs is pretty well impossible with all the landslide debris blocking the way but there are likely some daredevil Pembertonians who’d love to try it out with a Jeep Wrangler. A helicopter is the best way to get there but you really never know. The Hurley road is also a good place to have a 4×4 if you want a smooth drive. So too is the off-road challenge held at the Pemberton Speedway.
Best use of money
Normally it’s rare to find a community that’s happy with how their money is being spent, but Pemberton is a rare community that’s putting a lot of its cash towards recreational opportunities for youth. Respondents identified the skate park as the best use of money, despite the controversy of it being located beneath power lines. Also warranting mentions were the Cottonwood Community Centre, the boardwalk around One Mile Lake and the pump track.
Best view of Mount Currie
Just about any view of Mount Currie is a great one, its majestic peaks casting a huge shadow over the Pemberton Valley. Pembertonians feel the best place to see it is from Big Sky Golf and Country Club. The golf course is located east of the village, up Airport Road, and has a vast field for putting and driving. Mount Currie rises up right behind it. Those who don’t want to pay for a game of golf chose their decks as the best places to see the mountain, while others opted for Drumkeeran House on Ivey Lake.
Example of Wild West attitude
It’s no secret that a Wild West attitude simmers beneath the surface in Pemberton. People are very protective of their homesteads and often look at developers as though they’re cowboys looking to pave over agricultural land with concrete. But the best sign of a wild west attitude is the sheer number of horses in town. At the right time of year they’re as good for getting around as cars. Bob Menzel, Pemberton’s quintessential cowboy, also figures as a big example.
Favourite agricultural product
Potatoes – what else? Well, to be fair the Pemberton Valley produces bounty that includes berries, pumpkins, squashes and a host of other fruits and vegetables, but potatoes are what Pemberton is known for. They call it Spud Valley for a reason and there’s regulations against bringing anything into town that could taint the soil. One of the best places to try them is at the Pony, where they’re cut up into delicious fries. Pemberton Meadows All Natural Beef also figured here, as did Schramm Vodka, which is made from Pemby taters.
Least like Pemberton
McDonald’s sticks out like a sore thumb for some people in Pemberton, as they voted it least like their town. It’s one of the first things you see when you get into Pemberton, located at Portage Road, just east of the village. That it’s located in an Old West-style building perhaps softens the blow. Also unlike Pemberton are Whistler, bad attitudes and the Frontier Street building.
Most desired big city amenity
Swimming hole! But seriously, a swimming pool is what Pemberton is looking for. It has tennis courts, baseball fields, soccer fields, community centres, a bike park, a skate park and all kinds of trails, but a swimming pool is really what the community wants. It could be a good thing for a valley that reaches sweltering temperatures in the summer. Past desires have included a Canadian Tire, a Costco and a hockey rink, but this time around it’s a pool that’s top of mind for the valley. Also desired is a Black Squirrel Restaurant… despite the fact there’s already one there.
Most dubious decision made by council
How do we anger thee? Let us count the ways. To some people, every decision made by a municipal council can be dubious in some way, shape or form, and Pemberton is no exception. The decision gaining the most attention here was the community centre, which was opened in 2008 and thus falls under the responsibility of previous councils. The centre faced some controversy, with some valley residents remarking there wasn’t enough gym space, and clearly the decision reverberates to this day. Beyond that, people are riled up by the Terrastone development next to the Centennial Café, as well as boundary expansion and canceling the music festival. The latter is something that Pemberton council didn’t actually do. That decision lies with Live Nation.
By an overwhelming margin, the Blackbird Bakery is Pemberton’s best new business, and it wasn’t for lack of competition. The bakery boasts some of the best pastries in town and its hazelnut and chocolate duo has made a name for itself as the “Meager Mudslide special.” Beyond the Blackbird, the Black Squirrel ranked in this category, even though it wasn’t a new business this year. Pemberflicks, Pemberton’s only video store, also received a number of votes.
Number one reason we are not like Whistler
Pemberton likes to define itself negatively against Whistler, in much the same way that Canadians distinguish themselves from Americans. This category was all over the map, with respondents citing anything from “community” to “no skiing” as reasons why Pemberton is not like Whistler. Other responses cited the fact that people aren’t as transient as they are in Whistler, as well as the fact there’s farm land all around.
Place for people watching
The Pony is Pemberton’s most popular hangout, located right by the town centre as you come into the downtown area. It’s got a great patio looking right on to the town’s main thoroughfare, an intersection that anyone either coming or going into Pemberton has to cross. The Pony really did walk away with this category, but other mentions included One Mile Lake, the Black Squirrel and the Mount Currie Coffee Company.
Place to witness a pack of stroller-joggers
The Pony is a double-champion on this list, as it’s also the best place to witness stroller-joggers. As noted above, there are lots of babies in Pemberton – and parents staying in shape by stroller-jogging all through town. The Pony is where they end up. Collins Road was also a popular place for such joggers, as was the Mount Currie Coffee Company, which at 11 a.m. on a weekday is filled to the brim with mothers and their babies.
You have to find something to do with all those potatoes that sprout out of the ground. Who’d know better than the people who grow them? Black Squirrel fries ranked atop this category, followed closely by German potato salad and Hash Browns. Other options included Schramm Vodka, which distills the potatoes so many times until they turn to alcohol. Croquette and garlic mash were also popular choices. Name something you can do with potatoes and it probably wound up on this list.
Way to keep cool
A dip in One Mile Lake is ranked as the best way to keep cool. It’s a pretty little gem on the edge of town with a boardwalk all around it. Falling in off the boardwalk, it seems, is the best way to ward off the heat. If you’re looking elsewhere, taking a walk inside the Black Squirrel to indulge in its air conditioning is also a great way to stay cool. So’s Lillooet Lake. Or just drinking beer.
Worst Pemberton trend
By and large, people really didn’t know what to make of this category. “?” was the top result. Close behind were babies and cowboys. So were “bad buildings,” condo developments, drinking in public and emo kids with tight jeans. That last one is probably just as much a problem on Main Street in Vancouver as it is in Pemberton.
Worst use of money
Where to begin with this one? Just about every use of money is listed here, from eating at the Pony to Mayor Jordan Sturdy flying to London to meet with Shane Bourbonnais about a possible return of the Pemberton Festival. Topping them all was the community centre… which was also listed as the best use of money. The skate park also got plenty of attention here and it, too, was listed as the best use of money. What put it in this category was the fact it’s located beneath power lines, a fact that was briefly the subject of protests that fizzled out very quickly.
FOOD & DRINK
It takes balls to name your restaurant after an animal many consider a pesky rodent, but backed by a stellar menu and great ambience The Black Squirrel is presenting a strong front for the family Sciuridae (the Latin name for the little buggers).
Though many B.C. restaurants tout the local-and-fresh angle, The Squirrel means it literally, plating their dishes with ripe bounty plucked from neighbouring farms. Service, views and scrumptious dishes pulled together using Pemberton potatoes, Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef, and fresh veggies grown in that fertile soil have moved this little restaurant into the lead as Pemberton’s Best.
Best New Restaurant
A respondent to our survey called the Blackbird Bakery “deliciousness” and we’ve decided there isn’t a better word for Pemberton’s newest addition. The bakery on Portage Road is heaven for the aromatic junky. With its stacks of rye sourdough baguette, olive oil and sea salt focaccia and pain au chocolat, one can easily dream of quaint European cities, unless you are perfectly content to step outside into the vast gorgeousness of the Pemberton Valley (and we think you are).
Best Beer Selection
When it comes to brew, the good mountain folks of Pemberton have tapped The Black Squirrel as the best place to put foam on their upper lips. With four Whistler Brewing Co. beers on tap and an additional 12 domestic and five imports available in the bottle, the unbuttoned atmosphere at the Pemberton Golf Course has been voted bar none the best place to find the perfect beer.
If you are new to brew, try Whistler Brewing Company’s Honey Lager for easy sipping, or the Signature Black Squirrel Ale stout for the more adventurous.
Note: to the respondent who wrote “NO WHERE” – it is possible that consuming a few pints at the Squirrel will change your mind and help you bring the two words together to form the proper spelling of “nowhere.” Bottoms up!
Some people just aren’t breakfast people (they are commonly referred to as featherweights, lily livers, and milksops around here) but if you need serious fuel to start the day you best be heading to the Wild Wood with the rest of the real folks who plan on conquering lots of powder, trail, and vert between sunup and sundown. If you are a breakfast person but not a morning person, Wild Wood will dish up your benny until 3 p.m. and if you can’t make up your mind, the Benedict Sampler will let you have a little taste of each – a brilliant menu strategy for those of us who want it all.
Nothing can replace a great burger. When the craving hits there is one place in town where you can make out with a meal in ways usually reserved for your boyfriend or girlfriend. Made with Pemberton Natural Beef, The Black Squirrel’s Meadows Burger has overthrown the reigning royalty and parked its ciabatta buns on the best-burger throne. A blend of BBQ mayo, pickles, lettuce, tomato and onion crisp up the crunch, and the additional option of cheese, house-smoked bacon (h-e-a-v-e-n) or sautéed mushrooms pulls this patty into the prime time.
Already securing the honour of being named the town’s best chef by the Pemberton & District Chamber of Commerce, The Black Squirrel’s Ryan Leitch has again taken the top spot among the culinary geniuses in sauce-splattered white. Formerly a Whistler native, Leitch moved north to impress a new demographic and has been chefing up some fabulous fare for local foodies ever since. Try his Big Valley Rib Platter, a pile of Pemberton Valley slow braised beef ribs served with veggies – we’re pretty sure you’ll never finish it, though not for lack of trying (and if you do it is on the house).
Um, yum. After triumphing over dinner there is nothing like a little dessert to help plant your victory flag on the evening. The dessert card at The Black Squirrel has something for every classification of sweet tooth. There is crème brulee for the cream-heads, lemon meringue and cherries jubilee for the fruiters and pecan pie and triple chocolate cake for those of us who consider conversation during dessert an unnecessary distraction from the important task at hand. Top it off with a Spanish coffee or chocolate port before heading into the fresh air for a starry night’s walk home.
Mountain folk tend to rise early – there is gold in those hills and most of us want to be the first to ride it, slide it or glide it. Darwin might say this inherent trait has led to the evolution of the Pembertonian from average-coffee-drinker to one with a sophisticated java palate. The Mount Currie Coffee Co. has been crowned the go-to place to satiate the beasts of morning.
While food snobs might tell you something different, there is an art to nacho-making and Mexico Lindo has mastered it. Piles of crisp tortilla chips layered with beans, beef or chicken (if that’s your thing), jalapenos, tomatoes, and layers of cheese served with sour cream and home made pico de gallo give this little number its status as best in town. We don’t need to remind you to wash it down with a cold one. Nacos podría no ser auténticamente mexicano, pero seguro que saben bien. Ole.
If you’ve been doing something for a long time you better be good at it, and when it comes to pizza The Pony doesn’t disappoint. Year after year their range of pies has satisfied the most opposing of tastes, and the Thursday pizza and a pint special is holding strong as the best way to bump into your neighbour. While those who like to squeeze as many toppings as possible onto their pie will find what they need in crowd pleasers like the Pemberton Pile Up, it is the simple pizzas that stand out. Try the Sugar Loaf Mountain for a simple, authentic Italian blend of tomato, bocconcini, oregano, and olive oil.
It doesn’t matter how good the food is, if a restaurant lacks courteous, warm, attentive service that makes you glad to have blessed them with your presence, a night out can turn into a nightmare, or at least a serious waste of coin. That doesn’t happen at The Black Squirrel. The wait staff has moved the restaurant into the lead with their knowledge and grace. It probably helps that they get some of the best staff meals in town – satisfied bellies lead to happy servers, or something like that.
If you specialize in grilled meats and you are sourcing beef from cows that come from the bovine equivalent of the TV show Cribs (dude, check out my dope pastures and gold-plated salt lick stand), you’re probably going to win this category. Hats off to the Black Squirrel – it seems that Sciuridae knows a thing or two about domesticated ungulates.
To the respondent who replied “yuck.” You can keep your veggie side dish – we’re not ashamed of our carnivorous cravings. Bring on the steak.
In a small town with long winters, the importance of decent take-out food is paramount. Centennial Café and Suikiya Sushi & Japanese Bistro tied for takeout honours and we thank them for graciously serving up delicious food without ever making us feel guilty for being too lazy to cook. We salute you.
Value is a multi-faceted word. While typically encompassing a financial imperative, it also refers to best quality for your dollar. Clearly The Black Squirrel covers all aspects necessary to win the Best Value category – prices, portion size, and caliber of ingredients.
Note: A big shout-out goes to the honour stand at Van Loons out in the Meadows. Thank you for trusting us.
Charisma, knowledge, speed, grace, and the ability to anticipate a patron’s often-fickle needs puts restaurant service staff on par with super heroes. Adam at The Squirrel encompasses all the necessary character traits to provide stellar service to hungry locals and in return they have put him at the top of the pile as Best Waiter in Pemberton.
Best Wine List
Wine is a great friend for any occasion. A comfort to the lonely, a merry friend to the masses and always the perfect dinner companion, this opulent elixir has enjoyed a rather cushy social standing throughout the ages. The extensive wine list at The Black Squirrel includes 19 reds and 15 whites by the bottle, three options for bubbly, and five whites and five reds by the glass for $5.75 to $12. Salut!
PUBS AND BARS
This was an all-animal affair, as bartenders from the Black Squirrel faced off against “Pony” bartenders. The winner, and bartender of the year in Pemberton, is Kevin McLeod of the Black Squirrel. James Munro of the Pony was runnerup, while Adam of the Black Squirrel and Ryan McKewan of the Pony also received votes.
Another showdown of the animals, with the long-standing Pony Espresso edging out the golf nuts at the Black Squirrel, perhaps proving that Pemberton really is a western-horsey kind of town. The Mount Currie Coffee Co. took third spot in this category.
The golfers won this one, with the Black Squirrel taking top spot and Big Sky Golf and Country Club taking third place. Second best patio this year was no surprise: The Pony. Looking at this category and the one previous one must assume that you don’t hangout on a patio. Which raises the question, what do you do on a patio?
SHOPS & WARES
A good battle between the two financial institutions in Pemberton, with the North Shore Credit Union slightly preferred over the local Scotiabank. Membership has its privileges…?
The Pemberton Valley Supermarket comes out on top again this year as the best place to find the things that keep your fridge and cupboards stocked, and your family full and content. Check out the website –www.pembertonsupermarket.com – for dinner ideas, deli platters, groceries delivered to your door or all the ways the supermarket is involved in the community. AG Foods was runner-up.
That’s men’s clothing, etc. not “best men,” although they may be found around Pemberton, too. But to dress them up go to the Pemberton General Store, the locals’ favourite place when shopping for men’s clothes and accessories. Runner up was Spud Valley Sporting Goods.
Same clarification as above, if needed. The best place to shop for women’s needs and wants is the Pemberton General Store. Valley Fashion was second choice and Spud Valley Sporting Goods was third choice – but particularly good if you’re looking for an outdoorsy theme in fashion.
Once again, Dr. Anne Crowley takes the cake but she’s not allowed to eat it because it’s bad for her teeth.
Outta the way Dr. Lindley, this is Dr. Hugh Fisher’s time to shine! Except, well, he works in Whistler and only resides in Pemberton. But despite this the people voted for him anyway. Dr. Fisher is just that good.
The Helmer’s win it again! It seems the people of Pemberton really like Helmer potatoes. Or maybe it’s because they’re the leading lights in the valley’s agricultural community. Or maybe they’re just really nice people. In any case, people like them and so should you.
The winner? “No one!”
That’s right, folks, the good people of Pemberton either find themselves hilarious or they truly revile all lawyers. Either way, we received a number of votes for “nobody”, “HA HA”, “?” and so on, so we rolled these all of these into one category.
But since “?” isn’t a person, we’ll give the award to the authentic human being with the next amount of votes: David Lunny.
Way to go, Mr. Lunny, you’re almost as good as nobody!
Mayor Jordan Sturdy is the Pemby favourite, but this has little to do with his personality or his politics. We agree with the person who voted for Sturdy “because of his earring.”
Note to politicians: pierce your body and you will top “Best Of” lists and maybe get elected.
Danielle Menzel – better known as “Daniel” to four voters – is a long-time Pemberton resident, has a pleasant smile and is so good at what she does she can close a deal with a family of field mice. It’s true!
Favourite Tour Guide
Eric Pehota is an alpine skier, a mountaineer and an archetype of all that is exciting and masculine. He’s defied death and stood atop more mountain peaks than your favourite billy goat. And he will take you on a tour, if you pay him.
This year’s top distinction goes to Quinn Gavaga from Owl Creek Veterinary Hospital. While this is certainly a great honour, there is a disturbing underside to Dr. Gavaga’s victory: Owl Creek is the only veterinary hospital in Pemberton!
Don’t you see? The man has a full monopoly on the market! No one else could have won!
Anyway, congratulations are in order. Kudos, Mr. Gavaga.
MEDIA, ARTS & CULTURE
Karen Love’s landscape portraits are vibrant, detailed and seem to be shimmering in liquid. That might be because paint is liquid when mixed with water, so that answers that.
Love’s paintings suit the nature-loving sensibilities of the people of Pemberton, which may be why she tops the list of favourite Pemby artist. Originally from Kleinburg, Ontario, she was strongly influenced by Emily Carr and Tom Thomson, which is cool and everything but why doesn’t anyone ever give props to Lawren Harris? He had the coolest hair of the bunch!
Papa Josh wins this by a long shot. While some may rock as hard, no one can whip up a rock and funk and country stew quite like ol’ Papa. But we think most people know that by this point, which is why he has dominated the charts – the Pique‘s tallied-votes chart, that is – for the second year in a row.
Event of the Season
What’s better than riding from farm to farm in the blistering Pemberton heat, filling up on cheese and apple slices until you’re so bloated and sweaty that Doomsday would be a welcome distraction from cycling the final kilometre?
The people of Pemberton loved the Slow Food Cycle more than the Black Squirrel’s opening party, the MADE art show and the “Oh no, the festival isn’t coming back” yearly whining and hand-wringing.
Dave Steers is at every event, camera in hand, snapping more shots than breaths taken, to immortalize the moment for generations to come. This is why the good people of Pemberton have bestowed upon Mr. Steers the highest possible honour in the world of photography (no hyperbole here): Pemberton’s Favourite Photographer.
This was a tie: “?” and “Get ‘er done.” Makes sense – Pemberton is mostly home to confused ranchers eager to procure the completion of any task, all the time.
Top Local News Story
The Meager Creek Landslide – the second biggest landslide in Canadian history, which brought national media attention to town and wiped out the Capricorn bridge (again), and still makes the occasional appearance in the pages of this magazine – held the people of Pemberton’s attention longer than anything else this past year. Pique extends a big “thank you” to Mount Meager for making our jobs relevant again.
Lisa Richardson writes stories about mountain life better than anyone in Pemberton. How else could she top this list? Or snatch up a blogging gig for NBC during the Olympics? Or grace such publications as the National Post, Mountain Life and Kooteny Mountain Culture with the cutting prose that can topple even her favourite mountain…or whatever. She couldn’t. She’s the favourite.
SPORTS AND RECREATION
On an Olympic ski cross course where getting the hole shot meant carrying your momentum over an almost vertical spine with step-down, then somehow carrying you’re momentum over another bit spine with a step-up, local skier Ashleigh McIvor was perfect. She managed to pole and push herself to the front of the pack heading into the first air, then relied on good, aggressive skiing to build on her lead through the first corner. Then she was gone – less than 10 seconds in and the only real battle remaining was for the silver medal.
McIvor’s gold medal in the 2010 Games – the first ever awarded for women’s ski cross – was the culmination of a lot of years of hard work, much of it long before ski cross was in the Olympics. She spent a good part of her time on the sidelines with various injuries, usually from getting so much air that she would overshoot the landing ramp, or because the course designers weren’t all that sure what they were doing.
McIvor’s win paved the way for Ski Cross Canada to find a new home with Alpine Canada at the end of last season, which hugely increases resources for the team and ensures that we’ll continue to have a big presence in the sport.
Second on the list this year was mogul skier Kristi Richards. She crashed on her Olympic run, but got one of the biggest cheers of the evening after waving to the crowd, then throwing a twisting backflip on the bottom air. Recently she announced that she would continue with freestyle through the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Freeskier Mark Abma, equestrian coach John Dingle and former Olympic paddler-turned-dragon boat coach Hugh Fisher tied for third. Also getting multiple votes were ski and now backcountry snowmobile star Dan Treadyway, stock car race Kirk Frost, freeskier Eric Pehota and paraglider Jim Orava.
Best Indoor Sport
There’s more options than ever for locals during the winter months. Pemberton’s new recreation centre is getting a workout and school gyms are pretty active through the winter months with everything from basketball to indoor soccer.
The winning indoor activity was the Revolution spin classes, followed by yoga and floor hockey. Variations of couch surfing also got votes, as did gymnastics, classes at the fitness studio, indoor soccer, badminton and poker (which is technically not a sport, but you wouldn’t know it watching the sports networks).
Best Outdoor Sport
Mountain biking/cycling edged golf by a handful of votes this year. If only there were some way to combine the two into one unbeatable pastime…
Next up was snowmobiling, which Pemberton is quickly becoming famous for thanks to its (relatively) easy access to the Pemberton Ice Cap and backcountry that goes on forever. Riding horses also made the list several times, with variations from trail riding to equestrian to horseback archery. Skiing and backcountry skiing were also up there, as well as disk golf. Keep ringing the tin, Pemberton!
Best Bike Trail
Pemberton’s bike trails finally got some much-deserved time in the spotlight this summer with two epic races taking place in town – the inaugural NimbyFifty in late May, then the fourth stage of the Four Queens in July. And the trails scene is only getting better – the Pemberton Valley Trails Association held a successful fundraiser this summer to punch a new trail into the high alpine, connecting to other high alpine trails to create a long-distance bike experience that rivals Spruce Lake.
This year the downhill, butt-one-inch-over-your-rear-tire epic Stimulus tied for the win with perennial champion Creampuff, known best for its rolling rocks and views. Bathtub and Happy Trail then tied for second, with Lumpy’s and Gravitron tying for third.
Best Hiking Trail
If you’ve never hiked the Lumpy’s Epic trail out of One Mile Lake, then you haven’t seen Pemberton.
This trail winds up and around the back of Signal Hill, opening up on to a vista with stunning views of the local peaks and valley and Green River winding through farms and open country. The way back also follows the rock wall on the edge of the lake.
Nairn Falls and the hike to Joffre Lakes tied for second place, with the long haul up to Tenquille Lake third.
Best Golf Course Hole
With two 18-hole golf courses and around 2,400 residents, Pemberton probably has the highest ratio of golf holes to people of any town in the province. One report from 2005 says that Northern Ireland has the most golf courses per capita in the world with one course for every 14,353 people, while Pemberton has a course for every 1,200!
Both courses are beautiful, offer incredible views of Mt. Currie and have a number of unique holes.
According to local golfers the best hole in town is Hole 8 at The Meadows, a long par four that features an island green. It’s next to impossible to reach the green in less than two shots, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. The lay-up is also surrounded by bunkers, so no matter what you do you’re in for a challenge.
Hole 11 at The Meadows was second for votes – a narrow, tree-lined par-four with a slight dog-leg left and a few well-placed bunkers.
Third for votes was Hole 4 at Big Sky Golf and Country Club – a par five that has a creek weaving through it and three fairway sections, before hitting over the creek to a narrow green flanked by sand traps.
The 19th holes at both The Meadows and Big Sky also got a lot of votes, as usual.
Best Fishing Spot
Whistler may have been founded by fishing enthusiasts, but with salmon spawning channels and massive lakes in all directions there’s no question that Pemberton is one of the best places to cast a line in this part of the province.
Birkenhead Lake, which is just over 6.4 km long and offers stunning views of Birkenhead Peak, Mt. John Decker and other local peaks – and is stocked regularly with rainbow trout, Dolly Varden and Kokanee salmon – is a particularly good spot and number one in this year’s Best of Pemberton. There’s easy access to the boat launch in the provincial park, a great beach to fish from and you can follow trails around the lake and fish off any rock.
Mosquito Lake is a lot smaller and a lot closer – and is also stocked. Species include Coho salmon, cutthroat trout and rainbow trout.
Third is a tie between Anderson Lake at D’Arcy and Lillooet Lake at the north end of Pemberton, both of which are prime for salmon and other species.
The waterfront at One Mile Lake got the most nods this year, and was extremely popular with temperatures shattering previous records over the hottest part of the summer. Thirty-seven degrees does happen in Pemberton, but at five in the afternoon?
Pioneer Park got the second most votes, followed by nods to Birkenhead Lake and Nairn Falls parks. The pump track got a lot of love, and there’s a skatepark on the way.
Best Lake for Swimming
Mosquito Lake bested One Mile by a single vote this year. While One Mile is convenient, and the warmest in the area, Mosquito Lake has a great dock, great water and is a great place to cool off after riding bike trails in the area. Anderson Lake was third on the list, with Gates Lake and Birkenhead (brrr-kinhead) next on the list.
Best Place to Ride Your Dirt Bike
A long history of forestry has left Pemberton with an abundance of dirt roads stretching to infinity – prime territory for dirt bikes. But despite the opportunities to explore, most locals prefer to go around in circles at the Motocross Track – a facility that got a fairly major overhaul at the start of the season to bring it up to snuff for sanctioned races. The overhaul included adding a new section, as well as bringing the jumps and other features up to a higher standard, improved irrigation and a full-time groomer to keep the track in top shape.
Second on the list was the MacKenzie Trail, followed by the 4X4 rally.
Best Place to Ride Your Horse
There are a lot of horses in Pemberton and Mt. Currie, and a lot of places to ride them. Hitching posts are not just there to give the town a wild west flavour, they actually get used fairly regularly.
Pemberton Meadows got the most nods for riding, followed by Dreamcatcher Meadows and the Adventure Ranch trails. Others suggested that town was the place to ride, while another suggested “not in town, tired of all the poop everywhere!” It doesn’t get much more authentic than horse poop.
Best Lake for Motor Sports
Anderson Lake is a massive body of water, about 285 square kilometres and 21 km in length. The Gates River flows into it from the south, it drains into Seton Lake through Seton Portage, and it’s flanked on the east by the Cayoosh Range and on the west by the Cadwallader Range.
It’s also one of the warmest big lakes in an area where most bodies of water are glacier fed, which makes it ideal for wakeboarding, water skiing, tubing, and – well, pretty much anything that you can drag behind a boat. It’s a great place to rip on a jetski, or putt around on a fishing boat or party barge.
Gates Lake, Green Lake, Lillooet Lake and Birkenhead Lake also got a number of votes, but nowhere near as many as Anderson.
Best Place to Ride a Skateboard
It’s not even built yet, but Pembertonians are a forward-looking group and voted for the new park that will be built adjacent to the recreation centre in the coming months once a contractor has been chosen. The park is designed by skatepark guru Jim Barnum and will feature bowls, ramps and other features, as well as smooth “shotcrete” similar to the park features in Whistler. It’s gonna be sick!
Best Snowmobile Trail
While riding the powder bowls of Pemberton’s backcountry is the whole point of snowmobiling, half the fun is getting there. The Rutherford Creek access to the Pemberton Ice Cap took the most votes, followed by the Ice Cap itself. The Hurley Road, impassible for most of the winter and the best way to get to the sledders heaven of Bralorne, was a close third.
Best Place to Ride your ATV
There was not a lot of consensus for this one, but nods went to the Pemberton 4X4 Rally, McKenzie Lake backroads, the Barkley Valley, Hydro Hill and Whistler.