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Best of Pemberton 2020

Pique’s annual Best of Pemberton tradition, where we pay tribute to the favourite people, places and things that make this incredible community tick, as voted by you, our readers.
In what is perhaps the understatement of this young century: 2020 has been a doozy. Between a global pandemic rewriting how we live and interact and the long-overdue demands for social, economic and racial equality taking hold in societies near and far, it can feel trivial to celebrate something as minor as, say, our favourite bike trail or breakfast spot.

But times of turmoil have a way of reminding us of the things we hold most dear, and in the face of such wide-scale, overwhelming disruption, it’s often the little things—a meal shared with someone you love, a peaceful walk through nature—that ground us the most, that connect us and remind us that, Hey, we’re all riding this strange rollercoaster together.

And at least in comparison to its glitzier ski-town neighbour down the Sea to Sky Highway, Pemberton appreciates the little things. A long-time haven for those seeking respite from the breakneck speed of Whistler and the Lower Mainland—a slower pace which we’ve all now been thrust into during the pandemic—Pemberton continues to be a port in a storm for many.

This fact alone makes the Spud Valley worth celebrating, and especially so during such a trying time. So we hope that you take some solace in Pique’s annual Best of Pemberton tradition, where we pay tribute to the favourite people, places and things that make this incredible community tick, as voted by you, our readers.

You may notice a few changes this year. With smaller issues and less space to work with (Pique is, of course, not immune to the impacts of COVID-19, either), we have streamlined the list of categories and included a handful of longer winner profiles in lieu of our usual descriptive lists.

We appreciate everyone who took the time to vote this year—at nearly 600 respondents, it was our biggest Best of Pemberton poll yet. Until next year, everyone here at Pique wishes you and yours the very best.

Just remember: 2020 can only get better from here.


Quintessential Pemberton

Favourite Pemberton Neighbourhood

  1. Pemberton Meadows
  2. The Glen
  3. Downtown Core

Most Desirable Amenity Missing from Pemberton

  1. Swimming pool
  2. Ice rink
  3. More restaurants  

News Story of the Year

  1. COVID-19 in Pemberton
  2. Survey shows majority of respondents supportive of day-use fees and daily visitor cap at Joffre Lakes
  3. Lil’wat Nation says ‘no’ to unsanctioned parties

Most Dubious Decision by Council

  1. Pemberton council considered asking for a speed reduction along Highway 99
  2. VOP council votes to discharge Tiyata lands covenant
  3. VOP takes over recreation services from SLRD

Best Decision by Council

  1. Village of Pemberton looks to expand daycare offerings
  2. Pilot project to clear One Mile Lake boardwalk
  3. Student-built home project goes forward

Favourite COVID-19 Self-Isolated Activity

  1. Gardening
  2. Biking
  3. Time with loved ones

Favourite Volunteer

  1. Pemberton BMX founder and chamber of commerce treasurer Graham Turner
  2. Mike Richman
  3. Pemberton Canoe Association’s Karen Tomlinson

Biggest Environmental Concern of 2019/2020

  1. Logging of old-growth forest
  2. Wildlife habitat destruction/alteration
  3. Invasive species

Best Local Environmental Initiative

  1. Salmon restoration
  2. Integration with Lil’wat/N’Quatqua to learn traditional knowledge
  3. Bear attractant management


Media, Arts & Culture

Favourite Artist/Artisan

  1. Painter Levi Nelson
  2. Painter Vanessa Stark
  3. Painter Karen Love

Favourite Photographer

  1. Amie LeBlanc  
  2. Anastasia Chomlack
  3. Toshi Kawano

Favourite Band/Musician

  1. Dakota Pearl
  2. Grateful Greg Reamsbottom (of The Hairfarmers)
  3. Austin Ross

Favourite Writer

  1. Lisa Richardson
  2. Blair Kaplan
  3. Anna Helmer

Best Cultural Event of 2019/2020

  1. Slow Food Cycle
  2. Community Barn Dance
  3. Lil’wat Nation Rodeo and Powwow


On the rise

Levi Nelson has a good problem.

“At least once a week, people are calling to inquire about purchasing paintings. I’m starting to run out,” the Lil’wat Nation artist says with a laugh.

Having just finished a massive three-by 2.4-metre painting—featuring animals representing each of the Nation’s clans—for a new, green home down in the Soo Valley, Nelson now plans to spend his summer fixing up his Mount Currie art studio.

“I’d like to get into my studio not only to finish it, but also move into it by winter,” he says.   

While he still has one semester left of art school at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Nelson’s career has been on a decidedly upward trajectory since 2018.

That year, his colourful, abstract quadriptych called Biology won the IDEA Art Award.

“I started painting really intensely about five years ago and since the IDEA art award, things have really started to take off,” he says.

More recently, though, he became the first Lil’wat Nation artist to have a painting in the Audain Art Museum’s permanent collection. In March, it officially acquired Nations in an Urban Landscape, which depicts a crowded Downtown Eastside street with masks from the museum’s collection, as well as a bentwood box, and a basket made by his master basket weaver grandmother.  

That came on the heels of his first solo show, After the Blast: The Art of Levi Nelson, curated by Arts Whistler, at the Maury Young Arts Centre last November, the first time the gallery hosted a solo exhibit by a Lil’wat artist.

“This recognition of my work, I’m just incredibly grateful that people are able to see something in it,” he says.

Another surprisingly fruitful accomplishment has been having the Village of Pemberton choose his art to appear on banners and hydro boxes around town.

“My university somehow heard about it and shared it over their Instagram feed,” he says. “I’m getting a lot of commissions out of it and other projects. Kudos to Pemberton for acknowledging Indigenous culture. Pemberton is on Lil’wat Nation traditional territory, so it’s fitting.”

Next up, Nelson will have two pieces featured in a group show at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art in Vancouver in October. Running through to February, it will showcase work by Indigenous artists who identify as two-spirited or part of the LGBTQ community.

For now, though, Nelson is taking in his new title as Pemberton’s favourite artist in Pique’s Best of Pemberton readers’ poll.  

“I’m incredibly honoured,” he said. “I’m grateful to have this spot.”

- Alyssa Noel


food & Drink

Favourite Overall Restaurant

  1. Barn Nork
  2. Mile One Eating House
  3. The Pony

Best Value Restaurant

  1. Mile One Eating House
  2. Barn Nork
  3. Grimm’s Gourmet & Deli

Best Breakfast

  1. North Arm Farm
  2. Blackbird Bakery
  3. Mount Currie Coffee Company  

Best Plant-Based Menu

  1. Stay Wild Natural Health
  2. Barn Nork
  3. Town Square

Best Takeout

  1. Barn Nork
  2. Mile One Eating House
  3. Fish & Rice

Best Dessert

  1. Blackbird Bakery
  2. The Pony
  3. Town Square

Best Coffee

  1. Mount Currie Coffee Company
  2. Blackbird Bakery
  3. Lynx Café

Best Burger

  1. Mile One Eating House
  2. The Pony
  3. The Black Squirrel at The Meadows

Best Beer Selection

  1. The Beer Farmers
  2. The Pony
  3. Mile One Eating House

Best Service

  1. Barn Nork
  2. Mile One Eating House
  3. The Pony

Best Patio

  1. The Beer Farmers
  2. Fescue’s at Big Sky
  3. Mile One Eating House


Cultivating community at North Arm Farm

A community fixture for three decades, North Arm Farm offers a homegrown sense of comfort and familiarity that is especially appealing during these current disruptive times.

A reader favourite year after year, in 2020, Pembertonians voted the family-owned acreage as its Favourite Farm, Best Breakfast and Best Wedding Venue—which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one who has had the pleasure of visiting the eminently Instagrammable property.

Run by the Sturdy family, North Arm was positioned well at the onset of the pandemic after being closed for the months of January and February to complete a massive kitchen renovation. By the time it was ready to reopen, many other local farms were shuttering their doors to visitors due to COVID-19.

“We stayed open and we felt we had a lot of space for people to do the social distancing they needed to do,” says Trish Sturdy, who owns the farm with her husband, former Pemberton mayor and current MLA for the Sea to Sky, Jordan.

Amidst massive COVID-caused disruptions to Canada’s food-supply chain, Sturdy says Sea to Sky locals were keen to source local ingredients. 

“There was a real awareness about local products,” she says, noting that their produce sales skyrocketed. “I’m hearing that from other farms as well.”

The spike in demand came at the exact right time, as North Arm saw its sales to restaurants dry up as businesses closed their doors. The pandemic has also pushed the farm, and its new chef, Windsor Brock, formerly of Bearfoot Bistro and the Sooke Harbour House, to rejig its dine-in menu to takeout-only—much to the dismay of breakfast-o-philes across the Sea to Sky.

“You know, it’s funny because we ran a hot line before. We did a hot breakfast, plated, the whole bit. People loved that and they got to know it,” Sturdy says. “We obviously went straight to takeout when all the COVID stuff came down. Then we realized, honestly, we could even do a good breakfast to go. So I don’t know if that’s what people are voting about, the to-go breakfast, or maybe they’re just wishing we would start the old breakfast again.”

At this point, Sturdy is unsure if the hot breakfast will return post-pandemic, but she is confident in the quality of the kitchen’s new breakfast wrap, loaded with farm-grown eggs, potatoes, and smoked bacon.

“We like to think it’s really one of the best breakfast wraps around,” she says.

Weddings have, of course, also been impacted by the pandemic, but North Arm continues to offer elopement packages for small groups, which have proven popular.

With all the disruption COVID has wrought, Sturdy believes Pembertonians voted for North Arm in droves this year as a yearning for simpler times.

“I honestly think people are maybe just remembering last year,” she says. “Everybody has a bit of yearning for the Before Times.”


Sports & Recreation

Favourite Golf Course

  1. Big Sky Golf Course
  2. The Meadows at Pemberton Golf Course

Favourite Biking Trail

  1. Happy Trail
  2. Fat Tug
  3. Cream Puff

Favourite Hiking Trail

  1. Lumpy’s Epic
  2. Nairn Falls
  3. One Mile Loop

Favourite Lake

  1. TIE: Anderson Lake and One Mile Lake
  2. Mosquito Lake
  3. TIE: Birkenhead Lake and Gates Lake

Favourite Winter Adventure Activity

  1. Backcountry skiing and snowboarding
  2. Cross-country skiing
  3. Snowshoeing

Favourite Summer Adventure Activity

  1. Mountain biking
  2. Backcountry hiking
  3. Boating

Favourite Athlete

  1. Mountain biker and BMX rider Lucas Cruz
  2. Freeskier Logan Pehota
  3. Pro skier Austin Ross


Driven to succeed

Around this time last year, Pembertonians “barely even knew we were here,” says Backcountry Motorsports co-owner Andrew McBride.

What a difference a year makes.

Flip the calendar over, and the motorsports dealership has grown into Pemberton’s Favourite New Business.

Specializing in the sale of Polaris snowmobiles, RZRs and Sportsman ATVS, and servicing all manners of backcountry vehicles, Backcountry Motorsports operates first and foremost from a place of honesty, building a level of trust that most customers don’t usually expect from their mechanic.

“We try to just work hard and give honest service, honest answers and opinions,” says McBride. “We try to run a no-pressure sales system, which gives us credibility where, if we’re recommending something, it’s because it’s needed, not because it’s being sold.”

With the boom in motorized backcountry recreation, Pemberton was an ideal fit for the shop, capitalizing on its location as one of the “best places in the world to do so many different activities,” McBride says.

“We’re probably the best place in the world to ride snowmobiles, and definitely the opportunity to explore the backcountry in the summertime is just as good.”

While many other businesses have struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic, COVID-19 has inspired all kinds of backcountry riders to dust off their off-road vehicle for a spin.

“We feel very fortunate to have been quite busy during the pandemic. It seems like everyone wanted to pull everything they had sitting in the shed to get it fixed up and ride it. There are lots of people looking for new vehicles for themselves, too,” McBride says. 

“With international travel off the table for the foreseeable future, recreation in our backyard has become extremely important to people, so our goal is to help facilitate that.”


Business  Services

Favourite Farm

  1. North Arm Farm
  2. Laughing Crow Organics
  3. Rootdown Organic Farm

Favourite Sustainable Business

  1. Stay Wild Natural Health
  2. The Beer Farmers
  3. Mile One Eating House

Favourite Wellness/Fitness Service

  1. Kufuka Fitness
  2. Kula Wellness Centre
  3. Evergreen Fitness & Yoga

Favourite Building or Construction Company

  1. BC Passive Haus
  2. Fitzgerald Building Company
  3. New Leaf Contracting

Best Wedding Venue

  1. North Arm Farm
  2. Big Sky Golf Club
  3. Riverland’s Red Barn

Favourite Gas Station

  1. Pemberton Petro Canada
  2. Lil’wat Gas Station
  3. AC Gas  

Favourite New Business

  1. Backcountry Motorsports
  2. Moto Experience
  3. TIE: Joffre Creek Cabins and Spark Event Rentals

Favourite Realtor

  1. Danielle Menzel Tait
  2. Katelyn Spink
  3. Lisa Hilton

Honourable Mention:

The Beer Farmers [Pique mistakenly included The Beer Farmers in the New Business category, and despite earning enough votes to win in 2020, they were ultimately ineligible as last year’s Best New Business winner.








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