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Best of Whistler 2020

The past year hasn’t given us much to celebrate, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate each other.

The past year hasn’t given us much to celebrate, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate each other.

In fact, before we reveal all the deserving winner’s of Pique’s 2020 Best of Whistler poll, we should probably take a minute to congratulate you, dear reader: You did it. This wretched year is over, and you came out of it on other side in one piece. And can we just say, you look really good today?

But of course enduring a global pandemic and the complete shutdown of the very industry that sustains us doesn’t happen alone, so while we miss our valued foreign workers and international guests, we can take solace we got through it all with a little help from our friends. It’s nice to know that even when we couldn’t count on the staples of Whistler life we’re used to—going up the mountain, raucous après sessions—the one thing we could still count on was each other. (Awwwwwww...)

So here’s to you, ever-resilient Whistlerites, and the bigger and brighter things you have in store for 2021. It’s all uphill from here. (Or downhill, if we’re talking in ski terms.)

- Brandon Barrett

Quintessential Whistler

Favourite Whistlerite

Mike Douglas

In a year when so much has changed or been flipped on its head, it’s somewhat comforting to know that there’s still some consistency in the world.

And over the past decade in Whistler, there have been few things more consistent than Mike Douglas being named Favourite Whistlerite in Pique’s Best of Whistler poll.This marks the pro skier, filmmaker and climate activist’s seventh time taking the award since his first nod in 2012.

“The funny thing is, as time has gone on, I’ve gotten more politically outspoken, and I figure one of these years I’m going to push enough people in the wrong way that they’re going to be like, ‘Yeah, no, we’re over this guy,’” Douglas says.

“I guess the community is aligned in a similar direction as me, so maybe that’s a good thing.”

Like the rest of the world, Douglas and his company Switchback Entertainment were heavily impacted by COVID-19 in 2020 (“We went from 100 per cent down to like 20 per cent of our normal work” when restrictions hit in spring, he says)—but he’s still finding the silver linings.

“There’s so much energy wasted by complaining and worrying about things that you can’t control,” he says.

“Control what you can, and look out the window … We’ve still got the green trees, there’s still snow on the hills, we can go out and play, and appreciate that.

“I mean, I don’t really know anyone that moved to Whistler to get rich.”

Jeremy “Stinky” Peterson, owner of Stinky’s on the Stroll, came second, while DJ Foxy Moron, a.k.a. Ace MacKay-Smith, took third.

 

Favourite Volunteer

Grace Blok

In any normal year, Whistler’s jam-packed event calendar requires a small army of volunteers to pull off.

But with COVID-19 wiping out, well, everything, Grace Blok assumes the people who voted her Favourite Volunteer (for the third time in as many years) did so because of her day job at the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS).

“I think some people believe that my job here at WCSS is a volunteer position, which it’s not. I happen to be a friendly receptionist, but that’s not the same as volunteering,” she says with a laugh.

“Honestly I’m flabbergasted. In any way, when I can support people I’m happy to do that, but this certainly has not felt like the year.”

With higher demand than they’ve ever seen, the team at WCSS has shouldered much of the stress of the community over the past nine months. On top of that, much of Blok’s year was spent caring for ailing family members.

“Everybody, I think, really felt like they imploded … I certainly have tried to be a listening voice for people,” she says.

“I’m really thankful that I have my husband, John, who is pretty even keeled, and we’re out walking in the evenings to get out and just decompress.”
Rosemary Cook finished second, while Denise Wood (who tied for first with Blok in this category last year) placed third.

 

Favourite Non-Profit

Whistler Animals Galore

There’s never been a better year to spend time with man’s best friend.

Dogs don’t know about the pandemic, see, so if you take one for a nice long walk in the forest, you can almost pretend like it isn’t even happening! (Almost.)
Oh to be a sweet, innocent, ignorant canine in this our great year of 2020.

As far as I know, there is no technology that exists that can transplant a human’s consciousness into that of a dog, so we’ll all just have to settle for living vicariously, quietly wondering what if?

And in the meantime, give props to the team at Whistler Animals Galore, once again your favourite non-profit, followed by the Whistler Community Services Society and Zero Ceiling.

 

The Alpine Meadows Excellence Award for Best Neighbourhood (Formerly Best Neighbourhood)

Alpine Meadows

The award for best neighbourhood has been a perennial thorn in this Pique reporter’s ass going back years now.

(Seriously—sitting down to write this I almost feel like Wile E. Coyote, blinking through a soot-covered stare immediately after an explosion went off in my face).
As I lamented last year, there’s only so many ways you can describe a neighbourhood (in 200 words or less), and Alpine Meadows has never lost.

In 2017, I tried to retire the defending champ, renaming the award after it… then in 2018 we forgot about that, and Alpine won again (oops).

It wasn’t close in 2019, either, and in 2020—with Alpine Meadows once again the decisive winner—I am just Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, reliving my worst day on repeat, forever.

Are there other ways to reimagine this category?

What about the least favourite neighbourhood?

Without singling any out, the three neighbourhoods at the bottom of the pack received just 0.43 per cent of the vote (combined): Stonebridge, Kadenwood and Sunridge.

 

Best Trend

Wearing Facemasks

Absent the proper COVID context, this year’s trends—both best and worst—read like something born of a strange dystopian society.

While last year (and almost every year), your favourite trend was living an active lifestyle, Whistlerites jumped on a new bandwagon this year: masks.

Facemasks, wearing masks, mask-wearing—however you want to phrase it, this community went wild for masks in 2020.

Our second favourite trend? Better not get too close, because it’s physical distancing!

If someone cracked their head on the hill last Christmas and is just now waking up from their coma to catch up on Whistler’s favourite trends of 2020, they are going to be so confused.

While it’s a fun thought experiment to read these results sans-context, holding them up to the laughably carefree year that 2019 was in comparison, the reality behind the paradigm shift is, of course, rather bleak.

But Whistlerites are a hearty bunch, shown by your third and fourth favourite trends: support for local business, and a strong sense of community.

You also liked hand sanitizer, e-bikes, golf, beer and smiles.

 

Worst Trend

Something, something COVID-19?

It’s hard to pin down a clear consensus in this year’s worst trend category, but the results offer a view into Whistler’s COVID angst.

Tied with the most votes were “COVID restrictions” and “not wearing a mask,” followed closely by “ignoring COVID restrictions” and “wearing a mask.”

Here are a few more COVID-related things that Whistlerites don’t care for: physical distancing, people who don’t physically distance, PPE littering, Plexiglas, big pandemic house parties, and people who deny the existence of COVID.We get it. It’s been a long, taxing year, with more being asked of all of us than we’re accustomed to.

But COVID won’t last forever, so we’ll hold out hope that by next year’s Best of Whistler we’ll be back to bitching about the classics: housing and man-buns.

 

Best Council Decision

Handling of the COVID crisis

For all the upheaval and procedural turmoil contained within 2020, Whistlerites were grateful for how their municipal government responded.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) handling of the COVID-19 crisis was council’s best move this year, according to Pique readers.

Following the closure of Whistler Blackcomb on March 14, the RMOW activated its emergency operations centre on March 15.

Municipal facilities were closed (and gradually reopened with proper protocols in place as provincial health measures allowed); community group funds were redirected from sports and arts groups to the social services who needed them most; municipal staff were redeployed to help with Whistler Community Services Society, and the Whistler Food Bank was relocated to the conference centre to help meet demand.

As visitors returned in the summer, the RMOW worked with other resort partners to provide timely messaging, as well as hand-sanitizing stations and signage in the village.

But for all the efforts so far, the winter ahead will no doubt prove difficult.

“When this started, I had a real sense that endurance was going to be crucial to our success,” said Mayor Jack Crompton, in March.

“I asked council to consider the fact that this was going to be very much a marathon and that we want to keep capacity to serve for a long time. I have put a lot of my focus on staying healthy and maintaining a clear mind, which I hope marks the way our organization and our council deal with this over the long term.”
So far, so good.

Your second favourite council decision this year was the move in January to buy a residential property in Emerald, restoring access to the Crown land behind the neighbourhood. In third was a decision in October to stop sending landfill waste to the U.S.

Also, someone is really happy that the bylaw officers wear short-shorts now? Though I don’t believe this was a council directive.

 

Worst Council Decision

Spending millions (of RMI money) to build new village washrooms

Despite a reworked budget and a smaller project scale, Whistlerites are still not happy about council’s decision to spend Resort Municipality Initiativ e money on washroom buildings in Whistler Village.

Originally pegged at $4.5 million for three buildings, the project scope was pulled back in 2020, now with an approved budget of $1.6 million for a facility at Whistler Olympic Plaza and $770,000 for one at the Passive House (in addition to an estimated $330,000 in so-called “soft costs”).

Nevertheless, this decision was far and away your least favourite in 2020.

In a distant second place was council’s continued support for controversial, private-developer housing projects, and in third was the RMOW’s handling of the COVID crisis.

Honourable mention to the person who just didn’t like the negativity of this question, noting that everyone is trying their best.

So true.

 

Biggest News Story

COVID-19

Hope you’re sitting down for this one.

In a result that should surprise absolutely no one, the COVID-19 pandemic is far and away the biggest news story of 2020.

It’s an event no living person has experienced before—it has killed thousands, shuttered businesses, cost people their livelihoods, forced us inside our homes, turned every aspect of our lives upside down.

For nine months, it has consumed us.

But it’s hard to think of it as just a traditional news story, in a way.

Because COVID-19 is so much more than that.

It’s a long-distance endurance marathon, changing the rules of engagement and dictating them on the fly; a generational event suddenly seeping in to every conversation, every typed sentence, every posted web story.

When we look back on 2020, we will point to COVID-19 as the big headline, sure.

But hopefully we’ll also remember the names and faces behind the pandemic, and the hundreds of small stories of resilience that paint the real picture.
The death of local businessman Jason Koehler in a police incident in March came second, while a story about charges for two people accused of feeding black bears was third.

 

Biggest Environmental Concern

Climate crisis

Although COVID dominated the headlines in the past year, another looming global crisis wasn’t far from the minds of Whistlerites in 2020, and for good reason.
Vehicle emissions continue to make up the bulk of Whistlerites’ GHG output, and the debate continues to rage on locally over the use of single-use plastics, voted the second biggest environmental concern for this year.

Not far behind in third was another issue that has only been exacerbated by climate change, wildfires,  an issue that was thrust into the spotlight this summer with forest fires raging across the Pacific Northwest.

- Braden Dupuis

 

Restaurants & Cafés

Comfort food

You can’t write about the RimRock Café, as Pique has countless times over the years, without mentioning the Creekside restaurant’s unparalleled consistency in an industry not exactly known for its stability.

For more than 30 years, owner Bob Dawson and chef-owner Rolf Gunther have prided themselves on serving the same beloved dishes to the same exalted standard that Whistler’s go-to spot for fish and game is known for.

And in a year when the only constant was upheaval, that level of familiarity must have felt like a warm hug from an old friend for the restaurant’s loyal clientele.
“The locals are the ones that vote for these awards year after year, and I know some people have come in more than normal because they’re not going on their usual trips, so when they do go out they want to go to a place they feel comfortable with,” says Dawson.
 

RimRock’s mature staff, some of whom have worked there since the Regan administration, also lent the restaurant an added layer of consistency through turbulent times.

“We have probably some of the most mature staff in the valley, and I think that’s helped us in COVID because we don’t have a lot of staff going out to bars and living in their own bubble. That helps when it comes to staying open,” says Dawson. “We have a very consistent staff that shows in our product and what we do.”

That’s not to say there weren’t some firsts at the RimRock in 2020. Without its regular stream of international guests, the restaurant extended its beloved fall special through December, and stayed open through most of October and November for the first time in its history. There were, of course, also the slew of new COVID-19 protocols that completely transformed how restaurants operate, proving you can teach old dogs new tricks.

“In my 40 years being in the restaurant business in Whistler, it’s definitely not the way I thought I’d be running a restaurant in my later years, wearing a mask, basically having to be the COVID police,” Dawson relays.  

“But we have definitely tried to be as safe as possible and I think our customers have really appreciated it.”

- Brandon Barrett

 

Delivering peace of mind

When COVID-19 effectively shut down the resort on March 15, most businesses had at least some time to catch their breath and reconfigure their operations before reopening.

Whistler Dine-In, the winner of Pique’s inaugural Favourite Delivery Service category, didn’t have the same luxury.  

“That shift had to happen very quickly,” explains co-owner Jean-Francois Giasson.  “We closed on the 16th and reopened on the 17th. So we closed for a day just to change everything, because obviously we needed to go fully contactless. So we changed our entire system.”

Along with the responsibility that comes with being an essential service and keeping both drivers and customers safe, Whistler Dine-In also had to contend with a dramatic decline in restaurant partners. Within days, the company’s roster of partners fell from 25 to five, as eateries were forced shutter their doors at the dawn of the pandemic.

“As soon as everything shut down, it was terrifying for us because that’s our business. But when we started to reopen again and doing deliveries again, it was terrifying for our staff. We were scared for the drivers,” says co-owner Naomi Wright. “We’ve never worked so hard or so much as this year, obviously, and it’s nice to feel that from the community.”

The good news is COVID has given Whistler Dine-In the opportunity to increase its exposure, with more restaurants jumping onboard as they have expanded their takeout and delivery offerings. Today, Whistler Dine-In’s lineup of restaurants and shops is back up to 28.

“It brought some restaurants onboard that were maybe too busy before to be offering delivery. Now that they’ve tried it, we have a great relationship with a few of them,” Giasson says.

“I think we will continue to be essential for a few more months at least.”
 
- Brandon Barrett


Best Coffee

  1. Mount Currie Coffee Co.
  2. Blenz Coffee Whistler
  3. Forecast Coffee

Best Breakfast

  1. Elements Whistler
  2. Wild Wood Café
  3. Tie: Alpine Café and Stonesedge Kitchen

Best Quick Lunch

  1. Ingrid’s Village Café
  2. The Corner Deli
  3. La Cantina

Best Casual Dining

  1. Earls Whistler
  2. 21 Steps
  3. Hunter Gather

Best Fine Dining

  1. RimRock Café
  2. Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar
  3. Red Door Bistro

Best Dessert

  1. Purebread
  2. RimRock Café
  3. COWS Whistler

Best Wine List

  1. Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar
  2. Bearfoot Bistro
  3. RimRock Café

Best Burger

  1. Splitz Grill
  2. Earls Whistler
  3. Cure Lounge & Patio

Best Pizza

  1. Functional Pie
  2. Creekbread
  3. Pizzeria Antico

Best Steak

  1. Hy’s Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar
  2. RimRock Café
  3. The Keg Steakhouse

Best Sushi

  1. Sushi Village
  2. Nagomi Sushi
  3. Sachi Sushi

Best Healthy Meal

  1. Green Moustache
  2. Ingrid’s Village Café
  3. Gone Eatery

Best Food Truck

  1. Whistler Wood Fired Pizza Company
  2. Lucia Gelato
  3. Luz Tacos

Best Off-Season Deal

  1. RimRock Café
  2. Araxi Restaurant + Oyster Bar
  3. 21 Steps

Favourite Delivery Service

  1. Whistler Dine-In
  2. Nesters Market
  3. En Tu Casa Whistler

 

Bars, Pubs & Clubs

Setting the bar

It’s been years since Roland’s Creekside Pub has taken home the award for Best Bar, and owner Karen Roland doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that locals recognized the neighbourhood pub in a year when they couldn’t get together like they used to.  

“We’ve been making locals a priority since we opened, and that’s what [former owner] Hoz used to do before I took over, so I just carried on with that, because locals live here 365 days a year,” Roland says.

Reopening in June with COVID protocols in place, Roland says her staff has had to make significant adjustments to how they work, which was admittedly easier for some than others.  

“[Bartender] Big Rich loves to hug, high-five and shake everyone’s hands and breaking that habit was especially challenging, especially for those of us who have been doing it for so long,” Roland relays. “It was especially difficult for Rich because he’s such a friendly, outgoing person who wants to be everybody’s friend and wants to shake your hand or give you a hug and address you properly the way that he likes to. That’s been a huge challenge for us, especially at this locals’ place because we have so many customers that expect the hug and the handshake from us.”

Earning the title of Best Bar, as voted by locals, does help ease some of the strain at least, Roland says.

“It means a lot. It means that we’re doing something right during these COVID times,” she says. “We still see all the local support that we’re getting, so that’s really encouraging as well. We’re trying to make it as safe as possible for all our wonderful regulars.”  

- Brandon Barrett
 

Après lives on  

What’s Whistler without its legendary après culture? For that matter, what’s après without the Garibaldi Lift Company, Whistlerites’ favourite spot to indulge post-ski-day?

“I’m super grateful and we’re super honoured to get this award in such a challenging time,” says GLC general manager Zoey Cotton. “It’s somewhere that everyone wants to come.”

Closed for eight long months before reopening in time for the start of the 2020-2021 ski season, Cotton says Whistlerites have shown immense gratitude for the opportunity to après again, in whatever form.

“The customers this year, along with our staff, there has just been a massive shift in appreciation. They appreciate they can still come here, they’re still able to get some of their favourite things on the menu,” Cotton says. “The attitude towards the business and the patience everyone has shown for our systems I think is awesome.”

Another unintended consequence of the COVID era is that you have to book your spot at the GLC ahead of time, so while there may be no spontaneous après sessions this year, Cotton says customers have enjoyed knowing they’ll have a table ready for them. And unlike Whistler Blackcomb’s on-mountain eateries, you don’t have to wait until the day of to book your spot at the GLC.

“I think people are just so used to walking up here and being apart of that après experience. It’s a huge adjustment but I think it’s working really well,” she notes.

“Guests just love being able to say, ‘I’m coming skiing on Saturday and I can book a fiver at the GLC’ instead of worrying if they’ll get a table.”

Of course, such a radical shift to how we après couldn’t have happened without the GLC staff who have handled every curveball thrown at them in this ridiculous year.

“This is one of the reasons we win this award: our staff here is, to me, like having a family,” Cotton says. “I know lots of people say that, but it makes such a difference to have a good staff that love being here.”

- Brandon Barrett

 

Best Bar/Pub

  1. Roland’s Creekside Pub
  2. Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub
  3. Stinky’s on the Stroll

Favourite Locals’ Hangout

  1. Stinky’s on the Stroll
  2. Roland’s Creekside Pub
  3. Tapley’s Pub

Best Après

  1. Garibaldi Lift Co.
  2. Dusty’s Bar & BBQ
  3. Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub

Best Nachos

  1. Dusty’s Bar & BBQ
  2. Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub
  3. Merlin’s Bar and Grill

Best Wings

  1. Roland’s Creekside Pub
  2. Earls Whistler
  3. Dusty’s Bar & BBQ

Best Patio

  1. Table Nineteen Whistler
  2. Garibaldi Lift Co.
  3. Dusty’s Bar & BBQ

Best Cocktail

  1. The Raven Room
  2. Bar Oso
  3. The Mallard Lounge

Best Beer Selection

  1. Coast Mountain Brewing
  2. Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub
  3. HandleBar

Favourite DJ

  1. DJ Foxy Moron
  2. Mat the Alien
  3. DJ Gainz

 

Arts & Culture

Fun-raisers

Cast your memory back 100 years ago or so to earlier this spring during the first pandemic lockdown.

Beloved Whistler duo The Hairfarmers played a livestream show—along with Whistler Live—from a garage in the Tapley’s Farm neighbourhood with the aim of raising a bit of money for the suddenly-overrun Whistler Food Bank.

“We thought we’d make five grand or something,” says “Grateful Greg” Reamsbottom.

Instead, he and “Guitar Doug” Craig raised more than $40,000. Since then, they’ve gone on to play other fundraisers—at least five in total—to the tune of $250,000, all for local charity.

“We love to play, so for us to be able to do some good doing what we love and would be doing anyway was really cool,” Reamsbottom says.

That might seem like reason enough for the pair to top the list as Whistler’s Favourite Musical Act in 2020, but, in reality, it’s a position they’ve held for the last 19 years. Aaaactually, that winning streak almost got derailed last year, but only because of a clerical error on Pique’s part that saw the category accidentally omitted.

(All parties involved agree that means they held onto the position for 2019 as well.)

“We appreciate it,” says Craig. “Our audience really does bring that out. We’re just a small part of this wonderful live music experience. It really does make you humble, actually. When we play in Whistler, it is kind of a very special place for us, so thanks to our fans for always sticking by us … I want to personally send a giant thank you to our listeners. To the fans that missed us—we will be together again.”

Something else they will never take for granted, especially after this tumultuous year? Playing for a live audience.

“Over the summer we were able to do smaller backyard events,” Reamsbottom says. “The really fun ones were community backyard parties where a townhouse complex would set up their lawn chairs behind their units. We also played smaller birthday parties and neighbourhood parties, all outside. Everyone was distanced. In a lot of ways, it was really cool because some of those things we do in a normal summer are really big. You travel a lot and it’s a lot of fun and good for business, but it’s not as intimate.”

Next up, rules and restrictions pending, they’re set to take over après at Buffalo Bills this winter.

“They feel there’s a way to put on an effective live show abiding by all orders and keeping people safe,” Reamsbottom says. “So we’d love to try and give people a way to get their live music fix. And we’d love to get back to work, in a safe and legal way.”

-Alyssa Noel

 

Big things in small packages

Some online events during the pandemic have been epic fails. Most have been moderately entertaining. But only a handful have been truly successful at transporting us into our computers and away from our troubles for one evening.

One of those was the Anonymous Art Show, which Whistler chose at its Favourite Arts and Culture Event or Festival for 2020.

“I remember at the end of the night thinking, ‘We did it,’” says Mo Douglas, executive director for Arts Whistler, which puts on the event. “We turned this dynamic, slightly nutty event into an engaging online experience.”

Even in a regular year, the show can be more complicated than most to organize. First, there are hundreds of paintings—all on the same size canvas with the artists concealed—up for grabs. Only, art lovers purchase tickets at different price points to determine who gets to choose which piece at which point on the buying night.

And then, of course, when the big night arrives, several people need to organize what could be the chaotic purchasing frenzy.

Now, take all that and move it online.

The key seemed to be that people could interact online while the buying was taking place, fostering a sense of community, Douglas says.

“The other motivating factor is people are serious about watching what art gets picked,” she adds. “They’re vested. They’re staying to watch what people choose.”

The other unique element was not only were people logging in from around the world, but locals were also signing on from strange locales. Councillor Cathy Jewett showed up from a cabin while Liz Peacock, co-director of Mountain Galleries, appeared in a headlamp from a beach in Tofino.

“I could barely see her face,” Douglas says with a laugh. “I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ She was in Tofino camping and it was her birthday.”
The typically adults-only event also became a family affair with kids helping their parents choose the art.

“That was another upside,” Douglas says.

In fact, the event was such a success—raising somewhere between $12,500 and $13,000 for Arts Whistler’s bursaries, awards, and programming—that even if we’re allowed to gather in September 2021, it could remain a hybrid event.

“We just tried our best to replicate every element,” Douglas says. “We’re so thankful for everyone who came on board to watch and buy art.”

-Alyssa Noel

 

Favourite artist

  1. Andrea Mueller
  2. Vanessa Stark
  3. Kate Zessel

Favourite Major Art Show

  1. Anonymous Art Show
  2. Emily Carr: Fresh Seeing
  3. Whistler Secondary School Art Show

Favourite Arts & Culture Event or Festival

  1. Crankworx
  2. Cornucopia
  3. World Ski and Snowboard Festival

Favourite Writer

  1. G.D. Maxwell
  2. Feet Banks
  3. Vince Shuley

Favourite Photographer

  1. David McColm
  2. Blake Jorgenson
  3. Tie: Joern Rohde and Logan Swayze

Favourite Musical Act

  1. The Hairfarmers
  2. Tie: Red Chair and Ruckus Deluxe
  3. Brother Twang

 

Business Services

Checking the Forecast  

Opening up a new business typically comes with its fair share of speed bumps.

A global pandemic isn’t normally among them.

Jim Salusbury of 49 North Foods Co. opened Function Junction’s newest café and grocery store combo, Forecast Coffee, on Family Day this year, in the space formerly occupied by Olives Community Market.

Less that a month later, the residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Whistler hard.

Despite the seemingly endless challenges it presented, Forecast earned the title of Whistler’s Favourite New Business in this very strange year.

“In and amongst such a wild and turbulent year, it was great that we were able to at least get started and get opened, so to receive this award in this year, when we’re only just getting off the ground and had our focus on so many things? It’s really great,” says Salusbury.

Prior to opening, “What we tried to do, as we were envisioning the changes that were made, was really to connect with the community and to listen to the feedback that had been provided, and try to provide a product or service that people are asking for; that we thought people would like.”

As Salusbury told Pique earlier this year, that included a small selection of more affordable, more mainstream grocery items, found alongside organic produce from Pemberton farmers and ready-made meal options.

Clearly, those efforts have paid off.

Forecast had the unique opportunity to experience two sides of the pandemic shutdown. As a coffee shop and grocer, the business opted to close its espresso bar and café operations, but kept up the grocery side of the shop to supply customers with all of the toilet paper, flour and hand sanitizer they could keep in stock.  Forecast fully reopened all of its services in June.

“The customers, through all of the changes that we’ve made, have been super supportive,” says Salusbury. “Even with COVID and all of the restrictions, you know, we try to always do what’s right for our staff, and the customers, and I think generally, it’s been pretty smooth sailing in that regard. With the support of the community, it has been really great.”

Despite Whistler being far quieter than anyone could have predicted when 2020 kicked off, at least for certain periods of the year,  “We found that we really were able to keep to keep some reasonable operations going through the support of our local customers.”

Now, Salusbury is looking to pay that support forward.

As the business continues to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, Salusbury says he’s also focused on philanthropic efforts, including the business pledging one per cent of its revenues to social community and environmental initiatives.

“We’d like to refocus on that as we come out of COVID and hopefully be able to work with and support a lot of different organizations within the community.”

- Megan Lalonde

 

Coastal Culture: An all-season success story

It’s not a very well-kept secret that Whistler is full of multisport athletes. People who are just as comfortable ripping powder as they are barrelling down a dirt singletrack trail on two wheels, for instance.

It’s also no secret that the legends at Coastal Culture fall into the same category.

For the second straight year, the Creekside shop has earned a double-honour as Whistler’s Best Ski Shop and Best Bike Shop, after first claiming the dual titles in 2019. (Although it’s held a firm grip on its undefeated reign as “Best Bike Shop” since first opening its doors.)

“A huge , huge thank you,” says Thomas Thacker, who opened up Coastal Culture alongside business partner Ryan Brown in April 2016. “It’s always an honour to be voted the best at something in our community.”

The recognition is particularly appreciated in what’s “certainly been a wild year,” says Thacker. “It’s not our first rodeo at that [win], but it’s awesome to be kind of patted on the back again. It shows that all the hard work we all put in is being rewarded.”

Now heading into its fifth winter, the shop has cultivated a reputation for being knowledgeable, ready to help and completely unpretentious. When customers walk in, whether for a rental, a repair or otherwise, “there’s no ego,” says Thacker. “I think if you can treat people the way you want to be treated, it certainly goes a long way.”

Though that welcoming, inviting atmosphere has been a constant, there have still been “lots of changes” since Coastal Culture opened its doors, particularly amidst a pandemic that’s forced Thacker, Brown and the Coastal Culture team to adapt accordingly to keep customers comfortable and safe.

But in a year that’s proved to be difficult for many local businesses, Thacker says he couldn’t have anticipated “the extra outpour” of community support Coastal Culture has seen.

Considering the shop’s winter operations tend to be slightly more tourist-focused than its summertime services, “Certainly there’s going to be different challenges,” Thacker acknowledges, “but we’re just running it one day at a time and trying to make the most of it and trying to still figure out fun ways that we can enjoy it.”

After all, part of Coastal Culture’s success is due to the fact that its owners and staff are just as passionate about playing outside alongside the community as they are about serving it.

“If the tourists aren’t here, we still have this wicked town to ourselves and we get to go shred every day, and just take a bit of a breather,” Thacker says, shortly after getting off the mountain on a rainy, foggy early December day.

“We’ve got a minute to breathe, so let’s breathe. Let’s have some fun. And I think it’s reflected on the hill,” he added. “Sure, the conditions are shit; it’s miserable out there, but it was still awesome. Everybody was having fun, and we’re still stoked on the mountain.”

- Megan Lalonde

 

Best New Business

  1. Forecast Coffee
  2. Dee’s Donuts
  3. The Whistler Clinic

Best Ski Shop

  1. Coastal Culture
  2. Fanatyk Co.
  3. Comor Sports

Best Snowboard Shop

  1. Showcase Snowboard‌ Surf & Skate Shop
  2. The Circle
  3. Evolution

Best Bike Shop

  1. Coastal Culture
  2. Fanatyk Co.
  3. Evolution

Best Clothing Store

  1. The Beach
  2. Lululemon
  3. Re-Use-It Centre

Best Jewelry Store

  1. Keir Fine Jewellery
  2. Ruby Tuesday Accessories
  3. Rocks & Gems Canada

Best Hair Salon/Barber Shop

  1. Elevation Hair Studio
  2. Farfalla Hair & Esthetics
  3. Blackcomb Barber Shoppe

Best Grocery Store

  1. Nesters Market
  2. Creekside Market
  3. Fresh Street Market

Best Customer Service

  1. Creekside Market
  2. Forecast Coffee
  3. Coastal Culture

Best Financial Institution

  1. TD Canada Trust
  2. Royal Bank
  3. BlueShore Financial

Best Realtor

  1. Katelyn Spink
  2. Madison Perry
  3. Dana Friesen-Smith

Best Building or Construction Company

  1. TM Builders
  2. Vision Pacific
  3. RDC

Best store for gifts

  1. 3 Singing Birds
  2. Get the Goods
  3. Whistler Kitchen Works

Best Overnight Accommodation

  1. Fairmont
  2. Nita Lake Lodge
  3. Four Seasons

 

Sports & Recreation

Fantastic Finn

At first blush, it may come as a surprise that this is the 21-year-old downhill phenom’s first-ever victory in the Favourite Summer Athlete category (though he was a shoo-in for Favourite Junior Athlete until aging out).

But when you consider that slopestyle legend Brandon Semenuk claimed this category for the past six years and seven of the last eight, it’s a bit more understandable.

“It feels good to finally get over the hump. It’s cool,” he says.

Being eight years apart, Iles said he didn’t exactly grow up riding alongside Semenuk, but looked forward to capping Crankworx by witnessing, almost certainly, another masterful performance at Red Bull Joyride.

“By the time I got to high school, he’d already graduated and he moved by the time I was making my mark in mountain biking,” he says. “I’ve met him a few times and he’s a really nice guy and he’s probably one of the best mountain bikers that’s ever lived.

“I do have a lot of respect for what he does and how he rides his bike.”

With Semenuk focusing less on competing more on creating rad videos (including cruising through an abandoned mine in an October Red Bull release), Iles stepped up into the top spot after dominating Crankworx Summer Series and nearly hitting his first UCI Downhill World Cup podium during an abbreviated 2020 campaign. With the torch passed, Iles credits growing up in Whistler for helping him reach the heights he has, including consecutive Junior World Cup titles before reaching the pro ranks.

“I don’t think I would be as good as I am, or I wouldn’t have the success I have today if it wasn’t for growing up in Whistler and having the support of the entire community,” he says. “There’s the amount of work that goes into the trails, the amount of work that goes into having small races at the bike park, having Toonie rides and all the stuff that WORCA does.

“The support for athletes is so massive.

“I hope to continue to do the community proud and get better and better.”

The community boost came for Iles in a big way in 2014 to allow him to compete in the Official Whip-Off World Championships at the tender age of 14, when the minimum age is normally 16. He expressed his gratitude by winning the whole darn thing.

“It’s pretty cool how the community rallies behind people. You can see it with other athletes, too, like Marielle [Thompson] when she won gold and it was a pretty big moment for the community,” Iles says, harkening back to Thompson’s ski-cross victory at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. “People get really invested into athletes.”

- Dan Falloon

 

Growth mindset

For the first time since the Favourite Junior Athlete category was first offered in 2012, it’s a girl, not a boy, claiming the crown.

And after the year Juliette Pelchat had, there’s no doubt she’s an appropriate trailblazer.

“I was so surprised that people even voted for me,” she says. “This is so cool. It’s insane to know that people were keeping track and looking at me.
“I’m so honoured. I’m so happy.”

The 16-year-old boarder started out by taking on the Youth Olympic Games at Lausanne, Switzerland finishing 19th in the slopestyle on a super-sized course. Upon returning to Canada, she claimed back-to-back NorAm Cup silvers and defender her National Junior Championships title.

“2020 was actually kind of a crazy year. There were some upsides and some downsides but I learned from all my low experiences. I tried to make the best of it for the future,” she says. “At Youth Olympics, I didn’t have the best contest, but I definitely took away a lot from it and learned for it and became a better snowboarder.”

Despite the disappointment in Switzerland, Pelchat feels she grew her skills with the physical challenges she overcame at the contest, while she also continues to develop a successful mindset.

“I definitely found that you should not try to make excuses to try to find a way to lose or be bad. You should always try to find reasons to be better and make the most of a situation,” she says. “That’s definitely what I have learned from my past experiences: just be positive and work through it. You’re not always going to be perfect. You’re not always going to have the best experiences. You’re not always going to be great.

“You’re going to have some ups and downs and that’s part of the sport.”

In the summer, Pelchat and her sister, Amalia, launched girls-only skate jams that by the end of the season were drawing 60 athletes over the course of a session. The events landed major sponsors and gained traction quickly.

“The summer was honestly one of the best things that I could ever experience. It was just so awesome to inspire younger athletes and younger girls and just see them grow confidence going through the skatepark and being a female athlete in a male-dominated sport,” she says. “It was really cool to see that alongside my sister.”

While Pelchat isn’t entirely sure what her 2021 season on snow will look like, she’s eager to take on whatever comes her way, as there are a handful of events proposed, but nothing confirmed at press time.

“I’m super stoked for the season even though we don’t know what it looks like or what it holds,” she says. “It’s going to be good anyway. We’ll find a way.

“I think a couple [events] will run, but if not, I’d be stoked just to do some training in the park and on the whole mountain with my family, just getting better on my board all around.”

- Dan Falloon

 

Crystal clear

In just five years, Dark Crystal went from being granted a reprieve from Whistler Blackcomb after being discovered in 2015 to now being a back-to-back winner of the community’s Favourite Bike Trail.

Original builder Ben Haggar, who constructed the Blackcomb-based beaut with Scott Veach, said the recognition is gratifying.

“For Scott and I, it’s been a bit of a journey, so to have everybody else love the trail as much as we do is pretty cool,” he says.

Recalling the build a few summers on, Haggar said he and Veach sought to provide riders a different experience than they may have been accustomed to.

“Scott and I got together back in 2015 and we were just looking for a beautiful patch of forest to build a trail, something that was a little bit different than the typical Whistler fall-line style of trail, something that was a bit more fun and playful where you didn’t need to be on your brakes as much,” he says. “We had a couple different areas we were scoping around in. We eventually hiked a lot on Blackcomb and fell in love with the area.

“The terrain is really friendly. There’s beautiful granite slabs, there’s lots of dirt and it’s a fairly low angle, so that made our jobs easy as far as roughing the trail in.”

Haggar said he and Veach put together the initial line over one season, as they both consistently got up to a couple days a week to help move things along.

Haggar stressed that he and Veach strived to avoid “overbuilding” the trail in the early days.

“We wanted it to get in a bit more naturally so the natural character of the forest would show itself,” he says. “We didn’t get to really refine the line before it exploded into instant popularity.

“It was still one of those under-the-radar trails, but within a few days of it being discovered, Scott and I were up there working and it went from a handful of riders to 50 riders the next day to a couple hundred the day after that.”

When the duo started building, they weren’t aware it was on Whistler Blackcomb (WB) property, Veach told Pique in 2017. When WB discovered the trail, Haggar said it was a “relief” that it was saved and incorporated into the Blackcomb trail network.

“They enjoyed the trail a lot and I think they could see the build quality was there,” he says. “It wasn’t just another rogue trail.”

Haggar, who now lives in Squamish and builds with the local trail crew, said Dark Crystal is 100-per-cent volunteer maintained by Veach and himself. He hopes to convey the message to respect the trail and avoid riding it in conditions that could leave damage.

- Dan Falloon

 

Favourite Summer Athlete

  1. Finn Iles
  2. Jesse Melamed
  3. Brandon Semenuk

Favourite Winter Athlete

  1. Stan Rey
  2. Mike Douglas
  3. Marielle Thompson

Favourite Junior Athlete

  1. Juliette Pelchat
  2. Finn Finestone
  3. Tie: Stewart Walker and Wei Tien Ho

Whistler or Blackcomb?

Topics to avoid in polite company: politics, religion, and—in the Sea to Sky, anyway—your preference of our resort’s two iconic ski hills.

In Pique’s secret ballot, the junior mountain came away with this category once again in a close election, edging ahead by 33 votes.

And, don’t worry, in case any marriages or BFF-ships are at stake as a result of this question, we’ll reiterate that individual preferences are completely anonymous.

Favourite Ski Run on Whistler or Blackcomb

  1. Peak to Creek
  2. Dave Murray Downhill
  3. Spanky’s Ladder

Favourite Slackcountry Run/Area

  1. Million Dollar Ridge
  2. Flute Backside
  3. Khyber Ridge

Favourite Bike Trail

  1. Dark Crystal
  2. Tie: Crank It Up and A-Line
  3. Lord of the Squirrels

Favourite Golf Course

  1. Nicklaus North Golf Course
  2. Whistler Golf Club
  3. Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club

Sports Event/Festival You Missed the Most in 2020

  1. Crankworx
  2. World Ski and Snowboard Festival
  3. Whistler Half Marathon

Favourite Adventure Tour Company

  1. Canadian Wilderness Adventures
  2. The Adventure Group
  3. Ziptrek Ecotours

Favourite Family Activity

  1. Skiing and Boarding
  2. Camping
  3. Hiking

 

Wellness & Fitness

 

No train, no gain

Two might just be the magic number for Meaghan Sutter.

In two years, she’s opened as many fitness studios (or, to use her parlance, movement spaces) and won Best of Whistler’s Favourite Trainer category each time.

If you need some help with the math, that means the kinesiologist and trainer first opened Peak Training in 2019 and then, smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic, took the leap and secured the space across the hall to accommodate other trainers and fitness specialists in the community.

“Was it scary? One-thousand per cent,” she says. “It still is terrifying with the uncertainties. We were allowed to open things again, then closed, then opened and closed. But I felt really called and compelled to do it. I tend to listen to my gut when something is knocking.”

While she primarily trains one-on-one in her original space, trainers in the second space have kept their offerings very small, too. That’s helped them stay well positioned with safety protocols during the pandemic.

“I think having the private space where people can come in, it’s very controlled, it’s usually just me and one client or, across the hallway, one trainer and two clients. During COVID, we can keep it really clean, safe and distanced.”

But, more than that, returning to a regular workout routine—whether it’s to recover from an injury or to train for a specific goal—has helped people during this time of isolation.

“When I had the go-ahead to open in June, it was full force,” Sutter says. “Everybody plus their family wanted to come back. People were itching to get back into feeling strong—and get out of the house.”

The goal since then has been to be an outlet for people during this challenging time. “People were happy to take a bit more of a nurturing route,” she says. “They weren’t going as intense. Sometimes, it was more of a stress reliever to come here. I would see them come in stressed and beat down, emotional and leave feeling better. That was more my motivation, to make people feel better.”

Looking ahead to 2021 and what will hopefully be the end of the pandemic, Sutter hopes to focus on community.

“My hope is I can get back to building a community around the studios and building them with very skilled professionals who can provide for the community,” she says. 

- Alyssa Noel

 

Favourite spa

  1. Scandinave Spa Whistler
  2. The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge
  3. The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Whistler

Favourite Chiropractic Practice

  1. Whistler Chiropractic Clinic
  2. Village Centre Chiropractic
  3. Dr. Adam Underhill Chiropractic*

    *An earlier version of this category listed Back in Action in third place. While Back in Action offers a range of physiotherapy and massage care, they don't offer chiropractic services. Pique apologizes for the error. 
     

Favourite Physiotherapy or Massage Provider

  1. Back in Action
  2. Peak Performance Whistler
  3. Lifemark Whistler Physiotherapy

Favourite Dental Practice

  1. Creekside Dental
  2. Whistler Dental
  3. Whistler Smiles Dental Clinic

Favourite Medical Practice

  1. Whistler Medical Clinic
  2. The Whistler Clinic
  3. Town Plaza Medical Clinic

Favourite Fitness Facility

  1. Meadow Park Sports Centre
  2. Altitude Fitness
  3. Whistler Core Climbing & Fitness Gym

Favourite Yoga/ Pilates

  1. YYoga Whistler
  2. Yogacara Whistler
  3. Whistler Core Climbing & Fitness Gym

Favourite Beauty and Aesthetic Provider

  1. The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge
  2. Be Beauty Spa & Tanning Lounge
  3. Elevation Hair Studio

Favourite Trainer

  1. Meaghan Sutter
  2. Cinta Cassini
  3. Jack Murray