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Around the Horn

There’s more to being number one than location

Whistler has been voted the number one ski resort in North America by various ski magazines numerous times, a point of pride among its citizens, planners, restaurant and hotel staff.

And if Whistler residents need one more number one ranking they can be justifiably proud of, it is at the base of Whistler Mountain in the form of the Longhorn Saloon.

You see according to the Longhorn’s assistant GM, Jason Warner, The Horn is the number one consumer of draft beer in B.C., if not Canada.

"Longhorn outsells B.C. or GM Place in terms of draft beer. It’s just amazing the amount of kegs we go through in peak season."

Warner says keeping his bar staff hopping in terms of changing kegs is a good thing for the consumer as it keeps the draft beer extra fresh.

"We rarely get a send back. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. We’ve got a great selection of draft beer, from Granville Island ales and lagers to Sleeman to Guinness. Also we’re the only bar in Whistler that has Kokanee Gold on tap."

Amid the cowboy and Indian statues and paraphernalia on the walls, hangs a framed article from Snow Country magazine that ranked the Longhorn as the number one après ski spot in Canada and number nine in North America. As the December 1995 article states, "gone are the days when a few musty kegs, last week’s peanuts and a garage band in the corner constituted a fine après ski experience."

When asked to explain the Longhorn’s popularity Warner echoes the mantra of real estates agents: location, location, location.

"Obviously being 50 yards from the base of Whistler helps a lot in drawing customers. We get people who come in at 11 in the morning for something to eat and then decide to meet back here for après ski or if they get split up on the mountain," said Warner.

But as much as location helps, there is another reason why skiers and boarders leave their gear at the door and loosen their boots at the Longhorn, and that is the food.

"Our kitchen manager, Scott Holmes, has been here for 10 years and he does a great job of ensuring our food is high above your average pub fare," said Warner.

Indeed, anyone who has tucked into the Longhorn’s Mountain Burger, with bacon, cheese and mushrooms, is pleasantly amazed that they don’t have to drink eight beers or glasses of water to recover from the sort of MSG-packed burger that most pubs inflict on their unsuspecting customers.

Another bonus for ravenous skiers and ravers is Longhorn’s longer kitchen hours.

"Our kitchen opens at 11 in the morning, earlier than most places, and we don’t close the kitchen until midnight, whereas most kitchens in Whistler are only open until 10," said Warner.

While location and product are important to a restaurant or pub’s success, Warner says the icing on the Longhorn’s party cake is its fun, friendly staff that creates the almost constant party atmosphere in the saloon.

One such staffer is server Daena Kristensen, who has been plonking down beers for thirsty skiers at the Longhorn for the last five years. When asked if she ever finds it too nuts on Longhorn’s patio, she responds in the negative.

"Oh no, I feed off the energy. You have to remember if you’re not feeling the greatest your customers don’t care. A lot of people have saved years and years to come to Whistler so you owe it to them to be friendly and fun."

Daena’s happy spirit was remarkable considering she was still smiling and standing on her feet after the madness of Aussie Day, a yearly event at the Longhorn that celebrates the crazy Aussies who have travelled half way around the world to make Whistler their home for ski season.

"Man, if that isn’t the craziest day in here, I don’t know what is," says Krisetnsen. "They push all the tables aside and there’s a three-hour lineup to get in here and nobody minds. It’s nuts but fun."

Kristensen says she’s an avid skier and laments the weather that just hasn’t co-operated so far this season. "I went skiing close to 80 times last year, but I’ve only gone about four times this year. We get a big snow and then it rains, and it just hasn’t happened for me yet."

But she is a year round resident who is equally up for the four softball teams that Longhorn sponsors, as well as several golf tournaments.

"We’ve got a golf tournament called the Calcutta that ranks you in terms of your handicap and you can bet on your team and a lot of the money winds up going to charity. It’s a lot of fun to play in."

Such community spirit is natural says Warner, as the Longhorn, "deeply appreciates the amount of patronage and support locals have given us over the years."

While many tourists and locals would put the Longhorn at the top of their list for après ski fun, they no doubt would agree that washrooms on the main floor would be an excellent idea. One wonders and jokingly asks if any inebriated patron has managed to kill themselves while trying to clomp down the 25 stairs in ski boots to the basement washroom?

Warner gives a light laugh and says, "Not yet. Our staff will help anyone to the washroom and we’re working on trying to get some facilities put in on the main floor. But until then, we’re trying to get the trek to the washroom considered for an Olympic event."