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Best of Pemberton 2008

Pique Staff After years of polling the people of Whistler about their favourite people, places and things, the Pique finally got around to asking Pembertonians about their preferences in 2007.
Spud Valley Style Toshi Kawano, this year's top photographer, captures a quiet moment in Pemberton. Photo by Toshi Kawano

Pique Staff


After years of polling the people of Whistler about their favourite people, places and things, the Pique finally got around to asking Pembertonians about their preferences in 2007. We’re pleased to present the second annual Best of Pemberton awards for 2008, with a far larger turnout of voters and responses.

Because we opted to give space for replies instead of a multiple choice quiz, we received a broad range of responses to all of our questions that showed that Pemberton residents are A) well informed, B) funny, and C) passionate about their town.

While Pemberton has been at a crossroads for a long time, things are starting to evolve for the town. A new community centre recently opened, creating new opportunities for education and fitness. An international private school is hoping to open a school in Pemberton at the earliest opportunity, expanding the town’s economic base. The Pemberton Festival put the town on a global stage, and looked good doing it. The proposed boundary extension will give the town more say over planning for the town, preventing sprawl and guiding the development that’s coming as Pemberton continues its reign as the fastest growing community in B.C.

The agriculture side of Pemberton is also being embraced like never before — 2,300 people at the Slow Food Cycle, the Slow Food movement is promoting a 100-mile diet, and local farmers are now speaking directly to grocery stores and restaurants at home and in Whistler to keep the farming economy local.

There should be lots to talk about when the municipal election ramps up this fall. So without further ado, we present The Best of Pemberton 2008.


Quintessential Pemberton


Best Neighbourhood

They are a tight-knit community on Meadows Lane, by far the most popular vote in the Best Neighbourhood category. With more than twice as many votes as runner up Vinyl Village/ The Glen, Meadows Lane (a.k.a. Pemberton Meadows Road) probably has an advantage just by its sheer length and the number of proud residents in the Meadows. While number two for the second year in a row, Vinyl Village/The Glen did top last year’s pick for best neighbourhood, Creekside. Just behind Creekside in fourth place was The Peaks.


Party of 2008

What you really want to know is which party was number two.

Yes, the Pemberton Festival was the run-away winner in this category, and given the international attention the highly-successful festival garnered, the accolades, the community support, the financial windfall… the only vote against the festival seems to be from the Agricultural Land Commission.

That’s not quite true. There were a number of parties and events that earned a single vote but the only party — other than the Pemberton Festival — to get multiple votes was the Pemberton Wildlife Association dinner. And if the ALC remains a stick in the mud the Wildlife Association may be asked to host next year’s Pemberton Fest


Best thing at the Pemberton Fest

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers got a lot of votes, as did Jay Z and Coldplay. And many respondents said the people or the atmosphere, or a variation such as “the positive craziness.” At the top of the list was BYOB.


Best Pemberton Trend

Last year’s top three trends were dogs, coffee and the Pony Espresso. This year, Pembertonians are into a whole bunch of new trends. Topping the list is electric scooters. Whether people have abandoned their dogs, coffee and the Pony or are now putting their dogs on their electric scooters as they ride to the Pony for coffee isn’t clear.

A couple of other related themes also emerged: Local/organic/slow food and growing your own food was the second most popular Pemberton trend, while cycling to work, to do errands or relying on the bicycle as the main mode of transport was the third most popular trend. Fourth was reusable bags, presumably to carry your locally-grown organic produce as you cycle home, electrically.


Worst Pemberton Trend

There appear to be a number of fashion faux pas in Pemberton. Number two on the list for the second year running were Crocs, the ubiquitous plastic shoes that aren’t manufactured as much as extruded from a machine. Wearing yoga clothes as casual wear was also frowned upon. But clearly the worst Pemberton trend is Peter Pan pants.

Non-fashion trends that earned our readers’ wrath included whining, dog poo, condo development and cliquey moms.


Best Use of Money

There were two runaway leaders in this category: the new library, which was top of the list, and the new community centre. The community centre topped this list last year — given its popularity for the second year in a row, perhaps that shows how far government spending goes.

Also earning multiple votes were landscaping downtown and daycare.


Worst Use of Money

While it was the runner up for the best use of money, the community centre was also the undisputed winner of the poll for worst use of money. The absence of a pool, the lack of full size gym facilities and squash courts, and the time it’s taken to open the centre were some of the complaints. “The art thing in the roundabout” and “that inukshuk thing” were other common themes in this category.


Least Like Pemberton

High rent was the clear winner here. Runner up was McDonald’s, and in third place was the Pemberton Festival. There was also “that inukshuk thing” and the community centre.


Best New Business

How new do you have to be to be “best new business”? Good question. But for now we’ll just say this is a category that can only be won once by a business. So although last year’s winner, the Mount Currie Coffee Company, received the most votes again this year it gets silly when the same business is declared “best new business” two or three years in a row.

Therefore, the title of best new business this year goes to the business with the second most votes, Di Carlos’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant.


Best Place for People Watching

As was the case last year, The Pony Espresso was the leader by a country mile in this category. Other places/events that offer good people watching include the picnic tables by the Pemberton Valley Supermarket, the Mount Currie Coffee Co. and the Pemberton Festival.


Best Way to get an Aerial View of Pemberton

For the second year in a row gliders, from the Pemberton Soaring Centre, provide the best aerial view of Pemberton. And for the second year in a row hiking Mount Currie is runner up. The third best way to get an aerial view is from a paraglider. Skydiving and helicopter flights tied for fourth place.


Best Reason to own a 4X4

Hands down, the best reason to own a 4X4 was to drive the Hurley Road. And according to regular drivers, the state of the Hurley is such that nothing less than a big 4X4s will get you over the road.

Exploring other backcountry roads, carrying mountain bikes to backcountry trails and getting to favourite fishing holes and snowmobile areas are some of the other popular reasons for owning a 4X4, but there were a few novel ideas, such as “to get over the small sports cars arriving from Vancouver,” “to avoid rock salt on your 2007 BMW” and perhaps most patriotically, “to support the war on terror.”


Best Day Trip Destination

The there are so many great options, but the favourite this year is Skookumchuk. Second was last year’s co-winner, Joffre Lakes. Also popular were the hot springs at Meager Creek. One voter suggested “The city, to remind you why you like Pemberton.”


Best View of Mount Currie

For the second year in a row there is a 2,500-way tie for first place. The number of people who wrote “My deck”, “My house”, “My backyard” or “My patio” suggests there are only a handful of people in Pemberton who don’t have a great view of Mount Currie. Which is understandable — that thing is big.


Most Desired Big City Amenity

A public swimming pool is the single most desired big city amenity. Last year a pool and an ice rink tied for first place but the ice rink slipped to third this year. In second place is another Canadian icon: Canadian Tire. And further down the list there were a few calls for a Tim Hortons. Consumer goods, and the prices paid for them, were on a lot of people’s minds with this question, with one respondent pleading for “Reasonably priced toilet paper.”


Number One Reason We are Not Like Whistler

Few questions revealed the pride in their community — and perhaps resentment or smugness toward Whistler — that Pembertonians feel the way this one did. A lot of respondents cited the “more laid back,” and “more grounded people,” “Less people with ‘I’m so cool’ attitude” and “no poofters” qualifications of Pembertonians as the biggest difference. The lack of traffic, lack of tourists and lack of Aussies also came into consideration. But the number one reason Pemberton is not like Whistler is because you can still find a place to live in Pemberton.


Most Dubious Decision Made by Council

All the hot-button political issues received some mention — boundary expansion, closing the old community centre, the new community centre, not allowing offices in the industrial park, IPPs… But top of the list, by a wide margin, was council cancelling the fireworks in favour of their own party.


Best Place to Witness a Pack of Stroller-Joggers

The Pony patio was the clear winner here. Last year’s choice, Urdal Road, wound up second and Mount Currie Coffee Co. was third. A few people mentioned “the side of the road” because of the “lack of trails.”


Way to Keep Cool at 40C

A reversal from last year, when jumping in a lake or other body of water was number one and beer was number two. This year, a beer on the Pony patio was top choice.


Example of Wild West Attitude

There was a strong horse theme among most of the responses to this question, with many people citing the hitching posts at businesses around town as well as horseback tours, Equifest and horse poop. Top spot goes to the hitching post at the Pony. Non-horse-related examples included building without permits, the Birken 4X4 rally, security at the Pemberton Festival, and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District director Susie Gimse.


Favourite Agricultural Product

It ain’t called Spud Valley for nothin’. The humble potato, naturally, won top spot. There was strong support, however, for organic produce and organic greens. Strawberries hold down third place.


Potato Recipe

Last year’s winner — scalloped potatoes — hardly received any support this year. Instead, potato salad, French fries and potato pie each received multiple votes. Boiled potatoes, with lots of butter and a variety of other condiments, was also a popular choice. But Pemberton’s favourite potato recipe this year is shepherd’s pie.


Food and Drink


Best Restaurant

For the second year running, the Posy Espresso has claimed top spot in the overall restaurant ratings. This little community gem has been a fixture for 13 years, though it only set up shop in its current location on Portage Road in 2006. While they offer sit-down service for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a fun and friendly atmosphere, their business also includes a bustling coffee shop and bakery, where you can grab something to go if you’re on the run.

Owner and operator Mike Richman was pretty proud to hear they’d been selected for yet another year.

“A big part of our focus is all about the locals, so if it’s the locals talking then that’s really awesome!”

Expect a sophisticated product in a laidback, comfortable environment.

“My goal has always been pretty basic in my restaurant, which is to supply a surprisingly good product, surprisingly good food for a small town like this, because tastes are actually more sophisticated in this small town than an average small town,” Richman explained.

If the Pony is too packed, or you’re looking for a change of scenery, another sure bet in town is the Wild Wood Bistro and Bar. Though they haven’t been around for as long (they just opened in 2004) this restaurant offers up delicious dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Best Value

With rising fuel prices, getting a bigger bang for your buck when eating out is serious business these days. So if you’re looking for a hearty and delicious breakfast, lunch, dinner or even just a snack, chances are you’ll get a good deal at the Pony Espresso. Their prices are reasonable – pastas range from $7 to $17 – and the servings are generous. There’s nothing nicer than leaving a restaurant with a full belly, and a not-so-empty wallet.


Best New Restaurant

There isn’t usually as much turnover in Pemberton’s dining scene as there is a little further south along the highway (read: Whistler). But this year Di Carlos’s, a new rustic Italian gourmet pizzeria, has been selected as the favourite newcomer to the neighbourhood. Owned by Romeo and Liz Di Carlo, the new restaurant opened last November in the old Wicked Wheel spot near AG Foods. The new owners have kept a lot of the same pizza recipes that the locals have grown to love, but added some authentic Italian main dishes made from scratch.

But the key ingredients to their success are pretty simple: “The love of food and wine and service.”

Give Liz’s personal fave, the Popeye and Olive Penne, a whirl – it’s loaded with spinach, roma tomatoes, artichokes, olives, sundried tomatoes and more delicious goodies, and served with a slice of homemade garlic bread.

And while Fat Duck Cuisine at the Pemberton Valley Vineyard only opened their doors in May, they still managed to come in second in at least seven dining categories including this one with their locally inspired French cuisine.


Best Wine List

For a place that bills itself as a laidback local’s place to hangout and shoot the breeze, the Pony also manages to stock a pretty impressive selection of wines. They’ve also just released a new harvest menu, which features wine pairings with new local menu items.

Fat Duck Cuisine at the Pemberton Valley Vineyard came in third place, with their B.C.-focused selections to swirl, sniff and sip.


Best Dessert

If you have a serious sweet tooth then chances are you’ve already discovered where to go for your sugar jones – The Pony Espresso. There are two special ladies behind the scenes, churning out some spectacular sweets each and every day.

“We have two awesome bakers who come in every morning and they do all our desserts, they do all our bagels and breads,” Richman said. “Everything we have, we make ourselves.”

These talented bakers are responsible for all of the goodies offered up at the Pony’s catered events, on the coffee shop side of things, and on the restaurant menu. Cookies, pies – you name it, these ladies can bake it. According to Richman, their pies are most popular, but it’s the cheesecake that’s truly to die for.


Best Atmosphere

Apparently, The Pony Espresso has found the perfect balance of casual elegance in their décor and atmosphere – the dining room is filled with natural wood and friendly chatter, and a candle flickers at every table during the evening. And on a Friday or Saturday night, you may even be able to check out a musician putting on a show to an amped up, hungry crowd of locals.

Whether the dining room is jam-packed or quiet, Richman and his staff place a lot of emphasis on offering friendly service and getting to know the regular local clientele.

“We try to strike a bit of a balance in the sense that we want to give a full service, we want to do a complete service, but we want to do it in a very casual way,” Richman explained.


Best Pizza

They may not primarily be a pizza place, but the chefs at The Pony certainly know their way around a pizza pie. Every Thursday night for the past 12 years — except for the time The Pony was closed and looking for a new spot —  the dining room has been packed with folks looking to take advantage of their Pizza and a Pint deal.

They have about 15 different kinds of pizza that change up with the seasons, including the El Diablo, loaded with spicy capicolli, mushrooms, banana peppers, mozza and edam cheeses, and the sweeter Lover’s Pie, piled high with sliced pears, carmelized onions, toasted walnuts, goat cheese and balsamic syrup.”

“We offer those pizzas most of the other nights as well, so its hard to believe that they’re all here for the free beer!” Richman said with a laugh.

Coming in a close second are the from-scratch gourmet pizzas at Di Carlos. They offer both thin and regular crust pies with an assortment of toppings to appeal to all tastes – how amazing does the Bacon N’ Onion Perogy pizza sound?


Best Steak

Well, the carnivores weighed in, and it looks like The Pony is the place to go to fulfill your meaty needs. They offer the tenderloin, a 7 oz cut with gorgonzola demi glaze, and the New York strip loin, a 9 oz cut with a portabella demi glaze. And they’ve recently added a new top sirloin, which is made from Pemberton natural beef.

“That, I think, is going to take the top spot now, but our tenderloins are really, really good,” Richman added.


Best Burger

On Tuesday nights, The Pony used to hold Burgers, Beer and Rock and Roll where you could grab your favourite chicken, veggie or beef burger served on house-made bun or bread, and an ice-cold brew. Eighteen musically-themed burgers – like the Fleetwood Mac Burger, served with pineapple, bacon, barbecue sauce, tomato and lettuce – were a sure hit with regulars and newcomers alike.

Things are changing a bit, though, and Burgers, Beer and Rock and Roll is no longer. Don’t panic – you’ll still be able to get your pick of burgers, but Tuesdays and Wednesdays are now going to be a Pub Night with traditional pub fare, like fish and chips and Shepherds Pie as well as burgers.


Best Takeout

Lots of people are heading in and out of Pemberton on a daily basis, traveling to work, and they know where to go to grab a bite for the road – again, it’s The Pony Espresso.

With loads of convenient, travel-friendly options in the bakery/coffee shop side of things, including some stellar coffee for that early morning caffeine jolt, and to-go options from the breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, it’s no surprise that The Pony is still popular without the atmosphere.


Best Breakfast

It’s the most important meal of the day, and you can make sure you get it right by heading to The Pony Espresso for your fix of a fry-up or a sweet treat to get your engine going. They offer an impressive assortment of fixings in the Designed Scramble Series, which cost $8.25 to $8.75, and feature three scrambled eggs, fresh roasted Pemberton potatoes and homemade salsa, with your choice of a fresh baked bagel, bread or wrap. If savoury simply isn’t your style in the wee morning hours, check out their Grand Marnier French Toast, served with homemade blackberry compote and real maple syrup for $8. They open at 6:30 a.m., which should be good enough for even the earliest of risers. Farmers notwithstanding…


Best Beer Selection

Looking for an ice-cold brew? Head to The Pony for a selection from Russell and Granville Island breweries on tap. In bottles and cans they run the gambit from Guinness to Stella.

“With the draft, we try to focus on the local microbreweries,” Richman explained.

Expect to see darker, heavier beers during the colder months, and lighter ales on tap during the warm summer months.


Best Latté

Mount Currie Coffee Co. just opened for business last August, but apparently they know what they’re doing when it comes to making a latte. The Pony Espresso and Local’s Living Room tied for top spot last year.

Owner and operator of the new go-to latte hotspot, Chris Ankeny, is pretty proud of their accomplishment. “We’re definitely trying to give people the best coffee they’ve ever had.”

And a lot of work goes into making sure their lattes turn out just right:

“We start with really amazing coffee that we get from 49 th Parallel coffee roasters in Vancouver, and then as far as our preparation – making a latte – we take a lot of pride in grinding the espresso right, tamping it right, pulling shots – we actually time our shots so you’re getting a perfect extraction – and then steaming the milk is huge, too.”

And each latte is beautifully presented, as well, as the baristas are all trained in latte art. You can pick up a small for $3.25 or a large for $3.75 from their location on Arbutus.


Best Nachos

Judging from the feedback from voters – multiple variations of “they have nachos in Pemby?” – there don’t appear to be a lot of places in Pemberton to grab a plate of this cherished pub snack. But The Pony Espresso was picked as the top spot for this hard-to-find fare, with corn chips piled high with peppers, olives, tomatoes, sour cream, jalapenos and melted cheese. You can add chorizo, beef and/or guacamole for a few extra bucks.


Best Service

If you’re going to work at The Pony, you need to know how to work well with others, cope with a crowd, and have a good time while you’re at it.

“It gets really busy in the summer, it’s quiet other times. The service from both the kitchen and the dining room… it’s often a challenge,” Richman explained, “You don’t know when you’re going to be busy and you’re often scrambling, so it’s good to hear people appreciate the efforts.”

Apparently, the staff has stepped up, because their service was rated top-notch.


Best Chef

Matthew Prescott is one of the men behind the magic in the kitchen at The Pony Espresso, and it seems like locals really appreciate his skill at the grill. He came to the position only about a year and a half ago, after working at the Westin for almost seven years.


Best Waiter

On any given day, or night, you can hear Emily Zaine’s infectious laugh echoing throughout the dining room of The Pony Espresso. It’s that positive, upbeat attitude combined with competent and efficient service that make Emily the most well-liked server in Pemberton.


Pubs and Bars


Best Bartender

Hey bartender! Sabra Wright of the Pony Espresso rules the art of mixology, according to Pique’s Best of Pemberton voters, with almost half of respondents declaring her best bartender. Sabra has been mixing up good alcoholic beverages at the Pony for a year and a half, “out and about making good cocktails for people.”

So what’s Sabra’s favourite drink?

“You know, it’s a debate between a kick ass Caesar or a really good lime margarita,” she said.

Runner up in this category is Simone Mawson, who can be found behind the bar at the Big Sky Golf and Country Club.


Coolest Staff

Once again this year, workers at the Pony Espresso get bragging rights about being coolest staff in town. More than half of voters thought they deserved the title.  

As to what makes the 35-member team the town’s coolest, owner Mike Richman replied: “The cheesy answer would be that we all really work well together, there is a lot of mutual respect, we all work really well together, there is a mutual respect between floor and dining room, between dish washers and servers, and I think that reflects in the way they work together.”

“Plus they are just cool,” he laughed.

Staff at The Wild Wood Bistro and Bar came in second place for this category.


Local Hangout

It’s not a secret that the unofficial local hangout in Pemberton is the Pony Espresso, which one the best local hangout category. Their legendary pizza Thursdays are the best place to catch up on gossip, and their Friday and Saturday nights always draw a crowd. But being the local hangout is the whole idea behind the restaurant-slash-coffee shop-slash-bakery.

“What we try and cultivate here is a place where the locals come, and where they are going to look for each other on the way home,” said owner Mike Richman.

“They can meet here in the morning for coffee, and then in the afternoon for a beer or for dinner and after-hours for live music… We really try to encourage a casual atmosphere where people can cruise from table to table, and everybody knows each other.”

Runner up for best local hangout was Mount Currie Coffee Co., which opened last year and are described as “your home away from home”. Besides serving specialty coffee and offering wireless Internet service, the coffee house also features local artwork on its walls.


Best Patio

With a view of Mount Currie (See Best View of Mt. Currie) Pony Espresso’s patio scooped up the prize for best deck to eat a meal or a drink a beer in Pemberton.  

In fact, the patio has developed quite the reputation as a place to gossip over a cup of coffee in the morning or a pint of beer in the afternoon, with locals often referring to it as “bullshit balcony”.

“That name originated with our first location, which had a balcony over looking the street,” explained owner Mike Richman.

And even though the Pony’s location has changed, the name has stuck. Richmand said his 50-person patio still holds the title as   “the source of all bad rumours”.

Today, the Pony’s Bullshit Balcony overlooks the town centre, making it great for enjoying the summer and fall weather as well as the perfect perch for people watching


Media, Culture, Arts


Favourite Band/Musician

The One Man Funk Show, a.k.a. Papa Josh, a.k.a. Josh Suhrheinrich, has been working hard on his groove thang since winning the Best of Pemberton trophy last year – with gigs in Whistler, Tofino, the Interior and an upcoming tour planned for the west coast of the U.S. Little wonder, then, that he picked up the prize for Best Musician in Pemberton again this year by a landslide.

So what has the multi-talented musician been working on in the past 12 months?

“I’ve been just working on getting sounds better and better,” said Josh.

“I’ve been trying to write more music, and I definitely have a good batch of original songs that I am doing now. I am also currently working on doing some recording.”

Josh’s efforts in the studio will pay off in the New Year, when he plans to release his first CD for the Papa Josh Show. Fans that can’t get enough of Josh will soon be able to bring him home.

Coming in second for best Pemberton musician is singer/songwriter Trish Jamieson, who plays an acoustic set of both originals and covers. The singer has been known to cover Tom Petty, Beyonce and Radiohead in a single set.


Favourite Artist

Musician Papa Josh also was voted best Pemberton artist, highlighting the fact that this category is not limited to the visual stuff.

And Josh’s show is indeed an art form. During a typical set, Josh will record himself playing drums, bass, and guitar, and play back each track through layered loops. Material for his one man show ranges from original tracks to creative covers of funk, rock and even country songs. The result? One hell of a funky dance party.

Josh has been playing music for over 20 years. He started when he was 10 years old, and got his first gig when he was 16. The official birth of his newest project, The Papa Josh Show, was on December 2006 at Dusty’s and has been going strong since.

Painter Karen Love, who captures Pemberton valley landscapes on canvas, took second place. Trained at Art Sake Inc., Sheridan College School of Craft and Design, BCIT, Emily Carr Design Institute and Capilano College, Love has dabbled in a range of medias, including graphic design, photography, mural art, decorative paint, silverwork, and, of course, paint.  


Event of the Season

The Barn Dance may have ruled this category last year, but things have changed now with the Pemberton Festival debut. A whopping 84 per cent of voters called the Pemberton Festival the event of the season, and one voter even asked: “Was there another event?”

Organized by local Shane Bourbonnais, the three-day music festival attracted 40,000 concertgoers. Minus a few hiccups (traffic jams, garbage aftermath), the event was peaceful and brought big bucks to many Pemberton business owners.

And while not all Pembertonians welcomed the festival with open arms, most are at least somewhat happy to say that Coldplay, Tom Petty and Jay Z played in their back yard. (Now, if only the Agricultural Land Commission would ease up a bit on their legislation).

Other honourable contenders in this category were the Slow Food Cycle Sunday, which got 2,300 riders cycling for Pemberton produce, along with the annual 4x4 Rally and the Canada Day Parade.


Favourite Photographer

Toshi Kawano has developed quite the reputation for his ability to capture subtle moments with a click of a button. Since winning best photographer in last year’s Best of Pemberton, the Japanese-born, Pemberton-based photographer has been focusing on tourism photography as well as a few solo projects.

“The centre of my interest is always people,” said this year’s photography winner Kawano. “I don’t do much landscaping or architecture if people aren’t involved.”

Kawano’s work has been used in many Japanese magazines, along with some Canadian publications. His main advertising client is Tourism Whistler, although the list definitely long. And, to further broaden his portfolio, Kawano has been shooting several local wedding celebrations.

Second in this category is outdoor and wildlife photographer Gavin Duffell, with third place going to both Chris Ankeny and Randy Lincks.


Best Quote

Now that the Pemberton Festival has hoisted the village of Pemberton into the national spotlight, there was definitely a quote that most Pembertonians thought deserved to win this category.

“Whistler? Is that near Pemberton?”

It may be a question that long-term Pemberton residents never thought they would hear. But many Pembertonians are now being asked this by outsiders trying to get their bearings of the Sea to Sky corridor.

Other mentionable nominations in this category were Lisa Ames’s email signature “I believe in Pemberton,” along with a nod to “The guy who wrote to the Pique complaining that there was no hay to eat because of the Pemberton Fest.”



Top local news story


If the Pemberton Festival was the best event of the season, then it makes sense that all things related were voted as the top local news stories. Articles spun off from the festival ranged from “announcement of the festival”, to “traffic during the festival,” to “the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) against future festivals,” and all things in between.

Indeed, it seemed like the world’s eyes were on the Village of Pemberton this July with coverage coming from both national and international media. US magazine and pop-culture guru Rolling Stone even went as far as to write: “the first annual Pemberton will gladly take the title of next Glastonbury.”

Of course, the Pemberton Festival was not the only thing local to make headlines. Second in this category was the recently opened community centre. And the Meager Creek opening after almost five years without a bridge took third prize.



Cindy Filipenko got top spot for best writer again this year, reaffirming her popularity among Pembertonians. The former magazine editor and Pique Newsmagazine contributor has been busy since last year’s inaugural “Best of Pemberton” focusing on writing for television. She just finished writing a 52-episode animated children’s series called My Life Me , based on Japanese manga, which is set to air on Teletoon next year. Filipenko is also developing a live action comedy series that has been optioned called Straight & Narrow and an action adventure cartoon for boys called Prairie Dawgs.

Coming in close second was Lisa Richardson, a freelance writer and short-term filmmaker, among many other gigs. Richardson contributes regularly to the Pique , as well as Skier , Ski Press , Kootenay Mountain Culture and the Vancouver Sun .


Sports and Recreation


Best Bike Trail

The Pemberton area has never had as many quality bike trails, 65 by last count, or as many reasons to be concerned about their future. The Pemberton Valley Trails Association is kept busy year-round balancing different user groups, and negotiating with developers, First Nations, Crown corporations, CN Rail, and private landowners to keep access open.

There was a three-way tie for first this year, with Happy Trail (a climbing trail that connects to other singletrack in the Mackenzie area) getting the same number of votes as Cream Puff (great singletrack descent with lots of rock sections and great views of the valley) and Lumpy’s Epic (a challenging climb and descent on Signal Hill with a great view of Mt. Currie and the Green River). Second place was also a tie between Bathtub Trail and new freeride trail Reserectum. The Tenquille Lake trail — a long climb into high alpine meadows and back again — was third.


Favourite Pemberton Athlete

This year the top honour went to former Olympic paddler Hugh Fisher, who recently coached the Laoyam Eagles junior dragon boat team to 10 consecutive wins at the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, on top of various national and world titles over the years. It’s not an easy feat with kids graduating each year and a small selection of students to pick from, but the team always manages to blow the other junior teams out of the water, and race competitively against adult crews. Fisher was also instrumental in getting men and women of Pemberton into boats, and in getting a full-time boat storage for One Mile Lake.

The Laoyam Eagles dragon boat team was second, and third was a tie between Eric Pehota and son Logan Pehota, junior triathlete Kai Riess, Jack Hurtubise, snowboarder Craig Beaulieu, freeskier Hugo Harrison, long distance runner Kevin Titus, freeskier Pierre Yves Leblanc, and cross-country skier Sidney van Loon. More than a dozen other local athletes got votes this year.


Best Golf Course Hole

Most voters answered this one with humour, voting for the 19th Hole on the top of Mt. Currie, a popular heli-drop spot for the area’s backcountry skiers. Others were referring to the “19th hole” clubhouses at Big Sky and The Meadows.

The actual golf hole with the most votes was the par-five Purgatory, the fourth hole at Big Sky that has a creek winding through it and green area that’s half sand trap. The creek crosses the course in three sections, and alternates from the left to the right side of the green.

The runner up was number eight at Pemberton Valley Golf Club, a par four with an island green.


Best Hiking Trail

The Joffre Lakes hiking trail is quite simply one of the best day or overnight hikes in the province, winding past three unique lakes that get bluer and more beautiful as you climb. Once at the highest lake you have the option of hiking up a little further to the glacier, or walking beside a series of waterfalls that feed the lake. Lots of beautiful camping spots are available on the moraine.

The Lumpy’s Epic trail was a close second, with its views of Pemberton Valley and Green River, and a section that winds around One Mile Lake. A round trip is about 8 km, depending on the route you take, making it a perfect way to spend a few hours, and it’s a great trail run every October. Dogs are also welcome, although you need to bring a baggie with you and watch out for mountain bikers.

The Nairn Falls Trail is a lot shorter than both hikes with a 3 km round trip, but the view of water crashing through the gorge and down 60 metres into the Green River is worth the effort. The spray also makes it a great place to cool off on a warm day.


Best Indoor Sport

The opening of the new community centre with its gym, fitness room, weight room and more will be a huge asset for the Pemberton Community, which has been lacking indoor fitness space for programming. Next up is an indoor arena and swimming pool.

Basketball, played Pemberton Secondary, got the most votes in this category, followed by floor hockey, and drinking — technically not a sport, but it definitely involves endurance, hand-eye coordination, and the ability to recover quickly. Various forms of video games, led by the Wii and Guitar Hero, were fourth on the list.


Best Outdoor Sport

Mountain biking, the only sport where you tackle yourself, finished on top of the list, with golf and soccer tying for second place by a few votes. Skiing was third, both cross-country and backcountry versions, followed by snowboarding. Getting multiple votes were running, kayaking, dragon boating, paragliding, tennis, hiking, riding horses and baseball.


Best Snowmobile Trail

Of the three ways to access the Pemberton Ice Cap, the Rutherford access in Pemberton is probably the best. There’s an alpine cabin for overnight stays, the bottom part is groomed, and even if you don’t go the full distance to the Ice Cap there’s a lot to enjoy about the Rutherford drainage itself.

The Birkenhead Lake area was second for votes, followed by No Tell Creek.


Best Fishing Spot

Almost two dozen fishing spots made the list this year, with Birkenhead Lake coming out on top with the most votes. The Green River was second on the list, followed by Blackwater Lake and Lillooet Lake. Most fisherman like to keep their spots secret.


Best Place to Skateboard

This was obviously a tough question to answer. The original site, near the community centre, was deemed too narrow to build a proper park, and negotiations started for a lot across the road where the outdoor rink used to be. That land was paved and opened to skateboarders, knowing that the site would eventually be used as parking for the new community centre. Now the centre is open, the Pemberton Skateboard Society is temporarily homeless.

As it currently stands, the Village of Pemberton is going through the application process and hopes to be able to hand over a space beside the parking lot to skaters. No word on when that will happen — the proximity to the power lines makes it more challenging to rezone and pave the space — but there could be a park there sometime next year.

That’s probably why “nowhere” won this category this year, although some skaters are making the best of it by giving nods to the downtown area and local schoolyards.


Best Place to Ride Your Horse

Pemberton is one of the few towns in B.C. where hitching posts are not just there to give the place a little rustic colour — those things actually get used.

The Valley Loop Trail got the most votes from riders, followed by the trails around Mosquito Lake, and Pemberton Meadows and the D’Arcy to Devine area tying for third. No word from the horses what trails they prefer.


Best Place to Ride Your ATV

The Meager Creek Hot Springs are at the top of the list, followed by the Hurley road and the road from D’Arcy to Seton Portage. Other votes went to Devine, Birken, and the Barclay Trail.


Best Place to Ride Your Dirt Bike

The Onion Lake area near Lytton beat out all the local trails — understandably, as it’s considered one of the best places to dirtbike in the entire southwest corner of the province.

In second place was the Green River Riding Centre track, followed by a six way tie for third with Barclay Valley, Devin, the Chilcotins, the Hurley, Meager Creek, and Birken.


Best Place to Camp

The Bralorne area won this category by three votes over Birkenhead Lake. Joffre Lakes was third, followed closely by the Owl Creek Campground. Other popular camping spots were Twin One Creek, Tenquille, Strawberry Point, Meager Creek, Driftwood Bay, and Lillooet Lake.


Best Lake for Swimming

Mosquito Lake was the runaway winner in this category, suggesting there aren’t as many mosquitoes up there as we’ve been led to believe. Rainbow Lake was second (hopefully not referencing Whistler’s water supply), and third was a tie between Birkenhead, Anderson, and One Mile.


Best Lake for Motorsports

There aren’t a lot of lakes in this area large enough for motorsports, and the ones that are large enough are often too cold to pull wakeboarders or tubers behind your boat. Anderson Lake is the exception, and the clear winner in this category. Birkenhead Lake, where most motors are attached to fishing boats, is second, with Gates Lake and Lillooet Lake tying for second place.


Best Park

Public parks often take backseat to the backcountry in Sea to Sky, and it was no different in the Best of Pemberton poll. One Mile was the winner, followed by Zurcher and Pioneer parks. Most of the other votes went to the various provincial parks, notably Birkenhead and Garibaldi.


Favourite People


Favourite Farmer

The farming category proved to be a tight race in an agricultural community like Pemberton, but Helmer’s Organics came out on top. Run by the Helmer family, this farm picks every potato when it’s young to stress taste over volume. They also grow a variety of other vegetables including carrots, beets, zucchinis and peas. Their produce goes to markets in Pemberton and Whistler, but also supplies to high-end Vancouver restaurants such as C Restaurant and Raincity Grill.

The Helmers were followed closely by Jordan Sturdy’s North Arm Farm, a family farm that specializes in fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers and farm animals. Bruce Miller’s Across the Creek Organics came next, a farm famous for its Tasty Green Salad Mix as well as potatoes sold through Vancouver-based Small Potatoes Urban Delivery.


Favourite Doctor

It’s hard to topple the one on top, but there was stiff competition for best doctor in Pemberton. Dr. Rebecca Lindley came out on top once more despite a host of nominations. The winner of a 2005 research grant to study the professional development of rural B.C. doctors, Dr. Lindley also partook in a 2006 report on professional development for rural physicians. Dr. Ho Chen followed her closely, as did Dr. Hugh Fisher, who closed his practice last year to enjoy semi-retirement and work in other clinics.


Favourite Dentist

Dentists have a sensitive job – there’s not much room for the squeamish, what with all the pulled teeth and the inevitable bad breath coming from patients. One dentist in Pemberton, however, must have incredible tolerance for both of these things, as Dr. Anne Crowley came through with a resounding victory in this category. Big Sky Dental got a mention in the survey but Crowley was the clear winner here.


Favourite Veterinarian

Pemberton isn’t known for its rash of veterinary options, but Squamish’s Dr. Stein Hoff was the winner here. Dr. Hoff services the whole of the Sea to Sky Corridor and can take care of any animal, be it dogs, cats, horses or hamsters. TV’s “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” also got a mention in this survey.


Favourite Politician

This one was all over the board, but a winner was fairly clear in the end – Mayor Jordan Sturdy beat out a lot of competition including Councillors Jennie Helmer and Mark Blundell, who came second and third, respectively. Councillors Dave MacKenzie and Kirsten McLeod were also mentioned. Sturdy has overseen a very busy time in Pemberton’s history, including the installation of a new groundwater supply well, a new community centre and the early stages of a proposed boundary expansion. And then, of course, there’s that little concert that happened in Pemberton a little over a month ago. You might have heard of it? Maybe Matisyahu was playing?


Favourite Realtor

When it came to real estate, a clear passion for community won out in the end. Lisa Ames of the Whistler Real Estate Company was the resounding victor in this category. A 22-year resident of the Whistler and Pemberton area, Ames concentrates her efforts squarely within the Spud Valley. In 2006 she was recognized as Pemberton’s Citizen of the Year and she also serves as a director on the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce and as president of the Pemberton Rotary Club. Her e-mail signature reads, “I believe in Pemberton.”


Favourite Lawyer

Lawyers often get a bad rep in this day and age, but that doesn’t mean the efforts of some special ones don’t get through. The husband-and-wife team of David Lunny and Maureen Baird is one of them. Though working out of a law firm based in Vancouver, Lunny and Baird do plenty of work in Pemberton. Lunny focuses largely on civil and commercial litigation, while Baird does more administrative, municipal and regulatory work. They’re also the owners of Drumkeeran House, a Celtic country house overlooking Ivey Lake. Lunny himself served as an attorney for the N’Quatqua band when a group of protesters voiced its opposition to logging near Anderson Lake. Peter Shrimpton of the Mountain Law Corporation also fared well in this survey. He was voted as Whistler’s best lawyer in 2005.


Favourite Tour Guide

This, too, was a close finish. Bob Menzel at Adventures on Horseback took the top prize here, while Shirley Henry at Tourism Pemberton took second place. Menzel is a bonafide cowboy, having operated his adventure ranch since 1985. His family has been in the Pemberton Valley for three generations. His wife, Susan Perry, rides and competes in English and Western competitions. Henry, meanwhile, runs the show at the Pemberton Visitor Centre, taking calls from visitors to the region and giving them directions on where to go.


Shops and Wares


Favourite Financial Institution

This category got a lot of attention from voters, amassing a lot more individual votes than other categories. It was a three-way race for the top spot, with the North Shore Credit Union sitting pretty on top. Could have a lot to do with its central location in Pemberton’s downtown core – that, and the attractive prospect of not paying ATM fees each time you take out money. The nearby Scotiabank, which recently celebrated its 50th birthday, came in second. Despite these big finishes, lots of voters labeled “My Mattress” as their financial institution of choice. Given the economy, mattresses could indeed prove to be ingenious places to hide one’s money.


Best Grocery Store

The Pemberton Valley Supermarket takes up almost half a city block in Pemberton’s downtown area, and it consequently takes up a lot of votes on the Best of Pemberton survey. PVS was far and away the winner in the grocery store category, followed by AG Foods. For anyone coming into the Village, AG Foods has the advantage in terms of location, but the Supermarket has the size.


Best Place to Shop for Men

The Pemberton General Store is the best place to go for men’s clothing, according to voters in this survey. Not only does it offer clothes, it also has souvenirs such as t-shirts and hats, as well as sunglasses, workboots and other work-related clothing. Musical instruments such as guitars and other string instruments are also available at this store that has operated in Pemberton since 1956. The Pemberton Fire Fighters were also cited in this category. Apparently helmets and rubber boots are in style this season.


Best Video Store

Movie Gallery must have signed a non-compete agreement with every other video store chain, because it’s the only game in Pemberton. People are free to order from Netflix and Rogers Direct, but Movie Gallery still takes the cake in Pemberton. There were, however, many respondents who put down “my computer” as the best destination for movie rentals, while others cited the Pemberton Library as a good place to get your cinephilic fix.


Best Place to Shop for Women

What’s good for men is good for women in this survey, as the Pemberton General Store was also voted the best destination for women’s clothing. It has everything from Columbia wear to Levi’s, not to mention purses, raingear and authentic First Nations blankets. The IDA Pharmacy also figured as a competitor in this category, as well as the Lily Pad Thrift Store.