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Best of Whistler 2006

Who's in, what's up. Pique Newsmagazine staff compile the best of Whistler from people like you who voted online .
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Managers Mike Borrelli and Mark Beaton after learning Glacier Shop was voted Whistler’s top ski shop, photo by Vivian Moreau

The year started off with Canadians going to the polls to choose a new federal government and wrapped up with… rumblings that another election may be imminent.

Locally there was no election but a new council got down to work, a new lift was installed on Whistler Mountain, the Paralympic sledge hockey and curling were moved from Whistler to Vancouver and epic winter and summer seasons were enjoyed by all.

Whistlerites did get another chance to vote in 2006 — in Pique Newsmagazine’s annual Best of Whistler survey. From best restaurant to best quote to best use of money, the responses poured in. The data has been analyzed, the hanging chads scrutinized and some of the spelling interpreted to determine the Best of Whistler 2006. The people’s choices are…

QUINTESSENTIAL WHISTLER

Best Way to Spend Your Last $10

When there’s only $10 left in your bank account Whistlerites overwhelmingly agree on how it should be blown. Quite simply the top answer was beer. And while most picked beer no matter what the flavour, the locale, or the time of day, others were a little more specific — we’re talking about your last $10 after all.

Votes went to drinking at beer at the Longhorn, others at the Amsterdam, at Merlin’s at Dusty’s, at Black’s, at the Crystal, at the GLC, at Moe Joe’s. Then of course there were votes for après beers, which arguably taste a little better than regular beers, particularly after a powder day.

Food and coffee also ranked high on the list. Tastes ranged from black bean wraps to sushi, lattes, wings, burgers, Dusty’s wedges with butt rub mayo, and almost everything else in between.

Interesting to note that even with 20 feet of snow falling in Whistler this season, diehard mountain bikers are still thinking about the day they can get back on their bikes. They’d spend their money at five Loonie races, which actually gets you beer, food and a mountain bike race — a wise way indeed to spend your last 10 bucks!

It’s worth mentioning that there were a few voters out there who thought about spending their last $10 on somebody else. Among other things they said they would donate the money to the local animal shelter (WAG), to the local food bank and to a friend in greater need.

Most Extreme Thing to Do

When it comes to extreme in Whistler, two activities continually come to mind in the Best of Whistler competition — ziptrekking and bungee jumping. They’ve been vying for the top spot in this category for years and in 2006, by just one vote, bungee jumping takes the top spot over ziptrekking. You be the judge. Head south of Whistler, strap a bungee cord to your feet or chest or both and toss yourself off the bungee bridge over the rushing Cheakamus River. If your heart can withstand more thrills it’s time for ziptrekking — literally zipping across the sky over the Fitzsimmons Creek in between Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains.

There are of course other extreme things to do in Whistler according to Best of Whistler voters — backcountry cliff dropping, kayaking the Cheakamus River, cat skiing, Air Jordon on Whistler, Khyber’s, the Samurai of Singletrack bike race, the Whistler Mountain Bike Park.

“Skiing with my wife” and “skiing with your partner on a powder day!” get honourable mentions this year in the survey, which fortunately for some is an anonymous survey! Also interesting to note that even with all the extreme sports activities in Whistler that could go in this category, there were several votes for driving the Sea to Sky Highway. The voting for the Best of Whistler closed before the highway road closures shut down the highway for more than nine hours recently or ziptrekking and bungee jumping would have really had a run for their money.

Housing in all its forms also got voted in the extreme category, from buying a house in Whistler to finding accommodation to rent in November.

Best Use of Money

Anyone who shelled out more than a grand for a season’s pass at Whistler-Blackcomb understands why the ski pass rates top of the list as the best use of money year after year. It topped the category again for 2006. It may seem like a lot of money upfront but the ski pass is quite literally the gift that keeps on giving and giving, day after day.

There are even those days, those choke on powder, get buried up to your armpits days that are priceless, that make the ski pass worth every hard-earned penny you paid for it. A few mentions to Whistler-Blackcomb as well in this category for spending $9.2 million building the Symphony chairlift on Whistler Mountain.

The more pragmatic among us chose food as the best use of money, and another popular choice was ski gear because, let’s face it, who wants to spend all that money on a ski pass and not look good and feel warm while we’re up there!

There were also some altruistic suggestions for the best use of money. One voter wrote: “give it up for the good other others, build smaller eco homes, save the plant” while another wrote: “improving our environment.”

And while there were a few people who simply suggested “spending it” was the best use of money, a few more voted for “saving” it.

Another interesting suggestion among the plethora of comments in this category was using your money to tip for awesome service — something to keep in mind as we head out to restaurants and bars over the holiday season. (see worst use of money category)

Worst Use of Money

This year the Best of Whistler write-up also acts as a public service announcement as readers overwhelmingly vote for drugs as the worst use of money. What drugs aren’t specified but over many other vices listed in the category including junk food, booze, gambling, and cigarettes, drugs takes the top spot. Don’t waste your money on drugs is the message from Pique readers this year.

But the question also allows readers to vent about the spending of public funds, i.e. their hard-earned tax dollars, at municipal hall.

It would seem more than one reader is unhappy with the public art in Village Square, which was paid for with private funds, and was delivered to the resort in May.

“How about that stupid metal sculpture in the Village Square,” says one. “That metal thing in front of Moguls,” gripes another. “That weird metal sculpture,” and “that wishbone thing in Village Square.”

The artwork is called “Three Interwoven Wishbones and Wishes” and is by Colorado-based sculptor Robert Tully. The municipality confirmed this week that the public art was donated to Whistler.

Parking also raised the ire of readers, whether it’s actually putting coins into the parking meters or risking it and paying the tickets afterwards, it’s all considered a bad use of your money.

Other notable mentions go to the $10 million library, consulting fees for sustainability, council raises (their salary went up about 50 per cent this year), the lack of street lights, repeatedly replacing the windows in the bus shelters, the proposed Olympic legacy trails in the Callaghan Valley, the P3 (presumably this is a vote for the more than $1 million spent investigating a public/private partnership for the sewage plant upgrades and operations), and the plans for the municipality to get into the T-shirt business.

And just as voters said the best use of money was tipping for good service, there was a vote for tipping for shoddy service in the worst use of money category.

Best Whistler Trend

Last year it won the best health trend of the year and this year it wins the overall best Whistler trend. Body Storm is a whole body workout that can change your life — just ask the Pique readers who voted it the best Whistler trend. And perhaps it’s a sign of the place we live but other votes went to fitness, health, being active and healthy living.

Worst Whistler Trend

They brought us Midnight Oil, Kylie Minogue, the Wiggles and Tim Tam biscuits but the Aussies are also responsible for another fad that apparently is still sweeping the resort. Uggs. The comfy fuzzy boots took top spot for worst Whistler trend this year. The boots have been keeping Aussie feet warm for nearly 200 years and were made popular by surfers and swimmers. They hit the big time internationally in more recent years and despite their comfort and functionality, they tend to score big votes in this category.

Baggy jeans also raised the ire of Pique voters, in particular “guys with droopy pants that make them walk like penguins.”

Party of 2006

Whistler’s food and wine festival extravaganza celebrated its 10 th season this year and it was the place to be for rubbing shoulders, mingling and general merriment in 2006. Cornucopia won for best party of the year. Several events within the multi-day celebration got specific mentions, such as Araxi’s Bubbles party, the ARTrageous event at Dusty’s, the Crush wine-tasting at the conference centre and of course, the most coveted of all the party tickets in Whistler — the party at the Bearfoot Bistro, Andre St. Jacques’s infamous Masquerave.

As in years past the party was fodder for water-cooler discussions throughout Whistler with its naked ladies covered in body paint, its can-can girls and this year, the tunes from ABBA cover band, ABBA Cadabra.

Cornucopia has transformed what can often-be a dreary November in Whistler and made it into a celebration to tempt and tease all the senses.

And let’s not forget about Whistler’s spring celebration, which came a very close runner-up in the 2006 Best of Whistler. If Cornucopia is the best fall party, then the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival is the place to be in April. From musicians rocking the main stage in the village to parties with some of the best snowboard and skiing stars, WSSF, like Cornucopia has become a Whistler signature event, somehow defining who we are and who we’re becoming.

New Business

It was a tie this year! Two new restaurants took the top spot in 2006. Three Below, which is located underground beside the Village 8 Cinemas, and Morgan’s in Creekside both win for best new business. The first is a great family-friendly pizza place, the latter an upscale fine dining restaurant.

“A clear win would have been better, but I’ll take the tie,” jokes Three Below’s general manager Andre Duguay.

The restaurant has been open for a year and a half now, offering pizza and family-sized pastas in a causal dining experience complete with three high definition plasma TVs. The wine list is exclusively B.C. wines and Duguay said there isn’t one bottle over $45.

“I think our pizza is probably the best in town,” said Duguay, who may be a little biased.

On the other side of town at the entrance to Creekside sits Morgan’s, a dramatic building with imposing logs and large windows. Operations manager Brad Godin said the thing that sets this restaurant apart is its wood burning mesquite grill. The mesquite charcoal in that grill gives their food a smoky flavour and when you combine that with the 100 per cent certified organic meat and produce, that’s a taste that can’t be beaten.

“Doing organics has been really well received,” he said.

Their signature dish, said Godin is their grilled meats and this winter they are featuring a rack of venison. Morgan’s has been open since March 2006.

Daily Slice Pizza and Beet Root Café came in as very close runners-up.

Gift or Present

Imaginations run wild in this category! From flowers to diamonds to dinner at the Rim Rock, everyone has their own idea of what the best gift or present should and could be. But just as it took the top spot in the best use of money category, the Whistler-Blackcomb season’s pass also wins as the best gift or present.

Least Like Whistler

Though we have four of them, Starbucks was voted least like Whistler in 2006, although that doesn’t stop the lineup’s for delicious lattes. Starbucks, with its three locations in the village and a fourth in Creekside, is becoming a landmark institution in Whistler even if people feel it’s not particularly representative of the real community vibe.

Place for People Watching

It’s going to take a six-storey building in the middle of Village Square to knock off the reigning champ in this category. We’ve lost count of how many years they’ve won, but once again Citta’ Bistro wins by a landslide.

It’s always one of the first village patios to fill up in the summer time and during après ski in the winter. So why? Why does Citta’ win year after year when there are so many happening spots to watch the world go round in Whistler?

General manager Scott Gadsby has some thoughts on that. Citta’ is located in the centre of town. This was the original epicenter of Whistler with its grocery store, liquor store, pharmacy and pub — everything those early ski pioneers needed or wanted. People naturally gravitate to the centre of town, said Gadsby.

“I think everybody in the village has to walk by here eventually,” he added.

It helps that there’s great beer in bottles and on tap, a heated patio, music bingo on Wednesday night, and occasional live music.

And while there’s always a local crowd in the joint, they welcome and mingle well with the tourists who happen by as well.

And let’s not forget about another critical ingredient — sunshine.

We are reminded again of the words of Whistler’s master planner: “When you have the sun shining on you and the wind sheltered, you have just a wonderful comfort that you don’t find in other places,” said Eldon Beck in a previous interview with Pique Newsmagazine.

The sun shines on Citta’ patio like no other. So picture yourself, quenching your thirst with a cold beer, resting your powder-weary legs on a chair and watching the world go by.

Favourite Whistlerite

Long time local Australians are represented for the first time ever in the Favourite Whistlerite category as Andy Flynn takes top spot for 2006. Flynn is the owner of Moe Joe’s, a nightclub/institution in Whistler. He could not be reached to comment on his win this year as he is currently Down Under with his family.

Flynn joins a distinguished list of former winners that includes Joey Houssain, Rick Clare and the highway flag guy Ben Richardson.

It’s worth noting that Olympian Ross Rebagliati and Mayor Ken Melamed tied for second spot in the Favourite Whistlerite category for 2006.

Make Out Spot

Does it get any better than a hot make out session high in the air as you soar past snow-covered peaks? Quite simply: no it doesn’t. The gondolas are the top make out place in Whistler. We don’t need to explain why. If you haven’t tried it for yourself already, we highly recommend it as a great way to begin your day on the mountains. The Whistler gondola takes the top spot although there were several votes for the Creekside gondola too. Most weren’t picky, however, and making out in any gondola is good enough. Points go out to the reader who wrote: all three gondola’s in the same day!

Local spots around town also got votes: Lost Lake at night, on the dock at Alta Lake, Rainbow Park, Rick’s Roost, the River of Golden Dreams.

And local nightclubs also don’t disappoint as a make out place, of note the Moe Joe’s dance floor, Maxx Fish, Garf’s, Buffalo Bill’s.

“Anywhere” and “everywhere” also got lots of votes.

Excuse for Being Late

Whistler employers tend to understand the top excuse for being late when you work in this resort — powder, powder and more powder. We have a rule out there after all — the 20 cm rule. And no one likes to break the rules. Or as one reader put it: “I am not expected to be on time on a powder day.”

“Too much snow” was another excuse, although we question whether there is even such a thing as “too much” snow.

Bears also come in handy as a late excuse, whether they’re on the road, sitting at the front door or in one rather unfortunate case, in your house and going to the bathroom on your bed.

Highway delays also come in handy as an excuse, perhaps because they are somewhat believable.

Neighbourhood

Well, it’s done it again. Alpine Meadows takes the top spot for best Whistler neighbourhood. We’ve lost count of how many times this section of town has won. At the risk of sounding like a local realtor, let’s look at why Alpine rocks in the neighbourhood category. First off, it’s north of town. As we all know, living north has its advantages particularly at 3:30 p.m. on a Saturday and Sunday. When all the southies fight Vancouver-bound traffic to get home after a day’s skiing, Alpiners and other northerners leisurely make their drive home. And if driving isn’t your thing, Alpine also boasts a very handy bus system.

We can see why neighbourhoods like Kadenwood, Taluswood and Blueberry received fewer votes. They just don’t have as many people living there as the older established subdivisions. Alpine has a healthy mix of older ski cabins, condo units, employee housing and new large homes. The mayor of Whistler lives there too!

The Meadow Park Sports Centre with its pool, weight room, fitness room, squash courts and ice rink is just around the corner. Baseball diamonds and a kids water park and playground are right beside the gym. And for all those last minute needs, like bread and milk, the Alpine Meadows Market is open for business.

The café beside the market has been a wonderful addition to the neighbourhood. A place to get your morning coffee and catch up on the local gossip, a warm cozy hideaway for a bowl of soup and a delicious slice of bread, the café has become a cornerstone to the bustling neighbourhood.

Lie to Tell Tourists

It’s a fact that oftentimes when people go on holidays they leave their brains at home. And so, in the spirit of some good fun, this allows Whistlerites, who deal with tourists every day, to have a little fun with them. A small white lie here, an omission of the truth there, we understand — and accept that the same may be done to us when we go on holidays.

Take the standard Whistler lie: “the mountains open at 10 a.m.” On a 30 cm day, when even locals would sell their friends to the devil, it’s reasonable to expect people to do everything in their power to keep the visitors off the mountain for the first half-hour. We all know the mountains really open at 9:30 a.m. — honest.

Giving bad directions to the mysterious “Dual Mountain” is another favourite, as is anything to do with black bears. That we have bears as pets in Whistler was one lie, and that you can actually pet them was another. We don’t recommend either.

And we also like to lie about the weather, although we would like to know how you can tell a tourist with a straight face: “it never rains here.”

Another suggestion for pulling tourists’ legs is that every year Whistler drains Green Lake and paints the bottom to give it that gorgeous colour. It’s true — it’s hard to believe that’s just a wonder of nature.

This year there were again pleas to stop telling tourists lies, even if just for fun.

“Stop this category!!! We need to show our GUESTS gratitude, compassion and respect but for them none of us would have jobs.”

A reminder perhaps that we don’t really want to see any guests pet a bear or even miss some awesome powder when there’s loads to go around.

Blizzard Hangout

What were you during this month’s most memorable snowstorm, on Dec. 14? Hopefully you weren’t stuck for 12 hours on the Sea to Sky Highway but instead were snuggled up at home in your slippers and track pants, as the storm battered the roads outside.

Readers picked their home as the best place to be when a blizzard hits.

Some readers were particular about where in their home and what they’d be doing.

They’d be on “my couch” or “by the fire” “with a movie” or “in front of the fire with a good book” or “in the sauna” and “in the hot tub” or by the fire with a “nice bottle of wine and a good friend.”

Several readers were thinking ahead to the next day and enjoying all the fresh powder left by the blizzard. And so there were votes for “resting for the next pow day.”

But home wasn’t for everyone.

The Roundhouse on Whistler Mountain also got several readers’ votes, as did the GLC at the bottom of the mountain. Both choices offer people very good spots to get to the lift and on the slopes as soon as the blizzard dies down. Smart thinking.

Rumour

Small town rumours are some of the best in the world but Whistler rumours in particular can fly fast and furious around the resort. And so we introduce the Best Rumour category. One of the best rumours of the year, as voted by Pique readers, is that Disney is buying Whistler-Blackcomb. Like many rumours there was a kernel of truth to this one. Whistler-Blackcomb was bought this year but not by Disney. Instead Fortress Investment Group took over Intrawest, and by extension Whistler-Blackcomb, in a $2.8 billion deal in October. Don’t expect to see Mickey Mouse and Goofy wandering the village any time soon.

Other interesting rumours in the category this year are:

“Hooters is going in the old Zeuskis.” That could be an interesting addition to the village. If we thought London Drugs raised people’s ire, what would a Hooters do?

And then of course there are always the rumours of celebrity sightings, particularly those celebrities who have been known to come to town — Justin Timberlake, Pamela Anderson, Cameron Diaz, Tommy Lee.

And here’s the most interesting of all the rumours and one we have never heard before: “Whistler Mountain is set atop a large marsh and decreases in elevation above sea-level by four metres a year and will eventually be flat.”

Maybe our goal collectively for the New Year should be: don’t spread rumours.

Idea for a new Olympic Event

Also a new category this year, and readers had fun with this one, voting for some very interesting choices. Still, one choice came out on top — tubing.

Ever since the new Coca-Cola Tube Park opened at Whistler-Blackcomb last year, tubing has become a favourite Whistler pastime.

The course lies just beside the state of the art $100 million Whistler Sliding Centre, which will host the bobsled, luge and skeleton events during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

When contacted on her holidays VANOC spokesperson Maureen Douglas had this to say about tubing as an Olympic sport.

“With complete and utter respect to our remarkable Canadian sliding teams, all the sliding sports are perhaps just tubing extreme. And so we would encourage people to get up there and practice, it’s really the first step.

“Maybe the tube park will become an official training facility!”

It’s something to bear in mind when you’re sliding down the tube park this season — and be sure not to take the wrong turn and end up on the luge run. If you thought tube park was fast, just wait ’til 2010!

Because this is a new category it’s worth noting some other Olympic event suggestions.

Drinking, in particular beer drinking, got a lot of votes. One reader even outlined some of the rules for his drunken stumble event: “Drink one beer every 10 feet, the last one to fall down wins!” Some would argue that it takes talent.

Doing things naked also got a lot of votes. There was naked tubing, naked skeleton, naked piggy-back skiing, pantless hockey and bikini skiing.

A nude synchronized swim event at Lost Lake was also proposed. Douglas mused that event could combine the best of Whistler’s carefree spirit along with excellent physical exercise and art.

FOOD & DRINK

Best Restaurant

Rimrock Café has taken top spot again this year as the best overall restaurant in Whistler. That’s five years in row for the eatery, which is consistently, rated as one of Whistler's top restaurants and fine dining establishments. From fresh seafood such as salmon, sablefish, and oyster plates to rack of lamb and arctic caribou, the Rimrock, now in its 20 th year, offers fine dining in a casual yet elegant atmosphere. Manager and owner Bob Dawson, was amazed to have won again. “I think it’s due to our consistency,” he said. “People are never disappointed, that’s the secret.” Dawson said many of the staff out front and in the kitchen has been there for years and that allows for a level of excellence in service and dining.

Chef Rolf Gunther, who is also the co-owner, keeps the food fresh and interesting, said Dawson, adding that customers have told him that they have never had a bad meal at the Rimrock.

“It’s amazing and we have to thank all our customers,” he said.

Sushi Village takes second place again. It can always be counted on for the freshest in sushi and excellent service.

And in the top three for the first time is Elements. This eatery opened in September 2005 in the Summit Lodge & Spa and offers boutique wines, infused martinis and locally inspired tapas. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to noon, and tapas from noon to 1 a.m.

It also won best new restaurant in 2005.

When Someone Else Pays

Well, where else would you go to spend someone else’s money but the best restaurant in town: the Rimrock Cafe. Don’t forget to add one of their excellent martinis to the bill and of course the Oysters Rimrock.

If you can’t get into the Rimrock then the second best place to use up your friend’s loonies this year is Araxi, which moves up from third place last year. Araxi has been voted number one for Whistler dining by both readers and critics of Vancouver magazine for an unprecedented six consecutive years and currently holds Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence.

Extensive menus by esteemed executive chef James Walt deliver the best of the Pacific Northwest with ingredients sourced locally from land and sea. The dining room is filled with warm colours; antiques and original artworks provide an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere. The adjoining seafood bar and lounge has a more contemporary feel and the 80-seat patio with heated outdoor bar is the perfect place for people watching in the hub of the Village Square.

If these two are both full then head over to the Bear Foot Bistro with your friend’s wallet and enjoy a magnificent meal. It procures the very finest wild and cultivated products, focusing on what is fresh each season. Most everything is prepared ‘A la minute’, without too much fuss, allowing the unique flavours of each food to find there own place on your palate.

Coolest Staff

This is a new category this year and our first winner is Earl’s. The casual dinning spot can always be counted on be filled with trendy staff sporting happy smiles. Second place goes to Citta’s a landmark in Whistler where staff can offer insider tips to just about everything you want to know about the resort. And third spot goes to Dusty’s. The Creekside hangout is an awesome place to rest weary ski legs and staff can always be counted on to know just what you need to get you back up the hill.

Value

Bit of a shakeup in this year’s category with Samurai Sushi moving into first place for the first time.

Samurai’s quick service makes it a popular spot for lunch and grabbing a bite at dinner. You can stay there or take it out, and you know it’s good since there is a lineup all the time. The portions are generous, the fare tasty and fresh, and the tab small. If you haven’t eaten there go check it out. They now have two locations, one at Nesters and one at Creekside.

Second place goes to the winner for the last three years Wildwood. Opened by locals for locals it has won the hearts of many with its tasty cuisine and fair prices. Also open for dinner, the restaurant’s seafood specials are well worth tasting. Its sister eatery Wild Wood Café in Function Junction is worth checking out too.

In third place this year is Pasta Lupino, a small restaurant that offers fresh pasta at tiny prices — that’s what keeps drawing hungry skiers to this little Whistler Marketplace trattoria. You can mix and match from a choice of pastas of the day with homemade alfredo, Bolognese, or fresh basil and plum tomato sauce or dig into one of the house specialties: lasagna, ravioli, and spaghettini with meatballs. Vegetarian pastas, decadent desserts, beer, and wine are also available. The eight tables fill up quickly, but there's always takeout.

New Restaurant

First place this year goes to Samurai Sushi’s Creekside location. It’s a great alternative to the Nesters spot but offers all the same sensational sushi. Try their udon noodle soup. It’s awesome.

Second place this year goes to Whistler newcomer Morgan’s restaurant, also in Creekside. Morgan's offers an array of organic meat, vegetables and fruit. A cozy fireplace, lounge with unique mural artwork and private bar offers guests a variety of settings in which to enjoy their meals, while unwinding to the soothing sounds of blues and soul music. In the spring and summer, two patio decks facing south will provide maximum sun exposure and full views of the 2010 Olympic downhill runs.

Third place goes to Daily Slice Pizza in the Cornerstone building (Royal Bank). You can get a slice or buy the whole pizza. Its tangy tomato sauce gives this pizza a very authentic taste.

Wine List

Tops in this category, by a landslide, was the Bear Foot Bistro which Wine Access magazine’s, Anthony Gismondi called the “the most memorable restaurant experience in Canada.”

The Bearfoot Bistro is very much about wine. The wine cellar located directly below the dining room floor, accessible to all guests by spiral staircase, is home to the bulk of the 16,000 bottle, 1,400 label collection. Highlights of the cellar include: a full vertical of Chateau Mouton Rothschild from 1945 to 1996; a strong showing from all other Bordeaux first growths; Probably Canada’s best Champagne collection (watch out for that saber) including Dom Perignon as far back as 1959. On any given winter day as many as 35 different wines are offered by the glass. But don’t be put off as founder Andre St. Jacques also offers a fine selection of unique wines priced moderately. Zagat calls it “Fine dining at its best”. The Chicago Tribune ranks it “amongst the best in North America”.

Second in this category is Araxi, with third place going to the Rimrock. The same order as we saw in 2003.

Dessert

Another new category this year and it’s no surprise that some of the best restaurants in town won out the day. Coming in first is the Rimrock with its world famous sticky toffee pudding. The crème brulee is well worth saving space for too and if those are a little too much enjoy the palate-cleansing trio of sorbets.

Second place went to Araxi, where the Valrhona Chocolate trio, with mocha tiramisu, spiced hot chocolate and milk chocolate ice cream is sinfully good. The cheese offerings are also excellent.

In third place is the Bearfoot Bistro, which is just introducing a new menu of desserts. Top of the list to try is the Michele Cluizel chocolate, which is a bitter chocolate mousse, maple white chocolate pannacotta, cocoa nib guiness ice cream.

Appetizer

Since après is so important to the skiing experience in Whistler Pique decided to introduce its own category for appetizers this year. Two spots tied for the top place this year 21 Steps and Elements.

21 Steps is a casual restaurant committed to great food made from scratch, offered at fair prices. Every dish is made fresh-to-order from scratch. Try the fried goat cheese and the tiny bacon wrapped filets. Elements offers locally inspired tapas and specializes in small plate cuisine.

The Mix by Ric’s, a new tapas eatery in town took second place this year and third went to the Rimrock.

Quick Lunch

No surprise that the winner in this new category is Gone Bakery. Its homemade soups and generous sandwiches are quick to get and totally satisfying, especially on a cold winter’s day.

In second place comes Ingrid’s in the village. A long-time favourite of locals and visitors alike this European-leaning eatery always has a great selection of sandwiches and hot food to grab and go or enjoy on the spot.

Third place goes to Samurai Sushi, and so close to third it deserves a mention is the Beet Root Café (the old Aunti Em’s), which has revolutionized good food at its Marketplace location.

Tapas

Top of the list for this one is no surprise, it’s Elements, which has made an art out of tapas and small plate diners. Runner up this new category is 21 Steps and third is the Mix by Ric's.

Restaurant to take a Date

With its inviting fireplace, full chairs, and food guaranteed to WOW it’s little wonder that the Rimrock won this category. The friendly and attentive staff are there when you need them and gone when you don’t. Second place went to Elements, which is guaranteed to impress since it is such a happening place. The awesome list of martinis helps too.

Third place goes to 21 Steps.

Some Pique readers who filled out the survey said they couldn’t offer an opinion since it had been such a long time since they had had a date, while others said they would only go where no one knew them! Hard to do in a small town.

Atmosphere

There are two winners this year the Rimrock and the Trattoria di Umberto.

There is no doubt that the Tratt’s alfresco, tiled dining room decorated with warm Tuscany colours and interesting art offers elegance without ostentation. And the staff has that rare serving savvy so they can see when cozy couples only have time for themselves or families need all the help they can get. It also serves the best Linguine Vongole in town.

But the Rimrock is also a favourite for locals and visitors alike as this upper floor restaurant warmed with hardwood, a roaring stone fireplace and a decor of mountain colours can sooth even the most exhausted diner. With the room broken into small sections it also offers an intimacy hard to find in the busy resort.

Second place goes to the Fifty-Two 80 Bistro at the Four Seasons. Named for the number of feet that Blackcomb Mountain towers above the village, it celebrates its spectacular alpine location with glorious views of the local mountains from a brilliant fire-lit setting.

Pizza

Avalanche pizza wins by, well, an avalanche. Back in top spot this year, which is, no doubt thanks to its organic dough and signature sauce, which leaves a tangy, “I need more of that flavour” thought with every mouthful.

Second place goes to the Daily Slice and third to Boston Pizza.

Scotch

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Mallard Bar takes top spot for this category. Every good glass of scotch has a story to go with it and that is why where you enjoy it is so important. So for the third year imbibers of the national drink of the kilt wearer have chosen the Mallard as “the” place to raise a dram or two. And it’s no wonder, with its subdued tones and hearty décor. You could almost spot a wee haggis running around if you looked quickly enough to catch the rare sight.

The Gaelic "usquebaugh", meaning "Water of Life", phonetically became "usky" and then "whisky" in English. However it is known, Scotch Whisky, Scotch or Whisky (as opposed to whiskey), it has captivated a global market. Scotland has internationally protected the term "Scotch". For a whisky to be labelled Scotch it has to be produced in Scotland.

Legend has it that St. Patrick introduced distilling to Ireland in the fifth century AD and that the secrets traveled with the Dalriadic Scots when they arrived in Kintyre around AD500. St. Patrick acquired the knowledge in Spain and France, countries that might have known the art of distilling at that time. The distilling process was originally applied to perfume, then to wine, and finally adapted to fermented mashes of cereals in countries where grapes were not plentiful. The spirit was universally termed aqua vitae (water of life) and was commonly made in monasteries, and chiefly used for medicinal purposes, (hear, hear!) being prescribed for the preservation of health, the prolongation of life, and for the relief of colic, palsy and even smallpox.

Second this year goes to Hy’s Steakhouse, and third spot is taken by the Bearfoot Bistro.

Steak

Hy’s Steakhouse wins again this year, that’s year four, and its no wonder. Even people walking past on the street can’t help but turn their noses in the direction of the succulent smells emanating from this kitchen. The steak melts in your mouth, sending your taste buds into frenzy. Hy’s created today’s idea of a great Canadian steak meal where the beef isn’t thin and gray but thick and succulent. Hy Aisenstat opened the first one in Calgary in 1956. A former roughneck on the oilrigs it was his love of good food, which led to his partnership with a chef who later bailed out on the deal. “The Only”, the famous 14-ounce New York steak, went for $3 in 1956 at Aisenstat’s first second-floor Calgary restaurant.

And even before he got a liquor license, Aisenstat was offering prime steaks and painstaking service in posh surroundings. More than any other single Canadian restaurateur, he was responsible for educating the masses to the delights of fancy dining.

To this day, according to carnivores that know, Hy’s is the place to sit down and satisfy those beefy cravings with their signature New York Strip with Hy’s steak sauce.

Runner up again this year is the Keg, Hy’s sister company, which always offers good quality for a good price. Sometimes at the end of a day on the slopes what you need is a keg-sized steak, a keg-sized Caesar and a place to really relax.

This year third spot goes to Ric’s Grill, Steak Seafood and Chop House, which has been built on the vision of providing superior dining through the highest quality foods in a beautiful restaurant at a reasonable cost.

From the opening of the first Ric’s in Prince George in 1998 to the 12th restaurant recently opened in Victoria the chain’s been steadily delivering that vision. The words “housemade” — a sauce made from scratch — appears on the typical menu a dozen times and the eatery serves only Sterling Silver beef, the highest grade of beef available in Canada.

Burger

Splitz Grill: Year after year burger lovers choose Whistler’s beef-on-a-bun joint as the place to enjoy this American invention. With over 20 toppings to choose from, a host of sauces, great fries and real thick milkshakes this eatery is a little bit of heaven.

Lauded for its convenience and versatility as either snack or entree and labeled as both a cultural icon and a cliché, the hamburger is a meaty, multifaceted phenomenon. The average American consumes nearly 30 pounds of hamburger a year — three burgers per person per week, totaling 38 billion annually, which, placed end to end, would form a heavenly chain of hamburgers 1.8 million miles long.

Second place this year goes to Earl’s and third to the Brewhouse.

Takeout

Samurai Sushi takes first place again this year and it’s little wonder as it continues to serve up great specials for lunch and dinner, which pack up in a snap and taste great at home. While the wait is usually short there is always hot green tea on hand to warm the soul and keep ailments at bay, and the staff is courteous and efficient.

Second place this year goes to Splitz Grill again, which does a great job of keeping their mile-high burgers in one piece until you can wrap your mouths around them at home or elsewhere.

Third place goes to Joey Chan’s.

Breakfast

The Wild Wood restaurants have kept the top spot again in this category. Both the Function Junction location and the restaurant at the Whistler Racquet Club offer early morning risers a yummy selection of traditional breakfasts, banana bread French toast and an array of omelets and eggs benedicts to choose from. Heck, try them all.

Runner up this year is Elements, which offers all the regular items along with a few unique ones such as the caramelized pecan and banana stuffed French toast. It also has a great selection of frittatas, open-faced omelets.

Third spot goes to last year’s runner up, the Southside Diner at Creekside. It’s got all the regular offerings on the menu and a few unique ones like the Beltch Sandwich a bacon egg and yada, yada, yada concoction. (Never have been able to find yada, yada at the grocery store.) They also have a full-meal deal, the “Soon to be Sledneck” where customers can sit and enjoy breakfast then get a bagged lunch to go.

Latte

Top spot returns to local barista Chris Quinlan and his Behind the Grind café. The secret he said, “is love — and you have to wear high heels when you are making them.” It would be worth dropping into his new location at the bottom of Whistler Mountain just to check out his attire, never mind to sip on his Lavazza coffee lattes!

Second place this year went to Moguls and third was Starbucks.

Beer Selection

Dubh Linn Gate: If you can’t beat them join them. This cozy Irish pub has taken top place for years now so if you haven’t stopped by to raise a pint now is the time. Not only do they carry a host of Irish and English beers and ales they also offer some unique brews from the continent. If you still want to sip North American brew there are lots of choices. There’s also great pub food to go along with your selection and often toe-tapping Celtic music to put you in the mood.

Back in second spot this year is The Brewhouse, opposite Millennium Place. Its brewery produces four different handcrafted ales and two lagers as well as specialty seasonal beers. It also has the biggest patio on "The Stroll", which is great for people watching in the dying sunlight of a winter’s evening.

In third place this year is Black’s Pub and Restaurant, which offers one of the widest selections of beers available in the village. An added bonus is its location. It is just steps from the bottom of Whistler Mountain in the village and has fantastic views of the slopes.

Nachos

“Nacho, nacho man…..I want to be a nacho man…” Yes you must sing this to enjoy the best nachos in town at Merlin’s, the winner for the second year in this category. Merlin’s, at the base of Blackcomb, serves an uncontrollably big plate of the crispy treats for a reasonable price. On this fiesta food the cheese is sharp, the avocado guacamole fresh and the salsa just hot enough to make ordering another bevy a must.

Rumors vary as to exactly who invented them, but everyone agrees that nachos were born in one of the Rio Grande border towns, during World War II. At that time soft corn tortillas were quartered, deep-fried in sizzling oil until crispy, and drained (but not salted). Then every chip was spread by hand with a spoonful of refried beans, draped with a layer of cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack), and finally, topped with a juicy round of sliced jalapeño. These chips were individually arranged in a single layer on a baking sheet. It wasn’t until 1966, when the Texas State Fair (a spectacular event at that time) began dishing them up to its thousands of visitors who came from farms, towns and cities all across the Lone Star State that we saw the start of the Nachos we know and love today.

Second place this year went to Citta’s, up from third last year, and in third place is Dusty’s.

Service

A key part of why the Rimrock is rated the best restaurant in town is its service. So it’s little wonder that the eatery comes tops in this category.

Runner-up this year is Hy’s Steakhouse and in third spot is Sushi Village.

The service is always speedy and friendly at Sushi Village and the staff and chefs are always ready to help with meal suggestions. Special mention has to go to the many servers who understand that starving kids need edamame, tofu and rice as soon as they hit the table.

Chef

First place this year goes to the chefs at the Rimrock. They are led by chef/owner, Rolf Gunther, who is the creative force of the Rimrock Café kitchen. His formal training includes Hotel & Restaurant management in Heidelberg as well as culinary training at the 4-star Park Hotel in Germany's Black Forest region.

Rolf's chef experience is impressive indeed. He has worked his trade in Switzerland, Holland and Canada. A Whistler resident for 26 years, his experience and training adds up to a culinary delight for guests at the Rimrock Café.

Second place this year goes to Sushi Village’s head chef Nester. Sushi Village imports fish from around the globe — famous B.C. salmon and local tuna from Canada’s West Coast, octopus from Japan and sometimes South Africa or India, hirame from the East Coast of Canada, and fresh snapper and prawns from Vancouver. The sushi chefs at Sushi Village then create works of art with fish and rice combinations. If you have the opportunity to sit at the sushi bar, ask one of the chefs to recommend one of his favourite combinations. You won’t be disappointed.

Third place this year goes to Jeremie Trottier executive chef at Quattro. A purist with his cuisine Trottier focuses on allowing the ingredients to shape the flavours of his dishes. Long time favourites are the spicy Spaghetti Quattro and the Radicchio Bocconcini.

Waiter

Best waiter this year goes to Hammish Yoshida at Sushi Village.

The runner-up this year is KJ Johnson at the Southside Diner and Angela Shoniker takes third for the Trattoria di Umberto.

Martini

Top spot this year goes to The Mix, a new chic hangout in the village. Popular martinis include the Aloha, which won the Brewhouse martini contest. It comprises absolute citron, sourpuss apple, apple juice and aloe juice. Or try the Sexy B, which is vodka, peach schnapps, vanilla syrup and cranberry juice.

Second place went to Elements and third this year goes to last year’s winner, the Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Not too cold, not too wet they are just right — and it helps that you can relax in oversized chairs and cast your eye over a splendid view of the slopes at the same time.

Seafood

By a landslide, indeed an avalanche of voters, the Rimrock takes this category again this year. Imagine Ahi marinated in soy, sake and mirin then grilled with a wasabi beurre blanc melting on your tongue. With a focus on fresh the Creekside eatery strives to bring diners the best fresh catches of the day all year long. And thanks to their local’s menu offered every year the whole town can enjoy succulent seafood just hours from the coast.

Sushi Village takes second this year for seafood which is somewhat fitting, you have to admit. It imports fish from around the globe. It is brought up to Whistler twice a week to ensure inventories are fresh, and more often when demand dictates (or something extra special has been caught). The sushi chefs make regular visits to Vancouver to inspect the imported fish.

Third place this year goes to the Crab Shack, which serves enough Alaska King Crab legs to sink a ship. They also offer Dungeness Crab as well as prawns, ahi tuna, and of course fresh oysters.

CLUBS, PUBS & BARS

DJ

Astute readers may recognize these words from the same category in last year’s column — that’s because the results are virtually the same for the umpteenth year in a row.

Mat the Alien, and his 7,000-plus record collection, is again Whistler’s favourite DJ.

“In a DJ set I try to educate people by playing something they know then flipping it to the original and playing tracks they won’t hear on the TV or radio, but still keeping the flow going so they don’t notice,” Mat said.

The British-born lad whose accent earned him his name travels the world with his music, spanning hip hop, funk, dancehall, jazz, Latin, breaks, and drum ’n’ bass. However, Whistler is now his main base.

Runner up was DJ Business or Pleasure. Chili Thom, who spins under the moniker Mr. Fister, was third.

Bartender

Shooken, not stirred?

Kenny Shook of Moe Joe’s is Whistler’s top bartender this year, edging out Scott from the Cinnamon Bear and Zoo at Citta’.

What makes a great bartender? Is it the encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s liquors and how they may complement one another? Is it the underestimated ability to be a confidant of imbibing patrons and keep the information to oneself? Is it a friendly, helpful disposition and insider information freely dispensed to patrons? Perhaps it comes down to something inherent, an attribute a bartender is either born with or may never have. That special quality was summed up by one voter who wrote that the best Whistler bartender was, “A cute one.”

Place to Cut a Rug

Once again Buffalo Bill’s has been voted Whistler’s best dance floor (for those who didn’t understand what “cut a rug” means). At one time Bill’s was the place to see live music in Whistler, with acts such as Eric Burdon, Edgar Winter, Doug and the Slugs and the Beatles all playing there. OK, maybe not the Beatles. But some big names in pop music.

These days them emphasis is on DJs and a mix of mainstream music that draws a ranges of age groups to the dance floor.

Tommy Africa’s, which draws a little younger crowd, was second and Moe’s Joe’s just edged out Garfinkel’s to take third place.

See a Live Act

Last year’s winner in this category is gone but certainly not forgotten. The Boot Pub hasn’t seen a live show, or a live customer, since it closed its doors at the end of April, but it is still remembered by voters who love live music.

However, the GLC is the new king of venues for live performances. The Garibaldi Lift Company topped this category by a large margin. The GLC’s regular mix of talent — from Jessica Beach to Sweatshop Union to The Dudes — and the energy of manager Mike Varrin have made the pub above the gondola the place for live performances.

Second spot went to Garfinkel’s and Moe Joe’s took third. But in what may be the first signs of a cultural awakening, or an aging population, Maurice Young Millennium Place was just behind Moe Joe’s in fourth place.

As one voter wrote: “Das Boot, R.I.P.”

Coolest Staff

What is cool? Was Miles Davis the embodiment of cool or does James Bond take that title? Are you born cool or can you become cool?

Well, among Whistler’s nightclubs the coolest staff this year can be found at Moe Joes’s. Andy Flynn’s club down under won this hard-fought category, topping Garfinkel’s and Tommy Africa’s, which tied for second place.

Apres Ski Bar

Dusty’s defends its title in this category with a clear victory over second place Longhorn. We’re not sure if the original Dusty’s ever won this category, but the reincarnated Dusty’s is certainly a popular place among skiers and boarders who like to start and end their day at Creekside. The casual, comfortable atmosphere and the friendly staff give the place a different feel than village après ski bars, and that doesn’t hurt either.

The Longhorn moved up from third place last year to second this year. The only saloon in town has long been a favourite — and hard to miss — at the end of a day on Whistler Mountain. The GLC, or Garibaldi Lift Co., was third and Merlin’s at Blackcomb finished fourth.

Patio

The best patio in Whistler, year after year after year, lies at the very heart of the village and belongs to Citta’. With almost twice as many votes as the runner up, the Longhorn patio, Citta’s patio is a favourite of nearly everyone. While some patios are great in the winter and less appealing in the summer, or vice versa, Citta’s elevated, covered courtyard offers patrons a great view of the Whistler world at any time of year. Jutting out into Village Square, the patio is hard to miss and as such is a great place to be seen as well as to check out who else is wandering the village.

The Longhorn, as mentioned, captured second place with its dominant après ski location. Third through fifth place went to the trio of Whistler-Blackcomb après ski pubs: Dusty’s, Merlin’s and the GLC.

Shoot Some Stick

The Cinnamon Bear Bar tops this category — by a large margin. The Cinnamon Bear finished second last year in the newly renovated and rechristened Hilton Whistler Hotel, and a full year with the new surroundings only increased its popularity among pool and billiard aficionados.

Last year’s champ, the Longhorn, was second this year, while Dusty’s took third.

Local Hangout

Citta’ topped the Patio category and a number of attributes that contributed to that ranking are listed above. Most of those same attributes likely helped Citta’ become the top vote-getter in the Local Hangout category. We might add that Citta’s history, familiarity and friendly staff also contributed to it being named best Local Hangout. There is also the old real estate maxim: location, location, location.

Dusty’s was runner up and the Longhorn finished third.

MEDIA, ARTS & CULTURE

Best Musician/Band

With Whistler’s two favourite musicians, Guitar Doug and Grateful Greg, on one stage how could The Hairfarmers not be Whistler’s Best Band? Snow revelers come to worship this legendary duo morning, noon and night. Whether an après performance at Dusty’s or payday nights at Merlin’s, this hairy bunch always delivers a great time with cover tunes livened up with a who’s-on-first banter. While the jetsetters can’t divulge the more exotic locations for their shows, this year’s highlight was right here in Whistler. The two hung out with Melvin Seals at the Fairmont Chateau then watched him play with the Jerry Garcia Band. Catch the Hairfarmers this New Year’s at Merlin’s.

Grateful Greg gets pinned with a first and second place ribbon as frontman for Whistler’s second favourite band, A Whole Lotta Led. The Zeppelin tribute band has sold out every Whistler show to date, with many more to come.

The lovin’ grooves of Kostaman found every Thursday at Moe Joe’s placed third.

Best Artist

Chili Thom lands Best Artist yet again. The Dr. Seuss of the painting world navigates whimsical landscapes traveled in vibrant colours that capture the imagination as well as an international following. When not in front of a canvas, Thom showcases equal creative prowess in film, television and the turntables. Step into his beautiful world of truly unique talent at his local studio The Creation Station in Function Junction.

Vanessa Stark’s outdoor-inspired acrylics placed second and Cori Ross’s winterscapes third.

Best Writer

Movie critic Feet Banks made the right choice in dedicating himself solely to writing this year, beating out long-standing cantankerous columnist G.D. Maxwell from his number one spot.

The new editor of Mountain Life Magazine boasts many scribbling highlights this year including his favourite piece, a blunt Whistler television series review for Skier magazine and a Chili Thom profile for B.C. Magazine. His Pique Newsmagazine column, Notes From The Back Row, remains his bread and butter, but look out for his byline with his deliciously offensive tales coming to many more magazine stands.

GD Maxwell of Maxed Out fame places second — now he’s really got something to bitch about — with Pique’s arts go-to-gal Nicole Fitzgerald taking third.

Best Photographer

Whistler’s most famous night-owl shutterbug Andy Dittrich wins Best Photographer by a landslide. The Insight Photography shooter’s nightlife photos sizzle with visible electricity and his daytime shots with life and humour. With the exception of Antarctica, Andy has shot on every continent. Hardest shoot this year? Maintaining focus while shooting the Canadian Swimwear Model Search. Most bizarre? Mat the Alien’s portrait with a long exposure resulting in two faces instead of one. Most outrageous shot? Andy’s not talking, but with Whistler’s outrageous nightlife, Andy is never short on subject matter.

Sports-action photography legend Blake Jorgenson placed second and news-hound Bonny Makarewicz, who recently had a photo published in the New York Times, took third.

Best Film

Borat, a blistering social commentary on Americana, was voted Best Film for 2006. The mockumentary starring Sacha Baron Cohen as a Kazakstan reporter hitting the road to explore America, is still screening at Village 8 Cinemas.

Matchstick Productions’ ski film Push, which premiered on Whistler Mountain to a sold out crowd, took second. Film rider Rory Bushfield nailing a 90-foot tabletop jump with a switch double back flip — the same stunt he unsuccessfully attempted at the X Games — was an unforgettable highlight.

The Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival’s Filmmaker Showdown, a showcase of local films produced in 72 hours, was third.

Best Event of the Season

With the best of big air skiers and snowboards combined with the best of arts and culture, The Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival continues to be the Event of the Season. No surprise here. The festival sports Canada’s largest free outdoor concert series with names like Michael Franti, Xavier Rudd and Jurassic Park gracing concert playbills. The high octane 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown, Pro Photographer Showdown, Brave Art and parties, parties and more parties abound. April’s 10-day season-ender-bender ranks number one with votes from cultural and sporting fans alike.

Only three years old, Crankworx shuffles Cornucopia out of second this year with the summer mountain biking festival definitely gaining speed with colossal airtime and free concerts, including this year’s show from New York’s hip hop sensation De La Soul.

Voters toasted Cornucopia, Whistler’s biggest food and wine festival, to third place.

Best Use of Cultural Funding

With the Whistler Arts Council becoming the voice of arts and culture for countless artists and organizations, it is not surprising the local outfit headed by the hard working and talented Doti Niedermayer won Best Use of Cultural Funding.

The organization has dedicated itself to building and integrating arts into the fabric of the Whistler community with long-running celebrations such as ARTrageous, Whistler Children’s Festival, Bizarre Bazaar, ARTWalk and Whistler Music and Arts Festival, as well as cultural showcases such as the Performance Series.

The Whistler Arts Council is at the forefront of ensuring Whistler will become a truly international resort of both great outdoors and great culture.

The Whistler Film Festival ranked second, with more films, forums, parties and celebrities than ever at the sixth annual celebration.

The first ever, eagerly anticipated, First Nations Cultural Centre, otherwise known as the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, ranked third.

Top Local Story

For the first time in Whistler, a human was injured after encountering a black bear in August. The story about a 24-year-old male who was clawed by a bear lashing out after being trapped in hallway gave rise to concerns in the community. Better garbage management was at the top of the list. The young man’s home had more than three rank, large green garbage bags piled in a closet.

SPORTS & RECREATION

Best Run on Whistler or Blackcomb

Although Peak to Creek officially opened in the 2004-05 winter the lack of snow from top to bottom for most of the season meant there were only a handful of days you could safely make it from top to bottom. As a result most people didn’t get their first look at the groomed Peak to Creek run until last winter, 2005-06, and it made quite an impression, garnering Best of Whistler’s Best Run.

It’s the longest run on any mountain, bar none, at about 7 km in length with 1529 metres of vertical. It’s an intermediate run, but Big Timber, Home Run and other P2C-accessed runs can make your descent a lot more challenging.

Second on the list this year by 18 votes was West Bowl, which was in great shape given last year’s record snow and deep snowpack.

Jersey Cream placed third, followed closely by the off-piste Christmas Trees area.

Flute Bowl, which opened to hikers in 2004-05, was fourth on the list, in a tie with Glacier Bowl.

Best Outdoor Sport

As always skiing ranked first again, but snowboarding continues to catch up and came within 20 votes. If there was a summer vs. winter breakdown for Best Outdoor Sport mountain biking would probably rank well on top of the summer sports list but winter sports are the main reason most locals came to Whistler in the first place.

Other sports getting a mention this year were hiking, golf, cross-country skiing, running, trail running, snowshoeing, soccer, baseball, beach volleyball, kayaking, motocross, snowmobiling, fishing, and sex.

Once again, we recognize that sex isn’t a sport but then again neither is curling and it’s in the Winter Olympics.

Best Indoor Sport

Although they have very little in common except for eye protection, hockey found itself back on top of squash this year as the number one indoor sport. Swimming also placed a close third, largely due to the hard work of Brandi and Dave Higgins and the Masters Swim Club.

Sex didn’t make the top-three for the second straight year, and oddly finished fifth behind yoga. If only there was some kind of women’s magazine out there extolling the various health benefits of sex, and — wait, there is?

Other indoor activities to get a nod this year include indoor rock climbing, the Body Storm program, tennis, adult gymnastics, dodgeball, volleyball, basketball, Wushu, capoiera, spinning and aerobics classes at Meadow Park, skateboarding underground at Franz’s Trail, couch surfing, foosball, and the grand old games of darts, billiards, poker, and Playstation/Xbox/Xbox 360.

Best Snowmobile Tour

Although all the major companies got nods again this year, Canadian Snowmobile Adventures once again came out on top, followed by Cougar Mountain Adventures and Blackcomb Snowmobile. Other responses were geared to touring locations, with the Pemberton Ice Cap placing first, followed by the Brandywine, Callaghan, and Soo.

Best Heli-Ski Run

Interestingly the winner this year was “?”, which doesn’t show up on any of our maps, followed by endless variations of “I wish” and “in my dreams” and “anything”. Actual heli-ski destinations to get votes include Rainbow Mountain, Mt. Currie, Ipsoot Glacier, Cayoosh, and Powder Mountain. With more companies offering tours than ever before, and sometimes drops for properly-equipped, self-propelled adventurers, just about every peak outside provincial parks is fair game.

Best Bike Trail

There are many reasons why upwards of 5,000 people ride Whistler’s A River Runs Through It on an average month, and why it has never been defeated in the Best of Whistler voting.

For one thing, the trail is the most exhilarating ride in town, with countless man-made stunts and obstacles to keep your adrenaline pumping from start to finish. There’s always more to do, or ways to ride it cleaner and faster.

For another, it’s perfectly located. You can do it on its own, or in combination with trails on Whistler’s West Side, in the Emerald Forest at Cut Yer Bars — being sure to drop by Rainbow Park afterwards for a swim.

Lastly, the trail is relatively flat for Whistler, immediately ingratiating itself to people not yet in riding shape, people on bigger bikes, and the lazy — it’s a full day’s riding in 20 minutes.

There are plans in the works to extend the trail significantly towards Rainbow Park, approved as part of the Recreational Cycling Plan.

Next on the list of Best trails is Comfortably Numb, a 24 km epic built by Chris Markle over six years which was recently awarded Epic Ride status by the International Mountain Bicycling Association — only the fifth Canadian trail to receive that status. Comfortably Numb offers everything from looping forest trails to technical rock to speed and flow sections through an old growth forest.

Third on the list this year was a tie between the Whistler Mountain Bike Park thriller A-Line and reworked Kill Me Thrill Me. A-Line has the distinction of being the most ridden trail anywhere in the world with well over 1,000 riders per day. This trail revolutionized downhill mountain biking, getting away from roots and rocks of singeltrack by creating a wide, smooth (usually) track where riders can go fast, get air, and generally test the physical strength of their bikes and components.

Kill Me Thrill Me is more technical singletrack built by Chris Markle, and recently upgraded to improve its overall flow. The highlight is a series of rock faces under the powerlines, overlooking the highway, that would make a fan of technical riding out of anyone.

Best Municipal Park

As always Rainbow Park took the win, hands down. You really can’t beat the view of the mountains, the water (swimmers’ itch aside), or the amenities. The only drawback is the crowd on a busy summer Saturday, and the fact that people will still try to play Frisbee and toss the football around people sprawled out on blankets and towels.

Lost Lake was a respectable second in the rankings after missing the top-three last year — no doubt buoyed by the hot temperatures this summer that made swimming a must. Besides, surrounded by trails, dotted with docks, and sitting a comfortable distance from roads and noise, it’s the one park that families and nudists can agree on.

Third place was Meadow Park, known best for its ball fields, its tennis/ball hockey court, it’s huge swaths of grass, and its awesome water park — too cold for adults, but the kids don’t seem to mind.

Votes also went to Lakeside Park — the site of controversial expansion plans next summer, secluded Wayside Park, the Disk Golf Course in Lost Lake Park, and the always popular skatepark.

Favourite Whistler Athlete

After dropping off the top of the list a few years ago, Whistler World Cup downhill coach Rob Boyd is back to number one.

Although it’s been almost 18 years since Boyd became the first Canadian man to win a World Cup event on home soil — John Kucera of Calgary matched the feat in super G last month – people still remember that day as one of the greatest ever for Whistler. It has all the ingredients of a local legend; a local skier, raised skiing in Whistler, tops a World Cup field at home by literally being more out of control than the other racers, and sets about a dozen Canadian records. According to the people that were there, it was the best party ever.

After retiring from World Cup Boyd remained involved with skiing in every kind of capacity imaginable, including making the move over to coaching. He started off with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, then joined the Canadian Alpine Ski Team in 2004, where he now serves as a coach for the women’s World Cup speed team that is having so much success this year.

Boyd was in Europe with the ski team at press time, and wasn’t available to comment.

Second on the list is Olympic gold medal snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, who is looking to make a comeback in alpine snowboarding for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

In a three-way tie for third this year were Mike Janyk, who has exploded onto the World Cup slalom scene this year; his older sister Britt Janyk, who is making a strong showing with the women’s speed team; and local mountain biker/cross-country skier Dave Burch.

Although Burch does a little of everything and does it well, one of his most impressive results this year was a win in the Lumpy’s Epic Trail Run in October against a field of more experienced trail runners. It was also vindication for Burch — the previous two years he took wrong turns on the Pemberton course that left him off the podium.

Snowboarders Crispin Lipscomb and Dennis Bannock also ranked up the list, in a tie with Tyler Mosher who is attempting to represent Canada in cross-country skiing, biathlon and snowboarding in the 2010 Paralympic Games. Triathlete Marie-Anne Prevost also finished with the same amount of votes.

Other athletes on the list getting multiple votes were mountain bike freeriders Brandon Semenuk, Tyler Morland and Richie Schley; triathlete Christine Suter; big mountain snowboarder Victoria Jealouse; World Cup snowboarders Dan Raymond and Maëlle Ricker; Samurai of Singletrack winner Chris Clark; mountain bike and freeride coach Jenn Ashton (2005 Best Of Whistler winner); freestyle skier Sylvia Kerfoot; pro snowboarder Mikey Rencz; adventure racer Jennifer Segger; and Canada’s athlete of the 20 th century — skier Nancy Greene.

HEALTH & FITNESS

Best Fitness Facility

Once again this race wasn’t even close, with Meadow Park getting about 20 times as many votes as other fitness facilities — Whistler Creek Athletic Club, Curves, Bikram Yoga, and Great Wall Climbing Gym also got a handful of votes each, as did the fitness centres at the Four Seasons and Fairmont Chateau.

This category will get more interesting in the next few years. The Core (formerly Great Wall Climbing Gym) has moved into the old Mountain World Space and will reopen with a play centre for children, cardio equipment, weights and other fitness facilities, as well as a new and improved wall to play on. The central location, as well as the expansion of what’s being offered, will probably give this facility a boost in future votes.

Also worth nothing are the plans to build an athletes centre in the athletes’ village, potentially opening by late 2008. This facility would include cardio, weights and multi-purpose rooms, as well as therapy equipment like whirpools and saunas. Attached to it will be a new gymnastics and trampoline centre that will be open for the public, and hosting all kinds of programs for children and adults that weren’t possible before with the club’s set-up and take-down gym.

The new Air Dome at Base II could also expand in size and popularity, as mountain bikers and BMX riders discover the ramps and the massive foam pit as the perfect place to practice their moves before bringing them to the dirt.

Best Spa

Whistler just may have the most spas per capita of any town in the world, offering just about any treatment under the sun that doesn’t involve scorpions or leeches. They’ll pack you in mud, roll you with rocks, knead you with fists, rub you with oils, scrub you with fruit and vegetable extracts, blast you with steam and water, bore into you with light, sound and virbration, pull unwanted hair, exfoliate extra skin, and trim all 20 nails — all while feeding you healthy foods and refilling your cup of tea. You’ll stumble out of there feeling clean, shiny, and totally revitalized.

The winner of this year’s Best Spa award is the Spa at Four Seasons Resort Whistler, whish is also one of the newest wellness facilities in town.

Andrea Fruehwirth, spa supervisor, was pleased to accept the Best of Whistler award for this year — especially given the fact that almost all the votes are cast by Whistler residents.

“It’s huge for us, it’s really a great thing to get that kind of recognition from your customers,” she said, adding that packages and programs to get more locals into the spa over the years have been hugely successful.

For example, in October the spa offered specially priced pumpkin and orange treatments in recognition of Halloween that came with complimentary appetizers. In November, the month of the Cornucopia food and wine festival, the spa offered grape treatments and B.C. wine tasting.

Both promotions were specially priced, and people taking part had the option to use the Four Season fitness and relaxation facilities before and after their treatment. That value, as well as the quality of the product — it is a Four Seasons — is what keeps the locals coming back said Fruehwirth. Promotions are priced around $52, and one hour treatments are as little as $79.

“We have lots and lots of regular locals who come in, and we’re finding they usually come in numerous times through a promotion as well,” she said.

Placing second in the voting this year was Solarice on Gateway Drive, followed by the Vida Wellness Spa at the Fairmont Chateau.

Best Hair Salon

The Good Hair Day salon won this category for the fourth year in a row, proving again that there’s more to Function Junction than construction supplies, lunch places, and the Pique office.

“That’s really exciting for us,” said Sarah Brown. “We just wanted to say that we are really passionate about our craft and take great pride in our work. We love our clients and are very grateful for their continued support. As owner of Good Hair Day, I’m very honoured to be working with such a talented team of stylists.”

Second on the list this year was Farfalla, located on Sundial Place near the Keg. The Loft Salon on Main Street placed third this year, followed closely by Revolution, Blackcomb Barber Shoppe, and Razzmatazz.

Best Hairstylist

Sarah Brown of Good Hair Day topped this list once again, though this time by just two votes over Marian Lessard of Farfalla. Emily Ng of Good Hair Day was third, edging out Jen Parks by a couple of votes.

Best Esthetician

Nola Haselmeyer at Farfalla was voted Whistler’s Best Esthetician this year, while Tina Beks of Solarice placed second by one vote. Third went to Barb Bates at the Four Seasons.

Best Dental Clinic

There’s good news for dentists. Once the most feared and detested of all the professions, advances in technology have made regular trips to the dentist a lot easier on both the patients and the hygienists and dentists that have the job of keeping our teeth real.

As a result, a recent poll by Omni Television in Ontario found that about 17 per cent of Canadians would rather go to the dentist than the mall during the Christmas season.

Changing spots once again, Creekside Dental pulled ahead of Whistler Dental in the overall tally, while newcomer Aarm Dental finished a close third.

Best Dentist

Dr. James McKenzie of Whistler Dental got the nod this year in the Best Dentist category, followed by Dr. John Roberts of Creekside Dental, and Dr. Murray Dehkordi, also of Creekside Dental.

Best Health Trend

For the seventh straight year yoga was picked as Whistler’s Best Health Trend.

After seven years, yoga has long since gone past the fad stage, transcended the trend phase, and now sits on top of health and fitness as THE THING TO DO for skiers, mountain bikers and other athletes looking for a proven way to build flexibility, core strength, balance, promote relaxation, increase focus, channel breathing, and meet like-minded girls/boys. If you’re not doing yoga already you’re probably at least thinking about it.

Body Storm, a whole body fitness program that combines several other programs to help people reach their fitness goals, placed a strong second after winning in 2005.

Started in Whistler by a group of local trainers, Body Storm has expanded with programs in Pemberton, Vancouver, Squamish, Kelowna and Victoria. The program is also launching in England, New York and Australia.

Eating organic food, a hot topic in nutrient-rich Pemberton, placed third overall.

Other trends that got attention were trail running, the slow food movement (also organic), Chinese medicine, various cleanse and detox diets, hemp, flax, exercise balls, naturopathy, and light beer.

Best Physiotherapist

Once again the award for top physiotherapist went to a Peak Performance therapist, with Bianca Matheson of Peak receiving the most votes in 2006.

“That’s excellent,” she said. “This is really such a great community to work in, especially for a physio. Some people take a sort of downgrade to be able to live and work in a place like this, but for someone in my line of work it’s a dream place. Everyone is active and fit, and keen to get fit again, and we get some world class injuries.”

Matheson has worked with many provincial and national level athletes, as well as the top pro athletes in skiing, snowboarding and mountain biking.

Matheson has recently worked with the Australian Institute for Sport, travelling with the freestyle team to the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. She will also join the team in Italy for the world championships this year.

“Because I specialize in sports therapies and in spinal manipulative it’s always good to mix it up and get a chance to get to work with teams. The Australian Institute is also pretty leading edge on this stuff, so the thing about working with the Aussies is that there’s always so much new research and I can learn stuff and bring in back here. It really keeps you up to date,” she said.

Matheson’s co-worker, Allison McLean, tops in the Best of Whistler in 2005, placed second, followed closely by Marilyn Hellier of Whistler Physiotherapy Group.

Best Doctor

Sooner or later people who live and play in Whistler fall down and get broken. Or, surrounded by the germs imported from dozens of countries from globe trotting visitors and residents, we get sick. That’s why, from October to April, the waiting rooms of Whistler doctors runneth over with patients in slings, on crutches, and every kind of ailment know to modern medicine. For that our doctors deserve all the praise they get.

Dr. Cathryn Zeglinski of the new Northlands Medical Clinic — which opened in September of 2005, was voted Whistler’s top doc for the first time this year.

“I’d really like to thank the community for supporting my clinic and its vision of change in health care,” she said. “I’ve tried to implement some differences, like electronic medical records to give me quick access to information and technology, and to add a human touch — because electronic records are easier to access I get to spend more time with patients and less with paperwork. It’s been great and has had a great response from patients.”

Dr. Zeglinski also has big plans for the future. “We’re going to be seeing what we can do to bring some innovative things to local health care, like bringing more specialists into the community and making it easier for people to get the advice and treatments they need.”

Dr. Zeglinski was also recently appointed a community partner of PacifcSport Vancouver-Sea to Sky, treating resident and visiting high performance athletes and connecting them to specialists such as surgeons.

Second on the list was Dr. Tom DeMarco of the Whistler Health Care Centre, followed by Dr. Ian Tamplin of the Town Plaza Medical Clinic.

Pretty much every doctor in town received at least a few votes, so be assured you’re in good hands whomever you visit.

Best Chiropractor

Like cars it’s a relatively simple matter to knock a body out of alignment, and usually the fix for the body is a little quicker and cheaper. Often a few sessions with a chiropractor and a little stretching at home are enough to get your bones and muscles lined up, loosened up, and ready and willing to take the next bail.

Peter Drysdale of Village Centre Chiropractic and Massage edged out Keith Rae of Whistler Chiropractic by just two votes this year, with Rae’s partner placing a close third in the rankings.

Best Massage Therapist

Back on top this year was Courtney Edy of the Four Seasons, followed closely by coworker Nola Matheson. Lesley Byford at Peak Performance Physiotherapy was third.

SHOPS & WARES

Clothing Shops

“Awesome!” was Manya Reinhardt’s reaction when told The Gap had tied for top of the polls as Whistler’s favourite place to buy men’s clothing and placed second as best place to buy women’s clothing.

“I’ve got my big boss coming today so that’s some good news for us,” Reinhardt said. Quality and value were two reasons Reinhardt, who has been manager for one year, felt the Town Plaza shop ranked so favourably with Whistler shoppers.

“Especially for guys,” Reinhardt said. “They want simple shopping, good value and that’s what we go for.” Catering to both dressy and dress down sensibilities that staying or living in Whistler demands is another reason for the shop’s popularity, she said.

Le Chateau was voted favourite women’s clothing shop and manager Bree Thorlakson thought the Village Stroll store’s recent renovations might have something to do with the shop moving up from last year’s second place ranking to first.

“It’s a nice, bright place to shop and maybe also because our staff is so friendly and helpful,” Thorlakson said.

Although one reader lamented that Whistler men have to head to Vancouver in order to buy more than hoodies, a majority of voters checked off Westbeach and The Gap as most popular Whistler shops in which to buy men’s clothes. This was a giant leap forward for Westbeach, located in Marketplace, which had not placed in last year’s rankings, and status quo for The Gap, which had been number one in 2005.

Showcase and Eddie Bauer placed second and third for favourite place to buy men’s clothing.

LuLu Lemon and Guess tied for third choice for favourite place to purchase women’s clothing.

Ski Shop

The man reigned supreme this year, with Glacier Shop and Can Ski sharing top honours as Whistler’s favourite ski shops.

Glacier is a spin-off store from Can Ski developed in the last year and Whistler-Blackcomb’s manager of group operations says the two shops now have distinct personalities and target clientele.

“There’s a wide variety of people who ski nowadays and everyone wants to have a different emotion when they go into their ski shops and there is a different service expectation between the two brands,” Drew Hitchmough said.

Can Ski, located in Town Plaza, was also first in 2005, breaking Wild Willies’ five-year streak. “It is old hat to have won, but a greatly appreciated old hat,” Hitchmough said. Willies was a close second behind the two Intrawest-owned shops, with Affinity Sports placing third.

A tip of the hat must also go to readers who contributed eight different spellings and votes for Fanatyk Co Ski and Cycle as their favourite ski shop.

Snowboard Shop

Showcase was Whistler’s overwhelming top board shop, with more than twice as many votes as its competition, Westbeach and Evolution.

Grocery Store

Nesters rules again for the sixth year in a row, with four times as many votes as its nearest competition, and in a category that received more voter participation than any other.

“It’s never ho-hum (to win),” said store manager Bruce Stewart. “And I love the margins we win by too.”

The store that will celebrate its 20 th anniversary next summer is popular not only because of its service and decent prices but because of its culture, said Stewart, who has been with Nesters for 10 years. “It’s everyone’s living room, coffee shop, meeting place.” The family-founded business was bought by Jimmy Pattison’s Buy-Low Foods three and a half years ago.

Marketplace IGA and Creekside placed second and third.

Photo Finishing

Whistler’s One Hour Foto Source was most popular photo finishing shop, edging out 28-Minute Photo, which had placed first in 2005. GS Photo and The Hub were neck and neck for third spot.

Video Shop

Rogers switched places with Movie Gallery, last year’s winner. Manager for only two months, Dan Andrews thinks it’s the excellent customer service and selection at the Marketplace store that makes it so popular. “Because we have the large corporation behind us we do get a bigger selection than the competition,” Andrews said.

Financial Institution

Large national banks don’t usually rank high on popularity polls, but Whistler’s Royal Bank is unlike most banks, says manager Cecilia Lawson. Doing her best to tease competing bank manager John Nadeau, whose TD Bank placed a close second, Lawson was pleased to have RBC ranked number one, given the $3 million renovation the bank is undergoing.

In addition to providing dog water bowls Lawson said the bank is also people friendly, always doing something to improve services to clients, like expanding teller areas to provide more privacy for customers. “I’m really happy we’re still Whistler’s favourite bank given how much we’ve put our clients through,” Lawson said of the renovation.

North Shore Credit Union and Scotiabank were third and fourth respectively.

With its renovations complete next year RBC will no longer be the best place to eavesdrop as it was deemed this year by listening in on a young man talking on his cell phone while waiting to be served. His comments to back home summed up the resort’s snowy joie de vivre: “Just wanted to tell you we got 61 cm overnight. Yea, I get paid to ski powder all day — how cool is that?”

Realtor

It was a first for realtor Rob Palm, who tied with Jeremy Jones of Remax Sea to Sky as Whistler’s favourite realtors. A Whistler resident for 12 years and a realtor for six, Palm , who works with Whistler Real Estate Company, credits his popularity to his youthful enthusiasm.

“I’m younger than most of the people around and like to be on top of whatever happening in Whistler and try to portray that,” Palm said. “I don’t march to my own drum in the sense that I’m a wacko, but I like to apply old world principles with a different energy and tone.”

Betty Jarvis of Remax Sea to Sky placed third.

Lawyer

Comments like “you’re kidding, right?” and “Does anyone fill this in?” outnumbered some votes for Whistler lawyers in this category. But after all the rib-poking Nick Davies is the favourite Whistler lawyer for 2006. Sholto Shaw was second and Ian Davis tied with last year’s winner Peter Shrimpton, for third place.




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