But what do the "insiders" say about all that Pemberton has to offer? Read on to find out where local Pemberton residents like to eat, play, shop and stay... perhaps even a few secrets will be revealed.
Best daytrip destination — Joffre Lakes
Joffre Lakes is the provincial park with the mostest for 2012. This 1,460-hectare beauty is surrounded by glaciered mountain peaks that are visible all around, and especially from the viewpoint that is 500 metres from the parking lot. It's all about the glaciers and icefields, with deep valleys cut by long-gone ice, leaving behind deep blue waters of Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre lakes. The dreamy colour is caused by "rock flour" AKA glacial silt, which becomes suspended in the water, reflecting green and blues in sunlight. Joffre has hiking, camping, mountaineering, wildlife viewing and fishing.
Also on the shortlist were beautiful Birkenhead and Anderson Lakes.
Best neighbourhood — The Glen
Originally known as Vinyl Village, it is Pemby's suburb that is within walking distance of all the Village hotspots. A good 'hood for kids, a mix of old and new houses that is especially the go-to place for Hallowe'en. Zurcher Park, named after the former landowner, has a playground and toddler toboggan hill that you can use until you're big enough to backcountry ski on Mount Currie. The Glen pulled away from the other contenders Pioneer Junction and Pemberton Meadows.
Best party — Two Acre Shaker
Epic. Party. This intimate, one-day, mind blowing bash was started by Kirk Becker, who envisioned it in 2008 as a way to get music lovers from all over the Sea to Sky to come to his place to rock their rumps off. This year, christened the Llamapocolypse, the party took place at the Mount Currie Rodeo Ground on Aug. 18. Its new location simply grew the party, which becomes ever-more popular each year, but still keeps that friendly flavour that everyone wants. This year's lineup included DJ Woody from England, Bobby C Sound TV from Denver, and Minxy Jones from Los Angeles.
Other respondents still lament the loss of the Pemberton Festival, voting it in second. Canada Day also tied for second — good, since we're guaranteed one of those at least once a year!
Best Pemberton trend — Biking
Mountains, hills, flats — there are trails around Pemberton that go over every type of terrain imaginable. According to Tourism Pemberton, there are 63 bike trails, from the tame ones along the floor of the valley (think slow ride!) and also epic mountain bike classics. Competitions like the killer-edged NimbyFifty give riders something to shoot for in athletic toughness, and prize money to boot!
Best place for people watching — Pony Patio
The Pony Patio is a consistent leader in this category. With that fenced-off look it has the aesthetics of a corral with pints and pizza —and you can leave your horses tied up outside. Everybody, but everybody, gets seen there eventually and with the main route into town passing by, most of the cars that come to Pemby do, too! Other finalists were the patio at Mile One and Mount Currie Coffee Co.
Best reason to own a 4x4 — Hurley Forest Service Road
Hurley Forest Service Road is the gateway to Bridge Valley, Bralorne and more. Starting along the Lillooet River, it's still the gateway to everything backcountry. The drive, once you get to the top of the road, is beautiful with unbelievable views of the Pemberton Meadows. It's so cool that it has its own micro-news website named after it, hurleydust.com — wonder why they called it that?
Best use of money — Skate Park
Where else can a kid or teen go that's close to the centre of the village, cool to hang out at, where parents are not going to be encouraged to stick around and watch because there are no, like, bleachers. And it's new and free to use! A great addition to the village, that was years in the making. Other best uses of money are the lunch specials at Mile One Eatery, and – hallelujah for drivers – the fixed rail crossing (Blessings upon thee, CN).
Best view of Mount Currie — My house, patio, window
Just think, some people live in big urban centres and the views outside their windows are of traffic and garbage. According to a Lil'wat Nation legend, the distinctive triangles that make up the long-walled peak of Mount Currie (or Tszil) were etched by a large, two-headed serpent that traversed along the top of the mountain. And the standing rocks are hunters turned to stone. Visually, Pemberton and the region are defined by this stunning mountain, the place where the valley sees winter first.
Example of Wild West attitude — Horses everywhere
Horses, hitching posts, and Cowboy Bob (Menzel) in that order. The Village is surrounded by the riding trails and outfitters that allow locals and visitors alike to ease into the saddle and leave the combustion engine far, far behind. And do not forget the annual rodeo, where the cowboy in us all has the chance to chase down some very scary-looking bulls and win prize money – or at least watch others doing that. Yeehaw!
Favourite agricultural product — Potatoes
Any way you slice it, the humble spud is one of the little things at the centre of Pemberton's success. The Valley has a host of far more colourful fruits and veg that make it to the tables of homes and restaurants from here to the U.S., but none of them will be served as fries at the table while you're pounding back a local vodka made from the same source (Thank you, Schramm's). And don't forget, Spud Valley is subject to biosecurity measures to keep the purity of the potatoes intact. Beef, a nod to steaks and ranchers, came second, and then it was blueberries.
Least like Pemberton — McDonald's
Ah, the drive-thru fast food establishment we love to say we don't love, although we're at the counter for every kids event and hangover. McDs came in for a pasting from voters who say it is least like the Village, yet it is one of the first things seen by those arriving in town. Whistler is also least like Pemberton, which makes sense, since there are different reasons for the existence of each, at the very least.
Most desired big city amenity — Swimming pool
This is obviously stuck in the village's collective psyche. This place needs a pool like yesterday, like last year... which is why it was the number one wanna-have in 2011 as well. With the council clear on its desire to talk about the future of rec services in Pemberton in the short term, perhaps they will take the plunge and splash around with the idea a bit. Also desired – a skating rink.
Most dubious decision made by council — No ice rink
This community of outdoor activity types would like some ice to skate on, please. This year, the need for an ice rink squeaked past the ongoing annoyance of the village's community centre which seems to consistently bug some residents even though it opened in 2008 and was the responsibility of a long-gone council. The other grouses by respondents included the recent challenges related to the Gates Lake rec centre, which is actually an issue for the Squamish Lillooet Regional District but will be maintained with Pemberton money.
Best new business — Mynt Salon
This is tricky folks! The ladies at Mynt Salon, are technically the winners though they have worked together for almost three years across the street from their current location under a different name. Mynt opened this February and by all accounts everyone loves the cuts. Second goes to One Mile Paddle Boards, really a brand new business for Best of Pemberton results. The results this year go to show that Pembertonians are still discovering their own town as One Mile and Blackbird Bakery also got lots of votes in this category though both are not new businesses!
Number one reason Pemberton is not like Whistler — Sense of community
Let's face it, unlike the big resort 30 minutes south, Pemberton does not have two million visitors a year to impact community spirit, replacing a sense of belonging with the turnover that must go some way to making Whistler sometimes feel a bit impersonal. Pembertonians know each other, do business together and play together – and they love that fact. The other two in contention for this category are the laid back friendly attitude of people in the Village, and the fact that those who make this happen are the farmers and cowboys who give the community its colour. And potatoes.
Favourite potato recipe
Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but, darn it, the potato is such an important, versatile vegetable that every person suggested a different thing. However you take your earth apple — boiled, baked, fried, au gratin, or in our local vodka — just enjoy those carbs.
Way to keep cool — Swimming at one of the lakes or in the river
Pemberton felt the heat, not to mention the mosquitoes, this summer, and had to make a move to the many watering holes around the region with no swimming pool to retreat to. In fact, in this whole Quintessential Pemberton section swimming at the lakes and rivers got more votes than any other winner. The waterpark came second. There was no mention of beer.
Worst Pemberton trend — Dog poop
Everyone thinks it's crappy, the bane of Pemberton is a shout out to every parent who has ever had to scrape it from a four-year-old's shoe. Ugh, just ugh. Take a plastic bag out with you and Rover and keep Pemby beautiful!
Worst use of money — Community Centre
It may have opened in 2008 and won awards for its builders, but Pemberton's lovely looking community centre persists in being a bone of contention for residents. Tied for second is the sculpture in the Pemberton roundabout near the CN tracks, and McDonald's.