In the heart of Pemberton sits a train station right out of a spaghetti western movie, which, aside from creating a bit of ambience, is a lasting reminder of just how far the town has come—and how quickly.
Yet despite all the growth and change, Pemberton has held onto its agricultural identity, while evolving into a very cool place to live, work and play. You can now get a cup of world-class coffee in town but still walk away feeling like you're in the country, never more than a five-minute drive from a working ranch or farm.
That mix of old and new is a huge draw. Pemberton is firmly on the map for a lot of reasons besides its incredible produce.
That's definitely worth celebrating once a year with Pique's annual Best of Pemberton awards. Thanks to everyone who cast ballots this year —and there was a record amount —and our congratulations to all.
Bob Menzel is a bit of a legend in Spud Valley, an authentic full-time cowboy, horse breeder and backcountry trapper who is best known for his horse tours through family-run Adventures on Horseback. He's one of the reasons some local businesses still have hitching posts outside.
Menzel, who turns 70 this year, was born in Pemberton. His father's family moved here in the early 1930s, with his mother moving to the area from Scotland after the war.
He's seen a lot of changes, but there are some things that have stayed the same.
"The Meadows hasn't really changed that much other than the price of real estate," Menzel said. "(The growth) is kind of gratifying, but a little sad as well—we're not a small town anymore."
When Menzel was growing up, there were maybe a dozen families in the Meadows and half a dozen kids in the schoolhouse. "Now it's crazy: I went to a dance show that one of my granddaughters was in and there are so many kids in town. There's an unbelievable number of young people here—and very healthy young people too which I think is pretty cool.
"It's still a good place to raise kids."
Shirley Henry, a former mayor who won a BC Community Achievers Award for her involvement in community initiatives, took second in the Favourite Pembertonian vote.
Pemberton writer Lisa Richardson was third.
Graham Turner has a lot on his plate these days, between running the Pemberton BMX club and serving as president of the Pemberton & District Board of Commerce.
A founder of Pemberton BMX, Turner and his wife are usually first at the track on race nights, and the last to leave as well. They take care of track maintenance, send results to BMX Canada, keep the snack shack stocked, take care of social media and marketing, and more.
"Our dinner table is full of BMX stuff all the time," laughed Turner. "In terms of hours, it's hard to say— countless. Even the weed whacking needs doing, it's not like public works does that. There's no Zamboni, every pebble on the track gets swept up by volunteers. A lot of volunteers."
After more than six years, and with his kids no longer racing, Turner said he will be stepping back from the track in the near future.
That will give him more time to spend at the chamber, where he also has big plans. In his second year as president, he has been working to fill empty positions and put in place a strategy for better serving a growing business community.
"I'm doing all of this for the kids, and my kids, and future generations of Pembertonians," he said. "There's a lot going on up here these days and the chamber is a big voice in the community. I'm hoping to make some things happen with a vision that in five years there will be a paid CEO at the Chamber instead of volunteers."
Not that there's anything wrong with volunteers. "I want to give a shout out to all the other volunteers that were nominated, and all the volunteers that make this town tick. Pemberton runs on volunteers."
That list includes Keegan Andrews and Shirley Henry, who came second and third in this category.
News Story of the Year
Pemberton Music Festival Cancelled
Can you imagine how much it costs to run a four-day music festival with four stages and dozens of acts, bringing in the likes of music icons like Pearl Jam and Snoop Dog? Neither, it seems, could the event's promoters.
The bomb dropped in May 2017, two months before the event was slated to begin, and several months after tickets and passes went on sale. At that point, organizers Huka Entertainment were counting on a strong response to help them dig themselves out of the $16 million in debt they had accumulated from previous years.
It was, to put it midly, a mess, with some ticket holders and creditors still waiting to get their money back. They may never see a dime of that money again, raising questions over when organizers realized they were screwed and why they continued to sell tickets up until they declared bankruptcy.
The first Pemberton festival was held in 2008, then brought back from 2014 to 2016 under new organizers.
Other top stories this year include the $5 million in federal funding to revitalize Pemberton's downtown, a new Shaw fibre optic link from Pemberton to Cache Creek, proposed Greyhound bus route cuts, and the Ironman re-route.
Most Dubious Decision Made by Council
VOP Getting Into The Legal Weed Business
Back in March, Village of Pemberton council, uh, sparked discussions over the process for licensing marijuana retailers in town—and councillor Ted Craddock broached the possibility of getting in on the act themselves.
The motion passed and was referred to staff, which means the Village of Pemberton is researching the implications of getting into the retail weed biz. The staff report on "an opportunity that's only going to come up in our lifetime maybe once," according to Craddock, is still pending, but there's a chance that Spud Valley will become Bud Valley ... for real this time.
Pembertonians appear split on the issue, however: This story also ranked second in the "Best Decsion Made by Council" category below
Other dubious decisions include Mayor Mike Richman recusing himself from the $5-million revitalization project discussions, council turning down the return of Ironman, and the decision to send an affordable housing project proposed for Crabapple Court back to the developer.
Best Decision Made by Council
No Thanks, Ironman
Ironman is one of the most extreme athletic challenges on the planet, and most athletes generally agree that Whistler's hilly course is one of the hardest.
Unfortunately for Pemberton, the race also had a massive footprint, especially the 180-kilometre bike section that effectively shut down a large chunk of Highway 99 for part of the day— the only way in or out of Spud Valley. Pemberton's experience has differed from Whistler with lost business, frustrated commuters and workers, and a lack of other incentives to support the event.
In June 2017, council passed a motion against Whistler's bid to renew its contract with Ironman Canada. In response, Ironman changed the cycling route into a lap course confined to Whistler and the Callaghan Valley. Pemberton residents and employers will get their road back for the day .
Other items on the list included the Village of Pemberton's decision to look into getting into the legal weed business for themselves, and voting down a proposed communications policy that would have funnelled all media requests through the mayor's office.
Best Place to Experience the Real Pemberton
One Mile Lake
This is a tough one with all of the historical sites, farms, mountains, and wilderness around town, but the lion's share of voters picked One Mile Lake—a place young families can take their kids on hot days, where riders go to dunk themselves after hitting the dusty trails, where the formidable high-school dragon boat team trains, and more.
The Pemberton Downtown and Pemberton Meadows were second and third, respectively.
Most Common Pemberton Myth
Pemberton's Affordable/ Everyone's a Cowboy
There was a two-way tie in this category—the lingering misconception that Pemberton is a community of cowboys and farmers (which hasn't been entirely true for decades now) and the idea that Pemberton is affordable.
The affordability question is a sore point, with home prices increasing by double digits in the last few years.
Third on the list is the idea that Pemberton is dull or boring.
This year's pick for the best neighbourhood isn't technically a neighbourhood at all, but rather the entire 17-km long Pemberton Meadows area. The Glen was second on the list, followed by Mount Currie. A new housing project promises to bring downtown up a few notches next year.
Best Pemberton Trend
Being Active Outdoors
Pemberton's active outdoor lifestyle was the winner here, followed by mountain biking and the focus on community.
While Pemberton has always been a great place to recreate, there's no question that new bike trails, new hikes like the Mount Currie Trail and Sea to Sky Trail, easier access to the alpine and snowmobiling/backcountry, and other improvements have made Pemberton a better place to play outside than ever before.
The new Friendship Trail connecting to Mount Currie is also looking good with another $600,000 in funding announced last year—including $500,000 from BikeBC.
Most Desirable Amenity Missing from Pemberton
While Pemberton is growing, it's still a small town with a limited budget. One of the big amenities Pembertonians would love to see added to the community, picked by scores of voters this year, is a swimming pool. Locals still need to drive south to Whistler to fit in an indoor swim or take a lesson.
The same goes for an indoor ice rink, which finished second on the list.
Maybe someday, Pemberton...
No. 1 Reason We Are Not Like Whistler
Friendly Small-Town Atmosphere
Let's face it, Whistler is a zoo. At capacity, which it is most weekends, there are over 50,000 people in the resort. It feels like being in Vancouver sometimes, but without the parking and only one road in or out.
Pemberton, in comparison, is a lot slower paced and a lot less frantic when it comes to doing something as simple as grabbing a coffee or going shopping for groceries. People have time to stop and talk, unlike Whistler where people are always racing the meter and trying to time their movements around peak crowds.
Also making the list were fewer tourists, the farms and farm culture, the peace and quiet, and the less-transient community.
Best Place to Cure a Hangover
The Lake ( Any Lake)
Whether it's the barn dance or a live show at The Prospect Pub, Pemberton gets down. Way down. Sadly, morning always comes and it's not uncommon to wake up feeling a bit low.
When that happens, Pembertonians recommend taking a swim to clear your head at one of the local lakes. If a lake isn't available, there's always the couch, or grabbing some food at The Pony, Mile One Eating House, or the Black Squirrel.
Favourite Family Outing or Activity
Families have a lot of choices to hang out on any given day, from a trip to the park, skatepark or BMX track, to a day at the lake. But when given the choice, most voters in this year's Best of Pemberton poll opted for bikes.
Luckily, Pemberton has lots of trail options to choose from. According to Trailforks, there are 166 trails in the Pemberton region (although that number also includes connectors, go-arounds, a few double listings and valley routes). Still, there are many amazing options for all riding abilities with a long season that can start as early as March and finish when snow falls in November or December.
Food & Drink
Best Overall Restaurant
Barn Nork is world-class Thai food where you least expect it, eight kilometres outside the town centre, on the edge of Mount Currie. In business for two years, the restaurant has quickly become a favourite for locals, as well as all the people passing through on the way to local lakes and recreation areas.
People are taking notice. The little restaurant has a five-out-of-five ranking on Yelp and a 4.7 on Google. Those numbers may seem unlikely but are completely justified by the amazing food and friendly service. Husband-and-wife team Jay Nutamarn and Janice Sriwantan, formerly of the iconic Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, are a winning combination, and excited by their success.
"We are very grateful and thankful for all of our customers for supporting us," said Janice. "It's only been two years since we opened, but I think the response has been very good. We couldn't make it without our customers."
The restaurant had strong local support from the beginning, but recently has been sought out by visitors from the Lower Mainland and beyond—Hollywood starlet Kate Winslet even stopped by with her family last year. "It's been a nice surprise," Sriwantan said.
The restaurant currently only offers dinner service due to of staff shortages after they were open for lunch on select days last summer. "We want to ... come up with some new ideas and new menus," Sriwantan added.
Pad Thai is the number one requested dish, but they are also drawing a lot of praise for their Massaman curries and Chinese broccoli with crispy pork belly.
Mile One Eating House, a past winner, was second on the list this year, with the Pony placing third.
Mile One Eating House
Usually gourmet, artisanal food means high prices and small quantities, but the Mile One Eating House manages to stay a step above the ordinary while still remaining affordable. Think fresh and local meats and vegetables, unrivalled burgers, craft beers and wines, and a diverse all-day menu that has everything a body could want for breakfast (on weekends), lunch or dinner.
Barn Nork, Pemberton's pick for restaurant of the year, is ranked second for value, followed by the Black Squirrel at The Meadows—a great place to go whether you golf or not. Grimm's Gourmet & Deli and the now-closed Centennial Café also earned a significant number of votes.
Mile One Eating House
While Mile One Eating House is often busy, the service is always amazing.
Owner and chef Erin Kerr says that she always wants to provide an authentic experience for guests. "This includes everything from the way you are greeted when you walk in the door, to the food we serve and the prices we charge," she said.
Kerr says she likes to tap into her employees' individual strengths and the things they're passionate about to get them excited about service—whether that's mountain biking or the latest craft beer—and all the things that they have in common with their customers.
Kerr is enjoying her first year as owner so far.
"It's been awesome—a bit of a whirlwind getting into the groove of ownership, but I am so passionate about what I do that it comes with ease. I am so grateful for this opportunity," she said.
Barn Nork took second for service, with the Black Squirrel and The Pony tying for third.
Best Cup of Joe
Pemberton's best pastries, muffins, cookies and biscotti go down well with a cup of gourmet, organic, shade grown and fairly traded coffee from the Pemberton Valley Coffee Co.
The Mount Currie Coffee Company was a very close second in the voting, just five ballots back, with the Lynx Café picking up third.
North Arm Farm
With its vast array of organically grown fruits and veg and a selection of yummy farm-made treats, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better way to start the day then at North Arm Farm. Open for breakfast and lunch service, the Sturdy family's award-winning farm is Pembertonians' favourite spot to get the engine revving with a little home-made breakfast.
Grimm's Gourmet & Deli earned enough votes for second place, while Blackbird Bakery was close by in third.
Mile One Eating House
Mile One Eating House always hits the spot, with fresh, healthy food that fills you up but won't leave you wishing you could nap off the grease.
In second spot, The Black Squirrel's patio at The Meadows golf course is a little more off the beaten path, but you're almost guaranteed to get a seat on the massive patio and the food is consistently amazing.
Stay Wild Natural Health was third in the voting this year, with its healthy grain bowls and fresh juices.
Barn Nork's authentic Thai food is drawing rave reviews from pretty much everybody who eats there.
Mile One Eating House, with its gourmet nightly dinner features, was a close second on the list, followed by The Black Squirrel.
Not only can you find some of the best Pad Thai in B.C. in the middle of the Pemberton countryside, you can also pick it up and bring it home from Barn Nork.
Mile One Eating House, in second, also does a brisk takeout business, with the Centennial Café, which sadly closed its doors in March after 50 years in Pemberton, finished third in the voting.
Mile One Eating House
The Mile One Eating House does everything well, but their five-ounce burgers—with beef sourced from Cache Creek—are what the restaurant is most famous for. Their menu features eight different burger choices and a long list of optional add-ons, from fried eggs to Okanagan cheese curds.
"Our secret is that there is no secret," says owner and operator Erin Kerr, the longtime sous chef who took over the reins from founder Randy Jones earlier this year. "Ethically raised, locally sourced meats, fresh-quality ingredients and toppings, house-baked buns made with care... that's it."
The Pony picked up second in this category, followed by The Black Squirrel, Grimm's Gourmet & Deli, and Fescue's at Big Sky.
Blackbird Bakery has everything from fresh pot pies to sandwiches to artisanal breads, but it's the pastries that get people's noses pressed up against the glass.
Raven Burns, a professional pastry chef, has been making mouths water since 2009, while embracing the locavore movement by sourcing a lot of her ingredients from the Pemberton Valley.
The Pony, in second, also has a serious dessert menu, as well as an in-house bakery stuffed with pies, cheesecakes and more.
Not to be left out was the Mile One Eating House, which features a great dessert menu and retail store where you can buy a range of locally soured meats and eats.
Best Healthy Meal
Stay Wild Natural Health
For breakfast before a big day on the trails, we recommend winner Stay Wild's Bliss Bowl, with its blend of fruit and berries, topped with granola, bee pollen, hemp hearts, shredded coconut and a cashew and date whip. For lunch, you can't go wrong with a "Build Your Own Grain Bowl," picking your own grain, greens, veggies, protein, topping and dressing. And if that's not enough, Stay Wild offers a wide range of amazing smoothies and in-house superfood desserts.
Mile One Eating House was second in the category, followed by Fish & Rice.
Best Beer Selection
With over a dozen beers on tap and two fridges of bottles to choose from, including local selections, you could probably drink a different beer at The Pony every day for weeks. The selection is always changing as well, giving even the most hop-addled craft beer connoisseur something to get excited about.
Mile One Eating House was a close second with its own very respectable craft beer selection, with the Black Squirrel finishing third.
Fescue's at Big Sky
Not only does Fescue's patio at Big Sky Golf Club offer some of the best views of Mount Currie, it's also a comfortable place to go for a post-round beer or wine, to watch some live music, to eat some fresh gourmet food, or to take part in an event (like Paint 'N Sip nights with Lil'wat Nation painter Levi Nelson). The menu is diverse, with a strong focus on farm-to-table offerings, and a culinary range that goes from burgers to Icelandic cod.
The Black Squirrel's massive patio was second in the votes, followed by the always social Pony.
Media, Arts & Culture
Vanessa Stark's bold oil and acrylic paintings really do stand out, with bold, almost psychedelic colours and a unique style that sets her apart. Her main subjects are wildlife and the mountains, usually with some kind of twist that stops you in your tracks.
"As far as art and awe-inspiring places go, I live in one of the best places on Earth," Stark said. "There is not only an abundance of inspiration to be found in the amazing natural landscape and environment of Pemberton, but also in the tight-knit community of artists, crafters, musicians, entrepreneurs, growers, farmers, athletes, family and friends."
Although she would like to paint all the time, Stark said being a full-time artist means spending time on the computer and her website (www.vanessastarkart.com), emailing clients, prepping canvases, taking part in craft fairs, and more. "I often find myself needing to pull all-nighters just to keep up with painting projects."
At the time this was written, Stark was working on the Pique cover for this issue, a few private commissions for her work, a portfolio for the Whistler Farmers' Market, screen prints for her apparel line, and an upcoming show at Millennium Place.
Though busy, Stark stays grounded in the things that inspire her. "I need and love to be immersed in nature, especially in the mountains, on my bike or snowboard," she said. "It's what brings me to a balanced state and fills me with inspiration that I can project into artwork. I'm presently working towards bringing in more of that balance to my life."
Favourite First Nations Artist
Lil'wat Nation artist Levi Nelson, now a fine arts student at Emily Carr, is the inaugural winner of this new category. Nelson's work merges traditional First Nations styles with an urban sense of colour and dramatic composition that pulls you in for a closer look.
In March, Nelson won the IDEA Art Award, presented by the Healing Art Committee at Vancouver General Hospital, the UBC Hospital Foundation and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. His work is now featured in UBC's gallery alongside art by Andy Warhol, Jack Shadbolt, Fred Herzog, and other notable names.
"It's surreal," he said. "I was walking down the street the other day and thinking that after I die maybe people will know my name and work because a painting called Biology will always be there (in the UBC Permanent Art Collection). Surreal is the only word for that. To dream of something and have it come true like that is a bit of a mind trip."
Nelson credits his changing styles to the fact that he gets bored easily. He will do a few commercial pieces—and there is no shortage of buyers these days—but then will do something completely different just for the joy of it.
"Sometimes it's just all about the art and the process," he said. "Some paintings are a little more rigid and stressful and detailed, while others I can just be loose and free.
"There's a quote by Picasso that I always liked about how a baker will bake the same cake every single day, but God went out and made an elephant and a dachshund and a platypus. I'm probably misquoting it, but basically it's about not getting stuck making the same painting over and over again, and always changing up your style."
Nelson said he paints at least 40 hours a week. He tries to take a few days off, but that's not easy when he's in the middle of something—and he's always in the middle of something. "I love painting so much, if I'm not doing it I feel a bit lost. The whole process of watching it come together—starting off with a sketch, coming up with a colour pallet ... and then the next you know, it's a four-by-five-foot painting hanging on a gallery wall. It's a trip."
Following Nelson in this year vote were carvers Redmond Edmonds and Jonathan Joe—both extremely well known in their own right.
Country music band Dakota Pearl has had a hell of a year, releasing a new album, Big Mountain Music, in 2017 and earning a nomination for album of the year by the BC Country Music Association.
The band is fronted by vocalist and guitar player Adam Leggett, with Dave Trimble (guitar), Gavin McDermott (bass), Bryce MacDiarmid (drums and backing vocals), Rosalind Steel (keyboard and backing vocals) rounding out the lineup.
Leggett said things have been moving fast since the last album, and the band has been travelling on weekends to a lot more shows like the Kootenay Country Music Festival, Rockin' River Music Festival in Merritt, and Vancouver Craft Beer Week.
The band's goal is to go national, however, which has kept it focused on making music. The band has a new album written and ready to record, and hope to release the first single in the next few months.
"Right now we're just playing a lot of shows and loving it," said Leggett.
Check them out at www.dakotapearl.com.
Second on the list is Grateful Greg Reamsbottom of the Hairfarmers and Whole Lotta Led, with third going to The Spiritual Warriors (formerly Kalan Wi) of the Lil'wat Nation—a seriously entertaining blend of traditional Indigenous music and funk.
Favourite Local Writer
Pique has been doing Best of Pemberton for over 10 years now, and Lisa Richardson has won this distinction at least 10 times.
A relentless booster of all things Pemberton, Richardson blogs, pens columns, scripts magazine stories and features, and produces commercial content for some of the leading outdoor brands, to mention just a few of her credits. She's creative, funny, and always hits a nerve.
The runner-up this year was Anna Helmer, who used to write a regular column for The Whistler Question and self-published her own book this year, followed by Blair Kaplan and Cindy Filipenko.
Dave Steers has been chronicling Pemberton and Sea to Sky for over 40 years, capturing everything from misty mornings in the Meadows to alpenglow in the Alpine. He's also no stranger to this award.
"As a subject, Pemberton has had a huge influence on me because the valley is just so incredibly gorgeous, and the play of light across the valley at different times on different days is never really the same," said Steers, who actually moved out of Pemberton in the past year.
Steers' secret is that he's always shooting photos—his camera is the first thing he thinks of when he sees anything that sticks out. "I don't know if it's good or bad, but I shoot a ton of pictures and occasionally I get a couple of good ones. I don't know if it's good or bad, but I'm constantly framing things, everywhere I go. It's become a reflex."
Steers' favourite place to shoot is north of Pemberton in the Stein Valley area—a place he usually only gets to when he's training or searching with Pemberton Search and Rescue. He's also partial to Lillooet Lake. "I don't know what it is, but that's a spiritual place for me for some reason; just being out there is soothing for the soul."
Steers also likes to work on photography projects. One project he's currently working on is an introspective of Creekside in Whistler, collecting photos and memories from Whistler's humble beginnings. "It's early days, but I hope something cool comes out of it," he said.
Portrait impresario Amie LeBlanc finished a close second this year, with alpine and action photographer Chris Ankeny placing third.
Best Cultural Event
Slow Food Cycle Sunday
The annual Slow Food Cycle Sunday, now in its 14th year, is the perfect day for anyone who enjoys riding bikes and eating the freshest food that the Pemberton Meadows has to offer.
The full round trip is around 45 km, but you can do as much of the route as you want, stopping at farms and other vendors along the way to sample food and drink, and browse homegrown arts and crafts. The highway is closed for the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19.
The event hits on everything that defines Pemberton: the outdoors, community spirit, the focus on supporting local farmers, and spending a day with family and friends. For more, visit www.tourismpemberton.com. Advance tickets are already available for this year's ride.
Best Customer Service
Mile One EAting House
After taking home Best Service in our Food and Drink section, it should come as no surprise that the beloved Mile One Eating House also took home the honour for Best Customer Service across Pemberton's entire business sector.
With an emphasis on fast, approachable service, Mile One is unique in that, along with its restaurant, it also has a retail market where "the foodies go for the good stuff." Adjacent to the production kitchen, The Market serves up locally sourced meats and cheeses, gourmet condiments, and much more.
Health food store Stay Wild Natural Health nabbed second spot this year, with the Pemberton Valley Supermarket trailing by a single vote in third.
Best New Business
Pemberton Brewing Company
The crew at Pemberton Brewing Company couldn't be happier that so many Pembertonians are already taking notice and cast votes for their new brewery.
"When we received the news about being voted Best New Business, my partner Geoff Macdonald and I were super surprised but very happy," said Jeff Lawrence. "We've only been open a few months, so we appreciate the community support."
Pemberton is brewing up Long Road IPA and Birkenhead Blonde for growler service and local distribution, but they have other big plans, according to Lawrence. "Over the next year we are planning to get some rotating food trucks, a liquor primary license, a patio, and packaged product to distribute—and as always working on new recipes to keep this awesome, thirsty community satisfied!"
The tasting room is now open Wednesday through Sunday, 3 to 7 p.m. at 1936 Stonecutter Place. The website, www.pembertonbrewing.ca, is still a work in progress but will be online soon.
Fish & Rice and the Kufuka Kollective were second and third in the votes, respectively.
Pemberton's growth and rising popularity mean a lot of homes are bought and sold over time, with a lot of busy realtors helping people realize their Pemberton dreams.
Danielle Menzel is more than just a realtor. The daughter of Pemberton's favourite local Bob Menzel, Danielle is a fourth-generation Pembertonian, a past president of the chamber of commerce, and one of the top 10 per cent of realtors recognized by the Real Estate Board of Vancouver's Medallion Club. She is equally as comfortable on a horse as she is in a boardroom. It's also not her first time winning this category.
Lisa Hilton was the first runner up this year, while third on the voter list deserves special mention: Lisa Korthals, a part-time realtor, who was killed by an avalanche in March while guiding a ski tour in the Pemberton backcountry. It will be a long time before the community fully recovers from her loss.
Best Hotel / Bed & Breakfast
Pemberton Valley Lodge
The Pemberton Valley Lodge is a crucial component in Pemberton's bid to build local tourism by leveraging weddings, golf, fishing, mountain biking, paragliding, horseback riding, heliskiing, agriculture, and other outdoor recreation opportunities. With comfortable rooms and suites, free shuttle service to Whistler during the winter months, an amazing pool area and patio, and countless other amenities, the hotel has won a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor and is rated over four stars on Google as well.
Second on the list is the Loghouse B&B, followed by the Sweetwater Lane Farm B&B.
North Arm Farm
There seems to be more nominees every year, but when it comes to mixing agriculture, retail and tourism there's no question that North Arm Farm still does it best. The farm is open year-round and offers a wide range of experiences from fruit picking in the summer to the pumpkin patch in the fall. The kitchen also offers breakfast and lunch daily, the latest fruit and vegetables, an in-house bakery, and more. The fall is particularly busy with kids enjoying the hay bale fort, feeding the animals, munching on kettle corn, and taking a horse-drawn carriage to pick their pumpkins.
For more, visit www.northarmfarm.com.
Favourite Health Service Provider
Pemberton Medical Clinic
Pemberton is big enough that locals now have a few different choices for healthcare. The Pemberton Medical Clinic tops the list.
Last year the clinic made the news when the doctors circulated a letter criticizing employers who require a doctor's note from sick employees, announcing plans to send those employers a bill for $50 for performing the service. "Employers with a sick note policy for missed time puts an added burden on the health care system," read the letter, which was signed by the clinic's four doctors and one nurse practitioner.
Now that's sticking up for your patients!
A significant number of votes also went to Munroe Chiropractic and Kula Wellness Centre.
Favourite Wellness Service Provider
Kufuka Fitness, a newcomer to the area, is Pemberton's go-to spot for all kinds of health and fitness training, with a wide range of personal training options and classes ranging from spin to yoga to kickboxing. They also have prenatal programs—Pemberton's baby boom continues!—as well as classes for kids. For more, visit www.kufukafitness.com.
Second and third on the list are Pemberton Valley Wellness and the Kula Wellness Centre, respectively.
Best Building/Construction Company
BC Passive House
BC Passive House got its start through the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, building one of the first passive heating and energy houses in all of Canada in Lost Lake Park. Since then, the company has averaged over one new build a year, creating houses that use a variety of technologies to maximize energy efficiency and comfort.
The "passive" part means that efficiencies aren't achieved using active systems, but rather a combination of design, building materials, insulation, and other factors that are built into every project and are always working.
Murphy Construction was second for votes, followed by the Fitzgerald Building Company.
Best Wedding Venue
Big Sky Golf Club
Big Sky Golf Club's views, gardens, and clubhouse facilities are world-class, making the club a top draw for weddings and parties.
Also receiving votes this year were the North Arm Farm, Riverland's Red Barn, The Meadows at Pemberton and Dreamcatcher Meadows.
Best Gas Station
We might grumble about gas prices but not our gas stations. AC Gas in Pemberton is a local favourite this year, with the Pemberton Petro Canada, Lil'wat Gas Station and Pemberton Husky all getting a healthy number of votes.
Sports & Recreation
Favourite Pemberton Athlete
Only 18 years old and in his first season on the IPC Para Nordic World Cup circuit, Ethan Hess successfully qualified to represent Canada in the Paralympics—one of 14 athletes to race with the national Para Nordic team.
Hess, who competes in the sit-ski category, finished with respectable times but still near the back of the pack—not surprising for a young rookie in a sport where the top athletes have competed in the last three or four Paralympic Winter Games.
"It's an amazing feeling," Hess told Pique in February when he learned of his Paralympic selection. "This is the thing I've worked hardest for in my life up until this point, and it's a great feeling to have accomplished that."
In Hess' case, the best is surely yet to come.
A close second—by only one vote—was mountain biker and BMX rider Lucas Cruz. The teen rider opened his 2018 competitive season in a big way by winning the junior men's 17-and-18 division in the AIR DH at Crankworx Rotorua in March. He also topped the field in the junior men's category in April's Pemberton Enduro.
Third on the list was freeskier Logan Pehota, who always seems to be having a big year. Some of his highlights from the past year would include the premier of Numinous by Dendrite Studios—which won awards from Powder and iF3. Pehota won the Powder Mountain award for best line for that film.
Best Golf Course
Big Sky Golf Course
While The Meadows and Big Sky offer similar terrain and views, Big Sky Golf Club was designed to be a destination course by course architect Robert Cupp, intended to rival the top courses around the province.
Opening in 1993, Big Sky has racked up all kinds of accolades. It's been ranked among the top 30 public courses in Canada, and in 2017—its 25th year in operation—the course cracked the Top 20 in the SCORE Golf rankings.
But while the long, winding course is the star of the show, Big Sky also has friendly staff, great food and top-notch facilities, as well as an accredited golf academy program for people starting out in the sport or looking to fine-tune their skills.
It's also challenging, with water features on almost every hole—and in the case of Purgatory (Hole 4, Par 5) a winding creek you'll have to cross a total of three times.
The Meadows at Pemberton, with its approachable vibe and affordable green rates, came a close second, trailing by only four votes.
Best Bike Trail
Although Pemberton boasts a huge selection of trails—more per capita than Whistler or Squamish— riders consistently pick Happy Trail, a climbing trail in the Mackenzie zone, as their favourite.
According to TrailForks.com, Happy Trail is "The best climbing trail you will ever ride." The trail also got a bit of a facelift last year, smoothing out some of the erosion that occurred over the previous few years.
Happy Trail is the place where epic rides start, connecting to a complex that boasts over 40 trails—including Pemberton classics like Overnight Sensation, Gravitron, Stimulus, Jack the Ripper, and more.
Second on the list is the rock roller Cream Puff, a gnarly-yet-scenic trail in the MacKenzie area. Third on the list was Fat Tug, which is accessible close to downtown with a trailhead at the end of Eagle Drive.
Best Hiking Trail
Lumpy's is accessible from One Mile Lake, mildly technical, and with some incredible views of Green River and the Meadows.
Joffre Lakes placed second on the list. A recent trail upgrade made this trail a lot easier recently—some say too easy—and the crowds on weekends can be overwhelming, but the blue lakes and alpine views are still among the most incredible anywhere in Sea to Sky. (Dogs were recently banned on the trail, which was also part of its appeal; it will be interesting to see how that affects the rankings in 2019.)
Third on the list is the Nairn Falls trail, a mellow out-and-back trail with an awesome waterfall at the end of it.
A few lakes have held this title over the years, but voters selected Birkenhead Lake as the best Pemberton-area body of water this year. Birkenhead is a great place to swim, fish, paddle-board, hike, and go camping, and the water warms up reasonably well for an alpine lake.
Next up is Anderson Lake, which is a great place to wakeboard. It's also a fun lake to explore, measuring 21 km from D'Arcy to Seton Portage.
Third on the list was little Gates Lake. While there aren't many public accesses, it's a shallow, warm option that is swimmable early.
Best Winter Adventure Activity
Pemberton has incredible access to the backcountry, as well as several backcountry huts that make the sometimes long treks worthwhile. Popular overnights include the Marriott Basin off Duffey Lake road, Keith's Hut at Cerise Creek, the Brian Waddington Hut near Birkenhead Provincial Park, and the North Creek Hut near Bralorne. There are also some popular single-day routes between Whistler and Pemberton.
Cross-country skiing was second on the list, with popular trails around Nairn Falls, some private trails—open to the public—in the Pemberton Meadows, and the Spud Valley Loppet course, which also takes place on a mix of private and public land.
Finishing a close third was snowmobiling. Pemberton is a sled-heads' dreams with access to the Pemberton Ice Cap via the Rutherford Valley, the Ipsoot Zone, various adventures off the Hurley (which is closed to vehicles for the winter) and the Duffey Lake Road. The Adventure Group and Broken Boundary Adventures offer guided sled tours into all the most popular areas.
Best Summer Adventure Activity
We've been over this in other categories, but to sum it up: Pemberton has over 216 kms of mountain bike trails, give or take, and over 100 trails—more per capita lines than anywhere else in Sea to Sky or the Sunshine Coast.
Most of the trail network is not for beginners or the faint of heart, with about three quarters of the trails rated as black or double black diamond. One trail, Jack The Ripper, is rated a Pro Line by Trailforks, which is a big step above a double black diamond.
Backcountry hiking was second on the list, followed by some variation of fishing—fishing by boat on Anderson or Birkenhead Lakes, fly fishing in rivers, heli-fishing in secret spots not accessible by road, dock fishing on One Mile or Mosquito Lake—Pemberton does it all.