We are pleased to present our third annual Best of Pemberton awards, as voted by our readers.
While this is hardly a scientific poll with a plus-minus margin for error, it's interesting after three years to see how much - and how little - has changed in one of B.C.'s fastest-growing communities.
It's been a big year for families with the opening of the Community Centre and pump track, and both facilities are being put through the paces.
It's also been a big year in terms of growth, with a proposed international GEMS school passing some important hurdles with the Agricultural Land Commission, Village of Pemberton and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.
In terms of development, Signal Hill Homes is moving ahead with plans to add up to 1,000 new homes near the town centre, while the Village is also looking to jazz up its downtown through a downtown improvement study.
On a broader scale, the VOP is looking to amend its Official Community Plan, as well as changing its governing structure in conjunction with the regional district AND pursuing a boundary expansion with the provincial government that is now being reviewed at the highest level of the provincial government.
It's also looking positive that Pemberton might house Olympic employees in temporary structures at the industrial park, making an important and likely rewarding contribution to the Games.
The Pemberton Music Festival didn't make it back for a second year as dialogue with the Agricultural Land Commission stalled and the global economy tanked, but proponents have made it clear that they want it back. Maybe in 2010.
In a nutshell there is a lot to celebrate and anticipate, and a lot of optimism that Pemberton will remain the same great place to live even as it grows and changes in so many ways, so very quickly.
How do you like them potatoes?
Best Daytrip Destination
Why would you ever want to leave? Well, some people do every once in a while, and when they do Pembertonians like visiting Meager Creek Hot Springs - a nice trip up the Pemberton Meadows and the Lillooet River Forest Service Road. Located on Mount Meager, it's a Japanese-style hot spring in a natural outdoor setting, with natural rock baths, a self-composting toilet, change rooms and nearby recreation sites for camping. Trails B.C. maintains the spring. Pay a $5 fee for day use and relax to the max. Strawberry Point also figured as a popular daytrip destination, as did Anderson Lake... but only when it's sunny.
A lot of competition in this category, with a ton of individual streets and stretches of the region put down as options for the Best Neighbourhood in Pemberton. Eventually the family-oriented "Glen" neighbourhood won out. It's also known as "Vinyl Village" for the trademark vinyl siding on its single-family homes. There's a rumour within Pemberton that the Vinyl Village is responsible for a trend against vinyl siding in favour of wood, but no doubt the owners are loving the lack of painting and maintenance required. Other neighbourhoods cited here include Mountain Trails, Pioneer Junction and the Benchlands - also known as "Snob Hill," although the people who live there are perfectly nice.
Best Party 2009
We all know what the best party that didn't happen in Pemberton this year was, so why not focus on what was there? The Two-Acre Shaker ranked atop this category. That was a full-day party on August 15 that had artists such as OKA, Jon and Roy and The Release throwing down at Old Kirk Becker's Farm. Guests were welcome to camp on the property for an event that was initially planned to coincide with the Slow Food Cycle Sunday before it was cancelled due to the forest fires. It nevertheless proved a popular one in its own right. It was followed closely in voting by the triumphant return of the Pemberton Barn Dance.
When's the festival coming back? No one knows when or if, but these parties should suffice in the meanwhile.
Best Pemberton Trend
Human reproduction has proven a popular trend in Pemberton, as "babies" was the victor in the "Best Pemberton Trend" category. There are more kids than you can count in Pemberton. Go to the Mount Currie Coffee Company and you'll find swarms of mothers and multiple babies coming in for a coffee or two. Anyone who has concerns about the population of North America dropping off need only visit Pemberton and see that a reproductive industry is alive and well. Cruiser and electric bikes also proved popular in this category, as did "Man Night" at the Meadows at Pemberton Golf Course.
Best Reason To Own A 4X4
4X4's are ubiquitous in Sea to Sky for all those who can afford them. And they're certainly popular in Pemberton, which sees 4X4 rallies as the best reason to own them. A 4X4 rally took place last June at the Pemberton Speedway just off Highway 99 and brought all the energy and metal carnage of a monster truck rally to Spud Valley. People piled up alongside the track and watched as cars dug through mud to show off their machines. Surely not an impressive thing for the environmental activists in Sea to Sky but for anyone else it was a sight to behold.
Best Use Of Money
Finally Pembertonians have something nice to say about municipal spending! The community is really behind a new bike park/pump track next to the new Community Centre. And even though they have some gripes about the fact that kids are playing around beneath a long stretch of power lines, Pemberton is happy that its young people have a place to go and something to do.
This isn't the last recreational amenity the community is looking into. The Village is also chasing after some money for a skateboard park across the street from the bike park, creating an outdoor recreational corridor near the centre of town. Other mentions on this list included dinner at the Pony, Winterfest and 18 holes at the Meadows at Pemberton Golf Course.
Best View Of Mt. Currie
Mount Currie is Pemberton in a lot of ways, taking up an entire horizon and blocking out the sun at certain times of the day. If you're from Pemberton it's an iconic image that you're home, and if you're visiting it's the thing you go home talking about. Up top you can see skiing lines and ridges where avalanches have taken their toll on the rough terrain. Up top is a great place to do some extreme skiing but you better be an expert because the jagged terrain is unforgiving for newcomers. The avalanche risk is also there. "My deck" proved the best place to view the mountain, which you can see from pretty much anywhere in town. "Everywhere" came in at number two, followed closely by the Meadows at Pemberton Golf Course, North Arm Farm and various locations on Collins Road.
Best Way To Get An Aerial View Of Pemberton
Pemberton is as beautiful a place to see from above as from beneath. Soaring above the town, the terrain below is a veritable topographical map filled with towering peaks and lush mountain valleys. And the best place to see it all from above is by paragliding, whether you're jumping off the top of Mount Currie or from the paraglide launch near the MacKenzie Basin. A helicopter's a good way to see it too, as is the 19th Hole at Big Sky Golf and Country Club, if the survey is any indication. Other suggestions were to go past the Meadows at Pemberton, take the Grumpy Grouse bike trail or do some acid. We can't endorse the latter.
Example Of Wild West Attitude
Last year Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Area C Director Susie Gimse proved a good example of a "wild west attitude" within Pemberton, and few could really figure out why. Perhaps it's because she's not shy about taking a strong stand on various issues that affect her rural neighbours. Unfortunately she didn't make it this year, edged out by hitching posts at the Pony parking lot. The Pemberton Barn Dance also proved a good example, as did a Big Valley Rib Platter at the Meadows at Pemberton Golf Course's Black Squirrel restaurant. Horses tied up to the aforementioned posts also proved popular, as did Bob Menzel, owner of Adventures on Horseback.
Favourite Agricultural Product
Do you need to ask? It's so obviously potatoes. They're known throughout the valley, the Corridor and even in select restaurants in Vancouver - possibly even around the world if you're in the potato business. David Duchovny helped make them more famous in an outtake from the X-Files sequel when he farted and said it must be them potatoes. Potato Jack is the valley's mascot and you can find bags of the things in Whistler grocery stores. But that's not the only bounty that this lush valley yields. Other favourites among agricultural products include strawberries, hay, asparagus, beets and... marijuana. But that too we can't legally endorse.
Least Like Pemberton
The Golden Arch sticks out like a tall, awkward citizen despite its location in a frontier-style building. With such close access to a cornucopia of food you can get from local soil, who needs a McDonald's? Probably quite a few people, as it isn't showing signs of going out of business. Other stuff that doesn't quite fit in includes BMW's, high rent, disgruntled railway police and smoke from forest fires.
Most Desired Big City Amenity
There's a lot you can get in Pemberton and its surrounding communities but being a small town there's no doubt a few things that get missed. A Canadian Tire is a desired big city amenity in Pemberton, although with the political sentiment in town it's hard to believe a big-box retailer would ever make it in. You can get a lot at a Canadian Tire but that would likely take away from small businesses. An airport is also a desired amenity, despite there being one on Airport Road.
Most Dubious Decision Made By Council
Pemberton council doesn't seem to face nearly the kinds of controversial decisions these days that Whistler does. No controversy about a medals plaza, TCUP's, or a green building that doesn't save you anything on your hydro bills. Still, there's a little controversy over some decisions, such as the new community centre in the town plaza, which seems to take a lot more flak than you might expect. Voters ranked "Community Centre" tops among dubious decisions by council but also gave some attention to "no ice arena," selective boundary expansion and the fact that the centre came without a pool or an ice rink.
Best New Business
The Pony doesn't really count as a "new business" but that doesn't mean anything to Pembertonians who've voted it the best new business in town. It isn't new, per se, but it did get a significant facelift after its sale by former owners the Richmans. Now it looks much the way it did before, but with a new logo, some new menu items and thankfully the same fries that Pembertonians and others always enjoyed before. Other new businesses include the Black Squirrel, which proved very popular in this year's survey, as well as Mexico Lindo, Schramm Vodka and AC Petroleum, which has only been open a few weeks but is nonetheless a popular place.
Number One Reason We Are Not Like Whistler
Pembertonians sometime define themselves by all the things they aren't, which is to say that they're not Whistler and thank goodness for that. The top reason why Pemberton is so "not Whistler" is that it isn't as crowded. The second difference is that Pemberton is a community (something Whistlerites will most certainly dispute), and third is "We are real," which most every other human in every other community will dispute. Other reasons include "laid back," "less of a cliché," "less latitude for fiscal irresponsibility" and "Intrawest." That last one may be true, but there's no doubt many an Intrawest employee lives in Pemberton.
Place For People Watching
If you don't know the answers to these survey questions, it's best to just say "The Pony" because more often than not that's the popular answer. It's certainly the case for "People Watching," as most everyone from town will stop by there at some point or another. Mount Currie Coffee Company is also a popular thoroughfare for people in town, as is Pioneer Lane, AG Foods, the Anderson Lake Boat Launch and the Black Squirrel patio. Earl's also proved a popular place for people watching, even though there isn't one in Pemberton.
Place To Witness A Pack Of Stroller Joggers
That dastardly Pony rides again! Here it is once more on the list, this time voted as the best place to witness stroller joggers. It's an interesting choice, given that the place doesn't give a full-on view of Pemberton's busiest street but Pembertonians chose it all the same. The Community Centre was chosen second, followed by Collins Road, Signal Hill and several others, including the Mount Currie Coffee Company and McDonald's.
Best Potato Recipe
Vodka isn't the first thing you think of when asked for a potato recipe. No one would, really, until they hear about Schramm Vodka, born and bred right out of the ground in the Spud Valley. Tyler Schramm's vodka operation in the Industrial Park is starting to take the community by storm, distilling potatoes so many times that it turns to a lovely high end liquor. Schramm hopes the stuff can compete with Grey Goose at B.C.'s liquor stores, and other boutique vodka brands. Other recipes in this category include potato salad, scalloped potatoes, Black Squirrel fries and double-stuff cheese baked potatoes. Good stuff!
Best Way To Keep Cool
This summer was one of the hottest on record, reaching temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius - in the shade. People had to get creative to keep cool, or head into the hills if they had the energy. Mosquito Lake emerged as the best way to beat the heat, followed not too far behind by Starwberry Point, Gates Lake and One Mile Lake. Other options include air-conditioned businesses, Anderson Lake and a visit to the beer store.
Worst Pemberton Trend
People cited a lot of bad trends coming to the valley, but top among them was the same complaint that people experience in resort towns and cities - high rent. If you can't go to Pemberton for reasonable rent, then where do you go? Elsewhere, it seems, because high monthly rent is coming to the valley whether people like it or not. Babies were also cited as a bad trend, as were Croc sandals. There's also '80s-era clothes, the Agricultural Land Reserve and emo kids. That last one isn't just a trend in Pemberton, though, it's been around since most of us have been in high school.
Worst Use Of Money
People found so much to choose from in this category, whether it be municipal taxes or renovating the already popular Pony. Far and away, the winner in this category was the new Pemberton Community Centre. Cold beer also figured as a terrible use of money for the markup, as did dinner at McDonald's, gasoline, expensive groceries and the 2010 Winter Olympics. That last one, it seems, is unavoidable at this point as the Games are fast approaching. Five months now! Yeesh!
Food and Drink
The Pony has been a fixture on the local dining scene for over 14 years now and has been picked by the people of Pemberton as their favourite restaurant for three years running. The long-time hotspot was owned and operated by Mike Richman, but was actually taken over by Neal Harrison and Alexander Stoll last year.
The team had previously operated the Fat Duck restaurant that was located at the local vineyard. They were able to test the waters at the former location but they needed a permanent home.
"We knew that the product we had to offer would work - the problem was the location."
They decided to make an offer on the Pony Espresso, and lo and behold Richman was ready to get out of the restaurant game. They closed the Pony Espresso for almost six weeks in early spring and reopened The Pony in early May.
They've changed things up a fair bit - renaming the business as simply "The Pony" and tweaking the menu. But at its heart and soul this is still the Pony that Pemberton has grown to love.
On top of sit-down service for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the business also features a coffee shop and bakery where people can grab goodies to-go.
Harrison was overwhelmed to discover that this year The Pony took home awards in the Best of Pemberton awards in 16 categories.
"I wouldn't have expected it, to be honest," he admitted. "..."That's one thing that we were scared about losing is that local following that The Pony had, and we knew it needed some work and we wanted to put our mark on it, and we didn't want to lose the local following by us doing that, and it sounds like we haven't. It sounds like everyone is still on board."
Coming in second in this category is the new Black Squirrel, located at The Meadows golf course, which just opened for business in May 2008. They aim to offer fine dining fare in a casual, relaxed atmosphere.
Best New Restaurant
The people of Pemberton have spoken, and the revamped and rebranded Pony Espresso (The Pony) has been picked as the best new restaurant in town. While they're not exactly NEW, co-owner Neal Harrison points out that they've changed a whole lot since taking over this spring.
"It's gone from serving nachos and wings and fries to doing a lot more," Harrison reflected, "... I think if I went and talked to some of the old staff, they would say, 'It's like a new restaurant.'"
And in terms of NEW new restaurants, the Black Squirrel at The Meadows golf course took home top honours.
Recessions suck but one can only eat so much KD and hot dogs. Going out to eat is a treat and it doesn't have to be a major splurge, especially if you head to The Pony. New owners Neal Harrison and Alexander Stoll have revamped the menu, but struggled to keep the price point on par with what locals were used to paying, all while bringing in some of the highest quality local produce possible.
Dinner entrees range from $15 to $30, and they still offer the popular weekly deals, like Pizza and a Pint night so diners can get serious bang for their buck.
Best Wine List
The wine list at The Pony proves that you don't have to be a sommelier or wine snob to indulge in the odd glass of vino. They've managed to cultivate a small but varied offering of five reds, five whites and a rose, with about 50 per cent of the content from within British Columbia.
Just reading the entries for this category made my tummy rumble; Mentions of farmers market butter tarts, lemon meringue at the Black Squirrel and the Wild Wood's sticky pudding had my blood sugar running high. But in the end, it was the Pony's Pemberton Mess that took the cake.
Co-owner Neal Harrison explains that this delicious dish is their signature dessert that they brought with them from the Fat Duck to The Pony. It consists of hard meringue, freshly whipped cream, vanilla ice cream and seasonal fruit, all layered in a glass dish.
"It just looks like a mess, but people love it!" Harrison said, "Its probably our top-selling dessert."
This concoction event scored a mention in a recent glowing food review in the Vancouver Sun, so it must be worth a taste!
Stepping into The Pony is a bit of a surreal experience. As co-owner Neal Harrison so eloquently surmises, let's face it, from the outside, this dining gem looks like a bit of a "shack." But the old adage about judging a book by its cover certainly applies to the reinvented Pony - loaded with charm and character, the new owners repainted, refinished the floors and redecorated, creating a warm, welcoming environment. "Pemberton chic," Harrison explains.
They also boast live local music (Papa Josh with jazz on Wednesdays, David Beaulac every Sunday, and a biweekly Friday show.) Throw in an incredibly loyal local clientele who use the Pony as their regular gathering spot, and it's easy to see why the atmosphere here is second to none!
True coffee lovers are a tough crowd to please - they know what they like, and can taste it when "their drink" isn't quite right. Chris Ankeny, owner and operator of Mount Currie Coffee Co. (which opened August 2007), recognizes that making the perfect latte is actually one part science, one part art and a whole lot of love.
"Well, the secret is pulling a really good shot of espresso," he said.
All their baristas are trained to pull the best possible shot of espresso, using Vancouver's 49th Parallel beans and timing each two-ounce shot ("so the coffee isn't over or under extracted") and how to heat the milk without stretching, burning or otherwise ruining it. Then, the creations are lovingly topped with a signature piece of latte art! All this can be yours for $3.25 a short or $3.75 for a tall.
Judging from voter feedback nachos are a scarcity in this town. So, note to local restaurants: it may be time to step your nacho game up a notch. In the meantime, newcomer to town, Mexico Lindo (located in the Pemberton Hotel) has happily stepped in to fill the void, offering authentic Mexican fare at reasonable prices. They just opened up in January 2009, but have already won local diners over with their delicious, affordable fare.
Their nachos haven't been North Americanized beyond recognition, and feature fresh tortilla chips topped with cheese, chili con carne and jalapenos. The best part? They're served with pico de gallo, not Pace or Old El Paso. A full order of this tasty treat costs $11.50 while a half order will only set you back $8.50.
There are burgers - you know, the bland pre-frozen pucks served on dry tasteless buns - and then, there are BURGERS. The people behind the scenes at The Pony seem to have mastered the art of crafting a true lip-smacking, meat lover's masterpiece. They were originally sourcing all their beef from right here in Pemberton, but the demand was simply too high (a good sign.) So now, they've teamed up with Two Rivers Meats in Vancouver, developing a unique recipe using fresh ground organic beef patties, which are delivered twice a week. They're served on homemade, brioche-style buns, smoked poblano chili aioli, and loaded with the fixins'. Oh, and did I mention that they're served with fries made from Pemberton potatoes? Yum!
It's the most important meal of the day and apparently, the folks at the Wild Wood have mastered it. Their Pemberton location has been going strong for five years now, and breakfast is going so well that management has actually turned their attention to strengthening the lunch and dinner offerings.
Manager Richard Keep said it was "bloody marvelous" to be recognized for best brekkie. He couldn't narrow down the most popular early-day menu item, but suggested the $8 classic breakfast (featuring two farm fresh eggs served with crispy pan fries, hearty bread and your choice of farmer's sausage or crispy bacon) is definitely a favourite. But personally, I'm a huge fan of their benny offerings. You can get a full or half order of hangover heaven, including the Natural (served on thick slices of tomato and avocado) and the West Coast (served on pacific smoked salmon.)
Best Beer Selection
Pale ale, Hefeweizen, honey lager: pick your sudsy poison at the Pony! New co-owner of the Pony, Neal Harrison, is a devout beer connoisseur and as such, has really stepped the beer game at the Pony up a notch since taking over in May. Aside from the draft offerings from Howe Sound Brewing and Whistler Brewing Company, he's also amassed an impressive offering of bottled imports for fellow beer lovers in the midst. He's included offerings like Belgian cherry beer - "the ice wine of beers" - Newcastle Brown Ale, and Baumer's Cider. In fact, the people at the liquor store thought he was a bit crazy when he came and placed his first order for the Pony - "When I placed my first order with the liquor store and they saw all these different types of beers, they looked at me and said, 'it's Pemberton, you know.' I said, 'well, worst case scenario: I have to drink it, and that wouldn't be so bad.'"
The new owners of The Pony aren't slow - they've happily opted to carry on the 13-year tradition of Pizza and a Pint night each and every Thursday evening.
"It's fantastic because it's like our locals' night, and that is where people come and hang out," said co-owner Neal Harrison.
They still offer a wide range of delectable pizza pies for just about every palate, but their Pemberton Pile Up, specifically, got a few mentions in the votes.
"It's chicken, the same smoked poblano chiles, capicoli, mozzarella, mushrooms and then about two-thirds of the way through baking it, we pull it out and we put very thinly sliced proscuitto on the top of it, and pop it back in for a few minutes," he said.
Meatlovers head to The Pony when they're ready to dig in to a solid steak. Their carnivore-friendly menu features all cuts of all cuts of organic Pemberton beef. Specifically, they offer a killer rib eye with a red wine au jus and mushroom sauce, plus sirloin as part of their mixed grill, which also comes with chorizo, stuffed pork shank and grilled tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms.
People travel in and out of Pemberton each and every day, and they know where to go when they need to grab a quick bite for the road - again, it's The Pony, hands-down.
On the bakery/coffee shop side of things, they have a full deli, which includes ham and cheese and Pemberton roast beef baguette, and the most popular to-go sandwich, the Croque Monsieur (grilled ham and gruyere with bechemel sauce.) They also offer veggie wraps and breakfast items to grab on the go, with cups of hot coffee to jolt you awake.
A mixture of old and new staff when they took over The Pony this spring, but new co-owner Neal Harrison said they make a point of finding friendly, happy, buoyant people who enjoy their jobs.
"To me, it's all about personality and I like to hire the locals. I want people to come to the restaurant and see faces they're familiar with and that they're comfortable with."
For a second year running, The Pony's Emily Zaine has come out on top as the best waiter in Pemberton. In fact, she's gotten so good at her job that she's recently been promoted to supervisor.
"She's solid and consistent in everything she does," co-owner Neal Harrison reflected.
The Black Squirrel's very own Food and Beverage Manager, Todd Cuthbert, knows how to make a mean drink (but in a very nice way, I'm sure!) He spent years in Whistler managing nightclubs and tending bar, so it was a natural fit for him to take over the drinks at the Black Squirrel. He said the most popular drinks are probably the Black Squirrel Caesar (which features Montreal steak spice on the rim, Absolut Citron vodka, horseradish and olive juice, garnished with three olives on a golf tee,) and a Going Squirrely Martini. Is it tee time yet?
Ryan Leitch at the Black Squirrel is a Whistler import, and apparently, he knows how to keep the golfing and non-golfing clientele coming back for more with his delicious dishes. He spent years toiling in the kitchens at Il Caminetto di Umberto and The Crab Shack, and Food and Beverage Manager Todd Cuthbert claims that he makes stellar cannelloni and half-roasted chicken.
"They're phenomenal," he enthused.
Best Local Hangout
Despite all of the recent changes, The Pony hasn't lost its place as the casual go-to spot for local gossip and to catch a show alongside their dinner, coffee or dessert.
They boast live music at least twice a week, a killer patio during the warmer months (usually early spring until mid-fall) and a warm, inviting atmosphere that everyone just seems to dig. And while the new owners seem to have stepped the culinary game up a bit, they haven't lost that laidback vibe that the people of Pemberton are drawn to.
Featuring a breathtaking view of Mount Currie, The Pony has yet again nabbed the prize for best patio in Pemberton. Also known as the bullshit balcony, The Pony's patio is usually crammed to its 44-person capacity and is simply a great place to people-watch.
Shops & Wares
Best Financial Institution
Dear old financial institutions... they've had their share of trouble this year, but the global financial crisis didn't stop voters from weighing in with their two cents on the best financial institutions. The result is that the North Shore Credit Union takes the top spot again this year as the best place to park your money in Pemberton. Second place goes to Scotiabank.
Best Grocery Store
Hands down the Pemberton Valley Supermarket comes out on top again this year as the best place to find the things that keep your fridge and cupboards stocked, and your family full and content. Check out the website www.pembertonsupermarket.com for some handy new recipes for things like raspberry or peach smoothies, macadamia coconut cookie bars or curried chicken. You can find all the ingredients, and much more, at the Pemberton Valley Supermarket. Makes your mouth water just thinking about them!
Best Place To Shop For Men
Though the choices may not be as varied as say perhaps Robson Street, Pemberton men can step out in style with a trip to the Pemberton General Store in the heart of the village. Once inside, the choices then are many and varied with clothes, instruments and sunglasses, to name just a few things. Something can always be found for dad, hubby, or boyfriend in a pinch at the Pemberton General Store.
Best Video Store
Movie Gallery may have closed its two locations in Whistler but the doors are open at the Pemberton branch where it's the only video store in town. As such, it takes top place again for best video store. Located beside the Wildwood Café on the way into town, Movie Gallery is the place for all your action, drama, kids and comedy movie needs.
Best Place To Shop For Women
Women can also fill their wardrobes at the Pemberton General Store, which once again wins the top spot in the category for best place to shop for women in the valley.
Thirty-two years ago, Dr. Anne Crowley first arrived in Pemby as part of a visiting dental program.
"Pemberton was one of the communities I came to, and I liked it," said the winner of 2009's favourite dentist category. "One of the nurses worked hard to get me help me stay here and set up a practice."
Today, this long-term local can still be found hovering over the dentist's chair at her practice on Prospect Street - as well as in her garden or up the mountains, skiing and hiking, in her free time.
So what keeps Crowley in the valley?
"I just love the community, the people, and the mountains," she says. "I feel privileged to live and work in this community."
Once again the Helmer family - Jeanette, Doug, Jennie, and Anna - claimed top prize as the favourite farmers in the Sea to Sky corridor's breadbasket.
The three-time winners grows a variety of crops on their organic, 76-acre farm in Pemberton, with potatoes naturally being their prime product along with bees and garlic. And when not toiling the land, the Helmers can often be spotted throughout the community from council to the Library Board, from the Pemberton Farmer's Institute to organizing community runs.
"We are pretty honoured to have this award again," said Anna Helmer, although she added: "There are quite a few new farmers that are growing a lot of food for people, and we would like to make sure they get some recognition next year because they really put out: Ice Cap Organics, Rootdown Organics, and Riverlands Market Garden."
She said it is important to recognize the hard work of new farmers as well, because without it, she doesn't know what people in Whistler would be eating - other than a lot of potatoes.
As the story goes, a physician, an engineer, and an attorney were having a pint at The Pony one night, discussing who belonged to the oldest profession.
The physician said: "Listen, medicine is the oldest profession because God took a rib from Adam and fashioned Eve, which makes him the first surgeon."
"No," the engineer argued, throwing his hands on the table, "before that, God created the heavens and earth from chaos and confusion. He was the first engineer."
"You are both wrong," countered the lawyer, who was starting to slur from the ale. "Who do you think created all the chaos and confusion?"
Case in point: Pembertonians didn't know which way to vote for this category and there was a slew of "unknown" and "no one has a favourite lawyer" responses.
This confusion over lawyers is fair enough, though, since Pemberton doesn't have a Pemberton-only law firm as of yet.
For the third year in a row Doctor Rebecca Lindley from the Pemberton Health Centre received the honour of being voted Pemberton's favourite quack.
The hardworking physician moved to Pemberton with her husband in November 2001 and stayed because of the people.
"We feel fortunate to be raising our family in such a great community," said Lindley after finding out she won the top honour again this year. "We feel privileged to be part of a team at the Health Centre that provides 24 hour emergency care, and we value the work and commitment of our colleagues here also."
"Thank you to my community!" said Susie Gimse after learning she topped the Best of Pemberton results for 2009's favourite politician. "We don't do these things to win contests, but it is nice to get the recognition from the community."
The 31-year Pemberton-area resident has been busy this past year with her extensive political roles. She currently holds two elected positions: director of Electoral Area C for the Squamish-Lilooet Regional District and councillor for the Village of Pemberton.
On top of that, Gimse is the past president of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, chair of the Local Government Leadership Academy, chair of Sea to Sky's regional hospital district, member of the Municipal Finance Authority, and part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
"I don't have another job," said Gimse about how she manages to balance all of her roles. "I dedicate all my time to local government."
Take 22 years of living in Pemberton. Add extensive community involvement (including a position as president of the Pemberton Rotary Club, director of the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce, and member of the Village of Pemberton's Advisory Land Use Committee). Stir in a 2004 Realtors Care Award and mix with a 2006 Pemberton Citizen of the Year award, and you've got Lisa Ames: Pemberton's favourite realtor for three years running.
"It is such a pleasure to go to work everyday doing what I love: selling Pemberton and everything our amazing community has to offer," said Ames, who is one of four realtors at the Whistler Real Estate Company's location in Pemberton.
"Buying or selling a home can be very stressful. I really care about my clients and want them to have the best experience possible, so that is what I strive for."
Favourite Tour Guide
If it's a good tour you want then Eric Pehota of Whistler Jet Boating is the guy to call. For the past year the 16-year Spud Valley resident has been running the Green River Thriller tour, bringing hundreds of tourists and locals alike through wild wetlands and preserved provincial parks, straight to the base of the roaring Nairn Falls.
So what is Eric's secret to successful tour guiding? Simply put: he's a talker.
"It's amazing. He can talk with anybody," says Eric's wife and business partner Parveen. (Eric himself was out of town for 10 days when Pique Newsmagazine called this week.)
"Being on a boat, you have to be a bit chatty. He has the gift and likes to talk. Also, he knows about the area, and a lot of people are interested about that too when they are on the water."
So ol' Fido put out his hip again and needs some professional expertise? Well, according to this year's Best of Pemby results, the person to take your canine companion to is probably Dr. Quinn Kavaga from Owl Creek Veterinary Hospital, a.k.a. Pemberton's only medical centre for non-humans.
In 2008 the seasoned vet, who also works full-time in Cache Creek, decided to expand his practice down to the equine-rich community of Pemberton. Originally, Kavaga drove down to Pemberton every two weeks to treat animals, but now he has hired a full-time veterinarian, Christine Barnim, to manage operations at Owl Creek while he is away.
Media & Culture
It's a battle of the art mediums! Both a painter (Karen Love) and a musician (Papa Josh) came head-to-head for this year's favourite artist award, and after watching them sweat it out in the boxing ring for a few rounds the judges at Pique Newsmagazine finally decided to call it a tie with an equal number of votes for both.
Karen Love is most famous for her colourful, energetic paintings depicting natural landscapes in-and-around the Pemby Valley. Born and raised in Kleinburg, Ontario, the chair of the Pemberton Arts Council says her biggest influences are from the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson and Emily Carr. Her credentials are impressive, too. Over her artist career, Love has trained at For Art Sake, Sheridan College - Craft and Design program, BC Institute of Technology, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and Capilano University.
Meanwhile, Papa Josh continues to rock out Pemberton on a weekly basis with his funk'n'groove one-man show, which features a shrewd mix of drums, bass, guitar and funky recording equipment where he can loop sounds and singing. During each live set, Papa Josh takes on the challenge of making music that is danceable, unique, and soulful, and his ultimate mission is to bring people together, to use music to broaden horizons, and to create unforgettable experiences. This whirlwind musician was born in Bloomington, Indiana and holds a master's degree in jazz from Northern Illinois University.
You can't claim to be a true Pembertonian until you've seen Papa Josh bust out his moves during his energetic, wild one-man shows. Throughout the last decade, Papa Josh has been getting locals to move their hips as he whips up rock, funk and country tunes.
This past summer, Papa Josh could also be found outside of the valley each Sunday - playing jazz on top of Whistler mountain. He also toured the U.S. and played shows in Portland, Eugene, Idaho, Seattle and California. And he has a CD in the works to be released by the end of the year.
Event of the Season
Pemberton festival what? The Pemberton Meadows Golf Club's opening party on May 23 rd stole the show this year as the single best throw down of 2009. The sun shone, the birds chirped, the 10-piece band called Wednesday's at Ernie's rocked out, and 180 people drank and made merry from 6 p.m. until at least 2 a.m. Not to shabby for a 2,000-person town.
Of course, when it comes to partying no one does it quite like Pemberton, and those that missed out on the Meadow's opening fete still had ample opportunity to let loose. Other honourable bashes in the Potato Valley this year included the legendary Barn Dance, the rowdy Two Acre Shaker, and the ominous-yet-awesome live forest fire show that raged from July to August this summer. Oh, and yes, there were also a few votes for Pemberton Festival 2010 - here's to hoping.
Gavin Duffell rose from his second place position last year and claimed the number one photography spot of '09 with his outdoor and wildlife pictures. The director of the Pemberton Arts Council and Vine Drive resident arms himself with a Nikon D70 and a Nikon N90 to shoot and snap the Pemberton valley in all of its glory.
A good quote can define a period of time or a region with a simple string of words. Unfortunately for Pemberton Valley, no words of wisdom were strong enough to grab the attention of the community this year. Nominees were all over the map, including the recent "That is just bullshit," courtesy of Mayor Jordan Sturdy after community member Mark Blundell asked council on Sept. 1 if the village held an in camera discussion about developing a run-of-river project on Pemberton Creek.
Another head nod went to "I hear she got the pregnant," underlining the theory that something in Pemberton's water is encouraging babies.
Top local news story
For months on end this summer, orange and red flames fiercely licked the land surrounding Pemberton, charring the countryside and filling up the sky with black smoke. The saga started in early summer with the Tyaughton Lake blaze and continued later on with fires on the Cooper Dome and Camel's Back mountains in Pemberton Meadows, Mount McLean, Seton Portage, Big Dog Mountain, Hell Creek, Birkenhead Lake Park, Ogre Lake, Ore Creek and Kelly Creek. And even with the fresh sprinkling of September rain calming things down, there is still no question among Pembertonians about what was this year's top news story: the reckless wildfires stole the show, hands down.
Ironically, this year's winner for best writer had never had a single word published when she first moved to Pemberton 15 years ago, law degree in hand.
Lisa Richardson's entrance into the writing world came in 2002 with an article in Pique Newsmagazine. Since then, though, her rise to literary fame has been quick, and today the audacious writer's name can be spotted everywhere, from Skier Magazine, to Kootney Mountain Culture, Mountain Life, National Post, Vancouver Sun, and even CBC Radio . Oh - and she has a gig lined up to blog for NBC during the Olympics.
"That is one of the great things about this place," laughs Richardson.
"We leave the lives other people thought we were going to lead, and we come here and we get a blank slate. People can become a mountain biker, or a skier, or a writer. There is something liberating about that."
So - in between this demanding freelance schedule - does Richardson have any big writing projects on the go?
"I'm too busy writing press releases!" she cries. "I'm thinking about writing a novel about a girl that can only communicate through press releases... but I've only written three pages on that so far."
Sports & Recreation
Best Horse To Ride Any Place
Nobody has done a census on the Pemberton-area horse population, but it would be fair to say that there are probably over 100 at riding clubs, tour operators, private farms and ranches of all shapes and sizes - from show jumpers to lazy rides that hang out on the highway from time to time. Horses and hitching posts are one of the things that make Pemberton unique as a frontier country town, as well as authentic.
A horse named Pepper got the most votes in this category, with single votes going to Black Jack, Hamon, Lucky and Maverick.
Best Bike Trail
Pemberton arguably boasts the most trails per capita of any town in Sea to Sky with more than 65 trails to choose from as well as a mountain bike season that is at least two months longer than Whistler in any given year.
Managing this inventory of trails is the Pemberton Valley Trail Association, which has its hands full these days linking trails in the valley into a loop, and keeping trails open through development, land claims and other pressures. Still, the PVTA recently expanded the Happy Trail climb to connect to another climb called Big Nimby - 10 km of singletrack that connects to Overnight Sensation and other trails in the area. Work is also underway on another climbing section after that to connect to a revamped Let It Go, and there will be lots of new singletrack to explore in the near future.
Getting the most votes this year was Bathtub Trail, followed by Creampuff and Overnight Sensation. Also getting votes were Lumpy's Epic, Mission Impossible and Grumpy Grouse.
Reminding riders to stay on the side of the road, one entry wrote "apparently the middle of the road to D'Arcy."
Best Camping Spot
Although Pemberton in general is a good place to get away from it all, sometimes it's nice to get even further away.
Strawberry Point on Lillooet Lake won for best camping spot, with one voter adding an apology for partying.
Birkenhead Lake was second by a handful of voters recognizing the beach and fishing, while Nairn Falls was third. Anderson Lake also got multiple votes, as did Skookumchuck and the Twin One Creek Forest Service campsite.
Favourite Pemberton Athlete
This category could really be split in two categories, summer and winter, to be fair, but the most votes this year went to cliff-and-jaw dropping freeskier Dan Treadway.
"That's pretty good," he laughed, "I've only been in Pemberton for a year and I'm getting votes for best athlete!"
Treadway is one of the best-known freeskiers in the business and has a reputation for dropping cliffs that nobody else looks at twice. He was even banned by Whistler Blackcomb for a season for hitting a cliff that took him into a permanently closed area.
"At the beginning (of my ski career) everything was pretty much spur of the moment, there wasn't any big thinking going on and I wasn't making any money by going skiing," he said. "I was just doing it for fun, however that had to be accomplished."
As his reputation grew, so did Treadway's demand for appearances in films and magazines. Despite that, he tries to keep his lines fun and spontaneous, sticking to big drops and steeps lines he's best known for.
"Now a lot of the stuff I do isn't planned, but I will go out with a crew and the intention of signing something that would look good on camera or on film," he said. "I don't think I'm more cautious, but I definitely have a better idea of consequences than when I started. I don't know how that comes into play, it just means doing the odd assessment and then doing whatever I think I can get away with."
Treadway has since expanded from freeskiing into free snowmobiling, and has been featured in several snowmobile-themed titles as well as ski movies in recent years. It was a natural shift for Treadway, who grew up riding snowmobiles in southern Ontario before buying one in Whistler to access the backcountry..
"I fell in love with that sport as much as skiing, so it was sort of a steady transition from doing it for fun to being a little more noticed (in the industry)," said Treadway.
"It's all big mountain stuff. One of the distinguishing things about what I do is that I've brought a kind of ski element to it. A lot of stuff is really planned out, riders will stand on top of a cliff for 20 minutes and plot out what they're going to do in detail. I ride more of a whole line, making a few turns, hitting a cliff I haven't stood on top of, or built a jump off of. It's like freeskiing on a snowmobile."
Treadway is a true ski bum by definition, building custom island cottages around Kenora, Ontario during the summer months and skiing/snowmobiling all winter.
Dan Treadway keeps in touch with his fans through his website, www.dantreadway.com.
Olympic medalist and dragon boat coach Hugh Fisher was second in the voting, recognizing the Laoyam Eagles youth team's 11 th consecutive victory at the Rio Tinto Alcan Vancouver International Dragon Boat Festival. The team is heading to the nationals and worlds next year.
Also getting multiple votes this year were freeskier Mark Abma, Mikki Opper, and masters ski champion Rick Lewon.
Best Fishing Spot
Fishing is seeing a huge resurgence in popularity that probably doesn't have anything to do with the price of groceries. Maybe people have figured out that there aren't many better ways to waste your time than hanging out in boats, belly boats, hipwaders, docks and shorelines, playing cat and mouse with fish that may or may not be there, who may or may not be hungry, who you may not fall for your fly, bait or lure.
The best fishing spot was a tie between Birkenhead Lake and Ivey Lake, with Blackwater finishing a close second, although the real winner is a mystery as most readers "weren't telling" and if they told you "I'd have to kill you."
Best Golf Course Hole
The infamous island green hole at The Meadows took the win this year, also known as the eighth hole, with last year's winner called Purgatory - creek and sand trap loving number four at Big Sky placed second. Number 12 at the Meadows was third in the voting.
The 19 th hole, a.k.a. food and beer, also got a lot of votes as usual, as well as hole 9.5 - food and beer at the halfway hut.
Best Hiking Trail
Pemberton is literally surrounded by parks and trails, and opportunities to hike are plentiful.
This year the win was a tie between Lumpy's Epic, which offers incredible views of Mt. Currie and the Green River on the backside - especially beautiful during the autumn - and the inspired Joffre Lakes hike, which starts off with a spectacular lake and only gets more spectacular as you climb up to the top lake and the waterfalls cascading over the basin. The One Mile Lake loop was third.
Best Indoor Sport
Pemberton residents are making good use of the new recreation centre, as well as programs available in the local school gyms.
Hockey in Whistler took the win, followed by basketball, yoga, toddler drop in, swimming at Meadow Park, poker and drinking at the Black Squirrel.
Best Lake For Motor Sports
For size, accessibility and surface water temperature you can't beat Anderson Lake, which won this category by a mile. Actually, 13 miles, which is the total length from inlet to outlet.
Lillooet Lake and Green Lake also got a few votes, as well as Gates Lake.
Lake For Swimming
The west coast just experienced probably one of the hottest, driest summers on record - so hot that people were actually swimming in Lillooet Lake for longer than a few seconds in a row.
The best getaway this summer, as selected by readers, was Mosquito Lake, because even the mosquitoes weren't that bad this year. Big, yes, but not bad.
Gates Lake is a little bigger and a lot further, and placed second in the voting, with Anderson Lake pulling up in third.
Best Outdoor Sport
Pembertonians voted for bikes as the Best Outdoor Sport this year, but since a lot of the responses were divided between mountain biking, road biking, pump track and plain old "riding bikes," the winner this year is golf. For a town of Pemberton's population to have two quality golf courses - The Meadows and Big Sky - is probably just too much for locals to resist.
Other nods went to hiking, dragon boat racing, shinny, skiing, soccer, disk golf, paragliding, running, slo pitch and snowmobiling.
It may not have slides and swings but Nairn Falls Park won the most votes this year, followed by Zurcher Park, the high school, the new pump track and the new park at the community centre. One person suggested that things could be much better: "Um, we don't have parks. Whistler has parks, we have underdeveloped, overwatered and inaccessible patches of grass."
Best Place To Ride A Skateboard
A skateboarder in Pemberton has about as many options as a Cowboy in Kitsilano, but the Village of Pemberton and the Pemberton Skateboard Society are working to change that by creating a permanent skatepark in the community.
That said, local skaters are getting a little patient. The winner of this category was some variation of "I wish we had a place" or "Park already!" followed by the Rec Centre parking lot. Other votes went to "Down Snob Hill" or The Glen.
Best Place To Ride Your ATV
The answers for this category were all over the map, with only Gold Bridge getting multiple votes for its selection of multi-use, high alpine trails.
Best Place To Ride Your Dirt Bike
The Green River Motocross Track has benefitted from an infusion of cash and volunteer work this year, including a new irrigation system, a new machine groomer, the addition of a new flow section, upgrades to jumps and berms and all kinds of other improvements that have brought the course up to a high enough standard to host national level competitions. The result is a busier track that attracts riders from around the province to train and compete, and shot in the arm for Pemberton tourism.
Also getting nods this year were Meager Creek, Owl Lake, the sand pits, Camel's Back and Mosquito Lake.
Best Place To Ride Your Horse
"Into the sunset" didn't get a single vote this year, suggesting that local horse lovers tend to be more practical than lyrical when it comes to jumping into the saddle.
Most votes went towards some variation of "anywhere/everywhere," but a large number of riders picked The Pony as their preferred destination. Others gave nods to the dyke, to Mosquito and Ivey Lake, and to Pemberton Meadows.
Best Snowmobile Trail
The Pemberton Ice Cap covers roughly 300 square kilometres of map, with various peaks jutting out from the expanse of ice and snow. It's the largest ice mass you'll find this far south in either North America or Europe, although you'll find even larger ice fields as you head north in the Coast Mountains. As a result it has stood in for the arctic and Antarctic in movies and television shows, including the last X-Files movie.
It's also a great place to snowmobile - "snow machine" if you're vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin - providing you don't mind hauling in some extra fuel for the long way back.
Other favourite sled spots include Rutherford Creek (which can access the Ice Cap), as well as Barkley, The Nole, and MacKenzie Launch.