It's thrills and chills as another year comes to an end and we present the legendary Best of Whistler.
Just when you think you have it figured out, there may be an upset in the standings: Who is the best boot fitter? Where's the best place for lunch? Where do you go to get a great deal?
At Pique, we are dedicated to dishing the goods on everything that makes this town tick. We not only derive great pleasure in compiling the questions, but we are thrilled when you Whistlerites play along and vote for your favourites, year after year. We are particularly happy when we phone you to notify you of your win — and you oblige with such enthusiasm and co-operation. Not everyone can pull off an acceptance speech on the phone while you're busy doing your job — so we thank you for this.
Best of Whistler is a huge undertaking that — similar to every business and service in this valley — is possible through the coffee-swilling staff who love what they do. To riff on that adage: It takes the Village, the neighbourhoods from Cheakamus to Rainbow, and every spot in between.
Congratulations to all you superstars.
— Cathryn Atkinson, Brandon Barrett, Braden Dupuis, Dan Falloon and Lynn Mitges. Online compilation by Heidi Rode, Jen Treptow, and Karl Partington. Illustrations by Claire Ryan.
Photos, unless otherwise credited, by Coastphoto.com
Favourite Whistlerite: Chili Thom
What more can be said about Chili Thom — artist, filmmaker and so much more — that hasn't already been said in recent weeks?
As soon as word started to spread of Chili's passing on Nov. 30 at the age of 40, social media began to fill with pictures of his art and stories of his life — colourful and breathtaking in equal measures.
"He was an artist with an engineer's mind, he could see the inner workings of the world and could creatively shuffle and push life's everyday details into new levels of efficiency," writes Chili's longtime friend Feet Banks, in a tribute published in the Dec. 8 Pique.
"As such, it was the less tangible things that brought Chili the most happiness — friendship, love, fatherhood, charity and the power of nature."
Clearly, Chili Thom brought Whistlerites a lot of happiness, too — and with his iconic artwork displayed in homes and shops across the valley and beyond, he probably won't stop anytime soon.
DJ, radio host, go-go dancer, filmmaker Ace MacKay-Smith took second, narrowly edging out filmmaker Mike Douglas, who won this category four years running before moving to third.
- File Photo Submitted
- Favourite Whistlerite: Chili Thom
Best Excuse for Being Late: On the Hill
You people sure have a lot of excuses.
Whistler's most common reasons for being late are probably rather obvious — you're either on the hill or hungover from hitting it too hard — but this category always tends to be one of Best of Whistler's most diverse.
Many of you like to blame the bears or buses, and a good chunk of you also use the resort's worsening traffic conditions or overstuffed parking lots as an easy out — fair enough.
But blaming your tardiness on aliens or Harambe (RIP) likely isn't going to satisfy your employer.
Some of you were rescuing wild animals, helping tourists find their way, or assisting little old ladies across the street — how noble!
But picking mushrooms and getting lost in the forest, or a bangin sale on cans of Chunky soup, are questionable excuses at best.
The big takeaway from your answers in this category — whether you're just out loving life or stuck permanently on Whistler time — is that you seem to be having a lot of fun out there.
No need to excuse that.
Best Whistler Myth: Dual Mountain
Have you heard about the Albino Alligators of Alpine? How about the evil mermaid in the water tank? Did you know that Whistler's bears are actually midgets in costume?
If that sounds like nonsense, that's because it is (and in the case of the last one, also quite offensive).
But isn't that part of what makes up a good myth?
Judging by your answers in this category, you're not afraid of a little bit of nonsense.
Whistlerites clearly have wild imaginations (glacier sharks; Sasquatch eats at Caramba), irrational fears (Moe Joe's is haunted; monster in Green Lake) and some pretty kinky perversions (we won't elaborate on this one — for your sake).
But once again, it's the myth of Dual Mountain that takes top honours.
If you're not in the know, we're not going to spoil the secret — ask a local.
Myths about moguls — like that they're put into storage in the summer, or are actually hibernating bears — were your second favourite this year, and in third place was a classic: Sasquatch.
Best Neighbourhood: Alpine Meadows
Last year we joked about renaming this category The Alpine Meadows Excellence Award, in honour of its perennial champion, and retiring the neighbourhood from the competition.
It would only be fair to the other, lesser beloved neighbourhoods, right Alpiners?
Maybe we could give a little love to Whistler Cay?
Then again, even if we added up all the votes for the Cay, Whistler Cay Heights, Tapley's Farm, Blueberry — and even threw in Brio for good measure — we would still come up just short of Alpine's total (and just barely ahead of second-place finisher Creekside. White Gold was a distant third).
Alpine is, apparently, just that great (but don't tell them that — we think it's starting to go to their heads).
The biggest news story of 2016: Vail buys Whistler Blackcomb
Whistler's biggest news story of 2016 took almost everyone by surprise.
The announcement of the "friendly takeover" of Whistler Blackcomb by Vail Resorts in August got everyone talking — what does it mean for Whistler? And more importantly, what does it mean for the price of ski passes?
Time will tell how this deal will play out for the resort, and there's a decent chance we'll be writing about it in the 2017 edition of Best of Whistler.
In a distant second place was the resort's ever-increasing busyness — and all of the ongoing traffic, housing and staffing issues that have come with it.
Whistler Blackcomb's Renaissance project — which will add an indoor waterpark, a mountain coaster and much, much more to the resort's offerings — came third.
- Chris Starck/coastphoto.com
- Biggest news story in 2016: Vail buys Whistler Blackcomb
What's the best decision by Whistler council in 2016?: Mayor's Task Force on Housing
A lot of decisions were made at the council table in 2016, but according to Pique's readers, none were more worthy of praise than the decision in October to form a Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing.
The task force is made up of all the key stakeholders in the resort, and aims to find solutions for Whistler's housing challenges, now and in the future.
As one of its first initiatives, the task force launched a program to help match businesses with vacant homeowners. More enforcement of illegal nightly rentals is also underway, and more recommendations will surely follow in the New Year.
Enhancing wayfinding in Whistler Village — through the installation of those snazzy looking signs now marking key points of the town — was your second favourite decision, and committing a chunk of cash to help repair DES units in Cheakamus Crossing was your third.
What's the most questionable decision by Whistler council in 2016?: Waiting too long to form the Mayor's Task Force on Housing
While many of you applauded the decision to form a Mayor's Task Force on Housing, a whole bunch of you felt the decision came too late.
Waiting too long to form the task force was your No. 1 pick for most questionable decision by council in 2016.
The decision to charge artists who want to sell their work from home to apply for Temporary Use Permits was your second least favourite decision, and the uproar over charging memorial bench owners for renewal/upkeep was good enough for third (though that decision was technically made back in 2013, the pushback took some time to boil over).
What is the best Whistler trend? Living an active lifestyle
Whistler is a pretty trendy place (if you consider plaid, beards and manbuns trendy, which we most certainly do).
Your answers in this category were the most positive and uplifting in the entire survey — good job! All that cynicism was getting to be a bit much.
The majority of Pique's readers said living an active lifestyle is the resort's best trend, followed by our friendly and inclusive locals in second and our awesome community spirit in third. In short, we really rock, you guys.
We looked really hard through the answers, and for the life of us, couldn't find a single negative response! Impressive!
But wait... what's that next category?...
What is the worst Whistler trend?: Lack of affordable housing
Ah yes. We knew the good vibes wouldn't last.
As previously mentioned, this year's Quintessential Whistler results were sprinkled with a healthy dose of cynicism and negativity — and most of it naturally found its way here.
But a little griping is good for the soul, and you really didn't hold back in this section.
In 2016, Pique's readers hated (among many other things): bad pizza, Australians, people who disrespect nature, fake localism, exposed undies, little poop moustaches, Pokemon GO, people using the words "stoked" and "dude," and Lenny.
But the worst trend this year, according to you, should be no surprise: Whistler's housing crisis needs to go away, and fast.
The second worst trend was drug use — also no surprise given the wave of fentanyl-related overdoses in B.C. this year.
In third place was "complaining on social media."
Now quick — everyone go on Whistler Winter and complain about this survey.
Best New Business: Escape! Whistler
Judging by some of your answers in other categories regarding traffic, parking and housing, many of you likely wanted to escape Whistler for real this year.
But if you weren't able to do that, hopefully you found the next best thing.
Escape! Whistler was Whistler's favourite new business in 2016.
The award is a nice recognition in light of the mountains of effort poured into the business by co-owners Kori Klusmeier and Karen Mizukami.
But how do they come up with all those wonderful themes?
"Karen and I basically sit around and look at a wall," Klusmeier laughs.
"We just basically sit around and try and think up weird ideas and then see if we can actually bring them to life."
The set and theme design, layout and architectural drawings, the puzzles — everything was born in the minds of Klusmeier and Mizukami.
But the response received since they opened on Boxing Day 2015 has made it all worth it.
"We've been thrilled," Klusmeier says. "We've had people from all across the globe who've said they've done lots and lots of escape rooms elsewhere, and we continually keep hearing from people that ours are the best they've ever done, which is very humbling, very flattering."
Klusmeier wanted to thank all of the people that helped bring the creation to life, and the staff who help make the experience what it is.
Coast Mountain Brewery in Function Junction was your second favourite new business, followed by the Audain Art Museum.
- Scott Brammer/coastphoto.com
- Best new business: Escape! Whistler
Which is Best? Blackcomb
We ask you this every year, and the choice never gets any easier.
Both of the resort's main–draw mountains garnered hundreds of votes again this time around, but in the end it was Blackcomb that pulled away to take the crown.
Whistler Mountain may enjoy the prestige and added attention afforded by its name, but according to a majority of Pique readers, the allure of the dark side is strong.
- Logan Swayze/coastphoto.com
- Best mountain: Blackcomb
Best Backcountry or Slackcountry Tour: Flute Bowl
For the second year in a row, Flute Bowl is your favourite backcountry or slackcountry tour — even though it's technically a marked in-bounds run at Whistler Blackcomb.
It does require a 30-minute hike, so we'll give you guys a pass on that one.
In second place was a much more sensible answer — "it's a secret."
When you have a really good spot, the last thing you want is to publicize it in the pages of Pique — keep that knowledge confined to your most trusted inner circle.
Bringing up the rear was Decker in third place.
Best Rainy Day Activity for Families: Escape! Whistler
Whistler got its fair share of rain this year, particularly in the September to November range.
Whistler Blackcomb's Renaissance is expected to go a long way towards "weather-proofing" the resort, but even though that's still years away from being fully realized, you found plenty of activities to escape the constant downpour.
Escape! Whistler — also voted 2016's Best New Business — was your favourite refuge from the rain, followed by the Meadow Park Sports Centre and catching a movie at the Village 8.
"You don't have to have any skills or be a thrill seeker to go into it... it's something for all ages, so children appreciate it, couples in their 20s, 30s, 40s, you name it," says Kori Klusmeier, co-owner of Escape! Whistler.
"We had a couple in their 80s come and do three of the four themes because they loved it so much. It really appeals to all ages and everyone seems to get a kick out of it."
Favourite individual volunteer: Jim Budge
In recent years Whistler has become known as a town of nonstop festivals and events — particularly in the summer months — but the resort wouldn't be what it is without its small army of dedicated volunteers.
Without them, the town wouldn't function as it does.
"That's one of the things that makes Whistler so cool," says Jim Budge, this year's favourite volunteer, as voted by Pique's readers.
Budge said he likely earned his votes through the work he pours into his Facebook page, the Whistler Running Club, which provides info about local clinics and races to its almost 900 members.
"I go to all the races and clinics and group runs and often take pictures and try to show people how much fun it is, and that there's all shapes and sizes and ages of people participating," he said.
"Volunteering is really, really rewarding — not only the friendships you make but the satisfaction you get when you see something happen that 100 per cent could not have happened without the volunteers, and most of it is going to a really good cause as well."
Budge says the votes he got just go to show how popular and inclusive the sport of trail running is becoming in Whistler.
"The real thanks should go to all the race directors and running club organizers who put on the running events," he says. "I'm just happy to help promote them."
Tom Thompson came second, while Cathy Jewett came third.
What's your favourite Whistler non-profit organization? The team at WAG
Is Whistler going to the dogs?
Yes. And we're totally OK with that.
The team at Whistler Animals Galore is Whistler's favourite non-profit organization, but that shouldn't really come as a surprise — sometimes it seems as if Whistler has just as many dogs as people.
The Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association came second, while the Get Bear Smart Society was third.
What is the best place to take a visitor if only here for one winter day?: Skiing
Breaking news, you guys: If you have a one-day-only winter visitor, the best place you can take them is skiing!
The ski runs on Whistler and Blackcomb are one of Whistler's best-kept secrets, but if you keep voting for them in this category, that won't last for long!
In all seriousness, this one is a no-brainer. If you've got a guest in town for one winter day, get them up the mountain — even if they're a total Seinfeld on the Jerry scale, there really is no better way to experience the essence of Whistler.
While you're up there, make sure you also get your friend on the Peak 2 Peak (your second choice in this category) and up the Peak Chair to Whistler Peak (third) — though your Seinfeld friend might die up there, so be sure Jerry's comfortable with it first.
What is the best place to take a visitor if only here for one summer day? Peak 2 Peak
Summer in Whistler has transformed into a living, breathing beast in recent years, with record-breaking visitation driven by more festivals and events.
But if you've got a friend in town for just one summer day, the best place you can take them is still Whistler's signature attractions.
In first place was the one-of-a-kind Peak 2 Peak gondola, followed by sightseeing or hiking on Whistler and Blackcomb.
In third place was Lost Lake. If you're lucky (or unlucky, depending on the crowd), you might even get to see some nudity.
- Scott Brammer/coastphoto.com
- Best place to visit on a summer day: Peak 2 Peak
Best free thing to do: Take a hike
When you live and work in Whistler, you kind of just get used to paying too much for everything — rent, food, beer — you name it, you're probably emptying your wallet for it.
It can be demoralizing, if you let it.
Which is why so many people love those summer-time vibes — Whistler in the summertime is pretty much only limited by your sense of adventure and physical fitness.
Your top answer in this category was to take a hike (or a walk), and we concur: summertime strolls in Whistler are sublime. Pick a direction and go!
Mountain biking in the valley — your second answer — is a little bit more limiting, in that you'll likely have to shell out for a bike of some sort (or if you're a piece of shit, you can just steal one like so many others seemed to do this year).
No. 3 is to hang out at a lake — we hear Whistler has a few good ones.
What's your best tip for saving money in Whistler?: Don't drink
According to Pique readers, if you want to save money, you should probably just stay home.
In first place was "don't drink," followed by hundreds of variations of "don't eat out" and "look for specials."
But why not take it one step further and go full hermit?
You'll save money on hygienic products — like soap, deodorant and razors — and then after awhile you won't have to put up with any of those costly friends anymore!
You can also save money (and cut down on energy use) by lighting your home exclusively by candlelight — then you can sit alone in the dark and think about how much money you're saving!
If you had any friends left, they would commend you on your epic frugality (but you don't because you seriously smell awful).
What's the best location in Whistler for a photo op? Whistler Peak
This one was pretty close, with just two dozen votes separating the top three answers.
This year, your favourite photo-op took place on Whistler Peak, followed by the top of Seventh Heaven.
In third place was "anywhere," which is our favourite response.
Whistler is just that beautiful — grab your camera, point yourself at some cool shit and snap away.
What is one thing you would change about Whistler? Affordability
This year's running theme makes one last appearance in Quintessential Whistler.
Pique's readers love this place. They love its adventurous spirit, its friendly locals, its mind-blowing, breathtaking landscapes — they just wish it was easier to make it here.
The No. 1 thing our readers would change about Whistler is the lack of affordable housing options, followed by a general lack of affordability in No. 2, and a lack of living wages in No. 3.
Other things you would change: the lack of an ocean, the lack of an Arby's and the lack of a second Garfinkel's.
At least one of you also wants to put a Wal-Mart on the mountain. We'll leave that one in the hands of WB and Vail.