- Illustrated by Jon Parris
- Best of Whistler 2019
In many ways, celebration is Whistler's inherent raison d'être. So many of us come here to shirk off the rigours of everyday life in pursuit of something grander: the revitalizing nature, the exhilarating adventure sports, the tantalizing nightlife.
That's what makes Pique's annual Best of Whistler readers' poll so much more than just a popularity contest. In a town filled to the brim with folks who've chosen to carve out the good life here, it's important to recognize the people, places and things that have helped them realize it. You'll notice a few changes to this year's Best of Whistler, starting with a move to a more streamlined online surveying platform that we hope made filling out the questionnaire a smoother process. We've also added several new categories, and tweaked the wording of a few others. The Environmental category is brand new this year, and long overdue given how important climate change was in this year's federal election both nationally and closer to home—the hundreds of Whistlerites who came out for September's climate march are testament to that. Thanks to the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment for their help in compiling that category.
We should also acknowledge a glaring omission from this year's poll: the Favourite Band/Musician category. Due to a technical error in our polling system, it was accidentally left off the questionnaire, and by the time we noticed, it was too late. (Hey, we're not perfect, even though we are ridiculously good looking.) But fear not, music lovers, the category will return in all its glory in 2020, giving perennial winners The Hairfarmers a chance to reclaim victory after winning it a whopping 18 years in a row.
Without further ado, let's raise a glass and toast Whistler's biggest, best and brightest, as voted by you. Here's to a fantastic year ahead! You deserve it. - Brandon Barrett
By Braden Dupuis
Though this marks the sixth (!) time filmmaker and pro skier Mike Douglas has been voted favourite Whistlerite, the shock of getting the call never really goes away.
"Oh, no way!" Douglas says when reached by phone.
"Oh geez, I thought that was done. I thought that was all in the past."
Douglas took this category four years running, from 2012 to 2015, before the late Chili Thom took the honour in 2016.
Whistler's favourite son was back on top in 2017 before another local legend—Ace MacKay-Smith (a.k.a. Whistler's Favourite DJ this year, Foxy Moron)—topped the poll last year.
What does it say to Douglas that Whistlerites keep sending him back to the top?
"Well, I mean, I've lived here for 30 years now ... I came to Whistler for the mountains and I stayed for the community, and I guess my love of this community—I don't know what the word I'm looking for here is—but it carries on past my own head, and maybe people appreciate that, I guess?" he says.
"I'm fairly stunned right now, actually."
In 2019, Douglas' work as chair of Protect Our Winters Canada—an environmental non-profit aiming to impact policy decision related to climate change—took up almost as much time as his filmmaking work with his company Switchback Entertainment.
"I think it's the pressing issue of our times ... You can do a lot of things without a lot of things, but if you don't have a livable planet, nothing works. The economy doesn't matter; nothing matters," he says.
"And being someone that's outside and that's travelled around a lot, and sort of seen the effects starting to happen around the world, I feel like it's fairly urgent, and I do have a voice that spreads further than my circle of friends, and I feel like I have a responsibility to use it."
Learn more at protectourwinters.ca.
Trevor Hopkins, cyclist and co-owner of Cranked Espresso Bar, came second, while pro-skier Stan Rey finished third.
TIE-GRACE BLOK AND DENISE WOOD
Whistlerites love their volunteers so much, they decided to honour two of them in this year's Best of Whistler poll.
That's right—it's a tie!
In 2019, Grace Blok—who took this category for the first time last year—shares the honour with Denise Wood.
"I just think that's so sweet, and I'm honoured," Wood says, adding that she's guessing the votes came from her work with Whistler Animals Galore (WAG), where she has volunteered for years and now serves on the board of directors.
"I spend a lot of my spare time walking the dogs and helping the staff, and doing all that kinda stuff, and then helping at a board level, so maybe that's why?" she says, adding that in the past she also volunteered with the Howe Sound Women's Centre.
"I'm passionate about animal welfare, and I really like working with the WAG team ... Non-profit isn't easy work, especially animal welfare, and they're just an incredible team of women, and I love working with them."
For Blok, the shock of being named Whistler's favourite volunteer is as prevalent as it was last year.
"That is unbelievable, I cannot actually fathom that—there are so many people, really, truly," she says.
"Some of them are people that volunteer for committees and organizations, so you don't always see that out front ... Some of them give so many hours, it's phenomenal."
Blok says, like last year, her volunteer efforts in 2019 were focused around local races and through her church, and that it's likely her front-facing job with the Whistler Community Services Society—which isn't actually a volunteer position—that garners her more attention.
"I get a great satisfaction in supporting people who are trying to achieve something, or to encourage them," she says. "I think often volunteering means that you're encouraging people ... Some of the opportunities mean that you can impact what happens in your community, but most of the races that I do are really an opportunity to encourage people to meet and exceed their own goals."
Jean-Sebastien Trudeau garnered the second-most votes, while Rosemary Cook took third.
It may be time to retire this category altogether, as no Whistler neighbourhood has ever collected more votes than Alpine Meadows—and it's starting to look as if none ever will.
And there are only so many ways you can describe a neighbourhood, ya know?
Realistically, we could copy and paste some of our past descriptions in this category, and nobody would be the wiser.
So, here's some of what we've said in the past:
"From its neighbourly vibe to its old-school architectural charms, Alpine is a perennial favourite in this category, even with droves of young families flocking to Whistler's newest neighbourhoods, Cheakamus and Rainbow."
"Is it the dedicated core of longtime locals? An elaborate, annual vote manipulation using masked IP addresses? Maybe Alpiners are just really diligent survey takers? (Nerds.)"
One thing is for sure: Alpine is, and will in all likelihood continue to be the place to live in Whistler.
Creekside once again took the second most votes, followed by Rainbow in third.
Funniest Thing Overheard on the Chairlift
If there's one thing made clear from your responses in this brand-new category, it's this: Whistler fucks.
Like, a lot.
Or at the very least, you want people you're sharing a chairlift with to think you fuck (in which case, well played, and we can relate).
Yes, your sordid sexual tales were far and away the favourite here.
Also, and this one is a bit more disturbing—Whistlerites (or visitors to the resort) seem to have some issues controlling their bowels. References to people pooping themselves, and/or farting loudly, came in a close second.
(Should these be two separate categories? Or should we stick them together as one, unified, butthole-related group? Ah, the philosophical conundrums of working at a weekly community newspaper.)
In third place was bashing our mountain-operating overlords, Vail Resorts.
How did that one not win?
Ah yes. The fucking and the pooping.
Honourable mention goes to stories about drinking, smoking weed, fake books and Donald Trump.
Favourite Backcountry Guilty Pleasure
While there is some gear you absolutely cannot do without on a trip into the backcountry, there's also some, let's say, less-essential items in the grand scheme of things.
Sure, you don't need those croissants and butter you packed, but damned if they don't hit the spot when the time is right.
Surprisingly, the top answer was not alcohol related (we're proud of you, Whistler).
No, it was chocolate that took the most votes in this category.
Unfortunately, the next three highest-ranking answers were all related to the booze: Beer, Fireball and wine, with honourable mentions to whiskey, Baileys, brandy, tequila and more.
(We won't even get into the various mentions of drugs—who brings LSD on a backcountry trip?)
On sober reflection—keyword being sober—we take back that thing we said about being proud of you. Not trying to judge or anything, but maybe you should get help?
Best Whistler Trend
As we noted last year when Whistler's active, healthy lifestyle won this category, Pique's journalists are what you might describe as "exceptionally fit," (if you were a liar and/or a very funny comedian).
Come to think of it, it being the end of the year, it's almost time for the newsroom's annual stretch: "Getting Limber for 2020."
Your second favourite trend this year was action on climate, and an increased awareness around environmental issues, while No. 3 was the year-round fashion flexibility of the Toque.
Honourable mentions to packing your own lunch, showering and public farting.
Worst Whistler Trend
LACK OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Last year, when the lack of affordable housing claimed this category for a third straight year, we wondered aloud—well, quietly actually, because it was printed in a newspaper, but you get the point—how long it takes for a "trend" to just be referred to as the status quo.
Well, make it four in a row for Whistler's new status quo—housing woes are once again your least-favourite trend.
Your second-least-favourite trend this year was the frequent and casual use of cocaine and other drugs (honestly... see the line in the backcountry blurb above about getting help—nobody will judge you).
In third place was Van life, which is directly related to our first-place finisher.
Some honourable mentions, in no particular order, chosen from the responses we can actually print: bitching and complaining about anything and everything, trolling on Facebook, littering, bad facial hair, not showering, man buns, '90s mom jeans, vaping, Jerrys, calling people Jerrys, and trends.
Biggest News Story of 2019
More than a few of Pique's readers won't miss Ironman as it swims, cycles and runs its way back to Penticton next summer, judging by your votes to crown its departure as our biggest news story of 2019.
A pair of massive slides on Joffre Peak near Pemberton in May took second, followed by the tragic death of pro skier Dave Treadway in April.
Treadway, 34, died in a fall down a crevasse in the Pemberton backcountry on April 15, leaving behind his wife Tessa, sons Kasper and Raffi, and an unborn son.
Best Decision by Whistler Council
CONTINUED WORK ON HOUSING
Right in line with your least-favourite trend, you were most impressed with council's continued efforts around housing—whether it be down in Cheakamus Crossing with the development of Phase 2, through four new Whistler Housing Authority builds (and tweaking the rental guidelines for such properties), or greenlighting a new 200-plus bed Whistler Blackcomb staff building.
The snazzy new pedestrian upgrades in Function Junction came in second, followed by the introduction of a new Animal Responsibility Bylaw.
Worst Decision by Council
$3 MILLION FOR THREE BATHROOMS
If you voted for the $3-million project to build three bathroom buildings in Whistler Village, just wait until you hear they're now going to cost $4.5 million!
And, worse yet, you can't even buy any of that sweet ganja in the village (at least not legally) to take the sting off, because the muni STILL hasn't moved forward on allowing any local pot shops—your second least favourite council decision this year.
And, don't look now, but some asshole just parked outside your house, assuming you have one, probably because of all the pay parking in the village. Not addressing neighbourhood parking was No. 3 on this list.
Favourite Publicly Accessible Washroom
OLYMPIC PLAZA STAGE
As previously established elsewhere in this section, Whistler and its millions of guests sure do love to poop (and fart—do not forget about the farting).
Maybe those multimillion-dollar bathrooms will come in handy for some of you?
Anyways, your favourite place to dump one out, according to our extensive reader survey, is at the Olympic Plaza stage.
You also like to poop and pee at the Pan Pacific and the Fairmont Chateau whistler, apparently.
We agree on that last point. The bathrooms at the Fairmont are next-level comfortable. It almost feels wrong to do the dumps there (but that ain't gonna stop us).
Favourite Jerry Carry
Though some of you deride the term Jerry and all it stands for, it's hard not to admire a good Jerry Carry—especially when they're so sexily modelled by Pique's own Big Daddy, production manager Karl Partington, as they were in a recent Instagram post.
But the Jerriest Carry of all, according to you, is The Decapitator—which for added context we provide one of our Instagram followers' insights.
"The Decapitator ... it might start as the somewhat organized but arm-pumping Offering at the parking lot but then spirals down to the Fishhook partway on the walk to the lift and ends in a full-on splayed out Decapitator by the time they see the Village Gondola liftline on a powder day... they are done before they start."
Well said, @marc_cousi.
In second was the ol' Oklahoma Suitcase, followed by The Bazooka in third.
For some (again, very sexy) visual illustrations of each Jerry Carry, check out Pique's Instagram.
Best Location for a Photo Op
TOP OF PEAK CHAIR
Your favourite place to snap that perfect picture in 2019 was at the very top of Peak Chair, followed by down below at Green Lake (did you know it's green because the muni paints the bottom every year? True story).
Coming in third was the Olympic Rings, leaving us wondering how many tourists took the poll this year.
Favourite Whistler Non-Profit
WHISTLER ANIMALS GALORE
As they seem to do every year, the good folks at Whistler Animals Galore destroyed this category, taking more than double the votes of second-place finisher, the Whistler Community Services Society.
Rounding out the top three was Zero Ceiling.
Cafés & Restaurants
By Brandon Barrett
Blenz earned its first-ever gold in this caffeinated category, unseating perennial winner Mount Currie Coffee Co.
Whistler owned and operated, Blenz is the rare chain coffee shop that also feels like a locals' haunt, thanks to its friendly, personable staff and its commitment to community, regularly hosting fundraisers for local causes and cutting back on its footprint through its mug-sharing initiative (see Best Local Environmental Initiative on page 86). Oh, and we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that Blenz also serves a great cup of joe, sourcing premium beans from around the globe, poured from its top-of-the-line Nuova Simonelli espresso machine.
Perhaps this will make up for the fact that we dropped our Best Hot Chocolate category from the poll this year, an arena that Blenz rightfully dominated seven years in a row.
After five years with the Best Coffee crown, Mount Currie Coffee Co. fell to second, while Cranked Espresso Bar in Rainbow cracked the list for the first time.
Elements once again earns bragging rights over its sister restaurant, Wild Wood Café, beating out the Function Junction diner for breakfast supremacy for the fourth year running.
Nobody in Whistler does the most important meal of the day quite like Elements, where a contemporary flair doesn't mean sacrificing what should be the top priority for any restaurant: flavour. Combine that with a laser-sharp service and kitchen staff and a menu that should appeal to both the health-conscious and the overly indulgent (ham- and brie-stuffed French toast, anyone?), and it's no wonder this modern Main Street spot has topped this category for the past half-decade.
Wild Wood, which shuttered its village location this year, came in second, while beloved Creekside greasy spoon, the Southside Diner, landed in third.
Best Quick Lunch
INGRID'S VILLAGE CAFÉ
Ingrid's is clearly doing something right, according to Whistler lunch-goers, who have voted the cozy village café first in this category for the eighth consecutive year.
Freshness is the name of the game for Ingrid's, which pumps out hearty, homemade soups, salads and made-to-order sandwiches for the steady stream of local workers looking for a quick and tasty lunch that won't break the bank.
It certainly helps that the café is also home to one of the best veggie burgers in town, it's ever-popular Superior Lentil burger, which is periodically offered for just $5.
In second place, Gone Eatery tied with Samurai Sushi, while taco spot La Cantina came in third.
Best Casual Dining
EARLS KITCHEN + BAR
In the first year of this category, it's a restaurant that deftly toes the line between casual and sophisticated that earns the win, Earls Kitchen + Bar.
One of several locations across North America, Whistler's Earls has ingratiated itself with locals thanks to a wide-ranging menu done well, and not one, but two daily happy hours (and a third on weekends and holidays!) that practically every "ballin'-on-a-budget" Whistlerite has taken full advantage of at some point. (See profile on page 41.)
Hunter Gather, the barbecue-focused brainchild of local catering company, Whistler Cooks, came in a close second, while fellow Main Street Italian spot, Pasta Lupino, wasn't far behind in third.
best Fine Dining
Rimrock Café, always a perennial favourite of Best of Whistler voters, ran away with the inaugural Fine Dining category.
For all the change that Whistler has endured since the Creekside restaurant opened in 1985, you can always rely on the Rimrock for a level of quality and consistency that is nearly unparalleled in the resort's dining scene. Whistler's go-to spot for fish and game, it is also renowned for its rarefied service, thanks in part to the minimal turnover the restaurant has experienced in the midst of Whistler's staffing shortage.
Whistler Village's original and beloved fine-dining restaurant, Araxi, came in second, while the Fairmont Chateau's four-diamond rated steakhouse, The Grill Room, was in third.
Purebread was in no danger of relinquishing its title in this decadent category in 2019, having now won the Best Dessert category every year of its existence.
Started years ago out of Paula and Mark Lamming's home kitchen, Purebread's fresh-baked bread, cakes and treats have since spread to Vancouver, where the bakery now counts three locations. Purebread is also slated to be part of YVR's new "local marketplace" concept alongside Whistler Brewing, ensuring its delectable, ooey-gooey treats will be enjoyed by an even wider audience into the foreseeable future.
Rimrock Café, no doubt bolstered by its ridiculously good sticky toffee pudding, came in second, while Whistler's favourite ice-cream purveyor, Cows, was in third.
Best Wine List
Two of Whistler's most cherished, long-running fine-dining restaurants seem to duke it out every year for Best Wine List. In this ever-changing game of musical chairs, it's Bearfoot Bistro's never-ending wine list that takes home top honours in 2019.
With more than 20,000 bottles in its iconic underground cellar, the Bearfoot touts its selection as the largest of any restaurant in the province. Led by restaurant founder André Saint-Jacques and wine director Luc Trottier, the list boasts a robust selection of champagne, 20 years of Château Mouton-Rothschild, and even a 113-year-old bottle of Château Latour Grand Vin.
Araxi was close behind in second this year, while Best Fine Dining winner Rimrock Café claimed third.
Splitz Grill has won this category so many times—every year of its existence, in fact—that it should really just be renamed after the venerated burger joint.
Peter Goff is now two years into running the Main Street spot after taking over from long-time owners Cathy and Peter McGeough, and there's been plenty of change afoot, including a renovated dining area and more of a focus on local events, such as the Pulp Fiction-themed library fundraiser last month, complete with "Royales with cheese" and deliciously thick milkshakes by donation. But one thing that isn't going to change anytime soon is Splitz's juicy, handcrafted burgers, which are highly customizable with more than 40 house-made sauces and toppings.
Splitz easily won this year with nearly 40 per cent of the vote, while Earls Kitchen + Bar narrowly beat out Roland's Creekside Pub for second.
In another category that has seen only one winner throughout its existence, Creekbread took home Best Pizza honours once more—but there's some stiff competition on its heels this year.
Creekbread is renowned for its distinct approach to 'za, using non-traditional, organic ingredients (Pemberton potatoes for the win!) topped on a thin, chewy crust that could only come out of its massive, wood-fired oven.
Not far behind this year was relative newcomer, and Best New Business winner, Functional Pie, with Pizzeria Antico's Napoletana, thin-crust pizza in third.
There's really no replicating Hy's old-school steakhouse feel and top-quality cuts of beef. The village mainstay can trace its origins to mid-'50s Calgary, where founder Hy Aisenstat opened one of Alberta's first full-service steak restaurants above a women's clothing store.
Renowned for its attention to detail, knowledgeable staff, and, let's not forget, perfectly cooked steak, Hy's has been Whistlerites' favourite spot to go when they want a cut above for the past 21 years.
RimRock Café re-joins the list this year in second, while The Keg Steakhouse claimed third.
In a town with plenty of sushi options to choose from, you have to go the extra mile to stand out from the crowd, and it's Sushi Village's uncompromising approach to its food as well as its distinctly vibrant (some might even say, after a few too many Dumbo Sakes, raucous) atmosphere that sets it apart.
The dynamic staff and dedicated team of Japanese chefs have also kept the vision of founder and beloved Whistler character Miki Homma alive since his 2017 passing. Here's hoping Sushi Village has plenty more years of entertaining Whistlerites to come.
Upper Village mainstay Nagomi Sushi narrowly beat out Main Street's Sachi Sushi for second.
Best Healthy Meal
The Green Moustache empire appears to be in no danger of slowing down any time soon. The repeat winner of this category (which replaced Best Vegetarian last year, another category the all-organic, vegan café has historically dominated), Green Moustache recently inked a deal to open several locations in New York to go along with its existing spots in Whistler, Squamish, North Vancouver, Port Moody and Edmonton. On top of that, Green Moustache was tapped last year to consult on a newly built health centre in China, and can now be found in a healthy vending machine at Lions Gate Hospital.
In second this year was popular lunch spot ingrid's village café, while Naked sprout juice bar café claimed third.
Best Food Truck
WHISTLER WOOD FIRED PIZZA COMPANY
It's no secret that Whistlerites love their pizza, and in this new category, it was Whistler Wood Fired Pizza Company's family-run food truck that captured voters' hearts—and stomachs.
Serving Neopolitan-style pizza out of its mobile, custom-built 360-degree rotating wood-fired oven, the company's distinct red truck can be found everywhere from the Whistler Farmers' Market to the busy streets of Downtown Vancouver.
In a close second was Lucia Gelato, with the Squamish-based Teriyaki Boys coming in third.
Best Off Season Deal
Whistlerites, by their very nature, love to indulge, but they also don't want to spend an arm and a leg to do so, which makes Rimrock Café's long-running off-season special all the more, well, special.
Its $49 three-course meal is often the first deal on locals' lips whenever someone is looking for the best culinary bang for their buck. For many Whistlerites, it's the one time of year they give into their more sophisticated cravings, and with Rimrock's focus on quality seafood, steak and game, as well as its massive portions, there's no denying this is a title well earned.
Coming in second is Araxi's beloved $36 five-course special, while Nagomi Sushi's $30 four-course deal—which was extended deep into the fall this year—was in third.
- Photo by Chris Stark/www.coastphoto.com
'Not just another Earls'
Whistlerites, by and large, have a certain aversion to corporate life. Maybe it's the community's countercultural, hippie roots, but we tend to favour the flannel-and-toque look over business casual, the mom-and-pop shop over the chain store. That's what makes Earls Kitchen + Bar's win in the inaugural year of Pique's Casual Dining category that much more remarkable.
With 66 locations across North America, GM Kevin Wallace says it was essential the location at 4295 Blackcomb Way was "a Whistler restaurant that happened to be an Earls, not just another Earls in a community."
Part of that distinct approach is finding the kind of employees that fit Wallace's mould, which, all the better in a town suffering the effects of a long-term staffing shortage, doesn't always hinge on experience.
"I have a philosophy to think twice and hire once. Really, I'd rather run short than hire the wrong person. The people I hire don't necessarily have to come with a wealth of experience—we'll teach them that—but they have to come with a wealth of care," Wallace explains.
"Honestly, when I sit in an interview with somebody, I think about whether I want to hang out with this person, and if the answer is yes, then I hire them."
Earls toes the line between casual and fine dining—the in-house lingo deems it "sophisticated premium casual," Wallace says—but the restaurant never gives off an air of pretention. You're just as likely to sit down for a relaxed, low-key brunch on a Sunday morning as you are to walk into a rollicking late-night happy hour.
Ah yes, the happy hour, a Whistler local's indulgence if ever there was one. Earls' has an après happy hour everyday from 3 to 5 p.m., and a late-night happy hour from 10 p.m. 'til close—plus a third on weekends and holidays for brunch—that virtually every Whistlerite with a wallet and an appetite has taken advantage of at some point.
"I think our happy hours are certainly popular in the local community," says Wallace, in the understatement of the century. "I think that's part of it, and I think the other part of it is the philosophy here: that I need to hire people who care about people a heck of a lot."
Evidently, Whistlerites care a heck of a lot about Earls, too. - brandon barrett
- Photo by Brad Kasselman/www.coastphoto.com
Fuelling passions since 1985
Miki Homma was always a regular, gregarious presence at Sushi Village, the iconic Whistler restaurant he co-founded in 1985. Even in his final years, he made a point of being there for the beginning and end of dinner service, chatting up diners, pouring generous amounts of sake, and cracking jokes in his distinct Japanese accent.
As anyone who's been around the business long enough can attest, that kind of commitment to both the clientele and staff is not always the norm for restaurateurs—particularly after 30-plus years. It would have been easy for Homma to stay in the background, taking care of quotidian administrative tasks, and leaving the business of running the restaurant in the capable hands of his wife, Naoko, and staff.
But then that wouldn't be Homma.
"It's nice that, at this restaurant, we're staying true to what Miki started. Miki was all about the snow and the surf and kiting and always chasing that passion," says restaurant manager Sam White. "Even though he loved to have a good time, there was always still the focus on why you're here."
Homma's passion bled into his staff, a legacy that lives on more than two years since his passing.
"Miki was all about passion. It was play hard, work hard. I think, for us as a staff, we have a pretty diverse team. Most of us, our passions are in the mountains, but if they're not, it's something. It's all about finding that balance of what drives you and motivates you and bringing that into the restaurant. That's what feeds the atmosphere," White says. "Being able to work here, drives my passions in other places."
Sushi Village now finds itself locked in a years-long legal dispute that could threaten its very existence (see "Strata termination could force sale of Sushi Village, Black's and Mexican Corner for 'nickels on the dollar,'" Pique, Oct. 31, 2019). White says the staff has heard from plenty of loyal customers since the news broke.
"We've definitely been feeling the support and loving the support. It's been really good," she says, adding that the community would lose "a staple piece to the lifestyle here" if Sushi Village were to close. "This restaurant is a bit of a refuge for everyone to come and let loose, blow off steam and have some good food."
Long live Sushi Village! - brandon barrett
Bars,Clubs & Pubs
By Joel BArde
THE GARIBALDI LIFT CO.
If there is one thing that Whistler bars undoubtedly know a thing or two about, it's how to host a good après sesh. And for years, this category has been dominated by the GLC.
With its fist-rate location on top of the entrance to the Whistler Village Gondola, tasty food and beverage options, and a dynamic live-music lineup, it's an obvious choice.
Readers voted Dusty's into second, and The Longhorn Saloon (which sits kitty-corner to the GLC) in third.
Following a big day on the slopes, few things go down better than a big plate of nachos. (Well, maybe beer—but everyone knows these ought to be consumed together.)
Served with a house-made salsa and sour cream, Dusty's nachos are banging—and they certainly don't scrimp out. The portions are HUGE. So when you go, bring (hungry) friends.
Fellow Whistler Blackcomb establishment Merlin's Bar & Grill took second. And while nachos might not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks traditional Irish pub, Dubh Linn Gate landed in third.
EARLS KITCHEN + BAR
Few things bring the Pique's editorial team together like Earls Kitchen's infamous happy hours. And while Leroy's Crispy Rips remains our favourite, everyone recognizes the restaurant's wings, which come in your choice of hot, teriyaki or salt and pepper, are next level.
Dusty's took second in this category, followed by The Crystal Lounge.
DUBH LINN GATE
The beloved Irish pub took back the Best Bar title in 2019, thanks to its down-home feel, nightly live music, and hearty eats. (See profile on page 65.)
For the second year running, The Beacon Pub and Eatery took second, while Upper Village standout and all-around class act, The Fitzsimmons Pub, got third.
Let's face it, Whistler knows how to party. If you're looking for a family-friendly winter-wonderland where everyone turns off the lights at 10 p.m., there are plenty of other options (i.e. Sun Peaks...or any number of other Vail Resorts' U.S. properties).
Garf's is well known for hosting some of Whistler's craziest parties, and you can always bank on having a good time at its legendary locals' night every Thursday.
The renovated Tommys Whistler took second, while Moe Joe's got third.
Nicklaus North's lakeside eatery has climbed the ranks over the past three years. From third in 2017, to second in 2018, to its current position at the top of the heap.
With it's delectable drink list, thoughtful, locally sourced food selection, and spectacular views overlooking the award-winning golf course, Table Nineteen is a go-to in summer months. And with a $2-million "refresh" in the works, it will have a fresh new look just in time for its reopening in this spring.
Last year's winner, GLC, took second, while The Longhorn Saloon was third.
In an article on the opening of the Raven Room back in January, co-owner Jason Redmond (formely of Araxi and Bar Oso) threw down the gauntlet, saying that the cocktail room, which operates out of a renovated, elegant space in the Pan Pacific Whistler Village hotel, was going to be a force to be reckoned with.
"As great as Whistler is as a world-class ski resort and host to people from all around the world, we found, as it's become busier over the years, there's been a level of complacency that we'd like to elevate," he said. "We'd rather be a bit more focused on putting quality in the glass. If it takes a few more seconds or costs a dollar or two more, I think it's worth it."
Well, it appears that the Raven Room was able to follow through, taking top spot in the coveted best cocktail category.
In so doing, the cocktail bar beat out Bar Oso, which won the category for the past three years running and took second this year, and The Mallard in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, which placed third.
Best Beer Selection
COAST MOUNTAIN BREWING
The boutique brewery—with its well-curated selections of staples and seasonal delights—is hanging on to top spot. Coast Mountain beat out the Dubh Linn Gate for the second year running. The Beacon rounded things out in third.
Favourite Locals' Hangout
STINKY'S ON THE STROLL
During Whistler's peak season, the visitors outnumber the locals by more than three to one. So, amidst a sea of pricier options geared towards tourists, it's all the more important to have a place the locals' love. For the first time, that place is Stinky's on the Stroll, the namesake of long-time Whistler barkeep Jeremy "Stinky" Peterson, who opened up the village sports bar this past summer. (See profile on page 64.)
Stinky's just beat out Tapley's in this category, by two votes. Creekside's Roland's Pub finished third.
DJ FOXY MORON
At this point, it should come as no surprise that the multi-talented Ace Mackay-Smith, a.k.a. DJ Foxy Moron, has taken home the favourite DJ category yet again.
With her well-curated set lists, which veer towards old-school funk and soul, Mackay-Smith has been a fixture around town for years, getting people in the party spirit.
Dre Morel took home second in this category, while DJ Stache was third.
- Photo by Chris Stark/www.coastphoto.com
- Favourite DJ: DJ Foxy Moron
The perennial party-starter
A lot goes into being a sought after DJ. Sure, you have to have an extensive knowledge of music. But you also need to be extremely adept at reading a room, knowing which track is going to push the energy from a five to a nine.
With her wide appeal—she plays for locals, tourists and families alike—Ace MacKay-Smith, a.k.a. DJ Foxy Moron, has established herself as an in-demand après act by playing to a wide range of audiences, from random "outside" parties to the occasional family après at Olympic Plaza.
This last summer even saw MacKay-Smith played B.C.'s (arguably) premier electronic destination: Bass Coast.
"I was really nervous playing an evening set and lost my main playlist right before the set, but the crowd was so awesome and so many Whistler peeps showed up, so that was memorable for a few reasons," she says, by email.
MacKay-Smith began playing around town in the early 2000s, and says that a part of playing a good set involves doing some research.
"I'll ask a bunch of questions before I even say yes to a gig," she says. "Age range of guests, theme, etc. If I don't think I'm the right DJ for the gig, I'll recommend someone who is. I spend a bunch of time making playlists or picking records (if I'm playing 45s) for early and late [in the set], but then I just play what feels right for the vibe of the people in the room. I never fully pre-plan a set."
MacKay-Smith also has another major title from last year's reader survey: favourite Whistlerite.
So, what's her secret?
"I don't really know how to answer that, but I really love watching people have a good time at whatever they're doing," she says.
"I don't think that answers the question—but I support fun!" - Joel Barde
Where Stinky knows your name
How do you create a new bar that locals gravitate to in a town with more than its fair share of established, beloved pubs?
That's the question that longtime Whistler bartender Jeremy "Stinky" Peterson was faced with in the lead up to the summer opening of his new bar, Stinky's on the Stroll.
According to Peterson, it all boils down to "being honest."
"I'm not pulling any punches," he says.
"Everything is fair here, you know what I mean? Like, I'm not overly expensive."
That means fair drink prices ($6 for a beer or high ball), and creating a space where people feel at home.
"We just take care of people," says Peterson. "It's the people that work here that make it what it is."
It doesn't hurt that Peterson and his staff have a long history in town.
Peterson alone has about a quarter-century experience pouring pints for thirsty Whistlerites, having moved here to help open the shortlived Hard Rock Café in 1995.
After that, Peterson went on to bartend at Buffalo Bills, Tapley's, Caramba, Roland's, the Brewhouse, and Citta's, a favourite with locals that closed after nearly three decades in 2014.
It all boils down to taking care of everyone that walks through the door, whether they be a longtime local or just "someone in town for a few days," he explains. - Joel Barde
Luck of the Irish
- Photo by Chris Stark/www.coastphoto.com
- Best Bar/Pub: Dubh Linn Gate
Here's a fun fact about the Dubh Linn Gate: It sells more Guinness than any other bar in Western Canada.
And if you happen to visit any given weekend, you'll see why. The Irish pub—which has won in the Best Beer Selection category for three of the last five years—is the type of place where you pretty much need to make a deliberate effort not to have fun.
It's got a friendly, unfussy vibe that keeps locals and tourists coming back, and it's one of few places in town that appeals to a wide demographic. So bring your parents!
The Dubh Linn Gate is also known for its nightly live music. With a cozy dancefloor and slightly elevated stage, it's a great place to catch up-and-coming musicians from out of town, and Whistler bands alike.
"We probably get five pitches a day, from bands near and far, saying that they'd like to play at the pub, and they want to be booked," says Dubh Linn Gate manager Diane Rothdram.
But Rothdram has a rule. "I won't book anybody until I actually see them play in a venue," she says. "We just want to make sure that they're a good fit." For Rothdram, that means semi-regular trips to Vancouver to scout acts. "There's not a ton of bands that are a good fit, because they need to be able to play Celtic music, but also a lot of [covers]."
As for food, the Dubh Linn Gate features classic pub cuisine like fish and chips, steak and Guiness pie. - Joel Barde
Arts, Media & Culture
By brandon barrett
Andrea Mueller has plenty of reason to celebrate these days (that is, if she can find the time): Not only is she Whistler's favourite artist for the second year running, but she also welcomed a newborn son to the world in September. (See profile below.)
Mostly known for her boldly coloured wildlife and landscape paintings, Mueller also runs popular paint nights and workshops. Check her out at andrealikesart.com.
In second was prolific painter Vanessa Stark (who technically resides in Pemberton, but given the amount of work she does in Whistler, her impact on the resort's art scene is undeniable), while graffiti artist and muralist Kris "KUPS" Kupskay came in third. We would be remiss if we didn't also mention that beloved late painter Chili Thom earned enough posthumous votes for second place.
Favourite Major Art Show
EMILY CARR-FRESH SEEING
It's perhaps fitting that the Audain Art Museum's largest, most ambitious exhibit yet, Fresh Seeing, a retrospective of the period before, during and after Emily Carr's trip to France, would be recognized as Whistler's favourite major art show of 2019. It took an outsized vision and grand ambition, after all, for a woman artist to even attempt such a trip back in 1910. Featuring 64 watercolours, sketches and paintings from both private and public collections, Fresh Seeing deftly showcases Carr's radical transformation from relatively muted landscapist to relentless experimentalist, showcasing the distinct culture and history of remote West Coast Indigenous communities with her bold use of colour and form.
The Teeny Tiny Art Show, Arts Whistler's annual exhibit proving that bigger isn't always better, came in second. the anonymous art show, another Arts Whistler exhibit, which featured 370 pieces by 200-plus anonymous artists, wound up in third by just one vote.
Favourite Arts and Culture Event or Festival
By now, it's clear that Whistlerites' like their sporting events to come with a little dose of arts and culture on the side, and in the case of North America's largest mountain biking festival, Crankworx, it seems like event organizers are doing something right. Along with some of the most intense action on two wheels, Crankworx also features popular summer action sports photography contest, Deep Summer, along with Dirt Diaries, a mountain biking-themed film competition.
Cornucopia, Whistler's annual celebration of epicurean decadence, returned in second place this year, while another repeat finisher, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival—which was recently taken over by Gibbons Whistler—landed in third.
Favourite Celebrity Sighting
It's safe to say that most Whistlerites wouldn't kick Jason Momoa out of bed for eating crackers. Everyone's favourite Dothraki and star of the DC Comics' blockbuster Aquaman was a regular presence in Whistler in 2019, as far as celebrities go, after he was rumoured to be filming nearby for Apple's sci-fi drama, See.
If you do a quick Google image search (but be warned: there is a strong chance that ogling Jason Momoa pictures will become your new obsession), you can even find a photo of the beefy Hollywood star posing with a fan outside of the GLC—in the same salmon-coloured blazer he sported at the Oscars.
Along with being a straight-up dreamboat (those eyes!), he's also, by all accounts, a super approachable, down-to-Earth guy.
Fellow Hollywood star Owen Wilson earned enough votes for second, while Canadian Prime Minister and avid snowboarder Justin Trudeau was a close third.
Pique columnist G.D. Maxwell isn't much for the spotlight. After another Pique writer, film columnist Feet Banks, dethroned Maxwell from his long-time reign in this category back in 2017, he proclaimed it "a relief"—if only to give one of the many other talented local scribes some shine.
Well, whether he likes it or not, Max returns to the top of the literary heap in 2019, his second win in a row.
Maxwell has been writing about the ins and outs of Tiny Town since 1992 in his weekly back-page column, and whether you agree with his hot takes or not, there's no denying they always get a reaction. (See profile on page 70.)
Feet banks returns again in second place, while Velocity Project columnist Lisa Richardson and Pique reporter and playwright Brandon Barrett tied for third.
There are plenty of talented photographers in this town, but there are perhaps none better than David McColm at capturing the breathtaking wonder Whistler inspires.
McColm's awe-inspiring time-lapse photos now reach far beyond the confines of Whistler, with his iconic images gracing everything from postage stamps to posters and puzzles. (See profile on next page.)
In a flip of last year's results, event and magazine photographer Joern Rohde moved up to second, while action-adventure and commercial photographer Blake Jorgenson fell to third.
- Photo by www.coastphoto.com
- Favourite Artist/Artisan: ANDREA MUELLER
Creating art...and a baby
When Andrea Mueller earned first place in Best of Whistler's Favourite Artist category last year, she had just taken the leap to become a full-time artist.
This year, the first-place winner has made an even more drastic life change. On Sept. 27, she had her son, Aro.
"With the baby, I'm happy to be still relevant," she says. "That's my main goal. I would really like to [stay] on the radar."
It's hard to imagine the long-time local artist dropping off the Whistler radar. In the last year alone she built up her popular paint nights, was named Whistler Blackcomb's featured artist of the year, and even had her art on the 2019 Hoji 4Frnt skis.
"The paint nights for me have been really, really fun," she says. "I have loved teaching other people in town and seeing other people be creative. That's been my whole thing from the get-go. Working at Arts Whistler [my job] was getting other people involved in the arts. Continuing it on my own has been awesome."
She also found a way to continue painting during those last long, uncomfortable days of her pregnancy. Forty-one days before her due date, she started creating wildly varying mini paintings and opened it up for auction on her Instagram for 24 hours. As a bonus, the person who bought the last painting before the baby arrived won a prize pack.
The images ranged from John Lennon to bats dreaming of pizza to donuts and bunnies.
"It was so well received," she says. "It was awesome. It was fun and motivating for me. I could paint any weird thing I wanted, which was fun."
Next up? "I would say I'm looking forward to getting some more experimentation done—and figuring out how this little pumpkin face can get involved in my paintings. Working on creative stuff with him would be fun." - Alyssa Noel
Capturing Whistler's beauty
- Photo supplied
- Favourite Photographer: DAVID MCCOLM
David McColm isn't sure what to say when people mention they voted for him in Best of Whistler.
"I'm humbled and I appreciate it. If I see someone and they say, 'David, I voted for you!' I say, 'Thank you,'" he says, laughing. "I don't know what else to say."
The ever-humble McColm held onto top spot in the Favourite Photographer category for the second year in a row. The long-time local has earned the adoration of Whistlerites for his epic landscapes and stunning night shots.
"I guess I am known to sort of focus on the big landscapes, the Whistler landscapes, and I guess people like that, which I'm happy about," he says. "I think people do appreciate some of the night-sky photography that I do with the Northern Lights and the Milky Way. Not everyone can get out and see it."
But it's not just Sea to Sky scenes he captured in 2019. The jet-setting shutterbug travelled to South America and Iceland to photograph those epic vistas as well.
"To experience and photograph the total solar eclipse [in Chile] was mind blowing," McColm says. "The Southern night sky is really cool."
For the coming year, he has a few possible photo destinations on his list, including Australia, where his daughter currently lives.
"It wasn't on my radar until she moved there," he adds.
But he also plans to shift his approach to travel going forward, keeping the environment in mind.
"I'm more conscious about air travel," he says. "I don't want to do it frivolously ... I want to do fewer trips, but longer."
In the meantime, McColm wants to emphasize just how many amazing photographers there are here at home.
"At the end of the day, I'll say it 100 times: I talk to three or four photographers a week and I say, 'Wow, that's so cool,'" he says. "I'm blown away." - Alyssa Noel
'I loved being anonymous'
- Photo supplied
- Favourite Writer: G.D. MAXWELL
"I would almost as soon go home with the Ms. Congeniality Award, but that's never going to happen," joked Pique's wry, opinionated, and longest-running columnist on his second win in a row in the Favourite Writer category.
In a more earnest tone (for a second), he adds, "I'm always amazed, actually. I really am. I'm amazed more and more as the years go on that there are so many people who are old enough to enjoy what I write, but still know how to use a computer."
As of this week's issue, Max has written a whopping 1,373 Maxed Out columns since the paper first started 25 years ago. (In case you're keeping score, that is, by far, the highest number of any Pique columnist).
Things were a lot easier in the early days back when no one knew who was behind the G.D. Maxwell pen name and he hadn't yet been forced to run a headshot.
"I loved being anonymous," he says. "I loved that people thought it was Bob [Barnett, Pique's founder] writing under a pseudonym. When people mentioned it I'd say, 'Yeah, I think it's Bob, too.'"
He was eventually convinced to run a photo—but first came one in a Zoro mask, then a picture featuring two bottle caps placed over his eyes like monocles—and his trips to the grocery store haven't been the same since.
"That's possibly the most humbling and uncomfortable thing," he says. "I'll just be standing there and someone will come up and say, 'I really like what you write, man. I'm so glad you're still doing it.' I say, 'Thank you! Now go away before I turn red or wet myself.'"
But, of course, there are always those who don't agree with his stance, particularly when it comes to political goings on.
"There's a relationship that exists between a columnist and readers that doesn't exist between most people who write news stories and readers," he says. "It's really important for a columnist to have a voice that sounds familiar to people after a period of time. They read him and think it's almost like having a conversation or listening to him tell a story. It's like comfy slippers or something, so even if you don't agree with him, you come back to see what they have to say. A lot of times the not-agreeing part is why they come back." - Alyssa Noel
By Megan lalonde
Best New Business
This year, Whistlerites chose Functional Pie, the New-York-meets-Detroit-style pizza joint in Function Junction that recently celebrated its first anniversary, as their favourite new business. With dine-in and take-out options, as well as individual slices available for the lunch crowd, it's easy to see why Functional Pie has won over Whistler's hearts—and stomachs. Read more about Whistler's favourite new business below.
Village pub Stinky's on the Stroll took second place, while Creekside's new vegan bakery and coffee shop BReD took third.
Best Ski Shop/Bike Shop
When it comes to gear, Creekside shop Coastal Culture earned a double-honour as best ski shop and best bike shop, proving they're Whistler's go-to no matter the season or sport. After taking second place last year in the ski category, Coastal Culture snatched away the winning title from Fanatyk Co. after a six-year-long reign.
Skiers voted Fanatyk Co. into second place, while Comor Sports snuck into third.
In the best bike shop category, Coastal Culture held onto the undefeated reign it's held since opening in 2016, blowing away the competition with 29 per cent of the votes. Fanatyk Co. once again followed in second, while Evolution slid into third.
Best Snowboard Shop
For those who prefer to ride down the mountain, Showcase Snowboard Surf & Skate Shop earned the title of best snowboard shop for the fifth year in a row. Located just steps away from the gondolas, Showcase staff are always available to help you find the best fit and gear for your season.
The Circle was voted Whistler's second-favourite snowboard shop, while Comor Sports once again took third place.
Best Clothing Store
Local boutique The Beach continues its reign as Whistler's best clothing store, with its wide selection of the trendiest designers, labels and swimwear brands on the market.
Proving their penchant for sustainability, Whistlerites voted the Re-Use-It Centre, operated by the Whistler Community Services Society, into second place, while Lululemon narrowly took third.
Best Jewelry Store
KEIR FINE JEWELLERY
Whistler deemed Keir Fine Jewellery—the locally owned establishment that's been providing locals and visitors with custom-designed pieces and Canadian diamonds for the past 25 years—as the best jewelry store in town.
The rankings were a carbon copy of the category's 2018 results, with Ruby Tuesday Accessories landing in second and Rocks & Gems in third.
Best Hair Salon and Barbershop
ELEVATION HAIR STUDIO
Whether you're in need of fresh colour, a trim, or a drastic cut, Marketplace salon Elevation Hair Studio was named the Best Hair Salon/Barbershop to fulfill your needs.
Farfalla Hair & Esthetics once again finished second while Blackcomb Barber Shoppe took third.
Best Grocery Store
Nesters Market was another repeat winner in this year's survey, again taking home the title of Whistler's best grocery store with its always-dependable selection of produce, essentials, health and specialty products.
Creekside Market repeated its second-place performance, while your Independent Grocer took third again this year.
Best Financial Institution
TD CANADA TRUST
This year, TD Canada Trust once again proved to be the community's favourite financial institution in which to harbour their hard-earned funds.
The Marketplace bank was followed by RBC Royal Bank in second place, while BlueShore Financial snuck into third.
Whistler's real estate market is one of the hottest out there—meaning our local realtors need to be at the top of their game, too. When it comes to buying and selling local property, voters named Katelyn Spink as the best realtor to help them do so. Raised in Pemberton by two realtors who specialize in renovating and selling houses, Spink describes herself as, "A small town girl with big city experience." Read more about Spink and her work below.
The Wolf of Whistler Dave Nagel repeated last year's second-place ranking, while Carolyn Hill earned third place.
Best Overnight Accomodation/Best Customer Service
FAIRMONT CHATEAU WHISTLER
The luxurious Fairmont Chateau Whistler is clearly a favourite among both visitors and locals. It joins Coastal Culture as a double-winner this year, taking home the dual titles of best overnight accommodation and best customer service.
Nita lake lodge was voted into second place in the accommodation category, while the the four seasons came in third
Locally owned businesses reigned supreme in the best customer service category, with coffee shop Blenz taking second and grocer Creekside Market in third.
3 SINGING BIRDS
The community chose Marketplace boutique 3 Singing Birds as its preferred spot to shop for special gifts, keepsakes and souvenirs, thanks to its unique selection of quality goods.
Creekside shop Get the Goods took second, while the Village's Cool As A Moose followed closely in third.
Best Building or Construction Company
RDC FINE HOMES
RDC Fine Homes was once again named Whistler's Best building or construction company. The custom home builder is used to winning—it regularly takes home multiple Georgie Awards, which annually celebrate excellence in home building and renovation in B.C. The firm is up for six Georgies at the 2020 awards.
TM Builders were second, beating out third-place Mountain Contracting by just a single vote.
- Photo by Brad Kasselman/www.coastphoto.com
- Best Realtor: KATELYN SPINK
In a town where the vast majority of residents have come from elsewhere, Katelyn Spink has a distinct advantage among the field of local realtors.
Not only did she spend much of her childhood in Pemberton (and the other half in Comox), she was raised by two realtors.
"I kind of always watched and thought it would be something that I was into," she says.
Her deep roots in the industry, coupled with her involvement in both the Whistler and Pemberton communities could be one of the reasons why Spink was voted Best Realtor for the first time this year.
"It's amazing; I'm very taken aback, to be honest," she says with a laugh. "I think it's been the same face for a couple of years in a row—and she's rad too, I love Dana [Friesen Smith]."
After travelling the world, working in industries like tech and sports apparel, real estate seemed like the obvious choice once Spink decided to return home to Pemberton two-and-a-half years ago.
"You want to know where you want to be and where you want to call home," Spink says. "Travelling is something that's always been really important to me, but I was kind of hopping around and working in sales in some capacity for other people. I wanted to work for myself, and I wanted to do a job where I work with people daily and incorporate my own kind of style and schedule. This seemed like a natural fit."
She adds, "I'm pretty lucky, because it makes a big difference when you know a lot of people here."
To that end, Spink strives to stay true to herself, taking "a very casual approach" when working with clients.
"I try to make it as fun as possible, as well. I think it's an industry that can have a harsh edge or outlook on it—a little sharky, some might say," she notes. "You get a lot of suits, and I don't wear those. It's kind of nice to offer something that's different—and I think there's a lot of agents that do a good job of that here."
Based off this year's survey results, that approach has resonated with her clients.
"Thank you so much," says Spink to voters. "It's a grind, it's a difficult but rewarding job so it's really, really cool to know that everyone is recognizing that and taking the time to support me." - Megan Lalonde
- Photo by Brad Kasselman/www.coastphoto.com
- Best New Business: FUNCTIONAL PIE
Slice of life
Local businesses are what make this mountain town go round. As it turns out, there's little this community likes more in a business than cheese and dough. Voters chose Functional Pie, Whistler's newest pizza shop, as their favourite new business this year.
The Function Junction storefront recently celebrated its one-year anniversary after opening its doors on Nov. 16, 2018. "It's gone by really fast," says Functional Pie owner Leigh Scott.
Over the past year, Functional Pie has separated itself from the rest of Whistler's pizza scene with its unique recipes, which Scott describes as "inspired by Detroit-style pan with a [New York] classic design."
In case you're part of the continually dwindling population of locals who have yet to head south for an East-Coast-inspired slice, that means oversized slices with crispy, caramelized crusts that are almost as cheesy as the centre of the pie. While the restaurant offers a handful of seats for those looking to dine-in, full pizzas are available for takeout, as are slices perfect for the Function lunch crowd.
The restaurant also focuses on fresh, premium ingredients, with a menu full of Italian cheeses, roast chicken, fennel sausage, capicola, and fresh veggies. It also caters to the meat- and-dairy-free crowds, with plant-based toppings like vegan cheese and vegan sausage.
Scott drew on 12 years of experience as a server at the Fairmont, coupled with his years of perfecting the art of pizza-making at home, when opening up his own shop, looking to foster authenticity and "a constant connection" with his customers.
That all-important authenticity—in both the product and the intentions of the locals who make it—has even impressed groups that one might assume to be the harshest pizza critics around: New Yorkers themselves. As Scott recalls, "We've had a couple of people from New York ... and then we had a group of eight to 10 people come in [visiting from New York City], and they all said it was one of the best" pizzas they've had.
Although Scott said he eventually hopes to expand his entrepreneurial range, "to do more interesting things than pizza," for now the longtime local and his staff are just excited to join the roster of independent Whistler businesses that are slowly but surely transitioning the once purely industrial neighbourhood into the most happening locals' hang-out zone in town, and thankful for the overwhelming support the community has afforded them so far.
"We're just so happy," he says. - Megan Lalonde
Sports & Recreation
By Dan Falloon
Favourite Summer Athlete
Whistler has no shortage of summer athletes to adore, but Brandon Semenuk remains the leader.
With his sixth consecutive win, Semenuk further entrenched himself as the community's favourite sunny-time sportsperson.
And hey, seeing his winning run at Red Bull Rampage certainly cements why he's rightfully the defending champ here, holding off challenges from runner-up Finn Iles, downhiller and whipmaster extraordinaire, and a two-way tie for third between Enduro World Series faves Jesse Melamed and Yoann Barelli.
Favourite Winter Athlete
In taking his third win in a row in this category, Stan Rey kept his victory in perspective. "It was very humbling, for sure. Living in such an awesome community, it's nice to be recognized by people. I just try to be outgoing and show that I love what I'm doing. It's nice that people kind of like that," he says.
Rey had an extra special 2019, getting married to 2018 Olympic ski-cross gold medallist Kelsey Serwa in September.
On snow, Rey kept himself occupied working on three different movie projects,
The 7 Stages of Blank with fellow Blank Collective collaborator Alexi Godbout, and two projects for Salomon's Freeski TV, Solstice and Charge.
In the latter, the skiers worked with world champion drone pilot Jordan "Jet" Temkin, in what was a unique experience, as Temkin's machine could fly 120 kilometres an hour.
"It was pretty amazing watching him fly. It's not like a normal drone. If you let go of the controls, the drone just drops out of the air," he says. "None of us could even keep up, and he would be flying under couches, through the railings in the stairs.
"Watching him fly the drone outside was pretty mind blowing. He can go in between branches."
Rey describes Solstice, meanwhile, as more of a beauty movie centred around sunrises and sunsets. He enjoyed working on a project that was less focused on the action and more on nature.
"We'd go film just a couple things ski touring, or a couple turns. I thought it was a really unique piece because it was tamed skiing. It wasn't anything crazy, but at the same time, I thought it was a really beautiful piece," he says.
Regarding The 7 Stages of Blank, Rey appreciated the opportunity to get some hardcore action in.
"It's a high-action ski porn with a little bit of story behind it," says Rey, who filmed North American segments, but bowed out of a Chamonix segment after hurting his back. "It's a lot of powder skiing, even though we didn't have the greatest winter."
This year, Rey and Godbout are working on a new Blank project along with a six-to-nine-part web series, as well as some work with Salomon TV.
Rey also plans to launch a YouTube channel to provide some skiing instruction.
In terms of locales, he's planning to head to Japan for certain, but his main project revolves around following the snow, so his itinerary isn't set in stone.
Ski-cross racer Marielle Thompson, after finishing third in the FIS Crystal Globe rankings, took second in this category. Snowboarder Mark McMorris, meanwhile, placed third.
Favourite Junior Athlete
Finn is in once again.
A year after taking the mantle from aged-out junior Finn Iles, snowboarder Finn Finestone defended his crown in this category in 2019.
"I'm super stoked and big thanks to the community for all the support," he says.
The 16-year-old slopestyler is coming off a strong year, having earned his first NorAm Cup medal, a bronze, in Calgary and competing at the FIS Junior World Championships in Sweden in the spring, earning a 28th-place finish in big air.
Speaking in advance of the season, Finestone had just returned from a training camp in Austria. He says he's feeling pretty confident in his style, so he turned his eye more to longevity and maximizing his ability to stay healthy and on course.
"I was mainly just thinking about tricks to improve on, so it was visualization and just getting stronger," he says. "I was working on my body a bit to get stronger so I could maintain my energy throughout the season as well, in case I get hurt, or whatever happens."
Finestone will compete on the NorAm and Canada Cup circuits this year, and, if he's lucky will hope to land a World Cup start. At press time, he was also the first alternate for the Canadian team for the Youth Olympic Games in Switzerland.
"It would be great [to go]," he says. "Last year, going to Sweden for Junior Worlds, it was a big deal for me, getting to meet new people and to ride with different countries and different kids and see what they have to offer.
"It was the first time in my riding that it was televised, so it was nerve-wracking and exciting to go up to the bigger stage, for sure."
Golfer Kaitlyn Hill locked down second place while there was a three-way deadlock for between mountain bikers Amy Ertel and Jackson Goldstone and skier Jude Oliver.
Whistler or Blackcomb?
Skiing or boarding? Pepsi or Coke? Kant or Kierkegaard? Every community or social circle has its line-in-the-sand questions, and in a community with two fantastic neighbours for winter gravity recreation, choosing one or the other is ours.
If you're #TeamBlackcomb, you've chosen the winning side along with nearly 55 per cent of respondents, keeping the northern ridge undefeated on the four occasions we've held this poll.
Favourite Ski Run on Whistler or Blackcomb
PEAK TO CREEK
Just because Blackcomb is the complete package for our respondents doesn't mean Whistler has nothing to offer. Take the thigh-burning Peak to Creek, which starts off with skiers soaking in views of Black Tusk and Cheakamus Lake and, 11 kilometres later, deposits you conveniently at the mouth of Dusty's for some wings and beer. What more could you ask for?
There was a two-way tie for the runner-up position, with the Dave Murray Downhill of Whistler and Ridge Runner of Blackcomb finding themselves even. Other high-ranking faves were Spanky's and 7th Heaven.
Favourite Slackcountry Run or Area
MILLION DOLLAR RIDGE
Sometimes, to feel like a million bucks, you've got to head outside of the boundaries.
And sure enough, the spot most respondents go to for that rush is Whistler Mountain's Million Dollar Ridge, which is famous for its face shots and perfect pow.
Khyber's edged out Flute Backside for second.
Favourite Bike Trail
Just one vote separated the winner and our two runners-up, and it was ultimately first-time winner Dark Crystal taking the crown this year.
Whistler Blackcomb incorporated Dark Crystal, which was started as an illegal trail in 2015, into its system in 2017.
The Blackcomb Mountain trail was constructed in a special spot, according to builder Scott Veach, who built Dark Crystal alongside Ben Haggar.
"Ben and I both really like slabs and big rock faces so we tried to target as many of those as possible without having any unnecessary climbs," Veach told Pique in 2017. "We wanted to create a trail where you could take your hands off the brakes. That's a feature for us, where you can hit the fall line without pedalling or hitting the brakes."
A-Line and Crank It Up tied for second.
Favourite Golf Course
NICKLAUS NORTH GOLF CLUB
There's not usually much difference in results between the three options for hitting the links in town, and this year was no different.
Fewer than 90 votes separated first and third, but Nicklaus North once again pulled out the win in a category it has held every year since the category was offered in 2013.
The par-71, 18-hole championship course nestled just north of the village once again welcomed several of the province's top golfers after hosting the Sotheby's International Realty Canada Whistler Open once again this past June.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club eked ahead of Whistler Golf Club for second.
Favourite Sports Event or Festival
When you're bringing scores of the world's best mountain bikers to your resort for a week and a half of racing and judged events—and don't even charge admission for it?
That'll get you in the good graces of an adoring public.
This year's festival had countless memorable moments, with hometown hero Finn Iles capturing the Air DH once again, Squamish junior Jakob Jewett shocking the world by playing giant killer en route to the RockShox Ultimate Pump Track Challenge semifinals, or Emil Johansson overcoming months of health issues to land a jaw-dropping run and winning his first Red Bull Joyride.
Not to mention, the festival continued to expand its offerings for women, hosting the first-ever women's Speed and Style with the hopes of hosting a women's slopestyle contest in the future.
The best news? There will be two extra days of Crankworx in 2020.
The newly sold World Ski and Snowboard Festival placed a distant second, but could rise next year under Gibbons Whistler's new management. Subaru Ironman Canada (R.I.P.) was third.
Favourite Adventure Tourism Company
THE ADVENTURE GROUP
The Adventure Group won this category for the first time in a close battle last year, and repeated in much the same fashion this year, finding a margin of victory of just 32 votes.
The boost came from the opening of the Vallea Lumina musical forest in 2018 and with a winter version opened this year as well, TAG kept the momentum.
The company has a wide selection of other offerings as well, though, ranging from Superfly Ziplines, RZR adventures, whitewater rafting and bungee jumping to snowmobiling and snowshoeing.
Canadian Wilderness Adventures was a narrow second while Ziptrek Ecotours was third.
Favourite Family Activity
SKIING AND BOARDING
Yep, you read that correctly.
In our world-famous ski resort, the No. 1 activity for families, is to make the most of it by skiing and snowboarding.
Keeping with the theme of getting the kiddos outdoors, camping was second and hiking was third.
On a rampage
- photo by Peter Morning/Courtesy of RedBull
- Favourite Summer Athlete Brandon Semenuk
Though seminal slopestyler Semenuk opted against pursuing a record sixth Red Bull Joyride victory here in Whistler during Crankworx, voters didn't hold it against him as he won this category for a sixth consecutive year and a seventh time overall.
Reached via email, Semenuk was grateful to see his hometown continue to rally behind him.
"To see continued support from my hometown is incredible! I credit a lot of my success to the area and people I grew up around. Whistler is a special place for any mountain biker and I'm fortunate to have grown up there," he writes.
He was busy this year on the bike and off, filming Parallel with Ryan Howard as well as Midpoint. In recent years, Semenuk had pursued his passion of rally racing, though he hasn't been able to drive as much lately.
"Between my obligations as an athlete and producer, there isn't a lot of spare time. Regardless of that, it's been a refreshing change, and I'm really enjoying the opportunity to be creative, and grow as an athlete through these other facets," Semenuk explains.
And hey, seeing his winning run at Red Bull Rampage certainly cements why he's rightfully the defending champ here.
"Red Bull Rampage is the premiere event for mountain biking, so it's a great feeling to walk away with that title," Semenuk notes. "The event is fairly late in the year, so it doesn't conflict with my schedule much, plus its very similar to what I'm doing the rest of the year ... building unique lines, testing these lines, and then performing."
It's too early for Semenuk to reveal what's on his docket for 2020, but he hopes to chase some similar projects with some new endeavours as well. - Dan Falloon
Health & Fitness
- Photo by Chris Stark/www.coastphoto.com
- Favourite Physiotherapy or Massage Provider Back in Action
By Dan Falloon
While silence is required when you're relaxing at Scandinave Spa, those who love it aren't shy to shout it from the mountaintops.
Scandinave has won this category every year since it was first offered in 2011, but when you get into the hot-and-cold routine, it's easy to understand why the hydrotherapy plan is beloved. Scandinave also offers massages, so it's not hard to put in a full day at the day spa.
The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge was second while Vida Spa at Fairmont Chateau whistler came third.
Favourite Chiropractic Practice
It's been a decade of dominance for the clinic.
Whistler Chiropractic has won this award every year it's been bestowed upon a full practice, since 2013, but the three years prior, Dr. Keith Ray won Best Chiropractor twice and Dr. Patrick Shuen won it once. Those two are still there, along with Dr. Jacqueline Brusset, and continue to have Whistler's backs when they need it the most.
Dr. Andrea Bologna of Village Centre Chiropractic came second and Dr. Adam Underhill of Dr. Adam Underhill Chiropractic was third.
Favourite Physiotherapy or Massage Provider
BACK IN ACTION
In a historically competitive category dating back to when physiotherapy was its own division, Back in Action won for the third consecutive year.
The Main Street clinic provides a variety of services, ranging from concussion assessment and treatment, which the clinic pioneered in the resort, to osteopathic services, occupational and hand therapy.
Back in Action took the narrow win over Peak Performance while The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge was third.
Favourite Dental Practice
Make it an even dozen for Creekside Dental this year, and if you have a baker's dozen to celebrate, they can take care of you.
Even with some change in dentists over the years, the friendly clinic, headed by Dr. Julian Truong and Dr. Michael Rivera, keeps on coming back to the top spot.
Whistler Dental placed second while Whistler Smiles Dental Clinic took third.
Favourite Medical Practice
WHISTLER MEDICAL CLINIC
When you're not feeling your best, you want to know exactly where you have to go.
For the last decade, Whistlerites have made a beeline for the Whistler Medical Clinic if they have ailments to overcome.
The current team of Dr. Karin Kausky, Dr. Sarah Truscott, Dr. Thomas DeMarco, Dr. Laura Malley, Dr. Danielle Patterson and Dr. Brennan McKnight has earned that billing for the clinic for a 10th consecutive year.
Coast Medical Clinic snuck past Town Plaza Medical Clinic for third.
Favourite Fitness Facility
MEADOW PARK SPORTS CENTRE
Apart from Best Neighbourhood (of which this winner is a part) this may be the least surprising result for regular readers, as Meadow Park Sports Centre has held down this category for more than 20 years.
When you've got a tip-top gym, pool and NHL-sized rink to go along with squash and basketball courts, a sauna, and a steam room, there's a reason for that longevity.
With better equipment access, an expanded cardio room and new dedicated stretching room on the way, it'll be difficult to foresee Meadow Park being knocked off its perch anytime soon.
The new kid on the block, Altitude Fitness, earned second place while The Core Climbing and Fitness Centre took third.
Those who love Yogacara love it a lot.
In order to maintain an intimate atmosphere, the Sundial Place-based studio limits class sizes to 15. For that, those who go made their appreciation known, voting the studio tops in this category for the first time.
As well, the studio seeks to create a welcoming environment, offering amenities such as mat rental, snacks and tea with its classes.
The 100-per-cent Whistler-owned operation features 11 experienced teachers to lead you in your class.
Last year's champ, YYoga, topped The Core for second.
Favourite Beauty and Aesthetic provider
THE SPA AT NITA LAKE LODGE
If you want to look great and feel even better, our readers swear by The Spa at Nita Lake Lodge.
In this brand-new division, the Creekside-based spa received praise for such treatments as hydrofacials, Erjonia's Verjútszan fat loss system, and a wide range of facial therapy and spa esthetic treatments.
Be Beauty Spa and Tanning Lounge was second while Whistler Medical Aesthetics took third.
- Photo by Brad Kasselman/www.coastphoto.com
- Favourite Trainer Meaghan Sutter
In a town where even the grocery store clerks are fit as a fiddle, athletic trainers have to go above and beyond to meet the needs of their active clientele. Meaghan Sutter, formerly of the Whistler Creek Athletic Club, is clearly meeting those high standards at her new Function Junction facility, Peak Training Whistler. With a background in kinesiology, Sutter uses strength and mobility training to help her discerning clients reach their fitness goals.
Personal trainer and golf fitness specialist Christina Longo of Bulletproof Bodies placed second, while Marina Leon of the Whistler Core Climbing and Fitness Centre took third.
- Photo by Chris Stark/www.coastphoto.com
- Best local Environmental Initiative Blenz Coffee
By Joel Barde
Best Local Environmental Initiative
We all know that Whistlerites appreciate their natural surroundings—after all, it's kind of our calling card—and Pique readers have chosen Blenz as a standout for the inaugural year of this environmentally-minded category.
In recent years, Blenz has instituted a mug sharing and water bottle policy aimed at cutting down on customers' footprint.
John Corvino—who co-owns the coffee shop along with his wife Caitlin, and Wendy Kendall—were going through their books when they noted the astonishing amount of single-use water bottles they were selling: 2,500 a year.
Soon after, the coffee shop decided to stop selling them.
While turning down easy sales might not be the most typical of business practices, Corvino said the cause was important to his staff.
"There a few members of the team that are really environmentally conscious," he explains. "It was just an easy fix to reduce waste."
Blenz was also recognized for its mug-sharing program, whereby people are invited to grab a clean, reusable mug rather than take a disposable cup.
"There are a core group of regulars that work locally that will come in, take a mug and bring it back the next day," says Corvino.
In addition to the environmental nod, Blenz has also taken top spot in the Best Coffee category, a distinction he credits to his team.
"An amazing cup of coffee isn't just about what's in the cup," he says, stressing the level of customer service his team brings.
Second went to AWARE's Zero Waste Heroes initiative, which helps events minimize their waste. And third went to Straw Wars Whistler, a popular movement that aims to dramatically reduce the amount of straws given out at local cafés, restaurants and bars.
Biggest Environmental Challenge
On the environmental front, it goes without saying that Whistler is a bit of a contradiction: A resort community with a major carbon footprint (just think about all those emissions from the planes and cars that get people here) that also cares deeply about its footprint.
But guess what?
We care about climate change—a lot.
Pique readers voted climate change as the resort's biggest environmental challenge, followed by single-use plastics in second, and the threat of wildfire in third.
Species of Greatest Concern
Everyone knows that Whistlerites love their bears. And one of the greatest bears of them all, the grizzly, is slowly recovering in the Sea to Sky corridor (though the popularity of the backcountry and speed of development is certainly a concern for their recovery).
Readers showed the second most love to the tiny Western toad and the wolverine.