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Fire up the barbie



Finally, that blessed ball of fire has made an appearance in the skies over Whistler. You know what that means: it's time to get grilling. Hell, even if you aren't in the mood to do the work, you can enjoy some solid BBQ eats around town. Here are a few ways to get your fill of the good stuff this summer.

A feast on the mountain

Here's the deal: on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., Whistler Blackcomb season pass holders can purchase a dinner ticket for $32, or visitors can get a pass plus a meal voucher for $57.95. Catch the gondola up Whistler to take in a quick hike (or even a tube ride if the snow sticks around) then make your way to the Roundhouse to dig into a BBQ feast fit for a king. It's all part of WB's annual summertime Mountain BBQ series.

Chef Michael Crane took over the kitchens at Whistler Blackcomb last October and has already made his mark on their annual Mountaintop BBQ series, which has been running for the past two weekends.

"Our menus from Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights were very similar and I wanted to create a little bit of a different feeling for each night, so we're offering some different salads and now we're doing prime rib on Saturday night, which we weren't doing before," Crane explained.

Now, each night has a distinct menu - Friday is the hog roast, Saturday is the slow-roasted prime rib BBQ and Sunday is the seafood feast, complete with custom fixin's. It's quite the spread. Friday alone features spit-roasted whole suckling pig, Memphis-style pork ribs with hickory BBQ sauce and lemon herb roasted chicken served with four types of salad, drunken maple beans with bacon, rosemary and garlic oven roasted red potatoes, summer mixed vegetable sauté and corn on the cob with ancho butter. Of course, you can't forget the rolls, corn bread and butter biscuits - and dessert, a tempting selection of chocolate fudge brownies, apple brown betty, pecan pie and lemon tarts. Check for the Saturday and Sunday menus.

On top of the sumptuous-sounding spread, diners can take in the amazing alpine views at 6,000 feet and soak up some rock, acoustic tunes and jazz on any given night, provided by local musicians like Brother Twang, Spy vs. Spy, Papa Josh and Rajan Das.

"So there's a completely different feel for the entertainment from night to night, too."

Rub elbows with the champs

Consider the Mountain BBQ series a warm-up for the main event, which goes down at the end of July. Whistler Blackcomb has hosted the Canadian National BBQ Championships at Dusty's in Creekside for nine years running. This year the event is scheduled to take place from Friday, July 30 to Sunday, Aug. 1.

Paul Street, director of food and beverage for WB, explained that the annual competition really is the premiere event of the year for BBQ lovers, pros and amateurs alike.

"It's definitely set up for people whose passion is barbecue who go to these competitions two to three times a month. But it's also set up for locals to come out and have a good time and try their hand at it, as well," Street said.

It's easy to see why the event is so popular. It's got all the good stuff - amazing eats and entertainment, to boot. Even rookies can get in on the grilling action on Saturday.

But for the real competitors, the weekend is serious business: it's the highlight of the Pacific Northwest's competitive BBQ circuit and a qualifier event for the American Royal World Championships in Kansas City and the Jack Daniel's World Championship BBQ event in Lynchburg, Tennessee. There are also some pretty sweet prizes and cash.

The action is spread out over three full days: Friday features BBQ demos and judging training, while BBQ champ Jim Ericson begins the 24-hour process of cooking a whole hog. People can dig in for dinner the next night for just $15, but get your tickets in advance, they usually sell out.

On Saturday, it's basically all competition events, but it's also the day where locals' can compete in the Backyard Burger and Budweiser King of the Grill competitions.

Finally, Sunday features the main part of the competition schedule where competitors turn the meat they've been barbecuing for hours into the judges. Plus, if there are any leftovers, they're given out to anyone who has purchased a $5 tasting pass. Proceeds from the pass go to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation.

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