The community of Pemberton, home to 2,300 year-round residents, has become known largely for two things in recent years: potatoes and the one-hit wonder that rolled into town in the summer of 2008, also known as Pemberton Festival.
But there's much more to this town than meets the eye. While it's neighbour less than 30 minutes south on Highway 99 may be a lot ritzier, Pemberton offers up a more rugged, real version of the great outdoors, with plenty of activities for thrill-seekers.
Now that the sun is shining and the temperature has finally started creeping upwards, it's time to hit the road and find out what lies in store just half an hour outside Whistler's comfortable little bubble. Here are a few suggestions on how to divide your time:
Making a weekend trip to Pemberton without stocking up on some locally-grown goodies is just foolish. So, roll out of bed at a semi-decent hour and time the drive so you arrive around noon, just in time to peruse the new General Store Farm Market at North Arm Farm (1888 Sea to Sky Highway 99) and grab a delicious lunch in their new outdoor dining room.
The FoodLovers (Maxim Ridorossi and Jenna Dashney) will be creating fresh sheets each week, sourcing as many ingredients as possible from the 60-acre farm for their menus. Don't forget to grab a pie, some preserves or fresh produce on your way out! (www.thefoodlovers.ca)
If you're more into sipping spirits, check out the Schramm Vodka factory, located in the industrial park (1954 Venture Place). Tyler Schramm travelled to Europe to earn his Masters in distillery and last year began distilling and bottling his distinct sipping vodka, made from organic, local potatoes. So far, the spirit has proven to be enormously successful, earning the honours of Spirit of the Year and Double-Gold at the World Spirits Awards, as well as loads of media attention.
For just $6, the distillery offers up a guided tour, which takes you through the three-week process that has transformed over 200,000 pounds of potatoes into bottles of the triple-distilled premium spirit. The best part: at the end, you have a chance to sample the unique sipping vodka and get a nifty little gift to take home. (www.pembertondistillery.ca).
After a few shots of liquid courage, make your way to the Pemberton Airport. Yep, that's right. Whistler doesn't have one, but there are plenty of small aircraft soaring through the skies over Pemberton.
One such operator, Whistler Skydiving (1850 Airport Road), is just entering its third season of business in the community. Owned and operated by a team of brothers, an accountant and a pilot, the team has thousands of dives under their belts already. They offer tandem dives to the uninitiated and service to licensed jumpers. A tandem jump will run you around $270. Add another $75 to videotape the experience - because you know you'll want to relive the experience over and over again. (www.whistlerskydiving.ca).