Top 10 Reasons to Visit Pemberton
Download the Pemberton Visitor’s Guide 2012 for more information. (Pemberton Visitor Guide 2012-2013 (pdf)
Top 10 reasons to visit Pemberton, be you family, slow-foodie or high-test adrenaline-junkie:
The weather is always nicer. Skeptical? Check the webcam first.
Visit Canada’s only organic potato vodka still, where award-winning Schramm’s vodka is made from local spuds and glacier-fresh water. (Onsite tasting and retail store is open Thurs – Mon, 11am – 6pm). Schramm Vodka, in its first year of operation, won Double-Gold and Spirit of the Year at the 2010 World Spirits Awards in Klagenfurt, Austria, March 2010.
Stock your 100 mile larder. U-pick berries, summer fruits, flowers and root vegetables at local family farms. Close the distance between your fork and the field by following what’s in season with the Pemberton Farmers Institute.
Artisan bread and pastries alone are worth the trip. WonderBread begone. Blackbird Bakery’s potato bread (made with local organic potatoes) and pastries put the wonder back in your mouth, with their all-natural, from-scratch delights. Sourdough, focaccia, marble rye, organic spelt, social rolls and meat pies, and cinnamon rolls, pain au chocolat, almond croissants that show no stingeing on the butter, all served with locally roasted Pemberton Valley Coffee, and locally wildcrafted teas from Namasthe. Cakes and tortes to order.
Unleash your inner cowboy/cowgirl, without having to stoop to drinking cowboy coffee. (There’s nothing fun about straining coffee grains between your teeth. Saddling up, however, is a whole different story.) Local outfitters can take you on a variety of trails, including multi-day expeditions… Local indie cafes, complete with hitching posts, ensure you get your espresso fix first.
The “sweet as candy” mountain bike single-track will test your Moab mettle. Participants in the first Nimby50 technical cross country marathon bike race hailed the 30km ride masochistically as “savage” and “a must-do”. The race’s namesake trail, Nimby, is an uphill singletrack climb with 101 switchbacks that takes riders though forest up to the local paragliding launch.
It’s the perfect place to jump off a cliff. Or out of a plane. As you choose. Pemberton’s thermal updrafts are globally renowned for their ability to lift experienced paragliding pilots over 3500metres (more than 2 miles) above the ground. The thermals also work to the advantage of Pemberton Soaring, one of only two commercial glider operators in all of Canada. Of course, updrafts are of no consequence if you’re determined to freefall – Whistler Skydiving offers the most scenically distracting backdrop against which to throw yourself out of an airplane.
Even city girls enjoy the action when the crowd at the Pem Ho gets rowdy. Built in the 1914, and rumoured to have been once owned by the Hell’s Angels, the local hotel and bar oozes small-town character.
See how your apartment’s square footage ranks against a goldrush era pioneer cabin. The oldest building in Pemberton is Will Miller’s hand-hewn cedar house, built in 1894, after he walked into town, swam across the Lillooet River, and cleared land that his descendants still farm. His house is one of several on display at the Pemberton Museum. Free entry. Take a self-guided garden tour, historic walking tour of downtown, or the “World of Yesterday” scavenger hunt for kids, or try and imagine yourself in the old dentist’s chair. Tea, baked goods and old-timers tales are on offer at Tuesdays’ Tea & Tales.
Paddle on the One Mile Puddle. It might be diminutive in size, but One Mile Lake, at the entrance to Pemberton offers dog beach, a wheelchair accessible wrap-around boardwalk, picnic tables, firepit, and a good enough training ground for the Alcan Dragonboat Festival’s reigning champions, the Laoyam Eagles, coached by gold medal Olympian and 2010 torchbearer Dr Hugh Fisher. Bring your stand-up paddleboard. Or take Pemberton’s friendlier version of the Grouse Grind, and hike (or run) Lumpy’s trail, to grow the cojones to jump on in!
Inspiration Road-Show. Take a tour up to Birken, where the pioneer spirit of early fur trappers and adventurers still whispers through spruce and fir, and the hopes of gold-seekers echo down the wild rivers. Here, artists’ studios showcase glass-blowing, stained glass, garden art, and photography and feather collages. The Red Barn Café, by the boat launch, serves up lunches with traditional native inspiration, including bannock and x’osum slushies (berries).
Watch for the Salmon. Because you never know when you’ll ever see them in the wild again. Late August and early September, they make their poetic return to their spawning grounds, up the Birkenhead River and to the hatchery at the N’Quatqua Reserve. See the river come alive, with great spotting perches from the suspension bridge across the Birkenhead River just past Mt Currie.
Nature whisperers, go wild. Easy cures for nature-deficit disorder – ripe for the picking in Pemberton. Go trail-riding, hike out to Nairn Falls (easy) or upper Joffer Lake (more breath-taking, literally), take a photography tour with Jeff Simms of Cowboy Wildlife Tours, or play that game otherwise known as the best way to ruin a good walk at Pemberton’s two golf courses, overlooked by the 8600 foot sheer Mt Currie.
Dinner is just a cast away. One of Pemberton’s best kept secrets is that it is one of the best places to fish on the West Coast. Home to rainbow trout, Dolly Varden char, cutthroat trou, steelhead, whitefish and five species of salmon, the lakes and rivers offer fly or spin fishing. The Fishfinder operates out of Spud Valley Sporting Goods, where you can stock up on supplies, pick up a licence, or hire a guide to get you to the truly secret spots.
Ditch the rat-race for the peloton pack. Looking for a scenic alternative for your weekend road-ride? Pemberton Meadows Road offers a straight, flat 27km ride through potato farming community, with peaks on all sides. Hill-climbers can test their VO2 max with a tour de France inspired 15 km switchback climb up the Duffey Lake Road, the Whistler-Pemberton out and back promises great coffee at either end of the trip, and the river-buffeted Birken ride promises scenery stunning enough to distract you from your searing lungs. Pemberton Bike Co is the perfect launch point, located next to the Pony Café, and supplied with mechanics, maps and gear.
Indulge your sweet tooth. Choose your weapons well. Berries fresh from the fields at pick-your-own North Arm Farm. The Pony’s signature dessert, “The Pony Mess”, is a delectable mess of meringue, berries, cream and chocolate. Blackbird Bakery’s handcrafted pastries and to-die-for cinnamon buns will be household name as soon as they’re discovered by more than just the locals. Big Sky Golf Course’s Ice Cream Bomb layers espresso flake, chocolate oreo crumb, pralines, caramel crunch ice cream into a torte, coated in Belgian chocolate ganache. The Foodlovers at North Arm Farm make buttertarts, pies with handmade pastry crusts, preserves and other decadent treats that always sell out.
Get down and dirty at MotoX. The Green River Riding Club, just north of Pemberton, hosts sanctioned races and rides.
Probe for buried treasure. It was the gateway to the gold-rush, but now a different type of treasure is buried in Pemberton, for the tech-savvy, GPS-toting scavenger hunter… Or the kid you’re having trouble tearing away from the Wii. Geo-caching is a treasure hunting game where GPS is used to play hide and seek. A geocacher will place a waterproof container, containing a log book (with pen or pencil) and trinkets or some sort of treasures, then note the cache’s coordinates, along with other details of the location, which are posted on a website. Other geocachers obtain the coordinates from the Internet and seek out the cache using their GPS handheld receivers. The finding geocachers records their exploits in the logbook and online. Geocachers are free to take objects from the cache in exchange for leaving something of similar or higher value, so there is treasure for the next person to find. Over 75 geo-caches have been deposited by players between Horseshoe Bay and Pemberton.
Go as close to the Falls as you dare. Nairn Falls is a 60 metre cataract fed by the Green, Soo and Rutherford Rivers, and flows with such force that it has etched pools, potholes and canyons out of the granite. An easy 1.5 km hiking trail and provincial campsite lets people hike to a wild and dramatic viewpoint. Or, if you have a yen for looking at the world from a different perspective, you could jetboat up the Falls with Whistler Jetboating, in the hands of legendary mountain man and veteran guide, Eric Pehota, who “threads the needle” through tiny passages, guides you up whitewater that will have the boatload screaming, and eddies out in quiet spots to point out local wildlife.
Ruin a nice walk. The sport otherwise known as “whackfuck” for the sound practitioners make, Whack!, followed by “F*(#!” in quick succession, offers two 18 hole courses along quiet Airport Road, buffered by the Lillooet River. Listening for the peaceful sounds of gliders and small-engine towplanes, occasionally interspersed by the screams of skydivers as they leap out of planes above. Big Sky Golf and Country Club is the longest of four championship courses in the Whistler/Pemberton corridor, and was voted Best Resort/Public Course in BC by the Vancouver Sun’s Best of BC Golf Panel. The Meadows golf course at Pemberton enjoys an equally spectacular settting with a low-key, weird-pants-free vibe, and runs a free shuttle to the airport to pick up pilots keen to take in a round.
Get hitched in the land of hitching posts. Have a 100 mile wedding. Pemberton offers so many options for vow-taking, be you anti-bride or full of Pride, catering with potluck contributions or willing to make literal your Leap of Faith. Local pastry chefs can make the cake, pick your own flowers at North Arm Farm, and cater with 100 mile cocktails, courtesy of Schramm Vodka. (Ask about their Bear Paw, featuring BC honey and wild berry liqueur.)
Forget Atkins. Fuel up on Pemberton potatoes. Fresh baked potato bread from the Blackbird Bakery, old-fashion potato salad at the Swiss Deli, caramelized onion potato salad from Foodlovers at North Arm Farm, hashbrowns at the Wildwood, the ultimate breakfast burrito at the Mt Currie Coffee Company, or distilled to pure alchohol as Schramm’s Vodka. Or go further afield – the Pemberton potato pizza at Whistler’s Creekbread, exquisite potato chips at Araxi. And when you can make the journey, take it virtually through your tastebuds with a packet of Hardbite Chips, made in Maple Ridge from Pemberton seed potatoes. (The Cheddar and Onion chips go very well with a glass of merlot.)
If you thought “enlightened” and “small town” didn’t go together, think again. Think Pemberton. Plenty of races, no rats. A small town that served as the gateway to the gold-rush 150 years ago is now your gateway to adventure. 100% locally owned and operated. Proud to boast the highest concentration of fascist coffee baristas, former Olympians, and per capita bike ownership this side of Canmore. More sets of twins under the age of 10 than a circus sideshow. (And we haven’t yet found an explanation for that genetic quirk.) Hailed by the New York Times as the global epicenter of sled-skiing, Pemberton is also the heart of self-reliant, hundred-mile living. It’s a small town, with a big personality. Take a detour this summer. Make the left turn at McDonalds.
And yes, it was more than 10 reasons. Call it an embarrassment of riches, as well as arithmetic.