Gateway to Adventure
Images by Joern Rohde
Nestled in a fertile, verdant valley tightly surrounded by incredible mountain peaks, the community of Pemberton is a hidden gem in the heart of the Coast Mountains. Located just 25 minutes north of Whistler, Pemberton (known to locals as Spud Valley) enjoys a slightly warmer and sunnier climate. Offering favourable weather and a large span of level ground, the valley has become a prime agricultural zone.
Pemberton is world famous for its virus free seed potatoes, which have been protected by law since the designation of the Pemberton Certified Seed Potato Control Area in 1949. Pemberton’s farmers produce about 8,000 tonnes of potatoes each year, and distribute them to growers in Washington, Oregon, California, Alberta, New Brunswick and Manitoba.
Aside from spuds, many other crops flourish in Pemberton’s soil. Several local farms sell their products from roadside stands or onsite stores, and there’s no better way to get fresh, healthful food than to receive it right from the grower’s own hands.
Though farmers have inhabited the Pemberton Meadows since the turn of the century, the Village was only officially incorporated in 1956. With hitching posts that still stand outside several local businesses, the rustic village carries an Old West aesthetic. It seems like all of Pemberton’s 2,574 residents know each other in this tight-knit, friendly community.
Majestic, 2,591-metre (8,500-foot) Mount Currie stands at the foot of the town, and its sculpted face is visible from nearly everywhere in the valley. Its rocky alpine is surely a memory you’ll hold onto, and yes, it gets skied in the winter (experts only)! Make sure to bring your camera.
Outdoor recreation is the heart and soul of Pemberton. Whether it’s hiking, mountain biking, or simply soaking up the sun beside a lake, a substantial number of Pemby locals came here specifically because of the terrain’s many opportunities for adventure. B.C.’s rugged backcountry is just steps away in any direction, begging to be explored.
For serious hikers who want to see Mount Currie’s peaks up close, the Pemberton Valley Trails Association (PVTA) constructed a trail that stretches from the valley floor all the way to the rocky alpine. Climbing the southwest side of the mountain, the trail is 8.9 kilometres in length and finishes just 600 metres below Mount Currie’s summit. For many hikers, a lookout point at the 6.1 km mark will serve as the trail’s “summit,” rewarding your efforts with breathtaking views over the Pemberton Valley from an elevation of 1,737 metres. If reaching the lookout sounds too challenging, this route is still well worth exploring with great views starting about an hour from the trailhead.
Pemberton’s extensive network of crosscountry mountain bike trails is world class, and enjoyed by a vast number of the locals who all seem to own a bike, or two! For serious riders, the Nimby Fifty crosscountry mountain bike race draws a few hundred competitors to test themselves on Pemberton’s challenging trails. For cyclists of all abilities, the Slow Food Cycle combines a leisurely road ride with Pemby’s farming roots. This annual event draws thousands of visitors to ride the scenic Pemberton Meadows, while stopping at farms along the way to purchase fresh produce or grab a snack made from local ingredients.
In 2013, Pemberton welcomed the addition of an outdoor skatepark, which has proven immensely popular with the local youth. Two years later, construction was completed on a competition-level BMX racing track, where Pemberton BMX hosts regular races for kids and adults from the Sea to Sky Corridor and beyond.
Numerous backcountry cabins exist in the surrounding mountains for overnight excursions, and nearby attractions like One Mile Lake and Nairn Falls offer short hikes with great scenery and easy access. The backcountry surrounding Pemberton is full of rivers and lakes, many of which offer great fishing for trout or salmon. Guided tours hosted by long-time locals are available.
The skies above Pemberton offer adventure as well. Pemberton has its own airport offering helicopter tours, skydiving and flights to Big Sky Golf Club’s 19th hole, which overlooks the course from its unique location atop Mount Currie. Paragliding is also a popular activity, so it’s quite common to see local fliers in the air. Enjoy spectacular views of the Pemberton Valley while flying tandem with a certified instructor.
The short drive from Whistler to Pemberton is a must-do for anyone visiting the area. For the complete Pemberton summer experience, do as the locals do: swim in a lake; eat some delicious local produce; and take to the trails! Like Whistler, most of Pemberton’s residents came from elsewhere and simply couldn’t leave. Come see “Spud Valley” for yourself, and you’ll be sure to understand why.
For more information on Pemberton, visit tourismpembertonbc.com.