Gateway to Adventure
By Steve Fisher / Images By Joern Rohde
Nestled in a fertile, verdant valley 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 (in what’s known to locals as the Spud Valley) enjoys a slightly warmer and sunnier climate. With favourable weather and a considerable span of level ground, the valley is 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 on-site stores, and there’s no better way to get fresh, healthful food than to receive it right from the grower’s hands. Agritourism now flourishes in the valley and the self-guided Pemberton Farm Tour is a great way to get a glimpse into the farming lifestyle, learn how food is grown and harvested and stock up on some local produce. You can also try your hand at berry picking at several U-pick locations.
Though farmers have inhabited the Pemberton Meadows since the turn of the 20th 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 undoubtedly 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 purposely because of the area’s many opportunities for adventure. B.C.’s rugged backcountry is steps away in any direction and 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 to the rocky alpine. The Mount Currie Trail, which ascends the southwest side of the mountain, is 8.9 kilometres (5.5 miles) long and finishes just 600 m (1,968 ft.) 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 m (5,700 ft.). 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 cross-country mountain bike trails is world class and enjoyed by a vast number of the locals, who all seem to own a bike — or two!
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 magnificent scenery and easy access. The backcountry surrounding Pemberton is full of rivers and lakes, many of which offer excellent fishing for trout or salmon. Guided tours hosted by long-time locals are available.