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Golfing, camping, and tucking in to farm-fresh goodies are just a few of the things to do in the Pemberton Valley
The Pemberton Valley lies nestled between mountains
Piercing mountains give way to the fertile Pemberton Valley where you’ll find farm-fresh produce, golfing, biking trails, and camping near lakes that mirror the sky – just 2.5 hours from Vancouver.
Pemberton is located within the traditional territory of the Interior Salish, specifically the Lil’wat Nation. In the 1800s European settlers built their homes on this rich farm land and named the area after Joseph Despard Pemberton, a surveyor-general for the Hudson’s Bay Company. With the railroad coming through in 1914, more settlers arrived with it. The rich valley soil, fertilized by glacial runoff and flood plains from Lillooet Lake tributaries, proved to be ideal for potatoes.
Tourism Pemberton writes: “In 1967, the Pemberton Valley became the first commercial seed potato area in the world to grow virus-free seed potatoes. The Valley’s natural isolation created by the surrounding mountains, plus careful crop monitoring, helps to ensure the continuing success of this industry.”
To learn more about the history of the area, stop by the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre in Whistler (on Blackcomb Way) on your way up to Pemberton. While you’re in town, the Pemberton Museum is open from May to September.
The Araxi Longtable illustrates Pemberton’s farm-to-table approach to food (Image: John Bollwitt)
For foodies, or anyone looking for locally grown farm-fresh produce, Pemberton is a one-stop shop for berries, seasonal vegetables, and anything you can make with them (like pies, jellies, and picnic lunches for the family).
North Arm Farm is located right off Highway 99 (which is called Portage Road as it winds through Pemberton). It’s a 60-acre family farm with a retail space and special event hosting during the summer months, such as longtable series dinners, which stays true to the term “farm to table” approach to eating.
Another stop of interest is the Pemberton Distillery where Schramm Vodka and Schramm Gin are produced, a natural fit given the potato production in the valley. Organic potatoes and glacier water go into these unique spirits
While it doesn’t have a storefront (purchases can be made through Two Rivers Specialty Meats), naturally-raised and valley-fed Pemberton Meadows Beef appears on many BC menus. Look for it the next time you’re dining out.
Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park (Image: keira-anne)
The Sea to Sky corridor is known for its recreational options and the Pemberton area has no shortage of options to keep you active. Pick up some produce at North Arm Farm, watch a glider plane take off from the local airport, and play a round of golf at The Meadows at Pemberton before heading up to Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park to pitch a tent for the night.
You can also hike at Nairn Falls Provincial Park, a site that has spiritual significance to the Lil’wat Nation, or explore Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. Biking, hiking, and camping for the more seasoned adventurer are options at these two parks, and the chances of coming across wildlife (from mule deer to grizzlies) are pretty good.
Drive north on the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver, and continue about 30 minutes up the road from Whistler. You won’t be able to miss Pemberton as the mountains part and the valley reveals itself.
Nimby Fifty Mountain Bike Race: A cross-country mountain bike race that climbs over trails and through the valley May 26, 2012. The Pony restaurant will supply post-race refreshments and North Arm Farm will host the after party.
Outstanding in the Field Dinner: A North America-wide event that will be on tour at North Arm Farm July 14, 2012. Hosted by Village of Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy, with guest chef Melissa Craig from the Bear Foot Bistro in Whistler.
Slow Food Cycle Sunday: Meet the growers and pedal your way through the valley August 19, 2012.