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NEXT TIME YOU’RE HEADING UP HIGHWAY 99, stop in at The Cup Bistro Café (40378 Tantalus Rd., 604-898-5553) in Squamish for great breakfast and brunch, plus duck confit and takeout deli meats (beef, housemade bacon, charcuterie). If you like Japanese, Kozo Café (38163 Second Ave., 604-567-2999) was started by a guy from Sushi Village in Whistler—he makes seriously good rolls. During eagle-watching season Watershed Grill (41101 Government Rd., 604-898-6665), with a nice patio right on the river, is a perfect place for oysters and a couple of cold ones.
In Whistler itself, Sachi (106-4359 Main St., 604-935-5649) is my favourite spot for sushi—it’s outstanding, always really fresh. On chilly days, Creekbread (2021 Karen Cres., 604-905-6666) in Creekside is a cozy place to hang out, thanks to the wood-fired oven and awesome thin-crust pizzas. And no matter how sore (or hungover) you are, the outdoor hot and cold pools, steam room, and sauna at Scandinave Spa (8010 Mons Rd., 604 935-2424) work miracles. Take your time, cycle through them, and you’ll walk out feeling like a million bucks.
Johnny Lyall is a pro snowboarder and Whistler resident who became a household name after launching through the Olympic rings to kick off the Games at Vancouver’s Opening Ceremony in February 2010.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT BIKING IN SQUAMISH is that you can link so many trails together no matter who you are with, how much time you have, or where you leave from. The network is endless and the scenery is gorgeous, but if I was only allowed to bike one trail for the rest of my life, it’d be the Angry Midget/Half Nelson combo: it’s fast, it flows, and it’s very, very fun.
It’s still surreal for this Aussie to be kitesurfing against a backdrop of snow-covered peaks in a glacier-fed river, but the 360° view from The Spit is unbeatable. The wind usually starts to crank around noon, so I go for an early-morning bike when it’s cool and a kite in the afternoon when it’s hot. Some call that heaven.
Onatah (6-40437 Tantalus Rd., 604-898-5251) has great coffee and a chill atmosphere, perfect for reading a book or working on the laptop; Zephyr Café (38084 Cleveland Ave., 604-567-4568) is a buzzy spot for a lunch date. Quest University (3200 University Blvd., 604-898-8000) is great for burgers on the deck after a long ride up around Mamquam Lake.
Angela Percival is a Squamish-based photographer and outdoor enthusiast. She shoots for magazines like Backcountry and Powder, and for corporate clients like Arc’Teryx.
I LIVE IN SQUAMISH and enjoy hitting the Squamish Adventure Centre (101-38551 Loggers Lane, 604-815-5084) with the kids—Galileo Coffee Co. (173 Hwy. 99, 604-896-0272) provides the excellent java, and there’s a play corner for the rugrats. Sunflower Bakery (38086 Cleveland Ave., 604-892-2231) in Squamish is a treat, full of good eats, and the Farmers’ Market every Saturday downtown is first-rate.
On a hot summer day, Alice Lake is a refreshing place for a swim. For an afternoon hike, we’ve got The Chief; I like the back trail of Brohm Lake up to the viewpoint, but there are multiple routes. Afterward, I generally hit Howe Sound Brewery (37801 Cleveland Ave., 604-892-2603) for one (or two) of their excellent craft beers.
Just south of Whistler, in Function Junction, Purebread (1-1040 Millar Creek Rd., 604-938-3013) offers all manner of baked excellence—for me, the almond croissants have gone from an occasional indulgence to a vice. The Alpine Cafe (8104 McKeevers Pl., 604-905-4663) in Whistler is a locally owned, really friendly spot for a mid-morning coffee. As for recreation, there’s so much great hiking and biking I don’t know where to start; I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never found a disappointing trail. The classics are Kill Me Thrill Me, Comfortably Numb, The Flank Trail (which runs from Function Junction to the alpine), and PhD, up towards Pemberton. And for post-hike snack and drinks, or a fine dinner out, I’d have to say Araxi (4222 Village Sq., 604-932-4540). Okay, I’m biased—I work there—but an awful lot of people seem to agree.
Neal Henderson came to Whistler in 1992 to complete an internship for a degree in hospitality from Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University at Araxi restaurant. He now lives in Squamish and works as the restaurant director for Araxi.
SAIL RIGHT PAST WHISTLER for half an hour and you’ll find yourself in Pemberton. Mt. Currie Coffee Co. (2-7331 Arbutus St., 604-894-3388) is the place for coffee purists (they use 49th Parallel beans) and lovers of locally crafted Lucia Gelato. Coffee smoothies and frappés are the perfect treats to take for a wander along the One Mile Lake boardwalk, where you’ll discover a new nature centre, green-powered interpretive centre, and salmon hatchery. Shannon Falls outside Squamish is famous for being the place where Edward and Bella get married in the Twilight films, but Nairn Falls gets my vote for best cataract in the corridor; the new trail all the way to One Mile Lake makes for a lovely walk.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, Mile One Eating House (7330 Arbutus St., 604-384-3842) is a mom ’n’ pop shop run by two fine-dining refugees from the Lower Mainland who take comfort food seriously. Go for the mac ’n’ cheese or the burgers made from Pemberton Meadows natural beef and Blackbird Bakery bun. Speaking of, Blackbird Bakery (104-1436 Portage Rd., 604-894-6226) is run by Raven Burns, who apprenticed under Thierry Busset, this magazine’s pastry chef of the year. Her fresh bagels are delicious, and her potato bread is made with organic potatoes from Across the Creek, which supplies the spuds that go into Schramm Vodka (1954 Venture Pl., 604-894-0222). A tour of their distillery—where the copper stills evoke Willy Wonka’s chocolate laboratory—is also highly recommended. The back patio at the Big Sky Golf and Country Club (1690 Airport Rd., 604-894-6106) is the spot to enjoy a summer afternoon cocktail and take in the view of Mt. Currie.
In strawberry season, make a beeline for McEwans Strawberry Farm (7752-C Meadows Rd., 604-894-6063) for u-pick berries. If I’m with kids, I head to North Arm Farm (1888 Hwy. 99, 604-894-5379) to visit the pigs and ducks, see what’s in season, and pick up produce at the farm store.
Most Pemberton farms are working operations, not open to the public, but many farmers are regulars at Vancouver and Sea-to-Sky markets, where you can put a face to the food. Their farms are gorgeous, so don’t miss the Slow Food Cycle Sunday in August for a chance to visit the properties and connect with the growers.
Lisa Richardson is a freelancer writer based in Pemberton who has contributed to CBC Radio, Pique, Thetyee.ca, the Vancouver Sun, the National Post, Kootenay Mountain Culture, Mountain Life magazine, and theSki Journal.
IF YOU’RE MAKING A CAFFIENE STOP on the highway, Galileo Coffee (173 Hwy. 99, 604-896-0272) in Britannia Beach is worth checking out. It sits where the godforsaken 99 Diner (thankfully torn down) once stood. The coffee, roasted on the premises, is seriously good. As are the quiches, sandwiches, and wraps. Southside Diner (2102 Lake Placid Rd., 604-966-0668) in Whistler’s Creekside is my go-to for all-day breakfast—a staple for writers and partiers alike. The cozy, noisy Pasta Lupino (121-4368 Main St., 604-905-0400) has housemade everything, from pasta to sauces to pizza, focaccia, and tiramisu—all prepared in front of your eyes. The expert cappuccinos are the silkiest in town. Everything’s delicious and cheap—by far the best food value in Whistler.
Fun in the sun? In Whistler, Alpha Lake Park is smaller and often not as busy as the other beaches. There are public tennis courts and the swimming is great, albeit bracing. (The hottest days bring the coldest water from snowmelt on the peaks above.) Farther afield, one of the most underused gems in the area is Birkenhead Provincial Park—great camping, hiking, and canoeing less than a half-hour from Pemberton.
Hiking the Chief in Squamish can be frustrating when it’s busy, so I prefer a section of the North Shore’s famous Baden Powell Trail from Horseshoe Bay to Cypress Mountain. It requires a car drop and you can encounter snow on the highest sections, even in summer, but the view from Eagle Bluffs at the halfway point—up Howe Sound, over the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands, the cities of the Lower Mainland, Olympic Peninsula, and Mt. Baker—is spectacular.
Leslie Anthony is a writer, editor, photographer, and filmmaker who contributes to ski and outdoor magazines. A Whistler resident, he’s the author of White Planet: A Mad Dash Through Modern Global Ski Culture.
On this gallery of Highway 99’s Sweetest Spots