Every superhero needs a solid origin story, and while Zack Lavoie can’t quite leap over tall buildings in a single bound (on skis is a different story), he can create tiny universes with his bare hands…and then pour them into cocktail glasses. 

Currently bar manager at Wild Blue Restaurant + Bar (recently voted #2 in the country by enRoute Magazine), Lavoie’s “Negroni Pinoli” won Cocktail of the Year for 2023, but his Whistler story starts just over three decades ago and is uniquely tied to the mountains.  

 Three Ounces of Community

“My parents used to live up in the Rendezvous lodge at the top of Blackcomb,” Lavoie explains. “They were caretakers up there – cleaning up after the hill closed, doing maintenance,  helping get the lifts running each morning. They used to get up super early to check the snow meter and phone down with how much pow had fallen so the snow reports would be accurate.” [This is long before the now-ubiquitous live webcam snow meter.] 

In a town like Whistler, conceived on a ski hill comes with instant street cred, but Zack’s parents actually moved back down to town by the time he was born. The family’s love of skiing only grew, however – Zack is a product of the storied Whistler Freeride Club and his father still joins him and his friends for weekly ski tour missions into the local backcountry.

Zach Lavoie and his father ski a couloir in Whistler.
Zack and his father explore a couloir in the Whistler backcountry. PHOTO ZACK LAVOIE

But by age fourteen, the born-and-raised local found himself drawn into the food and beverage industry, well… more like thrust. 

“I came home one day and my mom asked, ‘do you want a job?’ And before I really even had time to answer I was working at [Umberto Menghi’s original Whistler restaurant] the Caminetto. I remember leaving work that first night just vibrating, it was so exciting. The sounds, the energy, I was terrified to even step foot in the kitchen. I loved it.” 

 After high school, Lavoie pursued an acting career in Vancouver while working in various restaurants, including The Keefer Bar where he established a love for mixology.  

“It’s a kind of alchemy,” he explains. “With cocktails, you can take techniques from the kitchen and apply them to spirits and ingredients. With this recent Negroni, I ended up infusing the entire cocktail with pine nuts, but I tried cooked, raw, cold infusion, warm infusion, under pressure before I got there… it’s all about experimentation.”

INSIDER TIP: If you like cocktails, take a look at our blog, Whistler’s Must-Try Winter Cocktails – Zack is also featured in that post!

With skills honed by “reading every single book and studying everyone I looked up to,” Lavoie found his old acting skills useful behind the bar as well.

“I find with cocktails there are things people identify with – the ice, the glass, the look and colours – so I began using the storytelling skills and being empathetic and engaging. Making stuff is the best but the story matters too.”  

After netting a full-time gig on the bar at Diamond, another Vancouver hotspot, Lavoie travelled to Australia where he helped turn a pizza joint into a New York Style cocktail bar. He then opened the bar side of Sum Yung Guys, another friend’s restaurant venture. All fun, but this did mean he got less surf time in than he’d planned.


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A post shared by Bar Oso (@baroso_whistler)

After returning home to Whistler, skiing every day and working at Bar Oso in the evenings, Zack’s Wild Blue journey began very appropriately – in the chairlift line with Neil Henderson, (who co-founded Wild Blue with restaurant icon Jack Evernsel and Iron Chef, Alex Chen). 

“Neil and I got along like a house on fire during my stint at Bar Oso. We were skiing together, and he was talking about how he was about to start his own thing. Eventually, I said, ‘Hey, when are you going to tell me about this new restaurant.’ He said, ‘I’m telling you now’. Who’s gonna run the bar? And he said, ‘You are.’ We shook hands in the Red Chair lineup.” 

 After a year of operation, Wild Blue has certainly turned heads among food and drink aficionados. Speaking with the Vancouver Sun, Henderson describes it as, “A seafood-forward experience combined with steak house indulgence, guided by Italian, French and Coastal cuisine. The mindset was an approachable menu, room and wine list and thoughtful, caring service with no standoffishness or pretentiousness.” 

Lavoie mirrors that philosophy behind the bar.

“We looked at the most popular cocktails in the world and used them as the foundation for our inspiration,” he recently told Alchemist Magazine. “Then, we broke them down into four simple categories; tart and punchy; refreshing; spirit-forward; and classic Martinis. Then tweaked them to our tastes using modern techniques.” 

The result, from the (automatic sliding) front door to the last bites of pastry chef Guillaume Boutelant’s European-alps inspired deserts, is upscale, democratic dining with a very approachable, community feel that ties in, Lavoie believes, with the sense of community that makes up Whistler’s true magic.

“The more I travel the more I appreciate what this town has, that sense of community. The way I’m still so connected with the kids I grew up with. We still call each other’s parents ‘auntie an uncle.’ In my neighbourhood, if you’re out on a hot day and you need a drink of water you just go knock on someone’s door. There’s a real sense of family here, and I include the whole Sea to Sky corridor in that. People don’t realize how tight this community really is.” 

 Which isn’t to say Zack doesn’t appreciate the emptiness and solitude of a good day ski touring off either mountain (though he admits preferring Whistler, “unless I’m with my dad. He’s an old school Blackcomb guy, obviously.”) But that sense of local camaraderie is an important part of the vibe he aims for at Wild Blue. 


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A post shared by Dustys Bar & BBQ (@dustyswhistler)

“I love going to Dusty’s for après and it’s three deep at the bar and everyone is happy. I grew up going to the Trattoria [Umberto Menghi’s other legendary Whistler spot] before it closed. That place was crazy, and I liked it. The open kitchen, people dancing while the worked, dudes coming in wearing ski boots and staying right through to desert. I think Araxi put Whistler on the map globally, but the Trat embodied what the spirit of Whistler really is.” 

As he slides a contemporary, lighter, Christmas-y take on a Grasshopper (a creamy cocktail popular in the 1980s Lavoie says he’ll often choose instead of a dessert) across the bar, Zack explains that loose, communal-but-exception vibe is what he’s hoping to recreate at Wild Blue.  

“We removed a few seats at the bar specifically so people could walk up and socialize. Wear your ski boots and focus on enjoying the people you’re with and might meet. Stay for dinner, stay late…this is Whistler, they call it a ski SUIT for a reason.” 

 Wild Blue is open from 5 PM until midnight but also has an après menu available from 3 to 5 pm. Quick public service announcement: they have espresso martinis ON TAP!  

Book your winter trip now to secure up to 25% off lodging and 33% off rentals. Thinking about spring skiing? Receive a $75 après voucher for every third night booked.

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Feet Banks moved to Whistler at age 12 so his parents could live the dream and ski as much as possible. He ended up living it too. After leaving home Feet did a few good stints in warmer climates and 4 years of writing school before returning to the mountains to make ski movies, hammer out a journalism career and avoid the 9-5 lifestyle as long as possible. He’s been a hay farmer, a hole digger, a magazine editor and has a jump named after him on Blackcomb Mountain, Feet’s Air. It’s tiny.