Monday, February 25, 2019

Find it ALL at Panorama Mountain Resort!

Every day should start with a rollercoaster ride and that's exactly what you'll get when you ski at Panorama Mountain Resort. Ride the Champagne Express Chair first thing in the morning to the top of the fast, and cruisy "Rollercoaster," immaculately groomed each day, and marvel in awe at the scenery spread out around you as you fly down the fresh corduroy, beaming from ear to ear.

Mornings are magical at Panorama Mountain Resort

What's so Awesome about Panorama

Panorama Mountain Resort is located 20 minutes outside the Community of Invermere in the Columbia Valley. From Calgary, it is approximately a 3.5 hour drive across the border into British Columbia. We've found that we can easily make it to the resort Friday night for a quick power ski weekend, but that it's definitely more fun to make a long weekend of it.

Panorama has a vertical drop of 1300 metres, top to bottom (4265 feet,) and the longest run is a full 6.5km in length! We love skiing down "View of a Thousand Peaks" as soon as the Summit Quad opens for the day, and I'm always amazed at how fast one can ski down a steep black run when it's been freshly groomed on a weekend. (My husband would say "dangerously fast" in my personal case.)

Summit to base with a vertical drop of 1300 metres and over 5km of skiing in one descent!

On our recent visit to Panorama, we connected View of a Thousand Peaks off the summit to "Zehnder Way" in the Founder's Ridge area, another steep black run that had been freshly groomed, and we marveled at the lack of lift lines (we rode three chairs to access the summit and never waited in a line - on a weekend!) We also expressed complete shock (and delight) that we didn't see a single other skier the entire time we skied down from the summit until we reached the top of the Discovery Quad at the bottom. We enjoyed 5.5km of steep groomed black skiing on that one descent alone, no line ups, and no other skiers in sight. Anybody loading skis in their car yet?

Morning on "View of a Thousand Peaks"

Discover Panorama's Signature Ski Tours

Panorama has three signature self-guided mountain tours, and they can each be enjoyed by strong intermediate skiers (customizing the Taynton Bowl Tour slightly for weaker skiers.)

Touring Panorama's Sun Bowl 

The Sun Bowl is a fun cruisy place to explore, especially in the afternoon when the sun has warmed up the snow. Most of the runs through the Sun Bowl are intermediate and there are always a few groomed options. 

Access is either from the top of the mountain via "Get me Down" (a blue traverse that serves as an escape route off the summit,) or from the top of the Champagne Express Chair via "Upper Canadian Way" (blue) and "Schober's Dream" (black, but groomed.) Skiers not ready for Schober's Dream can also bypass it on "Lower Canadian Way" (a blue traverse that gets your around the steep pitch on Schober's Dream.)

We were lucky on our second day at Panorama and discovered that they'd groomed the very steep "Roy's Run" off the summit, a black run that's usually filled with car sized moguls, and so we were able to link this to Schober's Dream.

Once in the Sun Bowl, opportunities for playful skiing abound and you'll end up at the bottom of the Sunbird Chair (where you can traverse over to the Village after you ride up.)

Access to the fun and playful Sun Bowl at Panorama

Hut to Hut Ski Touring across Panorama Mountain Resort

This has got to be the coolest thing about Panorama, and I always feel like I'm skiing in the Alps. Three chair lifts take you to the summit, climbing 1300 metres, where you'll be greeted by the Summit Hut, a great place to warm up and grab a freshly brewed Kicking Horse Coffee (the best coffee on the planet) before descending either Get me Down (blue) or one of the black runs to the top of the Champagne Express Chair.

Summit Hut at the top of the mountain

From the top of the Champagne Express, fly down Rollercoaster until you come to the Elkhorn Cabin. Here you'll find great views from a historic cabin perched on the side of the mountain. European Raclette is served if you time your visit for lunch, and otherwise, I highly recommend the fresh apple cider!

The historic Elkhorn Cabin perched at the edge of "Rollercoaster" at Panorama

It's a short ski from the Elkhorn Cabin down to the Mile 1 Hut (our favourite place to warm up on cold days with a coffee or hot chocolate.) They also serve great hamburgers at lunch, and this is the easiest hut for a beginner skier to reach off the Mile 1 Express Chair (which has several green runs off it.)

The Mile 1 Hut at the top of the Mile 1 Express Chair, Panorama

Make your way down from the Mile 1 Hut (my son loves to drop down through the giant terrain park off "Horseshoe") and you'll find yourself at the bottom where, you guessed it, there are even more options available for dining and snacking! My personal favourites are the Picnic Cafe for a sandwich or a fresh cup of coffee, or the T-Bar & Grill - which has amazing nachos!

Note that each of these huts is more "restaurant" than just a "warming hut" and that while you can definitely go inside to get warm on a cold day, you should plan on buying a cup of coffee or hot chocolate at the very least if you're going to take up chair space.

If you want an area in which to enjoy your own bag lunch, you'll find plenty of  table space in the "Great Hall" in the main Village. Here you'll also find a cafeteria and space to store bags or backpacks.

Picnic Cafe in the Panorama Village 

The Taynton Bowl Tour AND Pay Per Ride Cat Skiing

I am slowly working my way through the Taynton Bowl Tour but I'm not quite ready for double black skiing off the summit so I usually cheat by dropping down View of 1000 Peaks and Stumbock's, both often groomed, to connect to the Taynton Trail down below. Strong skiers will definitely want to give "Heli High" a try though before making their way further along Outback Ridge.

Views from the Summit of Panorama before dropping into the Taynton Bowl

My husband tried out the new "pay per ride" Monster Cat Skiing on our recent Panorama Trip and enjoyed fresh powder on a wide open (very deserted) run where he said he felt like he was the only person around for miles. (note to self, find him a ski buddy next time!)

Special Monster lift tickets can be purchased in the Village for $14.29 per ride (adult pricing) or for $49 (for a pack of 4 tickets.)

Note that the cat rides are available on weekends only and that you still have to ski/hike your way along Outback Ridge to the staging area where you'll enjoy the final ride up to the top of the Goldie Plateau (roughly 100 metres up from the summit hut.)

From the Goldie Plateau, expert skiers enjoy double black chutes and bowls as they make their way back down to the Village. All runs end up in the main village so you could technically do laps all day.

The Monster X Snow Cat 

A Ski Hill for ALL Abilities and Styles

Panorama for Beginners

Panorama is the ultimate hill for progression with discounted pricing available for the beginner lifts. A Discovery Zone lift ticket gives you access to the Discovery Quad, Silver Platter, Red Carpet, and Little Ripper Carpet.

Graduate from the Discovery Quad, and skiers will then find easy groomed green runs off the Mile 1 Express, the Toby Chair (which also has an amazing terrain park,) and the Sunbird Chair.

The Discovery Zone for Little Rippers

Panorama for Intermediate Skiers

I consider myself to be a strong intermediate skier because I prefer to ski groomed terrain (be it blue or black.) Panorama is the ideal ski hill for those who love flowy cruisers, who want a good assortment of groomed runs, and who enjoy steep black runs that have also been groomed.

Views for miles off the "Get me Down" Traverse from the summit

On our recent trip, I was able to ski 9 different advanced black runs, all groomed with beautiful corduroy. This was a record for me, and usually I'm lucky if a ski hill grooms one or two black runs for me.

The terrain at Panorama can be broken down into 20% beginner, 55% intermediate/advanced, and 25% expert, so you can see that it's an intermediate skier's paradise.

Flying down Zehnder Way in Founders Ridge

And lest you start to think that Panorama is only a hill for those who love groomers, despair not. There are plenty of natural runs filled with bumps, glades, and soft powder. My husband and son often split off onto other runs off the top of each chair to chase after terrain that was more challenging than what I was looking for.

My son's favourite run under the Sunbird Chair

Panorama for Expert Skiers

My husband would fall into this category and he loves the terrain at Panorama. This is the kind of resort you can ski regularly for years - and still find new places to explore each time you visit. Add the new monster cat skiing, and nobody's getting bored here.

Entrance to the Taynton Bowl and Outback Ridge

Panorama for Skiers who like to "Play"

My son loves terrain parks and is usually quick to approve of a ski hill if it has a good park. The Toby Terrain Park is one of the best we've found across the Rockies and we love that it has its own dedicated chairlift, a nice little short one, so you can spend more time playing in the park (and less time riding on the lift.)

There's also a more advanced park off the Mile 1 Express Chair where my son was given very clear instructions to "roll everything!!"

Playing around in the Toby Terrain Park at Panorama 

Want to read more about skiing at Panorama? Check out the story I wrote last year: Family Guide to Panorama Mountain Ski Resort 

This story has a LOT more photos because it was actually warm enough to take a camera out of a pocket. Our recent trip had weather as cold as -35C with wind chill at the summit so photos were limited.

Read my Family Guide to Panorama to find the location of the kids' secret tree house

Stay in an Authentic Alpine Village with Ski in/Ski out Accommodations 

This is one of my favourite things about Panorama and it would not be the same to visit for a day without staying on the hill. Stay at the resort and you won't need a car the entire duration of your visit. A small gondola connects the Lower and Upper Village (with free service through the day and evening) and there is no shortage of restaurants spread around the resort. You'll even find a grocery store (with alcohol for purchase) and a take-out pizza restaurant in the Lower Village.

Keep reading to learn more about why you want to spend your ski vacation in the heart of the Panorama Mountain Resort.

First in line for the lifts when you stay in the Village

End your Day in Canada's Largest Slopeside Hot Pools

If this doesn't sell staying overnight on the hill at Panorama, I don't know what will. Spend your days skiing and your evenings soaking your sore muscles as you relax in slopeside hot pools (the largest one big enough for kids to swim in!)

Kids love the bigger pool with it's "slightly cooler" temperature and space for swimming or splashing, and adults enjoy the hotter pool beside it (best enjoyed with a beverage in hand while the kids play in the other pool.)

Slopeside Hot Pools at Panorama Mountain Resort

The Panorama Springs Hot Pools are located in the Panorama Springs Condo Building, by far our favourite place to stay so far out of the options we've tried, but access to the pools is included with all stays at the resort. Make a booking with Panorama Lodging anywhere on the hill and you'll get to enjoy the pools as often as you like. (and in summer there's a cold swimming pool with waterslides as well!)

Panorama Springs Hot Pools 

Bring the Non-Skiers! Panorama is more than a Ski Hill!

We spend many weekends in the Columbia Valley and have visited Panorama for the day several times - without ever purchasing a downhill lift ticket! The beauty of this resort is that you don't actually have to like downhill skiing to enjoy spending time at Panorama. There are dozens of other activities you can try without ever stepping into a pair of ski boots or riding a chairlift.

The reality for many families and groups is that there will often be that one family member who wants to come along on your trip - but who doesn't ski, who prefers snowshoeing, or who likes the peace and quiet found on nordic ski trails. (My mother for example who recently joined us for a weekend at Panorama.)

Bring the grandparents, the baby, the toddler, the whole extended family, or even a spouse who may not enjoy downhill skiing (but still wants to spend the weekend with the family.) There is something for everybody at Panorama!

Try cross-country skiing on the Panorama Nordic Trails

Five Things to do for the Non-Skier at Panorama 

One. Step into a different kind of bindings and try cross-country skiing on the Panorama Nordic Trails

And these are GOOD trails, "real" trails, and trails I'd visit even for a day trip. This isn't a case of "ok, you nordic skiers, we groomed you a cute little 3km loop around the ski resort."

We like skiing up to the Pentagon and Hale Huts in approximately 6 km round trip from the Greywolf Golf Course. 

You can purchase day passes for the Nordic trails at the Greywolf Golf Course which is the winter clubhouse for XC skiing, fat biking, and snowshoeing.

There are 20 km of groomed Nordic Trails at the resort for classic and skate skiing, and some of the trails are open to skiers with dogs.

Visit the Panorama Mountain Resort website for more information on Nordic Skiing.

You can also rent skis if you don't have your own.

The Hale Hut, reached on a groomed Nordic ski trail

Two. Try snowshoeing or fat biking on the Panorama multi-use trails

Rent a special fat tire winter bike from the Panorama Nordic Centre at the Greywolf Golf Course or rent a pair of snowshoes. The new Mineral King Trail is 6.5 km round trip and takes hikers and winter bikers up to the Hale Hut shown in the photo above.

The trackset trails are reserved for XC skiing, but Panorama has six multi-use trails for fat biking and snowshoeing. These trails are usually groomed for easy walking and biking.

Read more about cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking at Panorama in my previous story here: Panorama Mountain Resort  (much more than downhill skiing.)

Take a walk (or rent a fat bike) to enjoy an easy jaunt along the river at Panorama

Three. Enjoy mountain dining and après-ski hut tours

There is no shortage of options for the après-ski experience at Panorama (for skiers and non skiers alike.) 

  • Enjoy decadent walk in/walk out dining at a variety of restaurants in the Upper Village including my favourite, the Cabin Smokehouse. Another good choice is ElevenFIFTY at the base of the hill where you'll find regional cuisine including pizzas and homemade pastas.

  • Book a Heli-Fondue tour at the Summit Hut. Enjoy a flight with RK HELISKI up to the Summit Hut after the lifts close for an early evening après dinner of cheese and chocolate fondue. This is the best (and only) way for a non skier to reach the summit of the ski hill.

  • Book a raclette and lamplight ski out from the Elkhorn Cabin Saturday nights. Catch the last ride up the Champagne Chair at the end of your ski day, ski down to the cabin for dinner, and then enjoy a guided ski down the freshly groomed Rollercoaster run by headlamps. (for experienced skiers only)

  • Book a fondue dining experience at the Mile 1 Hut for a cheese and chocolate fondue dinner Saturday nights. Ride the Mile 1 chair up to the hut (with skis or in winter boots for the non skier) and then enjoy an easy ski down (the run is lit up for night skiing) or ride back down the chairlift if you are a non skier.

  • Try the brand new snowcat limousine dining experience at either the Elkhorn Cabin for raclette or the Mile 1 Hut for fondue. The tour runs Thursdays and Fridays and you must be able to ski down to the Elkhorn Cabin. You finish dinner with a ride in a snowcat back to the base. The Mile 1 Hut experience includes a snow cat ride both up and down, making it perfect for the non skier.

Information on all dining options can be found here and reservations are required in advance. 

Panorama doesn't shut down at sunset 

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Disclaimer: Our accommodations and lift tickets were provided on this hosted trip. As always, all opinions and words are my own and I was not compensated beyond trip expenses. 

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