Few things melt the mid-winter blahs quite like a ski vacation. Fresh alpine air, the challenge of staying upright as you hurtle yourself down the slopes and let’s not forget the reward of a mug filled to the brim with something warm and boozy. This is what I call bliss – especially at Panorama Mountain Resort.
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If you’re looking for a laidback weekend punctuated with hot tubs, fondue, and plenty of snow play, take this as your cue to visit Panorama, situated in beautiful BC’s Columbia Valley. Here’s why this sweet ski resort ought to be on your radar.
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There’s not many ski villages within easy striking distance of Calgary, but luckily Panorama is one of them. Everything here is what you imagine a quintessential ski village to be: ski-in, ski-out access, a wide variety of accommodations with outdoor pools and hot tubs galore, plus more pubs and restaurants than you could possibly attempt to frequent.
The village vibe is totally chill, so it matters not if you ski or if just want to swan about the shops, spas and restaurants the entire time.
Seek out Alto Kitchen & Bar for fire-baked pizza that’s worth every calorie. Situated right next to Ski Tip Lodge in the newly refurbished The Approach Hotel, you can’t miss it.
For an atmospheric lunch convenient for skiers, fat bakers and those doing cross-country, look to Cliffhanger, located at the base of the Sunbird Chair. A wall of windows wrapping around two sides of the restaurant grants stunning views of both the Purcell Mountains and the snow-draped Greywolf Golf Course.
When the sun sets and those twinkling lights of the village begin to glow, you’ll want to savour après at Choppers Landing at the RK Heliplex.
Many ski resorts have beginner and green runs for new skiers. That’s great, but you’ll still find more advanced skiers and snowboarders whipping down those runs. What sets Panorama apart is the Discovery Zone.
This resort area is exclusive to beginner or never have I ever skiers and snowboarders. That means you’ll find a dedicated quad chair that whisks you up to several runs rated green and blue, where you can take your time and hone your skills.
The best part? Your lift ticket for this zone is less than half the price of a full-day lift ticket. You’ll save a bundle and can experience the mountain more comfortably. Once you’ve nailed some skills and if you wish to explore more of the mountain, simply head back to the ticket booth and pay the difference, upgrading to a regular full-day lift ticket.
To quickly gain confidence, you can take part in their Discovery Program, which includes rentals, your lift ticket for this part of the resort and lessons.
Panorama is the sort of place where both beginners and experts can enjoy equally – without getting in each other’s way. At one end of the spectrum, you’ve got the Discovery Zone and there’s heli-skiing at the other, but more on their heli operations later…
What skiing Here Is Like
So you’ve graduated from the Discovery zone, but maybe you still don’t know the mountain. This is where the Mountain Friends comes in. Each day they offer complimentary tours for intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Tours for Nordic cross-country skiers also take place, but on weekends only.
Look for the bright yellow and blue jackets in front of Ski Tip Lodge, while Nordic skiers meet at Greywolf Club House.
Making it a family ski vacation? The daycare takes tots as young as 18 months old, and you can pop wee-ones in school once they turn three years old.
When it comes to snow, this is one resort that does its best to ensure the best possible conditions. In addition to snowcats, Panorama has a fleet of winch snowcats that enable the grooming team to move and redistribute more snow as needed. I found a ton of corduroy, so if you like groomed runs, you’ll be in heaven.
For the snowboarders out there, you’re sure to appreciate the abundance of thoughtfully placed benches. Strapping in without having to sit in the snow – something which leads to a wet bum by the end of the day – is pure luxury.
As much as we like getting in our vertical feet, the views at Panorama are worth taking note of. Stepping off the chairlifts on the front side of the mountain affords spectacular views of the Purcell Mountains to your left, with the Rockies to your right and Mt. Assinibione, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies towering above.
For an Atmospheric Swiss Vibe…
For some, a ski resort is as good as its après. Ok, not just some people, this person. Which is why I was so delighted to come across the Elkhorn Cabin situated mid-mountain.
This rustic log cabin is so cozy inside with a wood-burning stove and 6 tables (best to make a reservation) they have to squeegee the windows to remove the condensation. It’s worth it, though, because you’ll want to see those panoramic views of the Purcells.
You can pop in anytime after 11 am for a beer or baked goods, but I was partial to their gluhwein (warm mulled red wine). It was quite possibly the tastiest gluhwein I’ve ever sampled this side of the Atlantic, and you know I’ve thrown back a lot.
What you really want to order food-wise is their raclette, slices of Swiss cheese that you grill on the table. How can anyone not love toasted cheese smothered across potatoes or air-cured bison and Westphalian ham at 7,000 feet?
But don’t get too carried away, you’ll want to save room for dessert – cakes and cookies baked fresh daily. I walked away with a loaded chocolate chip cookie in my pocket for the drive home, and it was everything.
It’s rare to find single-day heli-sking. It’s even rarer to find it at an accessible ski resort. At Panorama, you can get the thrill of a lifetime, carving deep lines in the backcountry with helicopter-assisted skiing.
Most of the time, heli-skiing is a five-figure, three-day investment. Yet at Panorama, mom and dad can drop the kids in daycare or ski school for the day while they lap up mounds of powder in Jumbo Valley, which is part of the Purcell Mountain Range. Packages range from 3 to 5 runs a day with RK Heliski, an operator with 50 seasons of experience.
To catch a different high, you can take to the skies soaring over Panorama Resort. Tandem (two-person) paragliding experiences take off from the mountain and have you floating over the valley like a pro. Your flight experience lasts about 10-15 minutes, and you’ll be with an instructor the entire time. (Something I take great comfort in.)
While a weekend is long enough to get acquainted with Panorama’s charms, do yourself a favour and stay longer. Just beware of New Year’s and the Family Day long weekend when the resort typically reaches max capacity.
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Have you ever stayed or skied at Panorama resort before? I’d love to hear your advice.