Cradled in a deep valley in the Purcell Mountains, Panorama’s ski area climbs a massive 4000 feet to offer some of the best seats in the house for views of the magnificent main spine of the Rockies – hence the resort’s name. But Panorama’s certainly not all about gazing into the distance, as below its windswept summit lies a virtual paradise for cruisers and carvers, with some of the region’s best-maintained runs. There’s also a wealth of underrated and underused expert terrain in lightly wooded bowls and even the chance to go heliskiing with the resort-based RK Heliskiing (rkheliski.com), if your pockets are deep enough.
As to the resort’s shortcomings: many complain about the unpredictable snow quality outside January and February (hence the vast snowmaking capacity) and the rather dull resort village. Convenient, but with a very limited choice of restaurants and virtually no nightlife.
Thankfully though, the resort organises a lifeline in the form of shuttles to Invermere, 18km away, and Fairmont Hot Springs.
The terrain at Panorama becomes progressively harder the higher you go, so almost all runs off the summit are hard double-black diamonds, while the base is surrounded by easy greens. Three overlapping lifts form the backbone of the ski area, allowing you to easily zero in on the right ability zone, but make it hard to explore the mountain’s full width. To do this you’ll need three lift rides, a full summit-to-base journey, then three lifts back to do it again. However when the snow’s great, this is the best course of action.
At a glance:
Size: 9 lifts; 120 runs; 2847 acres; 1220m vertical
Location: base 1180m; summit 2400m
Style: beginner/intermediate/expert 20/55/25 %
Snowfall: average annual 479cm + snowmaking
Facilities: accommodation; daycare; day-lodge; night skiing; ski school; rentals.
Novices will need to wait until their abilities have grown considerably before they see the famed panoramas from the top of the mountain, but at least the easy runs at the base are well-groomed, and plentiful enough that novices are unlikely to be bothered by faster skiers passing through. Wait for good conditions before heading on to blues – even easier runs like Powder Trail and Rollercoaster are fast and tricky when icy.
The emptiness of the runs and their continuous gradient make high-speed carving a real pleasure. A couple of the best warm-up runs for fast carving are Skyline and Rollercoaster off the Champagne chair. Neither are long, but they’re usually impeccably groomed, making them great even in poor conditions. For variety and short sections of bumps and powder, combine Canada Way with the straightforward Alive Glades. From the summit, confident intermediates should try View of 1000 Peaks (rather than the icy, only blue, Getmedown) – which leads to a group of long runs on west side of mountain with great views.
The core of Panorama’s expert terrain is in the in the lightly wooded Taynton Bowl, whose high elevation and northeast aspect usually ensure great snow (particularly on Never Never Land); and the Extreme Dream Zone, a maze of cliffs and trees and short steeps. Below the latter, Last Chance is arguably the mountain’s finest bump run. Panorama has been a venue for several national freestyle championships and has an international standard halfpipe, lit at night.
Other winter activities:
Among Panorama’s other winter activities, are snow-tubing and tobogganing in a dedicated area, and snowmobile tours, bookable at Guest Services (250-341-3043) in the Ski Tip Lodge.
The Greywolf golf course is highly rated, while the resort runs its lifts (day pass $45) for bikers wanting to hurtle down its many excellent custom-made lift-accessed downhill mountain bike trails. Check its website for great-value bike-and-accommodation packages.
Accommodation & hot springs:
Visitors to Panorama have a good choice of places to stay, from a basic hostel to luxurious chalets, all bookable via the resort website.
Wherever you stay in the village you get access to the Panorama Springs Pools, a large outdoor pool complex – that’s usually rather taken-over by kids – with water-slides and a sauna.
Panorama’s restaurants span from takeaway pizzas to near-gourmet offerings and all are close to the slopes. Many open for lunch, but the cafeteria food in the Great Hall (open from 8am) is hard to beat for its selection, prices and speed of service. In contrast, the resort’s only supermarket is tiny, so stock up in advance.