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Posts tagged ‘Panorama Mountain Village’

Panorama – more “Holy Shit” Moments

The ski club that I belong to, the Rocky Mountain Seniors Ski Club, organized a trip to Panorama Mountain Village again this year.  Although I found the mountain a tad icy and even a little intimidating last year, I decided to chance a return visit.  And am I ever glad that I did!

As with most of the other mountain resorts in B.C. and Alberta this winter, Panorama is suffering from a distinct lack of snow.  I didn’t record the snow levels last year for comparison but the packed base at the bottom of the Mile 1 Quad this year is a paltry 66 cms.  It was a little better at the Summit, with 121 cms, but still far less than what is preferable.  There were more than a few bare patches on the runs, although mostly avoidable, and the occasional rock/gravel/grit area that tattooed the bases of my new skis with undesirable patterns, but the overall conditions were surprisingly good.  I think that the warm weather, sunny and around 0C every day, had a lot to do with it.  The snow was soft and, even in areas that had been skied off or wind blown where I did a lot of skidding last year, my edges had no problem.  That was a nice change since I generally dislike chittering sideways down the hill on armour plate!

Good sliding fun!

Good sliding fun!

Monday was Family Day in B.C. and there were more kids and families on the hill than we are used to seeing. One of the joys of being retired is that we can go to resorts in mid-week and almost have the hill to ourselves.  Spoiled, for sure, and selfish to a degree but having to wait more than one or two chairs to get back on a lift is not something that we are used to!  The hill sucked them up pretty well though and long waits were never a problem. Most of the 50-plus members of our club who made the trip to Panorama went out with the Mountain Friends, a group of locals who volunteer to show visitors around the mountain.  I just wanted to refresh my memory of how to get to the various lifts and runs so only went with them for the morning.  After lunch, it was time to play and explore with 3 or 4 other ski buddies.  After a few cruising runs, we took the Summit chair to the top of the mountain to enjoy the spectacular view.

View from the top of Summit chair. Mt Trafalgar and Mt Nelson prominent.

Spectacular views from the top of Summit chair. Mt Trafalgar and Mt Nelson prominent. (Photo: Byron J.)

During our morning run with the guide, we had descended on a blue cat track trail from the top (Get Me Down), which connects with a number of other trails to eventually bracket the south and west extent of the resort.  Deciding to complete the circle, this time we took the black run (Stumbock) which connects with the blue Taynton Trail cat track to bracket the resort on the north and east side.

Monday skiing routes, recorded by my Garmin 305 .gps

Monday skiing routes, recorded by my Garmin 305 gps

The next 3 days got progressively warmer, maxing out at maybe 3 or 4C, and we skied longer distances and more vertical each day.  We explored every area of the mountain, with the exception of the double-black Taynton Bowl – far beyond my capability and that of my ski mates.  We definitely had our favourite runs, mainly groomed cruisers off the Mile 1 Quad and Sunbird chairs, and did those numerous times, but we also got adventurous and tried a few friendly moguls in the Alive Glades and more challenging ones – the type of moguls that bite – in Founder’s Ridge and on the Stump Farm run. Thankfully, we were the only people there at the time since a mogul run, in my estimation, is akin to a mine field and I treat the two similarly – with “Holy Shit” trepidation and slow progress.  Watching me ski moguls is probably as wince-inducing to the viewer as it is for me to manoeuvre them 😦

Thursday, our final day there, was abbreviated in 2 respects.  We had to load our bus at 3 p.m., so we had to quit early anyway to change and move our gear. But in mid-morning, Al, Byron and I came across an injured snowboarder alone and prone on a flat part of one of the lesser used trails (the runout at the base of Schober’s Dream) and we stopped to attend to him.  It was obvious that the fellow was concussed (thankfully, he was wearing a helmet or it could have been much worse), as he lay on his back in the middle of the trail.  Neither he nor us had any idea how long he had been lying there, but it was probably only a few minutes at most.  I called the ski patrol on my cell while Al, a paramedic, checked him out.  Byron kept going downhill to tell our other mate that we would be delayed.  While waiting for the patrollers, Al kept asking the fellow (Jerome) questions to assess his condition, which improved steadily. It turned out that he was a priest from Calgary, up with another priest and some families for the upcoming Alberta long weekend.  It took about 15 minutes for a ski patroller to arrive – pretty fast considering that the location was not well trafficked, only accessible by black runs, and she was snowplowing a sled.  Shortly after she arrived, another patroller came up the trail on a snowmobile and yet another patroller skied in with a back board under her arm.  Luckily Jerome had no broken bones but, as a precaution with a head injury, he was immobilized with a cervical collar.  They then slid the board under him and wrapped him up in the sled.  A funny part to the incident – the patrollers dug Jerome’s cell phone out of his pocket, put it on speaker (he was immobilized and couldn’t hold it) and asked him who they should call so he could tell them about his impending trip to the hospital.  Jerome gave them the name of the other priest in the group, the patroller dialled and Jerome told the other priest he was coming down in the sled.  “Holy shit” was the response, much to the amusement of the patrollers, who obviously thought that “dear me” should be a more appropriate expletive from a Catholic priest . The original patroller then skied off with him to the Sunbird chair, with a tow from the snowmobile to get her started on the flat trail.  It was very impressive how these patrollers handled the whole situation.  It took 45 minutes off our skiing time but it felt good to assist.  My first good deed of the day, and Valentine’s Day to boot!  My second good deed was later that evening, back at the parking lot when we arrived back in Edmonton.  One of the ladies couldn’t start her car so I gave her a boost.  Tame in comparison.

I have to admit that, even though I still find some of the steeper black runs intimidating, I have grown to really like this mountain.  I’m not fond of cat tracks (who is?!) but I realize that they are a necessary evil when the runs are so widely spaced. And sometimes they have saved my ass when the only alternative is down a double black.  As I mentioned after our visit last year, the staff here are noticeably friendlier than at any other resort we visit. I know that lifties are not well paid and that they probably have a lot to grump about but these guys and girls still greet everyone with a smile and a friendly comment and actually seem to enjoy their job. It’s a nice touch and brightens everyone’s day.  I look forward to going back again, hopefully next year.


Spent the middle week of February at Panorama Mountain Village, outside Invermere, B.C.  It was my first visit there and Panorama was an eye-opener for me in more ways than one.  It is aptly named, as the view from the top of the Summit Quad is absolutely spectacular.  With Mt. Nelson and Mt. Trafalgar very prominent to the west and, on a clear day, Mt. Assiniboine poking up over 60 km away to the NE, the shear number of craggy peaks surrounding the ski hill is impressive.  There was hardly a run that didn’t offer multiple photo ops, with new perspectives popping up all the time.

Top of the Summit Quad - The peaks to the west, with Mt. Nelson (highest) and Mt. Trafalgar (next to the right) prominent

Before going on the trip, I had heard good reports about the mountain but all contained the warning that, if it hadn’t snowed in a while, the conditions could be somewhat, um, “slidey”.  Well, actually, they used that dreaded word – icy.  I checked the website snow report almost daily before leaving and, as fate would have it, the snow gods had used the previous week or more to slack off.  Sooo, with no new snow, this trip started with some trepidation.

Bright and early Monday morning, a large portion of our group met with the “Mountain Friends”, the volunteer army of local ski hosts who tour newbies around the mountain.  I initially lined up in the blue/black group but, when the host said they were going to do a few bump runs, I figured that discretion was the better part of valour and bailed to the blue group.  Not that it made any difference.  In the ensuing 2 days we skied almost every area of the mountain.  We did blues but it seemed that their only purpose was to lead us to ever steeper and bumpier black runs!  The only area of the mountain that our host kept us away from was the double blacks in Taynton Bowl.  And we got real up close and personal with the infamous icy patches of Panorama.  Not that our host ever referred to them as that.  Runs were variously referred to as “being a bit skied off”, “a little sketchy”, “has some smooth patches”, “noisy”… anything but “icy”.  But when you try to dig an edge in and your ski just skips and chatters sideways down the fall line you know you aren’t in cruising territory any longer.  Glad that I gave my skis a tune-up before we left – I’d hate to ski there with dull edges.  Might as well be on a toboggan.  I was certainly outside my comfort zone at times but I surprised myself at how well I coped with the terrain and the challenges, albeit not with much elegance.  Most skiers, unless they are experts, are going to feel a tad tentative on a new mountain and underestimate their abilities.  The hosts did a great job of showing us that we could handle almost anything the mountain threw at us and gave us the confidence to explore on our own for the final 2 days.

Al and some of the 1000 Peaks

Overall, I would have to say that my Panorama experience was worthy of repeat trips.  What really stood out, though, and was as eye-opening as the vistas, was the attitude of every staff member on the mountain – lifties greeted you with a quip and a smile both at the bottom and top of the chair, restaurant staff were cheerful and friendly, and the Mountain Friends did everything they could to ensure you enjoyed their favourite mountain (except for providing a few inches of new snow every night).  Panorama is definitely the friendliest resort that I have visited.  Management, and their worker bees, at every other ski resort could learn a valuable lesson by visiting this place and taking a few notes.

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