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Just in time for spring break, here are five steps to help you make the most of a long-overdue B.C. ski getaway
This year’s healthy dump of snow has everyone itching to carve turns again. And with some 40 downhill ski and snowboard areas to choose from, the province is ripe for slope-side fun.
Take Panorama Mountain Resort, for example, just 18 kilometres west of Invermere. With its varied terrain and family-friendly village, the resort is the perfect playground for getting reacquainted with your ski legs.
Just in time for spring break, here are five steps to help you get back on track and make the most of a long-overdue B.C. ski getaway.
Staring up at a mountain with a 4,019-foot vertical—Panorama is among the top 10 of North America’s biggest descents—can be more than a little intimidating to those getting back in the schussing saddle. You don’t have to go it alone, though.
Many ski areas offer some sort of free orientation tour. They’re usually conducted by local volunteers, so you can count on not only being shown some of the best nooks and crannies of a hill, but there’s a good chance you’ll also be regaled with historical snippets and amusing anecdotes. Most importantly, these tours are an excellent way to familiarize yourself with the terrain and gain confidence before pushing off on your own.
At Panorama, guests gather at the yellow Mountain Friends sign just beyond the Ski Tip Lodge for 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. daily tours. Sporting bright yellow jackets, the guides divide skiers into groups based on ability (green for easy, blue for intermediate and black for experts). Then it’s up the chairlifts for an approximately two-hour exploration. If you’re lucky, you’ll get paired with the likes of Wes, Gib and Bob, who not only know the terrain like the back of their ski mitts, but don’t hesitate to good-naturedly razz each other at every opportunity—all the more for a fun introduction to the mountain.
Still shakin’ in your ski boots? Another great way to hit the hill is to sign up for a private or group lesson.
Panorama’s Ski & Ride Centre offers both child and adult lessons, which means everyone can learn the slopes at the same time. The Discovery Program gently introduces five-to-15-year-old newbies to the sport in the beginner Discovery Zone. Opened for the 2014-2015 season, the zone’s two magic carpets, multiple green runs and winding cartoon-character-lined Canadian Discovery Trail will get them off to a great start. Or let the younger set roam in a PanoKids Camp, where guides take them around the mountain on a combined journey of fun and instruction. Your crew will meet you at the end of the day with grins on their faces and eager to sneak in a last run to show you their favourite way down.
Meanwhile, you’ll be working on good habits (like shifting your weight from foot to foot as you link turns) and curbing bad ones (like leaning back) during your Adult Improvement Session. Then you’ll be well on your way to tackling many (if not all) of the 120-plus trails etched across Panorama’s 3,000 acres of skiable terrain.
After you’ve sailed down silky groomed blues and conquered the bumps on a few blacks, you just might be ready for your next challenge.
Enter Taynton Bowl. Literally.
Now easily reached by Panorama’s Summit Quad, this former heli-ski terrain serves up double-black sweet steeps, newly gladed sections, powder-puff bowls and gnarly chutes. The 750 acres is patrolled and controlled for avalanches, so even though it feels like you’re in the backcountry, you can fly through freshies without packing any special equipment such as a beacon, shovel or probe. Start with the more open, valley-like Danny B’s before dropping into the tighter Whitetail or Devil’s Drop.
Ahhh, the reward at the end of the trail. No ski day is complete without the sharing of adventures over bevvies and good eats. (As Barbara Walters once said, “Après-ski is my favourite sport.”)
An on-mountain dining spot, the adorable Elkhorn Cabin just might be Panorama’s best-kept secret. Built in 1952 on the Elkhorn Ranch in Windermere, the ranch hand cabin was hauled up to its current mid-mountain perch in 1997. Expanded to twice its size in 2005, the cabin serves up authentic Swiss raclette (table-top-grill-melted cheese with baby potatoes, gherkins, pickled onions and spice—with Buendnerfleisch, or locally air-dried beef, an add-on), goulash and savoury soups. Sit back with a cup of glühwein and take in the fabulous mountain views and old-school artifacts—a wood wall phone, vintage skis on the deck and cordless irons on the wood stove.
Also slope-side, the homey Summit Hut offers smokies, chili and more. Score a wooden chair on the deck and soak up that spring sun.
Speaking of decks, the village has a few too. Pick your favourite perk at Lüsti’s Cappuccino Bar before heading to a sun-soaked picnic table. You could wind up rubbing shoulders with Manuel Osborne-Paradis and other members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team, who are known to drop in when training at the resort. Steps away, order a round of cold ones and a heaping plate of Taynton Nachos at the long-standing T Bar & Grill. Or plant yourself on the Great Hall’s large deck at the Ski Tip Lodge and savour a burger and brew.
For a change of scene and if you’ve got the time, head out on a day trip.
Drive or take Panorama’s free Mountain and Valley Shuttle to the town of Invermere, a mere 20 minutes away. Stroll the galleries, boutiques and eateries, or strap on the skates during the colder months for a spin on the Lake Windermere Whiteway. At 30 km long, it was declared the world’s longest skating trail in 2014.
A hop, skip and a splash further up the highway is historic Radium Hot Springs. Tucked among towering rocky crags, this steaming oasis is the ideal place to soak limbs sore from skiing the day before.
But if you’re game to make more tracks, get thee to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Only 1.5 hours away, near the town of Golden, this mostly expert-terrain hill will have you putting another Powder Highway feather in your toque. You can even let Panorama do the driving on their weekly Wednesday day trip to KHMR.