We called it first last year. Panorama Mountain Resort is the ‘it’ resort of Canada right now so it would have been rude of us not to go this season, right? At least before everyone else does.
Fiercely independent, the resort is proudly not on the Epic or Ikon passes. Panorama also refers to itself as ‘pure Canada’ and uses the hashtag #purecanada on social. So, well played.
You’ll notice that everyone is super nice. You know, the kind that won’t say one bad word about another even if they think it. That’s pure Canada.
The resort is found deep in the mountains far from a city, down a long winding 18 kilometer road lined with peaks you can’t take your eyes off. Yep. Pure. Canada. Again.
There’s heli skiing, a smokehouse, chili cheese poutine, sweet waffles served with savoury bacon and there’s even a wolverine in the area. Pure. As. Canada.
But that’s not all that surprised us on our recent visit.
No lift lines
I kid you not. None. Not one. I skied here mid week and literally skied straight onto the chair every time.
I then skied here on a Friday and whoa, the crowds were huge. Literally three people ahead of me in the line.
We skied the entire Sun Bowl and never saw another person. Then when we rode the Monster cat to Taynton Bowl you could count the number of people on two hands in the entire 750 off piste acres.
You won’t hear an overload of Aussie accents either but you will British as it’s popular in Old Blighty.
The mountain is huge, or it feels that way because, no lift lines (see above). There are 1300 metres of vertical (that’s over a kilometer) and you basically take three lifts up the mountain to get to the top so you can ski blues and greens from each of them as you make your way up, or simply use the lifts like a transport system to the good stuff for the advanced skier at the top.
All skiing, including the Monster, eventually funnels back to the base village so you can start all over again. Expect 2975 acres, 10 lifts, 125 runs and a breakdown of 20% beginner, 44% strong intermediate to advanced and 25% expert.
Kicking Horse Coffee at Summit Hut
If there’s one thing you encounter more than moose in Canada, it’s Australians coffeesplaining to baristas as they complain loudly about the style, taste and understanding of coffee culture. Unlike moose, it’s boring. Like moose, it’s a part of life in North America.
But not at the Summit Hut on the top of Panorama. Their barista is good, knows what he’s doing and can pull the flavor from the bean and stretch the milk in a decent enough way to satisfy antipodean coffee snobs far from home.
They use local grind, Kicking Horse Coffee, it has a stronger more complex flavour not usually found in these parts. Our tip is to ask for a shot of espresso with an equal shot of steaming milk. Theoretically you’ll get a piccolo latte. Theoretically.
The Monster hologram
If you regularly ride the Monster cat out to the delights of Taynton Bowl to the black and double black terrain then you can purchase a Monster unlimited season pass. The pass gives you all season long access to the Monster cat and you get a cool Monster hologram on your Panorama season pass to flash to those less worthy. Nice one.
Raclette with a view
You’d be forgiven for thinking yourself in Europe at the Elkhorn mid mountain cabin. If you can grab the world’s most dangerous couch (a Venus fly trap style worn leather sofa that traps weary skiers in reclining positions) then you’re in luck. Add raclette in front of the picture window and lose yourself in the couch and those British Columbia views.
Snowlicious food cat
A professional kitchen inside a snow cat? Yep, you’ll find the Snowlicious food cat serving up chef style fare at Panorama with an ever changing view depending on where it gets parked. Check with guest relations for the location of the day.
Panorama village is intimate, which is a cooler way of saying small as in tiny. It’s also old school, which is a cooler way of saying retro. Either way it’s part of it’s remote charm. Though word is an 80 – 100 bed contemporary hotel will be built here within three years complete with day spa, bar, finer dining and more.
For now you can take a walk up Summit Drive, spitting distance from the base of the chairlift and enter The Cabin (not to be confused with the slope side Candy Cabin which is a shrine to sugar, loved by children and feared by adults). This independently owned meat smokehouse has all the hipster trimmings from bright stools at the front door to communal tables, exposed wood, lantern lighting, antlers and the like.
The joint is owned by a British couple big on personality that make the non locals feel at home amongst the home owners, that descend upon here for après.
Have the artichoke dip followed by the shared meat platter and finish off with a doughnut bread pudding before entering a carb coma. Nom nom.
Heli skiing from the base
Few resorts can boast a heli ski operation that takes off from their village. RK Heliski takes groups sky high into the wilds of the Purcell mountain range where no one can hear you scream with adrenaline and joy as you make your mark on pristine glacier slopes. First timers will love the whole experience from the buffet breakfast to the rolling alpine terrain, the mammoth mountain views, lunch in the wild and après ‘apps’ back at the heli base.
Paragliding from an intermediate run
Panorama is named after, well, the panorama. Not dissimilar to the Sandy Desert, the Great Barrier Reef and the Blue Mountains. May as well name it as it is. But, I digress.
The panorama here is truly stunning with Rocky Mountain peaks that thrust skyward at every turn. You can ski off the resort with a paraglider strapped to your back and float down on the wind for a bird’s eye view. The take off is on an intermediate run so if you can point your skis downhill without fear then you can take to the sky and fly.
Snow mobile to the mine
With 1300 metres of vertical and a trail map that follows the fall line, you may find you need a day off. When you do then head to Toby Creek Adventures and saddle up your motorized beast and follow your guide to ice waterfalls, abandoned mines and open powder bowls.
Invermere, the town no one tells you about
We heard a lot about Panorama before we got there, but all we knew about Invermere was turn left just before you head into town, and you’ll be on the ski resort road.
What we didn’t know was that the town sits on a lake that is seriously popular come summer. That there is a bar called Ullr next to a restaurant called Birchwood (both worth checking out) and that you can shop organic stores and sip spirits in local distilleries and even ice skate on the frozen lake – The Whiteway is the world’s longest skate able trail with 29.98 kilometres of skating.
There are, of course, more surprises to be found. I haven’t even mentioned the Cliffhanger lodge restaurant on the edge of the snow covered golf course, the music trivia at the T Bar and Grill, the ‘bra’ tree, and, and, and.
The author was a guest of Destination British Columbia and Panorama Mountain Resort