The Canadian Rockies play host to seemingly endless vertical feet of skiable terrain, suitable for skiers and riders of all abilities. Nestled in the heart of the Columbia Valley, a short drive from small town Invermere, B.C., you will find Panorama Mountain Resort.
“Pano” has a special place in my heart as it was a destination my family would frequent in the winter months when I was a child. I fondly recall my brother and I trekking up the large hill at the base of the mountain, en route to the start of our ski lessons. We never made it far before my brother was tasked with packing my equipment, in addition to his, up the slope to our waiting instructors. The joys of being 7 years younger, and far smaller than him. Over 10 years, and 2 children since I my last visit to the snowy slopes of Panorama, this resort has proven that things really do get better with age.
A recent $10 million dollar investment into the resort allowed for a renewed focus on accessibility and the beginner skier/rider. As a mom with two young kids, one of which had never skied before, the new Discovery Zone was a hit with our family. Reshaping and re-sculpting of trails as well as the addition of a second magic carpet meant that the kids could literally walk out of the day lodge and hit the slopes with minimal walking/hiking to their starting point. This was a major plus for the short legged kid, and also her big brother as it meant that he would not suffer the same fate as mine did, some 25 years ago. The installation of the new Discovery Quad chairlift allowed for easy access to expanded terrain for my novice little skier once his skill level improved. Plus, he could now ride the chairlift which was quite the feat in the eyes of a 6 year old!
The Discovery Zone has its own discounted pass, ideal for keeping costs down for families. With varying abilities in our family this was a great way to ensure that everyone had access to terrain that was manageable for their skill level and also helped quell the “But I want to go ALL the way to the top and ski!” comments from the fearless littles who clearly didn’t have as much appreciation for the 7,792 foot elevation as I did. It also enabled us to ski together, as a family by the end of the weekend. The smallest kid started out on the smallest magic carpet and by the end of the weekend had graduated to the green runs, conveniently located off the new Discovery Quad chair. As for my slightly more advanced son, there was no shortage terrain for him to hone his skills on, even mastering a blue run.
It’s easy to see why Pano’s Snow School program is world class. The hesitant and tentative kids I dropped off first thing in the morning were nowhere to be seen by pick up time. And no, it wasn’t because they were lost – all PanoKids group and private lessons are equipped with flaik™, a real-time GPS tracking solution that not only provides a comprehensive summary of your day, but also adds the safety of knowing where the kids are on the hill at all times. For the overbearing mother in me, lunch time came with a welcomed email notification outlining exactly how many runs, vertical feet, and average speeds that my kids had ripped up on the slopes all morning. Grinning ear to ear, proud to show off what they had learned, neither kid had any interest in leaving with me that afternoon, but rather begged to continue skiing with their instructor. At the end of the lesson, the instructor took the time to give me a verbal progress report on how the kids progressed, what level they were currently at as well as some recommendations on what I could do with them to help build on what they learned in the lesson. The instructor’s passion for his job, and seeing my kids succeed was obvious. Needless to say, our next stop was back at the Snow School desk to arrange lessons for the next day. Whether it’s your child’s first time on snow, or mom and dad are looking to upgrade their skills, there is truly something for everyone.
One of the barriers for family ski vacations in the past has been the inconvenient age gap between kids – one was too young for lessons, while the other couldn’t quite handle a full day on the slopes. Pano has families covered with their Wee Wascals Childcare program. Created for children aged 18 months – 5 years old, this is a great place for kids to enjoy a day of fun with kids their own age, allowing mom and dad to explore the hill knowing their kids are in capable hands. For the newbie skier, there’s the Snowbird program, offering a 1 hour “bunny hill” lesson (lift pass and rentals included) in conjunction with the Wee Wascals program. For children aged 3 – 5 years old, this is the perfect introduction to skiing/riding. Drop off your kids and their lunch in the morning (or pre-purchase lunch at the centre), and let the staff take care of the rest. I was pretty thrilled to see that Pano offered after hours childcare as well, not that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy a blissful child free day of skiing, but in the interest of full disclosure, reporting, and of course science, I decided to take one for the team enjoy an Après ski night out, sans children. A quick trip over to the Wee Wascals Childcare Centre and the staff provided me with a list of all on mountain staff that were available for babysitting, complete with qualifications, interests, email addresses and phone numbers. After sending a few quick texts our babysitter was booked and we were ready to enjoy all that Panorama had to offer after hours.
If you’re looking for a fun family getaway, Panorama is just that and more.