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Panorama, British Columbia, March1998
What about Wednesday? The Helicopter Day!
Panorama Resort, British Columbia. An Intrawest Resort property. Visit the Discovery Center, and discover how you, too, can own a piece of this rock. See the future expansion plans -- 2000 acres of skiing and growing. Four thousand feet of vertical. Ski to your door lodging.

And all ours.

Honestly, we couldn't figure out how this place survives. It was crawling with staff -- friendly, courteous, wonderful staff. Good food. Great food in the all new base facility, served by happy people, very reasonably priced. A full and varied list of weekly activities, including evening trips to radium Hot Springs to soak in the soothing waters.

And barely a soul there to enjoy it, except us.

It couldn't be the time of year -- Banff and Lake Louise were jumping. There must have been 30 busses alone in the Lake Louise ski area parking lot. But here, at sunny Panorama, the only crowds we ever saw were in the condo hot tubs.

Not that we minded, mind you.

Our first ski day was anything but sunny. Dense clouds swirled around all parts of the resort, spitting snow and, at the lowest couple hundred feet of vertical, rain. Really spooky, since we knew we were on a big mountain, but we just couldn't see it. For fun, we joined the "Friends of Panorama" guided tour group for a while -- until Vickie dropped her mitten from a lift, forcing us to ski a lonely soft spring bump run.

This run, like many others, was marked with big "Warning! Marginal Conditions! You will damage your skis" signs. Bah, humbug: we be Mad River Skiers. I thought the trail was just dandy!

This sort of summed up the skiing for most of the week. Sunday and Monday, low visibility, maybe 4"-6" new snow, some places more some places less. Lots of terrain marked "Warning!" because it had a rock or stick showing. In general, they were having a really bad snow year, but while it sure wasn't Utah conditions, it was as good or better as we ever get in Vermont, so I had no complaints.

From Tuesday on out, we were finally treated to some sun -- and we finally saw where we were. Holy Spit, Batman! Panorama is aptly named: the views in any direction were simply stunning. Hands down, one of the prettiest settings I have ever seen.

Panorama is known as a cruisers paradise, and it didn't disappoint in this respect. Top 300 or 400 feet of vertical were bumped up, but after that, if you wanted to, you could pretty much fly on down for 3500' of uninterrupted fast as you wanna go screamin' demon skiing. Empty trails everywhere you looked.

And if you didn't want to cruise? I had little problem finding problems to solve. Woods out here are pretty dense, with lodge pole pines growing thick like clumps of asparagus. But Panorama has worked closely with the local logging companies to open vast tracts of skiable trees, which I pretty much owned -- maybe once did I see anyone other than me skiing them -- though somebody else must have, 'cause they weren't quite untracked. Must have been staff on their days off, because there just isn't enough "local" to support any sort of local skier base.

Did you say bumps? Yup. With some minimal meandering, possible to get at least 3800' of bumps, maybe even the full 4000' if you worked it right.

Not that you'd always want to. Sure, first few days the bumps were as soft and fluffy and happy as you could ask for -- but by weeks end, they started to become yucko hard crusty demons. Thursday, seemed like every trail we did was like this. Thursday was our one downer day.

Lift system was a possible point of displeasure, although I found ways to make them more enjoyable. Short high-speed quad from base leads to looooong slow double leading to nice T-bar leading to killer death evil T-bar to summit. All in all, about 30 minutes bottom to top. Choose the right path, though, and it was another 45 minutes to an hour back down. Sweet. Still, there were places on the mountain that once you visited, it would take another hour or more to get back to.

Since there were many places I wanted to revisit, there were also many places I just didn't get to until the last day. But shoot, they were worth the wait! There was one canyon, accessible, save for one short side entrance, only from the summit, called the "Extreme Dream Zone." Thanks to the most northerly of exposures, the height upon the hill, the general difficulties in getting to the summit, and the extreme lack of "extreme" skiers, this locale still harbored fresh and tasty powder when I finally hit it on Friday morning.

First bit was a steep and wonderful glade called "Trigger," which emptied out into a bowl which I think was called Orca.

I must be getting old. Ever since a big fall at Tuckerman a few years back, I seem to have troubles in bowls: when there aren't any trees in my way, I get a little agoraphobic. When said bowl is in the 40-45 degree range, I start looking for the safety of a nice colouir.

While certainly not the steepest pitch I ever skied, days of bad snow and the general feeling of loneliness that comes with skiing alone made me a wee bit nervous for a dozen turns or so, until I could scurry back to the safety of rocks and trees. But the dozens of turns through soft powder above and below this one nasty pitch -- which itself, I must say, had pretty durned good snow, too -- made it all worthwhile. I managed one more run via the short back door entrance to "the Zone" before heading back up for another 4000' foot "blue" bump run down to lunch.

So that about covers it: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Unbelievably long runs on incredibly empty trails past indescribably beautiful scenery. What could be better?

Oh, wait a minute....what about Wednesday?

Visit the Vermont Whale

Last modified August 22 2000 08:59 PM

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