We spent our spring break skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort in south-eastern BC. This is something I’ve wanted to do with my kids for years, but I worried that my beginner skiers weren’t ready for a big mountain like Panorama. I’m so glad I finally planned our vacation there, because Panorama has plenty of runs for every ski ability level. Here’s more about our ski vacation in Panorama and why we can’t wait to go back.
Getting to Panorama Mountain Resort
Panorama is located a few hours south of Golden, BC, approximately ten hours from Vancouver and three hours from Calgary. This mountain destination has grown over the past twenty years and now boasts both summer and winter activities including skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, heli-skiing, skating, golfing, hiking, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and more.
The road from Invermere to Panorama takes about half an hour and is a narrow mountain road subject to frost heaves and rock falls. When we drove up, it was in great condition, but my brother has told us about other times when it took him nearly twice as long to drive that road due to the rocks on it. While there are convenience stores in Panorama, Invermere offers a larger selection of big box stores, so you may want to stock up on groceries or snacks there before heading up the road.
Accommodations in Panorama
We stayed at my brother’s condo in the village, which was a short walk to and from the chair lift. It was so easy every morning to get on our ski gear, tramp across to the chair lift, and catch the first ride up. If we wanted to go back to the condo for snacks or lunch, we just left our skis in a rack by the lift and stomped our way back across the road. This also made it easy to take my younger kids (who have less stamina) out skiing for part of the day, then leave them at the condo to hang out with Grandma while the older kids and I skied other parts of the mountain.
I was worried that spring break would be busy skiing or that the snow would be starting to melt too much. Instead, we spent each day skiing straight onto the lifts, got sunburned on the last day that we skied, and enjoyed the best snow we’ve skied on all year. Pearl found the chair lifts here slightly lower than at Mt. Seymour, and so after our first day of skiing, she started getting herself onto the lifts without my help. Nearly all the lifts were quad chairs, so that made it easy for me to ride with both younger kids and make sure they were on the lifts okay.
We started out on the Discovery Quad, which is the learner’s area of the ski hill. It’s rated green and has a few wide, easy options for younger skiers, including a couple cat tracks and a few runs through the trees. The bottom of the run parallels the bunny hill, where two magic carpets take kids up. We spent our first day exploring the runs off the Discovery Quad.
My kids also had their first chance to try the platter (or tow rope). They’ve only ever ridden chair lifts for skiing in the past, and thought that the platter was lots of fun. Joey compared it to a tow truck pulling us up the ski hill, but riding the platter with a toddler between your knees isn’t very easy, so I only took him there once.
Once we were feeling confident on the Discovery Quad, we headed over to the Mile One Quad. It heads up the mountain from just outside the main ticket area. We’d ridden this chair lift last summer, when we did a hike on the mountain. It was fun to ride up again in the winter and ski off the top to see the fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. There are several blue and green runs of Mile One Quad; our favourite became Showoff, which goes down right underneath the lift.
On our second day at Panorama Mountain Resort, the older three girls and I ventured all the way to the summit. This takes three chair lifts—Mile One Quad to Champagne Express to the Summit Quad—but was worth the ride (at least once) for the views from the top. I could have just stood up there and stared for a while, but the kids were ready to ski. The options were either black diamond runs straight down through the trees, or a cat tracked called Get Me Down, rated green. We took Get Me Down.
At the end of Get Me Down, there are more options for blue and green runs, including continuing down the cat track on the eastern side of the mountain or taking a blue run straight down towards the village. And it literally looks like you’re going straight down towards the village—you can see it way below you, a tiny cluster of condos and hotels at the base of the enormous mountains.
On our last two days, we caught the last chair lift going up at 4 pm. Jumping off at the top, we were among the last skiers heading down for the day and had the runs to ourselves. We did the same run each day: Madsen’s Mile, a cat track that loops back and forth through an area known as Founder’s Ridge. On our first time down, it took us forty minutes, as we figured out where the trail went. On our third (and last) time down, we bombed from top to bottom in less than 20 minutes.
Tips for Skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort
This was our first time doing a multi-day ski trip where we stayed at a ski resort. It was a great experience and definitely something I’d do again, but I’d also do a few things differently next time!
First, check what times the lifts open and close. Most of the mountains in Vancouver have night skiing so I just assumed Panorama would be open late. I was surprised when we came in for lunch on our first day of skiing and my mom mentioned that the lifts would stop running at 4 pm. On our last day of skiing, I had the kids at the lifts when they started running at 9 am and we skied until the last lift when up at 4 pm. (My legs told me all about it, but it was worth it!)
Second, get your passes ahead of time. I bought our lift passes online before we got to Panorama Mountain Resort. However, on our first day, we still had to head to the ticket office to get our RFID passes. I didn’t go early enough and ended up stuck in a long lineup with everyone else wanting to get their lift passes. After that, I was able to reload our passes online via the website. Panorama offers a 5% discount for buying your passes online. You can return your RFID cards for a refund at the end of your trip, but I kept ours for next time we go.
Third, make a plan! We had a bad experience on our second day of skiing because of miscommunication over where we were meeting after we separated on one run. Mount Seymour is so small that I usually meet the kids at the chair lift, but at Panorama, that didn’t work, as the runs are much longer (and harder) and there are multiple chair lifts. When I told my brother about it, he explained that when he and my uncle (now deceased) skied together, they always had check-in points. If they went down separate runs, they’d meet at the check-in point. After that experience, I chatted with the kids about where we’d meet if someone was skiing faster (or wanted to do a different run), and we had more fun then.
Fourth, grab a map. My kids loved the fact that Panorama Mountain Resort had durable paper maps of the ski resort. We each tucked a map into our pocket, and poured over them while we were at the condo or riding up the chair lift. When Jade (my 9-year-old) when rocketing down one run faster than the rest of us, she was able to pull out her map and figure out how to get down to the main chair lift by herself (where she rode the magic carpet up the bunny hill until we caught up with her).
Fifth, decide who skis where. You can buy either full-day or afternoon ski passes. You can also buy a ski pass just for the Discovery area or for the whole mountain. So I bought my older girls full-day full-mountain ski passes. On the third day, I just bought Pearl and Joey an afternoon ski pass, and they spent the morning hanging out at the condo with Grandma and then came skiing after lunch. Depending on your kids’ stamina and ability, you can decide where and how long they can ski for, and maybe save some money by just getting a partial pass.
Relaxing after a Day of Skiing
While the ski lifts may close early, the rest of the mountain doesn’t. There’s plenty to do around Panorama Mountain Resort after a full day of skiing. My teen had fun checking out the candy shack on her way back from one ski run. The outdoor pool is heated and open if you need to help sore muscles relax. There are numerous restaurants around the resort.
My mom and brother stayed with us during our week up there. Unfortunately, due to an accident just before our trip, my brother was unable to snowboard with us. I’d been hoping to have him show us around the mountain, but we had to explore by ourselves (although he provided consultation via the maps, and advised us about which runs were generally not groomed and what runs the kids might like). He did cook fantastic meals for us, so that when we finally tramped in after a long day of skiing, we sat down to a hot, restaurant-worthy meal.
My mom hung out with the younger kids for a couple mornings, which let me do some skiing with my older girls. Since Pearl and Joey started skiing two years ago, I’ve mostly had to ski with them while my older girls ski together. It was great to have a chance to ski with them again and push ourselves on some new terrain. I’ve also always found chair lift rides to be a nice opportunity to chat with my kids, about skiing and life and everything else.
Have you skied at Panorama Mountain Resort or planned a family ski vacation? What tips would you share?