Back in the time I refer to as Before Kids, I visited Panorama Mountain Village frequently. The runs are steep, the lifts plentiful, the lines are few. These things I knew.
What I didn’t know was—how does Panorama score as a family destination? Nearly 10 years after my last whoosh down Panorama’s corduroyed, powdery slopes I showed up with a nine- and five-year-old in tow. Yes, there have been some changes. And now I had to tackle the mountain in a whole new light. Forget about making it to the summit and exploring the many heart-thumping routes back down; I needed to check out the bunny hill. And find out if the restaurants serve chicken fingers.
First order of business
The bunny hill. A little steeper than most I’ve seen, but once you get to the top, take a left to a much longer, gentler run. The catch? There’s a tow lift called the Silver Platter that may intimidate little ones on the first few tries. Once mastered, this run, called Beginner, is a better place for kids to get their legs.
Second order of business
The day care. This wasn’t part of the plan, but when my youngest daughter melted down on the Red Carpet after a few attempts at the bunny hill, it was time to let her sit one out. The staff at Wee Wascals welcomed the harried mom with teary child as though it was standard procedure to accept walk-ins halfway through the day. My daughter spent a relaxing afternoon while the rest of us went exploring and made up for lost time in the morning. Heading straight to the lifts, we found plenty of green and blue runs to keep our nine-year-old challenged.
Outdoor hot tubs
A great way to spend an evening after a day on the slopes. The soothing, warm-not-hot waters of what Panorama calls “Canada’s largest slopeside hot tub” were just the thing to bring us down from a physically active afternoon. It was here, with the large, moist snowflakes landing on our heads and the cheerful shrieks emanating from the children bobbing in all directions that my nine-year-old declared: “This is the best trip we’ve ever taken!” And I saw that others felt the same.
On our second day, we put both kids in all-day lessons. Naturally I was concerned after the Day One Meltdown, but relied on the tried-and-true parenting rule that kids behave much better if mom and dad are not there. Thankfully, it held true and my cautious five-year-old was zooming down the slopes, even riding a lift, before the day was out. Twice during the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. time frame, I snuck a look at the proceedings and was relieved to see a smile on her face and a lot of high-fives from the genial Aussie instructor. Halfway up the lift at midday, we spotted our nine-year-old swishing down the hill with her group. It was reassuring to know that both kids were safe, happy and likely learning far better technique than they would learn from me. (Did I say I was an expert skier? No. I did not.)
The Tube Park
And now for the piece de resistance—evening tubing under the stars. We held four tubes together and screamed all the way down, spinning slowly but picking up speed, snow spraying in our faces. Now that is some great family fun.
Never underestimate the power of a free, short gondola ride when kids are involved. Not only is the ride fun to hop on and off, but there is a general store at the bottom of the village, and a footbridge. Free entertainment is always a bonus.
Panorama Mountain Lodge offers suites with full kitchens, an essential for anyone with kids. Bring your own breakfast foods, and you’ll be ready to hit the slopes early. The slopeside ski locker room was a convenient touch. We entered at the locker room, stuffed everything in the locker, and headed up to the room. Fewer meltdowns guaranteed—from both adults and children.
Eats and Drinks
There are four family-friendly eateries at the base, as well as the grocery store, and a pizzeria that delivers until 10 p.m. During the day, the Summit Hut and the Mile One Hut offer refreshment on the slopes. One of my best moments was stopping for hot chocolate with my nine-year-old at the Mile One Hut. We sat at a window and watched skiers make their way off the lift, and discussed the fact that she next wants to take up snowboarding.
Yes, the runs are a bit steep at Panorama. But they are not crowded. So, not only are there very few waits at the lift, but you often feel like you have the runs to yourself. Uncrowded slopes translate into fewer collisions.
Fresh snow continues to blanket the runs, and spring skiing lasts until April 15. Panorama offers 4,000 vertical feet, with 120 trails, the Taynton Bowl and Extreme Dream Zone for experienced skiers, as well as two terrain parks. If you want to round out your visit, check out cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Greywolf Nordic Centre, try tobogganing, or go on a snowmobile tour. For indoor pursuits, the village offers yoga, jewelry making classes, kids art evenings and a family games night. Oh, and there are plenty of chicken fingers.