Whether youre into lift-accessed downhill shredding or reaching the powder by other means, logging cross-country mileage or traversing into backcountry realms, the 2012-2013 promises to be another great season in the Columbia Valley. Heres a quick preview of whats in store. . .

By Pioneer Staff


50 years of mountain magic

Opening day: December 14th

Whats new: Glading this summer in the resorts Taynton Bowl area has opened signature bowl runs such as C-Spine and Ktunaxa. Further glading occurred in Surf, the Extreme Dream Zone, and throughout the Sun Bowl, reclaiming further terrain for all to enjoy. In total, Panorama has gladed more than 280 acres of terrain this winter 2013, including more than a quarter of the Taynton Bowl.

Those who prefer staying on the groomers may notice an improvement thanks to the mountains new Prinoth high tech grooming machine. The terrain at Panorama will continue to be manicured to perfection, providing a cruising experience thats better than ever.

You can expect: 120 runs over 1,152 hectares of patrolled terrain, and a friendly atmosphere in the scenic ski-in/ski-out village. Panorama staff are already hard at work to make sure the ski resorts 50th season is the best one yet, and the village encourages all those whove grown up with Panorama in their backyard to help celebrate the 50-year legacy. The hill will be open from 9 a.m. 4 p.m. daily, with night skiing open until 8 p.m. from Thursday through Saturday.

The stats: 1,220 metres (4,000 feet) of vertical. Average snowfall of 470 centimetres. 120 runs, plus the Taynton Bowl, the Extreme Dream Zone, and two terrain parks. Uphill capacity of 8,500 skiers per hour. Average winter tempretature is 5 C.

Events at a glance: December 14th-16th – Ski with the Pros Workshop; December 15th-18th – BC Miele Cup; December 31st – New Years Eve celebrations and fireworks; January 18th-19th – Panoramas Mountain Snowflake Festival; February 2nd – Linda Putnam Invitational; February 8th-9th – Panoramas Mountain Mardi Gras; March 1st-4th – Can-Am K2; March 9th-10th – Panoramas Mountain Stampede; March 30th-April 4th – FIS Spring Series; March 30th-31st – Easy Rider Snowboard Cup; April 6th-7th – Panoramas Mountain Spring Carnival; April 7th – Panorama winter season ends.

Snowfall prediction: We have had two record-breaking winters year after year and were hoping for another, said Jamie Hurschler, marketing coordinator. Thus far, Panoramas has 203 centimetres of snowfall at the summit and a settled base of 89 centimetres.


From winter blues to yahoos

Opening day: December 21st

Whats new: Busy snowmakers have been working overtime to add to Fairmont Ski Areas signature soft snow to even the more advanced runs, which include Desperado and Yahoo.

You can expect: Family skiing and snowboarding in a laid back environment with an added warm up feature. Every lift ticket comes with a free pass to Canadas largest natural hot springs.

In addition to skiing, Fairmont Resort Ski Area boasts the SnowPlanet alien-themed learning zone. Built around a magic carpet lift, the area features alien-themed flags and cushions designed to help youngsters learn the concept of snow riding. Boardwild and Snowbirds youth learn-to-ski programs begin on January 5th and 6th.

The stats: Three lifts transport riders to 14 groomed trails spanning 1,000 vertical feet. For those looking to increase their airtime, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort includes the Rockstar Terrain Park, for use by intermediate skiers and snowboarders.

Events at a glance: December 24th – Torchlight Christmas Parade and Fireworks; December 30th World Snowboard Day with a multitude of activities on the hill; Friday nights in February hold the Starlight Challenge – a friendly adult racing event.


Providing a stairway to heaven for 43 years

Start date: December 21st

Whats new: RK Heliski is now using a larger Bell 204 helicopter that allows the team to bump up their passenger numbers from four up to seven. The team at RK have also gladed four of their ski runs to add extra space for skiers and boarders to play between the trees.

You can expect: The heli-skiing and boarding experience of a lifetime. Sun, safety and 1,500 kilometres of available heli-skiing and snowboarding await the adventurous enthusiast.

The stats: Two helicopters provide access to the highest altitude heli-skiing and snowboarding in B.C. The team average around 300 flights per year at 120 different landing sites.

Snowfall prediction: Ive been told the only ones who predict snowfall are fools and newcomers, and I have been here way to long to use one of those reasons, said Rod Gibbons, operations manager at RK Heliski. That being said, this winter is shaping up like many seasons before and I expect a great heli-ski season.


Backcountry beauty for miles

Whats new: The team at Nipika Mountain Resort are kicking off their season of cross-country ski adventures with a new race series: The Nipika Mountain Challenge. It begins with the Nipika Classic Loppet and the Toby Creek Nordic Skate Loppet weekend from February 2nd-3rd, continues into the summer with the Nipika Crazy Soles Trail Run on June 1st, and ends with the Kootenay Krusher mountain bike race on June 15th. Racers who compete in all events will have their overall times added up for a series of big prizes.

You can expect: The Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club present the largest skating and skiing surface on the planet with the creation of this years Lake Windermere Whiteway. The course stretches 17 kilometres around a portion of Lake Windermere and will feature better signs and mapping for this year. Nipika Mountain Resort has added an entire fleet of skate and skiing rental equipment as well as a series of lessons on how to use the equipment properly and safely.

The stats: Nipika Mountain Resort offers 100 kilometres of trails stretching across beautiful terrain in the Rocky Mountain region.

Events at a glance: Nipika Mountain Resort kicks off its events calendar by offering two all-day cross-country ski clinics on December 15th-16th. Beginning at 10 a.m., the Classic Learn to Ski Clinics are one day technique improvement classes. The Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club has added a Wednesday night adult recreational ski club program. Participants looking for winter fitness will ski terrain ranging from the Lake Windermere Whiteway to trails surrounding Panorama Mountain Resort. For more information, please visit www.tobycreeknordic.ca .

Snowfall prediction: The Farmers Almanac and all the weather people are saying it is going to be a fairly wet winter, said Lyle Wilson, president of the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club and owner of Nipika Mountain Resort. If the weather stays cool enough a wet winter usually means a good snow year.


Get inspired by our breathtaking backcountry

Whats new: A pending peace pact for motorized and non-motorized use of the Catamount Glacier, Northstar Glacier and Forster Creek Meadows all found in an area west of Radium Hot Springs will have a big impact on the local backcountry options this winter. If the changes are approved as they now stand, Forster Creek Meadows would be open to snowmobiles from December 1st to May 31st annually, and the Catamount Glacier would be open to snowmobile use from February 16th to May 31st.

Snowfall prediction: Ive heard everything from above average snowfall and cold to lower than average snowfall and warm; well just have to see how it goes, said Columbia Valley Hut Society president Ryan Bavin.