SNOW SCENE - Last weeks snow-filled view from Panoramas Mile One Hut.           	    	Panorama Mountain Village photo

SNOW SCENE – Last weeks snow-filled view from Panoramas Mile One Hut. Panorama Mountain Village photo

Exciting developments are in store for Columbia Valley skiers and snowboarders this winter. Whether you are a die-hard downhiller, crazy about cross country, blissed out in the backcountry or a hardcore heli-skier, the 2013-2014 season is shaping up to be a great one.

By Pioneer Staff


An expanded Panorama experience

Opening day: December 6th

Whats new: Changes have been made throughout the resort. From the top of the hill, backcountry riders will now have access to Tayton Bowl and Outback Ridge from the first sharp turn on Get Me Down.

To make way for the new Greywolf Golf Course clubhouse, Nordic skiing trails have been re-established at the Panorama Nordic Centre, which is known as the Adventure Centre during the summer months.

New businesses have been added to the village, Sapphire Bead and Flameworks and the Fireside Bistro, and the mountain village has extended its season by four weeks, by opening two weeks earlier on Friday, December 6th, and staying open two weeks later in the spring.

Getting ready for the extended season was made easier by Panoramas new state-of-the-art snowmaking guns, which is the most advanced snow making equipment in western Canada.

The runs Stringer and Ski Tip Way have had their average grade reduced and the exits widened.

Major work has also taken place along Rollercoaster, as well as the top of Skyline and Fritz, preparing the runs for a new downhill race course which will be a part of the International Paralympic Committee World Cup which Panorama is hosting between January 8th to the 16th.

The run Pods has also been re-graded to make its connection to Downhill more enjoyable, and Loose Moose has been widened and had its grade reduced, making it better for beginners.

And for learners, the snow school has moved from a cabin into the Ski Tip Lodge.

You can expect: All-inclusive experience with a single lift ticket this year, which now entitles holders to limitless access to activities at the resort, from the alpine slopes to the tubing and tobogganing park, lift tickets also allow for night skiing and use of Panoramas Nordic trails.

After some time on the slopes, riders can switch into their nordic gear and then hit those trails, said Panorama marketing co-ordinator Jamie Hurschler.

He said that his favourite run is the C-Spine for excitement, and most enjoys View of 1000 Peaks when it comes to cruising.

Pioneer file photo

Pioneer file photo

The stats: There are 120 runs that comprise the hill, covering 11.5 square kilometres, which climb a vertical distance of 1,220 metres. The resort offers eight lift systems to help riders navigate the hill; at least three of which are required to reach the top. The average winter temperature in Panorama is 5 C.

Events at a glance: December 6th-9th – Ski with the Pros Workshop; December 18th-23rd – Keurig Cup Ski Race; December 22nd – World Snowboard Day; December 31st – New Years Eve celebrations and fireworks; January 8th-13th – International Paralympic Committee World Cup Finals; January 18th-19th – Mardi Gras Festival; January 24th-26th – Nor-Am Ski Cross; February 7th-23rd – Sochi Olympics celebrations; February 8th-9th – Panoramas Snowflake Festival; March 8th – Linda Putnam Invitational Race; March 8th-9th – Stampede Festival; March 17th – St. Patricks Day celebrations; March 29th-30th – Hawaiian Luau; April 5th-6th – Easy Rider Snowboard Cup; April 12th-13th – Spring Carnival; April 20th – Closing day.

Snowfall prediction: Early indications suggest Panorama will have another strong year for snowfall, and the resort can now measure its own weather with a new custom weather station.

Its localized to Panorama in the past, weve had to work with other weather centres that werent forecasting exactly to Panorama now well have a much better idea for weather conditions, said Mr. Hurschler.

Snowfalls range on average between 470 and 480 centimetres per year in Panorama.

AFTER SUNDOWN SKI - The Fairmont Ski Area offers night skiing on select days in February.           	    	        			             File photo

AFTER SUNDOWN SKI – The Fairmont Ski Area offers night skiing on select days in February. File photo


Fun features for the whole family

Opening day: December 20th

Whats new: This year the resort boasts a two-lane tubing area, kids terrain park and expanded Rockstar terrain park. The new additions at the ski area add to the family experience the kids terrain park is the perfect learning zone, the Rockstar terrain park offers progressive features for those looking to expand their skills and the tubing area is great for everyone, including the non-skiers.

The ski hill has a fantastic new chef at the resort and also offers some great food in the ski chalet.

KID-FRIENDLY - Children have two family-friendly ski hills where they can perfect their technique.      File photo

KID-FRIENDLY – Children have two family-friendly ski hills where they can perfect their technique. File photo

You can expect: Lots of new smiling faces at the ski area enjoying the new additions. The ski area with its 14 groomed runs, ranging from green to black in skill level, provides a great start to new skiers, and several pro skiers including Invermeres Ben Thomsen started skiing at Fairmont.

The ski area also welcomes non-skiers who are keen to come out and try tubing. Its going to be a fun and exciting winter!

The stats: Three lift systems to accommodate all skill levels, two terrain parks, a learning area and a tube park.

Events at a glance: December 24th – Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks (5:30 – 7 p.m.); Weeks of Christmas and Spring Break – Snow School Camps; Every Friday night in February – Starlight Challenge; March 2014 – Spring Shakedown Ski & Snowboard Competition. Stay tuned for more!

Snowfall prediction: The Rocky Mountain snow is always good at the Fairmont Hot Springs Ski Area! 80 per cent of the mountain is corduroy groomed and the south west facing slopes get tons of sunshine.

WHITEWAY WONDER  The Lake Windermere Whiteway is maintained by the  member-based Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club. 		                  Photo by Brad Kitching

WHITEWAY WONDER The Lake Windermere Whiteway is maintained by the member-based Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club. Photo by Brad Kitching


Glide your way through winter wonderland

Whats new:: Regulars at Nipika Mountain Resort will be ecstatic to learn all 50 kilometres of the dog-friendly Cross River Canyon trail system have been widened and improved, and a new Bombardier 275 Snowcat grooming machine purchased in partnership with the Toby Creek Nordic Club will ensure world class grooming of the upgraded trails. Panorama Mountain Village has also teamed up with the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club to offer club members a 20 per cent discount on Nordic season passes for the first time, while younger members enrolled in the learn-to-ski programs for kids will receive complimentary trail passes during scheduled visits, as will their coaches. Panorama is also offering free cross country skiing to its regular season pass holders, so if you havent already tried out Panoramas 20+ kilometres of groomed Nordic trails, not to mention the toasty warm Hale Hut with its propane stove, this is the year to try it out.

You can expect: The Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club will bring back the Lake Windermere Whiteway as soon as enough snow falls to lay the 17-kilometre skate and classic tracks around the frozen lake. If you plan on cross country skiing on the Whiteway, be sure to purchase a Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club membership, as the maintenance of the Whiteway is only possible thanks to the clubs membership fees. Another way to support the club and the Whiteway is to pay day-use fees using the honour system collection boxes at the two official Whiteway entry points one at Kinsmen Beach and the other at Windermere Beach. If poor weather prevents regular use of the Whiteway (as it did over the 2012-2013 winter season), Lake Lillian will be used as the backup location.

Nipika continues to operate one of Canadas best cross country ski schools with lessons available daily. And the Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club offers kids learn-to-ski programs Bunny Rabbits for ages four to five, Jack Rabbits for ages six to nine, and Track Attack for ten years and older. Register for these programs by visiting the clubs website at The club is also continuing its Ski School program in the valleys elementary schools, which involves club coaches bringing kids Nordic equipment to local schoolyards, where groomed tracks are laid and every Grade 3 student in the valley participates in a five-lesson series to learn how to cross country ski. Adult members can once again look forward to recreational skiing every Wednesday night, usually followed by a group rendezvous at a local bar or restaurant. Check the clubs website or Facebook page (Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club) the night before for the location (an email will also go out to members) and show up at 6 p.m. with a headlight.

The stats: In addition to the Whiteway access and discounted Nordic season passes at Panorama, a club membership gives you a 20 per cent discount on season passes at Nipika Mountain Resort, a free Classic and Skate clinic at Nipika, a 10 per cent discount at Crazy Soles, a discount on the registration fee for the clubs loppet event at Nipika, registration with Cross Country BC, an annual subscription to Cross Country British Columbias Ski XC magazine, and a free year-end barbecue. To join the club, go to Trail fees for daily skiing at Nipika are $10 for adults, $5 for youth, while children under six ski for free. Season passes are also available, and Nipikas Day Lodge offers ski and snowshoe rentals, waxing, lunchroom and washroom facilities. For Panorama Nordic Centre pricing, visit

Events at a glance: Saturday, December 14th and Sunday, December 15th Learn-to-Ski clinics: the Classic clinic will take place on Saturday with the Skate clinic on Sunday. Clinics on both days start at 10 a.m. and are free for all Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club members, or $40 for non-members; Sunday, January 5th Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, a fundraiser for the club, at the Invermere Community Hall. This is a sell-out event every year so buy your tickets ahead of time. Tickets are $25 and available at Lustis at Panorama, Kicking Horse Coffee and Crazy Soles; January 19th to 24th Learn to Ski Week at Nipika Mountain Resort: Olympic coaches will teach everything there is to know about the sport; February 1st and 2nd Nipika/Toby Creek Nordic Loppet Weekend at Nipika Mountain Resort: the Classic 30-kilometre event will take place on the Saturday and the 20-kilometre Skate race is set for Sunday. Recreational and kids distances are also offered. To register, go to

Snowfall prediction: It will snow, so when its good, get out and ski as much as you can! said Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club ski development co-ordinator Cam Gillies.

HEAVENLY POW  Skiers with RK Heliski make their way down the Cauldron Glacier in the Purcell Mountains. 					        Pioneer file photo

HEAVENLY POW Skiers with RK Heliski make their way down the Cauldron Glacier in the Purcell Mountains. Pioneer file photo


Heli-ski your heart out

Start date: December 20th

You can expect: With 44 years of heli-skiing

operations under RK Heliskis belt, skiers can continue to expect the company to deliver the high standards it has offered in the past, said operations manager Rod Gibbons. Were excited about this seasons bookings already being up over last seasons, said Mr. Gibbons.

The stats: RK Heliski has tenure for 1,500 square kilometres of terrain that includes 120 organized landing spots (which means 120 distinct runs). The company accesses all this with three helicopters a Bell 204 (which accomodates up to seven skiers), a Bell 212 (holds up to 11 skiers) and a B2 Astar.

Snowfall prediction: I have heard that were sort of in a natural influence between El Nino and La Nina, so natural may mean were not going to have a winter that is drastic one way or the other, said Mr. Gibbons, adding this may mean short waves of clear and cold weather alternating with short waves of precipitation, but no long spells of either. Theres absolutely no doubt that there will be enough snow to go heliskiing. If one valley isnt working out, we just go and find it elsewhere.


Make your mark on the mountains

You can expect: Skiers can expect the same great experience we offer across all CMHs lodges, said CMH marketing director Jeremy Roche, adding there is already a fair amount of snow on the ground.

The stats: In this region, CMH has tenure for 1,000 square kilometres with 235 different runs (landing sites), all accessed using three helicopters. The CMH Bugaboo lodge (near Brisco) has been in operation since 1965 and has been renovated and expanded several times since. It now offers modern comforts, such as a workout centre and business facilities, in a remote location. I have to say it has absolutely the best view from its hot tub, which is actually on the roof of the lodge, said Mr. Roche.

Snowfall prediction: We had great early season snowfall, said Mr. Roche, although he wouldnt predict how the rest of the season would turn out. We generally get 1,200 centimetres of snow a year.


Blissed out in the breathtaking backcountry

You can expect: An endless number of backcountry ski possibilities are accessible from the Upper Columbia Valley, with literally thousands of square kilometres of snow. The Upper Forster Creek Drainage northwest of Radium Hot Springs is a popular place for backcountry powder hounds, and thanks to an agreement worked out last year between skiers and motorized users, theres little argument around access to the Catamount and North Star Glaciers. A drive east into Kootenay National Park also provides highway-accessible skiing at Vermillion Peak and the Stanley Glacier. Those who venture out should only go with proper training, experience and equipment, as well as knowledge of snow and terrain conditions.

The stats: The Columbia Valley Hut Society maintains five huts throughout the valley, all of which make great bases for backcountry ski trips. To learn more, go to .