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British ColumbiaSeptember 1, 2008 By: Michael Browne Home-Based Travel Agent
The majestic mountains of Western Canada offer memorable ski vacations for the whole family
For winter vacationers looking to spend some time on the slopes, Western Canada offers the ideal location. The glacier-clad Canadian Rockies region alone offers six top winter resorts, plus most of Canada's snowcat, helicopter and backcountry skiing operations. Incorporating the Rockies, the Purcells, the Columbia and the Monashee Mountains, this region is blanketed season-long by deep, dry powder.
In a province of great, relatively unknown ski resorts, perhaps no place in British Columbia is as underrated or overlooked as Panorama Ski Resort. Framed by the Canadian Rockies and the Purcell Mountains, Panorama Mountain Village is known for its immense mountain and true slope-side lodging. With close to 3,000 acres of lift-serviced terrain and one of the biggest verticals in North America, you might just have an entire run to yourself—no lift lines and no crowds.
Panorama also has the best mountainside village in the Canadian Rockies: a pedestrian village with a variety of restaurants and post-ski options, including the giant Panorama Springs Hot Pools. The village is built for walking and has all the trappings of a high-quality destination resort: walk-to-lift accommodations, high-speed quad chairlifts and a relatively easy international gateway airport (Calgary, about four hours away).
There are several outdoor hot tubs located right at the base of the lifts. Other activities include ice-skating, snowmobiling, sleigh rides, snowshoe excursions, Nordic skiing, dog sledding, ice fishing and heli-skiing, as well as cowboy cookouts and mountaintop fondues.
Another option for skiers headed to British Columbia is Whistler Blackcomb, in the Coast Mountain Range north of Vancouver. Two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, rise up a mile out of the valley (5,280 feet) and access more than 7,000 acres of prime mountain terrain—including 12 alpine bowls, three glaciers and more than 200 marked trails. Whistler and Blackcomb competed with each other for two decades before merging in the spring of 1997. Some of the lengthier trails on Whistler Mountain include the Dave Murray Downhill, one of the world's premier downhill racecourses, and Franz's, named for Franz Wilhelmsen, one of the founders of the Garibaldi Lift Company, who originally developed the trails on Whistler. Over on Blackcomb, Couloir Extreme and Blackcomb Glacier are two of the more renowned runs, both originating in the high alpine region of the mountain.
Whistler Mountain hosts World Cup ski and snowboard races at the beginning of the season, while Blackcomb is the site of theWorld Cup freestyle competition in early January. (One of the novelties of summer is to watch freestyle skiers practice their routines at the foot of Blackcomb in a specially designed outdoor swimming pool.) Both mountains share a common statistic: an average annual snowfall of 30 feet.