Panoramic view

BARB MARTOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

It's one thing to hear the excitement in someone's voice over the phone, but it's another to see the excitement displayed across the person's face first hand.

Of course I'm talking about how happy virtually every mountain operations manager in Western Canada is right now.

Over the past several weeks, Snow Scene has been reporting to you how great the conditions are, especially this early in the season. Resorts on both sides of the Rockies are opening early and opening with the best conditions they've seen in years.

This past weekend I got to see for myself just how much of a Christmas gift Mother Nature is giving all our favourite resorts in the form of the white stuff. Wow.

And when I sat down with Brad Brush, director of mountain operations at Panorama, he couldn't keep the grin off his face.

"This is one of the best opening weekends I can recall," said Brush. "We've had some great snowfalls, and together with our snowmaking capabilities, 60% of our terrain - about 50 runs - are open for business this (last) weekend, including several areas of Taynton."

I overheard some skiers talking, saying that they have gone up into Taynton, but it was pretty much skied out. When I mentioned this to Brush, he just laughed.

"Taynton ... Panorama in general has so much terrain to play in that you could come here every weekend during the season and still not hit everything that's available.

"There's so much, people need to get out there and explore, not just stick to the familiar trails. I've just come from Taynton, and believe me there's plenty of pow to be had. Locals know where the best stashes are, but I'd like to see our guests get out there and explore a bit as well, discover just what we have here."

Part of the reason Brush would like more people to explore, is to help pack the snow - a situation which every resort is facing, they need the skiers and riders.

PACK IT DOWN

"The more people get around the hill the more they pack the snow and that helps it stick to the mountain. Forecasts indicate that we're in for more snow and packing the current snow is really going to help set the terrain up for the new stuff.

"But I still caution people to pay attention to closed runs and roped off areas. They are there for safety reasons; regardless of how white it looks, there's still natural hazards in some areas, and of course some areas are still on the unstable side. The safety of our guests is our primary concern, so explore, have fun but be aware and be safe."

As much as I would have liked to accommodate him, I'm still on the gimp list, so I had to rely on a few of the over 450 Downhill Rider guests that I traveled with to the annual Snowpit Safari to tell me just what I was missing, including fellow snow scribe, Jim Barr.

And he's one to explore.

"I hit Taynton first thing Saturday morning, both 1,000 Peaks and Heli High. It was good, but most of the locals had gotten there first; still there were plenty of freshies to be had if you knew where to look," said Barr, with a wicked grin on his face.

"I think what people need to realize is that Taynton just doesn't open this soon, it's usually mid-January. That's an amazing indicator of what this season is going to be like. And it's not just in Taynton. Sunday I spent the day off the Summit and Roy's Run; there were moguls dude. Who has moguls this early in the season?"

Barr did admit not all his day was spent playing in the bumps. A slingback chair almost sucked him in for good.

"Yeah, they can be a bit dangerous. Up on the Summit deck, not a cloud in the sky, barbequed smokie in one hand, bevvie in the other and those slingback chairs - it's really easy to just stay put. You have to be careful, otherwise you're really cutting into your shredding time."

For Ann and Bob Thompson, it was more about easing the legs in gently.

"We stayed on the lower half and it was great," said Bob. "There was plenty of good runs to keep us happy, get our legs back working again."

For tour guide Jody Lebid, the weekend was all-around fantastic.

"I stayed with the runs off the Mile 1 quad and I had a great time," said Lebid. "But the whole weekend was great, not just the skiing. We had an 80s-theme weekend and the party was held at the Heli-Plex complex; I couldn't believe how many of our customers got dressed up, including Pano's staff. It was a great party.

MOUNTAIN ROCK

"The complex is very much like a mountain chalet or cabin and Exit 303 from Edmonton rocked it out as usual and it was just a lot of fun. A lot of dancing which kept my legs limber for Sunday."

There were a few of us who didn't go to the main bash. Instead we enjoyed some great music by a local band in the Crazy Horse Saloon. And yes there were a lot of locals there, but they weren't giving out their secret stash areas - no matter how much liquid "bribes" they were being handed.

I think 4 p.m. on Sunday came around too early for some and not early enough for others. Watching people trudge to their respective buses, it was pretty easy to pick out the ones who had hit it hard. They were moving a little slow, complaining of aching muscles, barely able to lift their skis and boards.

The "too early" ones kept us waiting as they grabbed that last run from the top, wanting to squeeze in every turn they could. Everyone, though, was sporting a major grin. it had been an excellent weekend.

For more information on Panorama Mountain Village, log on to www.panoramavillage.com.


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