The Panorama Ski Resort in the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia is a small ski resort, much overlooked in favor of the bigger resorts of Whistler and Alberta’s Lake Louise. However, it can be quite popular in the winter for skiers and snowboarders alike.
But what to do in the summer? Is visiting the Panorama area even worth the drive?
The answer is yes. There are several wonderful outdoor activities available for visitors (and locals, of course) in the Radium, Invermere, and Fairmont areas. Here are my top picks for summer adventure and excitement if you find yourself visiting this majestic mountain range!
White Water Rafting
In my opinion, this is one of the most exciting summer activities you can try in the Canadian Rocky Mountains while still being 99.9% safe from harm. There are many white water rafting companies sprinkled throughout the Rockies, but in the Panorama area I have to recommend the Kootenay River Runners for your white water rafting trip. I have ventured out with the Kootenay River Runners three times now, increasing the level of difficulty with each rafting trip I take, and the company has never once failed to make me feel safe and in control, yet empowered and slightly edgy. The guides are knowledgeable and skilled, yet friendly and fun, which makes for a great combination and an exciting afternoon. The Kootenay River Runner company offers leveled trips on three different rivers: Toby Creek, the Kicking Horse River, and the Kootenay River. Prices range according to which river you choose, and the level of difficulty you choose.
If white water rafting is not exciting enough for you, you could try your hand at gliding, which is much like parasailing except that you are leaping off the edge of a mountain cliff in what resembles a paper airplane, or a giant band-aid. Sound appealing? Then check out the Invermere Soaring Center for more information. Prices range from $190 to $310 according to the website, and you can glide thousands of feet above the Rockies for up to an hour and a half, floating on thermals and spotting glaciers from above. Not for the faint of heart, gliding over the Rockies is a sure way to get your heart pumping and make some incredible summer memories!
The Panorama area offers a wide selection of hot springs, both commercial and natural. The Fairmont Hot Springs and the Radium Hot Springs are commercial pools, easily accessible to families of all ages. Fairmont is more like a swimming pool, with temperatures just slightly above average, but with a diving board and cold pool integrated into the hot pools. The pools are set into a valley in the mountains, so the view is quite panoramic. You can find out more about the Fairmont Hot Springs by visiting their website.
Personally, my family and I enjoy the Radium Hot Springs much more – the temperatures are hotter, the cold pool with its two slides and diving board are separate, there is a surprise pool for you daredevils, and the pools are set right into the mountains, so the view is much more majestic. The prices are slightly cheaper, as well. They also serve fantastic ice cream on the way out!
For a totally different treat, you can also do a bit of hiking to find some real, pristine, natural hot springs, without the cement, diving boards, and lifeguards. A short hike down the hill from the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, you can find a run-off waterfall and pool from the original, untouched hot springs. You can stand under the lukewarm waterfall, lounge in the beautiful pools (which are not ‘hot’ but much warmer than any other Canadian pond found in the Rocky Mountains), and view the gorgeous mountain vista. If you are looking for hotter waters, hike just up the hill from the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort parking lot, where you’ll see the original 1950s spa hut and the crack in the ground where the source of the hot springs bubbles out with a sulfuric scent. The water up there is hot, so be careful!
If you are looking for water sports, Windermere Lake is always a sure bet. Pete’s Marina in Invermere offers boat and jet ski rentals, while next door the Columbia River Outfitters provides visitors with canoe and kayak rentals. To operate a motor vehicle from Pete’s Marina, remember that you must have a legal boating license, which can be obtained by taking an online course and test via BoatSmart Canada. My husband and I have rented jet skis for the day, which was very fun and exhilarating. Conversely, we also spent a day kayaking in the Columbia River wetlands, and found that to be relaxing and beautiful. You do not need a boating license to rent a kayak or canoe, which makes it a much easier choice for a day activity. Whatever your desire, the Panorama area has the means to satiate you!
There are two great beaches in Invermere – James Chabot Beach and the Kinsman Beach. Typically, the Kinsman Beach is a more popular location. The beach is quite rocky, so it is recommended you wear water shoes, if you own them, and bring a thick blanket to lay on the ground. At the Kinsman Beach, there is a floating dock, a floating slide, a concession stand, and a restaurant right on the beach front – perfect for family beach days! It is easy to spend several hours at the Kinsman Beach, which is located just down the hill from the main street in Invermere. Parking is free and abundant.
There are several other great activities available in the Panorama area: plentiful golf courses, spas, hikes, and much more. You do not have to wait until winter to visit this beautiful location in the Canadian Rockies.