The next area to lure travelers off Highway 93/95 is Windermere Lake. Overlooking the lake, the town of Invermere (population 3,500) is the commercial center of the Columbia Valley. The lake and surrounding wilderness are great spots for recreational activities, and are especially popular among landlocked Albertans.
On the approach to town is Windermere Valley Museum (622 Third St., 250/342-9769, summer Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.), where the entire history of the valley is contained in seven separate buildings. The main street itself (7th Ave.) is lined with restored heritage buildings and streetlights bedecked with hanging baskets overflowing with colorful flowers.
Back out on the highway, at the south side of the town turn-off, is the Invermere Visitor Centre (250/342-2844, www.adventurevalley.com, July–Aug. daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m.).
Panorama Mountain Village
Panorama (250/345-6413 or 800/663-2929, www.panoramaresort.com) is a year-round resort village in the Purcell Mountains west of Invermere. Development includes a residential subdivision, a year-round water park, and Greywolf Golf Course (greens fee $149) where water comes into play on 14 of the 18 holes. During the warmer months, there are also white-water rafting and inflatable kayak trips down Toby Creek, horseback riding, and, in the village itself, tennis and a swimming pool.
It was skiing that first put Panorama on the map, mainly because the resort boasts one of the highest vertical rises in all North America (1,200 m/3,900 ft). Despite the impressive relief, Panorama offers slopes suitable for all levels of expertise (adult $71, child $48).
Invermere holds limited accommodations, but plenty of eateries, grocery stores, and gas stations. On a Saturday morning in downtown Invermere, you’ll find all sorts of goodies at the outdoor market, which happens right on the main street.
Farther down the hill, the Quality Bakery (1305 7th Ave., 888/681-9977, Mon.–Sat. 7:30 a.m.–6 p.m., summer daily) lives up to its name with a huge range of ultra-healthy sandwiches and not-so-healthy cakes and pastries.
The town’s most upscale dining room is Strand’s (up the hill from the main street at 818 12th St., 250/342-6344; daily 5–9 p.m.; $22–36). It’s contained in a restored 1912 heritage house set on landscaped gardens, with diners seated in small, intimate rooms. The immaculately presented seasonal menu often includes delicacies such as trout, salmon, and venison that are served with a wide selection of vegetables.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition