I'm in the Ozarks, where there are PLENTY of hills, albeit nothing like the Western states. However, in comparing the Compass to other vehicles I've owned, I've had fewer problems with steep hills.
Gramps' post makes a good point in stating that the CVT is merely being PERCEIVED as robbing power from the drivetrain, and in this case, perception is not necessarily reality. For example, to climb one particularly steep hill in Fayetteville, Arkansas (Township Street) in my old pickup, I'd have to press the accelerator all the way to the floor. Problem is, many automatics require this to stay in a lower gear (unless you shift it manually, of course) - but then, you've raised the RPMs to where you're running out of torque. So you end up in a vicious cycle.
The CVT, on the other hand, tends to find a "sweet spot" where the gear ratio and engine speed is better balanced to what you're trying to accomplish. The downside to this is that you don't get the usual perceptions of power, such as engine noise and transmission downshifts. But it IS downshifting; in fact, on the hill mentioned above, I still have quite a bit of throttle left if I wanted to go faster (this street has a low posted speed limit - and is heavily patrolled - so I don't). You get to a point where you know how hard to press the accelerator when you approach hills, and you sort of magically get the right amount of power. After a while, ordinary automatics seem strange, such as the one in my company car - to me, the automatic of that car feels like I did when I first learned to type, sort of "hunting and pecking" to find the right gear ratio.
Like Gramps, I believe that you may be able to get the auto-stick in a Compass; I just haven't seen one yet.