At 8am the West Coast Sightseeing Tour Bus arrived at the hotel. The back of the bus had a lift to transport people in wheelchairs inside. Only one wheelchair per tour is able to participate because there is only one set of locking mechanisms. Once the driver secured my wheelchair in place, we were off to pick up the remaining guests of the tour. On the way to Whistler, the tour driver narrated along the carefully selected course starting with Stanley Park. It was a quick drive through the park to reach the Lion’s Gate Bridge, named after the two peaks above North Vancouver that resemble lions. Shortly after the bridge we make our first stop at a little town for a 15 minute coffee and bathroom stop. The driver kindly notifies everyone on board what is available close by, including a Starbucks on the corner. A nearby park also offered accessible restrooms. The little town was picturesque but it was a few snaps of the camera and then back on the bus.
As we continued on our way to Whistler the driver fluently and charismatically explained the natural, political, and social elements that make up Vancouver and Whistler. The second stop was at Shannon Falls, Canada’s third largest waterfall. This time we had 20 minutes to reach the water and back. My friend was speedy as she pushed me up the paved, inclined hill. Eventually, the single trail split into a lower and a higher trail. The lower one was moderately level and had a natural surface while the higher one was paved and was at steep incline. The lower trail followed the waterfall’s runoff and visibility of the falls was very minimal. However, the higher trail revealed clear views of the falls. I was lucky to have a friend who could push me up this trail; otherwise, I would not have had enough time. This is a different story, though for a power wheelchair user.
Back in the tour bus we were deep in mountains. The views of the Fitzsimmons Mountain Range and one of several rivers of the area were indescribable. I was unable to capture this beauty on film between the vibration of the bus and the curvy road. It was majestic, like entering into another world. I even got to see two black bears along the road. So it is no wonder why this land is heavily protected by the local Native Americans. On the road signs up to Whistler you will see the native name for towns, rivers and landmarks and right below is the same word spelled out phonetically. When there is an accent mark, this means to slow your voice. There is some land development and a little more is underway, including condos, which makes locals unhappy. A few more local attractions are viewed before arriving in the resort town of Whistler.
The town is filled with hotels, condos, time-shares and personal homes. The largest tourist area is known as the village, which encompasses shops, restaurants, pubs, museums, visitor centers, movie theater, public library, ski lifts and a number of overnight accommodations. The village does a good job with access due to it being the hub for the 2008 Olympics/Paralympics and updates were required. Sometimes it may take a minute or so to figure out where the ramp is but they are all over but just in case here is the map that shows where all the access points are in the village. Now the reason to come to Whistler is not the village, it is more of a rest area in between outdoor activities. On the West Coast Sightseeing Tour to Whistler, we were given about three hours to check out area, which was by far not enough time but it gave me a great idea on what the area is all about and what there is to do. I would definitely recommend staying overnight for at least one night. West Coast Sightseeing Tours can even arrange to pick you up the next day for the same fee.
Not too far from the village is easy access to the valley floor trails. The accessibly paved trail runs 25 miles (40 km) around the golf courses, bike jumps, a skatepark, streams and trees on the valley floor. Only one section of the trail is not paved but is packed natural material. A number of sections of the trail have moderate hills but the majority is almost level. If you are looking for more of a thrill then you have come to the right place. How about bungee jumping in your chair off a bridge? At Whistler Bungee, many wheelchair users have taken the plunge. As long as they can get a harness on you then you can roll off or be pushed off. Watch this video of Rick Hansen taking the big jump. Otherwise, whistlerforthedisabled.com and whistleradaptive.com have great information on accessible outdoor activities throughout the year, including a tour through glaciers on a seaplane.
Since Whistler set one of the main stages for the 2008 Vancouver Olympics/Paralympics, it has continued with its mission of not only accessibility but inclusion for all. More developments are underway as Whistler moves to be the premier mountain resort community for the abled and disabled. Visit whistler2020.ca for the vision, plan, process and actions.
On the way on the tour guide allows you to just enjoy the ride with a little commentary. One stop was made a visitor center where you could collect some information, buy a souvenir, use the restroom or get some coffee. The driver was always willing to operate the ramp at every stop. When the bus got closer to downtown the driver arranged for another bus to meet part of the group so everyone would get dropped off at their hotels quicker, which was a nice touch. The quality of service was professional and well received. The tour to Whistler is not the only day trip offered by the company. In addition to Whistler, West Coast Sightseeing goes to many more of the major attractions in Vancouver, like Grouse Mountain, the Butcharts Gardens and Victoria as well as around the most popular attractions right in Downtown Vancouver. So whatever you are up for, depending on how long your stay is, you may want to consider taking a tour with West Coast Sightseeing.