Wednesday, July 18, 2018

One family, one sporty Whistler vacation

By Louise Kinross

Carol Eastwood wanted to go on a family trip with her husband and two sons. “I have a 27-year-old son and a 20-year-old son who uses a wheelchair, and I wanted all of us to go on a trip where no one would be left out,” she says.

Carol’s son Ian Steadman, 20, like the rest of the family, is a sports fanatic. He studies sports management at Niagara College, plays sledge hockey with the Halton-Peel Cruisers, swims competitively with the Milton Mighty Tritons, and loves wheelchair basketball and nordic skiing.

In 2010, Ian and his mom were in Whistler, B.C. to watch the Paralympics and Ian rented an alpine sit-ski for the day from Whistler Adaptive Sports Program. “I fell in love with Whistler then,” Ian says.

Carol heard that Whistler Adaptive had summer programs and decided to organize a week’s long family trip around them.

Last month they flew to Vancouver and rented a van to drive up to Whistler, where they stayed in an accessible condo in the upper village. It had a paved, accessible path down to the village.

The family was able to rent all of their regular and adapted equipment—for hiking, biking and kayaking—through Whistler Adaptive. “We wanted to do these sports because we could do them together,” Carol says. “If we couldn’t do something together, we didn’t want to do it. 
The program also provided wonderful volunteers who were experts in each adapted sport and knowledgeable about the area as well. 

They began with hiking. The family met Whistler Adaptive at a sports complex where they picked up a trail rider they were renting for Ian (see photo below). It’s like a chair on one wheel with metal attachments at the back and front that can be pushed and pulled by volunteers. Think “chariot!” Carol says. Two volunteers were provided, but Ian’s brother John decided he’d like to help and push.

“I enjoyed the experience of being on the mountains and the trails, especially since it’s something I might never have been able to do,” Ian says. “It was a reclining chair and I held onto the sides for support. The volunteer knew all about the history of Whistler and the mountains and of a train wreck there.”

On another day, the family went kayaking. They met the folks from Whistler Adaptive at Alta Lake. “There was an accessible path down to the dock, where a kayak volunteer and all of our kayaks and protective rain gear were ready to go,” Carol says. Ian used a tandem kayak with the volunteer and the family spent about two hours exploring the lake.

“Because I wasn’t supporting Ian, I could really relax and enjoy the activity,” Carol explains. “That’s the thing about this trip—we could all enjoy the activities.”

Next, the family took an accessible gondola up Blackcomb mountain. “You just wheel in, like an elevator,” Carol says.

At the top, Ian and his brother John decided to take the Peak 2 Peak gondola with a glass floor across to another mountain. “My mom doesn’t like heights,” Ian explains.

Ian’s favourite activity was biking. The family was outfitted with bikes at a bike shop, including a hand bike for Ian.

“On our first day, Daniel, a director at Whistler Adaptive, took us out and showed me how to use it,” Ian says. “It had gears as well as a speed-control assist machine that I could turn on for certain hills.”

“I saw how fast he was going on it, and I was having conniption fits,” Carol says. “I thought you were going to wipe out, but you never did. It was great to see my two boys doing an activity together at the one who has got the ability’s speed and level.”

The brothers liked it so much that they went out on their own the following day. “I haven’t been on a bike in a while and it was nice to experience something just with my brother,” Ian says. “It was intense. We went round the lake six or seven times.”

Renting adapted equipment is a bit more expensive than regular equipment, Carol says. “I think the hand bike was about $45 and our bikes were $20 each.”

After a day of activity the family went back to their condo to shower and head out for dinner. They strolled along a paved path from their condo to the village, where the restaurants, hotels and boutiques were accessible. “Everyone seemed to be comfortable dealing with wheelchairs,” Carol said.

Ian hopes to apply to volunteer or work at Whistler Adaptive next summer. “He was so pumped at the opportunities for having a disability yet working in the field of sports—whether abled or disabled,” Carol says. “They were integrated.”

Carol says booking a trip before the high-season in July made it more affordable. She was also able to get her Air Canada air ticket covered by going as Ian’s attendant.