Skip to main content

'It's magnificent': Rocky Mountain Adaptive hosts week-long camp in Kananaskis, Alta.


It's a week-long getaway to William Watson Lodge in Kananaskis, Alta., for people living with disabilities and their families.

This is the fifth year Rocky Mountain Adaptive (RMA) has hosted the camp.

When it started, about 40 people participated but this year, 90 are taking part and another 60 had to be turned away because there wasn't enough space available.

Irene Hutchens, a bike instructor with RMA, says families are having a great experience at the mountain park and the lodge, which was renovated in 2022.

"I've heard people say that this is more accessible than their own homes," she said.

"We have a staff member, he rolled in and he's like, 'I want to live here -- I can actually reach the light switches.' We don't even realize how amazing that is -- all the tabletops are low, everything is low for everyone to reach it, the lifts are incredible, families say that they've never experienced anything like it."

Families participate in a variety of accessible events at camp from paddle sports to kayaking.

They also get to mountain bike along the 12 kilometres of paved accessible trails starting at the lodge.

"I've heard people say that they don't even feel paralyzed anymore," Hutchens said.

"They get on these bikes, they get in these kayaks, they get on the trail riders and they say, 'I feel free,' and that is just this huge experience and I feel so grateful I get to do it."

Becky Webb, team lead at William Watson Lodge, says the Alberta government invested more than $6 million to enhance visitor experience as well as to bring the facility up to today's accessibility standards.

"William Watson Lodge is a year-round, barrier-free facility. It includes 22 accessible cabin units -- one-, two- and three-bedroom," she said.

"We have a campground with a small comfort cabin, as well as our main lodge here that day groups can come and enjoy, members of the public can come and enjoy, a fully accessible games room for those with disabilities (located in the) main lodge that includes a commercial kitchen facility, as well as a library with books, games and puzzles."

Julie Rubin is attending this year with her son Kaleb, who will be five in October.

Kaleb likes the outdoors but needs a little help exploring and is riding in a BowHead electric tricycle operated by Darya Sepandj, who is an RMA summer programmer.

Joining them are Rubin's youngest son Henry and husband Brian Banderk.

The family is enjoying everything the camp has to offer.

"It's magnificent. Accommodation is fully adapted and accessible, so it's been so great not to worry about stairs or the shower," Rubin said.

"Everything is set up perfectly for us and to have access to the lodge as well, where you get to interact with lots of other families in kind of similar situations, and Rocky Mountain Adaptive staff are so accommodating, friendly, so supportive, so empathetic -- they're great."

Ross Billings doesn't have the use of his legs and is on an assisted tricycle, riding the trails around the lodge.

He's always enjoyed the outdoors and wasn't sure he'd ever get the chance again after his injury.

"At one time, I thought, 'Well, that's it -- let's kind of move on,'" he said.

"This has been the experience that's kind of brought me back to actually seeing there is some potential to do something, you know, albeit in a different way of trying to access (the mountain parks)."

You can learn more about Rocky Mountain Adaptive at Top Stories

Stay Connected