William Watson Lodge – Kananaskis, Alberta

We have stayed at William Watson Lodge several times over the years. This is a really special place, nestled in the heart of Kananaskis Country, which provides year-round, barrier-free lodging for persons with disabilities, seniors and their families.

William Watson Lodge is located in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, on the edge of Lower Kananaskis Lake. It is about 25 minutes south of the Kananaskis Village on Highway 40.

THE GOOD

William Watson Lodge has 22 fully accessible cabins of varying sizes. Some are one and two bedroom units ($30 per night) and some are three bedroom units ($40 per night).  Every unit has a wheel-in shower, full kitchen, kitchen supplies, living room with pull-out sofa bed and dining table with chairs.

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Dining Table

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View of the Living Area and Dining Space

Each unit also has tracks on the ceiling for moving people from the bedroom to the bathroom. Some of the cabins are pet friendly.

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Ceiling Tracks

They are slowly replacing the older cabins with beautiful new cabins. We recently stayed in one of the new cabins for the first time and it was modern, clean and really nicely decorated. They put a lot of thought into the design of these cabins in order to make the space as easy as possible for those with mobility challenges. The ambience is very homey and it makes for a perfectly relaxing stay.

Our unit had three bedrooms. Each bedroom had two beds in it, a dresser and a window.

Our unit had two bathrooms. The first bathroom had a full bathtub, a raised toilet seat and a pedestal sink. One cool thing about this bathroom was that the shower rod holding the curtain could swing completely out of the way and then swing back to be tension fit on the wall. 

The second bathroom had a huge wheel-in shower with a built-in shower bench.

The flooring throughout the unit was laminate, making it very easy to wheel around on.

The main lodge, where guests check in and check out, also has a number of amenities. There is a large fireplace, a big deck out back, books, magazines, board games, bikes, sleds, and snowshoes for borrowing and coin-operated laundry machines.

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William Watson also has RV camp sites, an accessible comfort camping trailer and an accessible comfort camping hut. It is worth investigating all of the options if you are looking for a real wilderness experience.

Around the cabins are a number of barrier-free paved pathways and over 20km of accessible trails. In the summertime, they are completely clear and easy to traverse. In the winter, due to the volume of snow in the mountains, the pathways around the cabins are kept clear but the trails accumulate snow. People enjoy snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the network of trails that surround the lodge. There is a sit-ski available for borrowing as well as a sled for pulling those with mobility challenges through the snow. It attaches to a harness that an able-bodied person can wear in order to pull the sled behind them.

There is an accessible playground about 2 minutes down one of the main trails. In the summer, it is completely clear and easy to get to. In the winter, that particular trail is impassable in a wheelchair but relatively easy to get to on a sled or on skis.

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There are accessible picnic sites and campfire sites, so if you come with a group of people there are lots of outdoor spaces to use for gatherings. 

THE BAD

One bad thing about William Watson Lodge is that it is completely outside of cellphone range and there is no internet availability. The lodges also have no TVs, so you can feel very isolated. Once you get used to the lack of connectivity, it actually feels nice to have the time to focus on other things. We usually read lots of books when we are there and we enjoy the family time.

The cabins do not come equipped with any bedding, so you do need to bring your pillows and blankets with you. This can make for a number of trips to and from the car when you are loading and unloading. You also need to bring your own towels.

When you check in to your room, you are given a cleaning list. The cleaning tasks are less onerous than they used to be but they do expect you to help out to cut down on costs (i.e. you have to vacuum, clean all the dishes, wipe all surfaces, empty garbages, etc.). After I have finished packing, cleaning and hauling all of our stuff out to the car, I am usually pretty exhausted, but the price reflects the amount of work you have to put into your stay here.

One other thing to keep in mind is that reservations must be made pretty far in advance and there is a priority listing for bookings:

  • People with disabilities living in the province of Alberta get first priority and can make reservations up to 4 months in advance for the severely disabled (non-ambulatory, legally blind, profoundly deaf, dependently cognitively disabled). Those with less severe disabilities can make reservations 3 months in advance (semi-ambulatory, medically fragile). 
  • Alberta seniors (65 years and older) can make reservations up to 2 months in advance, space permitting.

THE UGLY

Some of the older cabins are getting a bit ugly. They are definitely cozy and rustic but the carpets, kitchens and bathrooms are showing their age. If any are available, I would recommend requesting a new cabin. 

OVERALL

Overall, William Watson Lodge is an absolute treasure. The fact that we have this amazing place right here in Alberta is really special. Everyone can enjoy the mountain parks and everything that the great outdoors has to offer and William Watson makes that possible for so many who would otherwise have difficulty finding a comfortable place to stay.   

 

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort – Fairmont, British Columbia

We stayed at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort for 2 nights in April of 2017. It took us about 3.5 hours to drive there from Calgary (we stopped for a nice lunch in Radium). The drive is very scenic and there are a number of beautiful stops along the way. 

THE GOOD

I had extremely low expectations of our room at this Resort as when I called to book it, they told me they only had one accessible room and that it had absolutely no view. They said the windows faced a rooftop and because of the terrible view it was in their “economy” room category at a rate of $100 a night. I decided we might as well try it as I couldn’t locate any other accessible options in Fairmont. 

When we arrived and had a look around, we were very pleasantly surprised! The room (number 566) was rustic, but spacious; it had a queen-sized bed and a single bed. It took us a while to figure out, but the single bed was actually adjustable so you could raise the head or feet of the bed using a remote. The kids had a blast with that!

The bathroom was large with a wheel-under sink, toilet with grab bars and a bathtub with a built-in bench. 

There was a very peaceful indoor hot tub and steam room area on the lower floor of the Resort that was accessible by wheelchair. To get to the outdoor pool, you had to go up a long, indoor ramp to get to the door that led outside. The ramp was a bit steep, but not impossible. The outdoor soaking pool was for hotel guests only. It was spacious and the view of the sunset and nearby scenery from there was really breathtaking. 

Access to the Fairmont Hot Springs, Canada’s largest natural hot springs, was just a little further down the pathway from the guest pool. The Hot Springs are open to the public but, if you are staying at the Hot Springs Resort, you can access them for free.

Wheelchair accessibility to get into the Hot Springs was questionable. There was a gate that you could go through at the top but then you would have to traverse down a large, grassy hill to get to the Hot Springs level. The men’s changeroom was accessible at the top but the women’s changeroom was down a set of stairs. Getting back up the hill after your swim would also be a major challenge. Can you imagine trying to wheel up a grassy hill soaking wet and in your swimsuit? Um, no thanks. They could definitely do some work on the accessibility of the public Hot Springs. 

This Resort had three or four food establishments to choose from and we were able to find decent food without any issues. 

The Resort provided amazingly soft bathrobes in each room. I loved the robes so much, I almost bought one for myself at the swim shop. Speaking of the swim shop, it was located adjacent to the entrance to the Hot Springs and its claim to fame is that it holds Western Canada’s largest collection of swimwear. 

THE BAD

From the bathroom pictures, above, you may have noticed how far the bench is away from the taps and shower head. It would be extremely difficult for anyone sitting on the bench to use this shower without help.

As I alluded to earlier, the view from the accessible room wasn’t great. We had 2 small windows that overlooked a rooftop. We didn’t spend much time in our room, however, so I felt it was a non-issue. 

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The Resort has a lot of stairs as there are two wings connected by a central lobby/reception area. Once we got used to where we were going and where the elevators were, it was less of an issue but we couldn’t check in at reception and then head to our room because the only way to get there inside required going up the stairs. We had to go outside, up the hill and then inside a different door. This is a relatively minor hassle in the summer but it would be a major issue in the winter. 

THE UGLY

Ugh – I will never forget this hotel stay as one of our kids injured his finger pretty badly in the bathroom door in our room. When we called the front desk to ask where the nearest hospital was, they sent one of their ski patrol personnel to our room in less than a minute. She arrived with her complete medical bag, bandaged his finger securely and gave us directions to the hospital in Invermere (about 25 minutes away). I was extremely grateful that they had someone on staff that could attend to him immediately and give us proper instructions, but the thought of it still makes me sick to my stomach. None of this had anything to do with the Resort of course but, for me, this was the only ugly part of our stay in Fairmont. 

OVERALL

This Resort is a great mountain getaway for anyone looking for a relaxing place to stay. Fairmont is pretty hilly, so be prepared for a really good workout if you are wheeling or walking outdoors. It is worth it to go out and explore as you’ll be able to take in the beautiful mountain views. If you enjoy golfing, there are several popular golf courses located in Fairmont as well.

The price of the accessible room here was really reasonable, I thought, especially considering that it included free access to the Hot Springs. I look forward to going back to Fairmont sometime soon!

Banff Park Lodge – Banff, Alberta

We have stayed at this hotel twice in the last 2 years, once for a Christmas party (November 2015) and again in October, 2016 for a conference. The Banff Park Lodge is located on Lynx Street, making it one of the more centrally located hotels in Banff. You can walk down Caribou Street to get to Banff Avenue (main shopping area) in less than 5 minutes. 

THE GOOD

The Banff Park Lodge has underground parking for its registered guests, which is nice in the mountains as you don’t have to scrape snow off of your car if you are staying in the winter. You can take the elevator in the parkade straight up to the lobby level or up to your room if you are staying on one of the higher floors. 

The wheelchair accessible room we stayed in (room 102) was very average. It had a king-sized bed and a small pull-out sofa. The room was located on the main floor of the hotel, just off the elevator to the parkade. The patio doors opened up onto a nice little outdoor area that would be a good place to sit in the summertime (or convenient if you were travelling with a dog).

The bathroom was large and had a wheel-under sink, toilet with grab-bars and a wheel-in shower. The shower was upgraded to include several different controls and the heated towel bar was a nice touch. The hotel supplied a portable shower bench.

There were two eating establishments in the hotel, one lounge area on the main level and a restaurant on the second floor. We ate at the restaurant on the second floor twice and, although overpriced, the food was good. A much better option is the famous Melissa’s Missteak restaurant across the street, which serves the best breakfasts known to man (yes, I think this has been scientifically proven). See below for photographic evidence:

There were a few shops and a hair salon located on the main floor of the hotel. The gift shop offered quite a few things, so if you forgot something, you could probably just pick it up there. 

The main floor and lobby of this hotel was completely wheelchair friendly. The sidewalks outside of the Banff Park Lodge were easy to navigate, although immediately across the street, some of the sidewalks were missing curb-cuts. 

THE BAD

The pool area was quite pretty, complete with a swimming pool, hot tub and a cooler hot tub. They also had a steam room and a very small fitness room. Unfortunately, the accessibility for this area was extremely poor. There were three steps down into the pool area from the entrance door and there were no pool lifts. The fitness room (if you can even call it that) was accessible but there was no room to manoeuver in there and no accessible machines or equipment. 

The staff at this hotel wasn’t overly helpful. When I called the front desk to ask what time the pool opened they told me 7am but 9am for kids. So I entertained the kids for two hours until 9am only to go and see a sign on the door to the pool that said the pool was open to adults at 7am and everyone at 8am.

Another example of the below-average hospitality occurred at breakfast in the upstairs restaurant. They had a big buffet set out for the conference attendees and my husband grabbed a plate and came to sit with us in the restaurant. We ordered food from the restaurant menu for the kids and myself but the kids were picking some hashbrowns off of my husband’s plate. When we got the bill, we noticed that we were charged for the breakfasts we ordered and $10 extra for a “kids buffet.” I thought that was pretty bad. If we had intended to feed them from the buffet, we wouldn’t have ordered separate meals for them.

Lastly, because we were staying two nights, housekeeping came to clean our room after the first night. I’m not really picky about that kind of thing but the effort was noticeably lacking. The garbages were emptied and the main bed was hastily made but that was it. This was how they made up the sofa bed:

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Sofa Bed Untouched After Room Cleaned

THE UGLY

While the sprayers in the wheel-in shower were kind of cool (our kids called it the car wash shower), the shower itself could have used a really good cleaning and repair job. The caulking around the shower was in bad shape and looked like it could be harbouring all kinds of grime and mould. 

OVERALL

The Banff Park Lodge is a very average hotel in a great location. Its proximity to Banff Avenue and tons of eating establishments definitely puts it higher on my list than it would be otherwise.  If you are looking for a wheelchair-friendly hotel in Banff and proximity to shopping and food is your top priority, then this one is a good choice. 

Banff Aspen Lodge – Banff, Alberta

We stayed at this hotel in the summer of 2015 for one night. After researching a number of Banff hotels and asking questions about accessibility, this one seemed to be the most cost-effective option with the basic accessibility features that we needed for a one-night stay.

THE GOOD

The location of this hotel is excellent. It is right on Banff Avenue, which is the main street that most of the shops and restaurants are located on. It is about one block away from the beginning of the main shopping district. It is also one block away from a Safeway store, which is really convenient if you need to grab some food or, in our case, some children’s Tylenol.

Our room was located on the main floor, just off of the hot tub area.

Main Floor Wheelchair Accessible Room, Room 111

Main Floor Wheelchair Accessible Room, Room 111

Our room was simple but clean. One of the nice things about the room was that there were two queen beds on different sides of the room, with the bathroom in the middle. It made the room seem very large and almost created two separate bedrooms. On the side with the patio door to the outside, there was ample room for two pack-and-play-style cribs, which the hotel supplied. Without the cribs in the room, there would be lots of space on this side for a wheelchair to move around.

Queen-Sized Bed on One Half of Room, Ample Room for Two Cribs

Queen-Sized Bed on One Half of Room, Ample Room for Two Cribs

TV, Mini-Fridge, Dresser, Coffee Maker on One Half of Room

TV, Mini-Fridge, Dresser, Coffee Maker on One Half of Room

Queen Bed on Other Side of Room, Faces Another TV and Another Dresser

Queen Bed on Other Side of Room, Faces Another TV and Another Dresser

There was a grab bar by the toilet in the bathroom and the sink was wheel-under. Our room did not have a wheel-in shower. We were okay with the bathtub for the one night so I did not inquire as to whether they had a shower bench or whether other rooms had wheel-in showers.

Bathroom in Between Two Bedroom Areas

Bathroom in Between Two Bedroom Areas

Bathtub with Grab Bar

Bathtub with Grab Bar

Toilet With Grab Bar

Toilet With Grab Bar

Wheel-Under Sink Located Outside of the Bathroom, Mirror and Hair Dryer

Wheel-Under Sink Located Outside of the Bathroom, Mirror and Hair Dryer

The hotel did not have a pool but it did have two hot tubs, which were located in the central courtyard area of the hotel. The hot tub area was open to the sky, so there was quite a nice atmosphere in there. The hot tubs were very warm, but not so uncomfortable that the kids wouldn’t go in. One of the hot tubs faced a nice, outdoor fireplace. There was also a steam room and sauna located right beside the doors leading in to the hot tub area.

First Hot Tub Located in Outdoor Courtyard

First Hot Tub Located in Outdoor Courtyard

Second Hot Tub Facing Outdoor Fireplace

Second Hot Tub Facing Outdoor Fireplace

One of the big advantages of this hotel was that the room rate came with a free breakfast. It wasn’t just a continental breakfast either! They had eggs, toast, bacon, cereal, muffins, yogurt, home-made granola, etc. The breakfast was served downstairs but there was an elevator on the main floor for access to the breakfast room.

Hallway Facing Lobby, Elevator on the Right to Go Downstairs to the Breakfast Room

Hallway Facing Lobby, Elevator on the Right to Go Downstairs to the Breakfast Room

Parking was included with our room rate as well and there was a small underground parking area and ample parking in the back (covered). We had no trouble finding an accessible stall and we had a very short walk to get inside from the outdoor parking area.

This hotel is not at all the same calibre as the Banff Springs or the Rimrock, but it was also much cheaper than those alternatives. On the weekend we stayed, the Rimrock quoted us $358 a night (with AMA) plus $18 for parking and no free breakfast. The Banff Aspen Lodge cost us $269 a night with free parking and a free breakfast.

THE BAD

The bathroom in our room was a little bit small. My husband did okay transferring on and off the toilet but he could definitely have used more room. We didn’t need a shower for the one night but I am always surprised when an “accessible” room has no wheel-in shower.

The steam room and sauna would not be accessible by wheelchair as the doors to those rooms were too narrow.

Doors to Sauna and Steam Room are too Narrow for a Wheelchair

Doors to Sauna and Steam Room are too Narrow for a Wheelchair

The outdoor patio would not have been accessible by wheelchair as there was a large lip that a wheelchair would not have been able to manoeuver over.

The Patio Doors Open to the Street, There are Some Plants and Landscaping Separating the Patio Area and the Public Sidewalk

The Patio Doors Open to the Street, There are Some Plants and Landscaping Separating the Patio Area and the Public Sidewalk

The breakfast room downstairs was accessible by using the elevator but the food was located down a couple of stairs. They had four tables on the main level where someone in a wheelchair could sit to eat. We sat on this level but I had to run up and down the stairs to get food for our table.

By far the worst thing for us was that we stayed at this hotel during a heat wave (30 plus degrees outside) and upon entering our room, we came to realize that the hotel did not have air conditioning! We wanted to sleep with the patio door open so badly but because we were on the ground floor facing the street, we thought this might not be a great idea.

Extra Fans Were Provided in the Closet, Along with In-Room Safe, Iron, Ironing Board and Hangars

Extra Fans Were Provided in the Closet, Along with In-Room Safe, Iron, Ironing Board and Hangars

THE UGLY

The only ugly thing about this hotel experience was that our room was so unbelievably hot. They supplied us with three fans, 1 of which worked and 2 of which were broken. We went to the front desk to ask if they could find us something else and they did locate a big fan for us (although it was dirty and looked to be about 20 years old).

OVERALL

Overall we were happy with this choice. The location couldn’t be beat and with the free parking and free breakfast, we felt it provided a good bang for our buck. If I had known in advance about the lack of air-conditioning, I might have requested an upper-level room with a patio door that I could leave open all night.