Vancouver Outdoor Community Spotlight: Arron Vickery of Sea to Sky Gondola

Arron Vickery guiding a school group at the Sea to Sky Gondola

Arron Vickery guiding a school group. Photo: Sea to Sky Gondola/

Have you thought about turning your love of the outdoors into a career? Arron Vickery did just that and now works at Squamish’s Sea to Sky Gondola conducting safety patrols, leading hiking tours, and creating new trails. We chatted with Arron about his passion for guiding and exploring around the Sea to Sky Gondola.

“I’ve always had a love for the outdoors,” Arron explains. “Originally I went out and got a BA in outdoor recreation leadership because I wanted to work outside… From there, I became an accredited guide through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. Then I got hired here at the gondola… I started two weeks before the gondola opened in 2014. I’ve been here since the beginning.”

Today Arron’s official title is Patrol/Guide. He explains “On the patrol side of things I’m responsible for all guest and worker safety. I do all the first aid and rescues that have to occur up here. When I’m not wearing my superhero cape, then I’m guiding. In the wintertime, we do snowshoe tours. I also do all education tours for the school groups that come up. In the summer we do private hiking tours and daily education tours.”

The trails in the Sea to Sky Gondola’s network are open to visitors to explore on their own. But going with a guide like Arron can enrich your experience. “If you do them unguided, there’s an interactive story element that you miss out on. You wouldn’t have gotten the talk about each peak you can see, where we get our drinking water from, what’s over there, what’s that sound, what animal is that, what bird is that… So you get a better experience, you get more information, you don’t have to worry about getting lost, and if anything goes wrong, we’ll look after you. So it’s a win-win all around.”

In the winter Arron and his fellow guides offer two snowshoe tours each day, one of which is a headlamp-lit twilight tour. In the summer you can go on guided hiking tours or join a free walking tour along the Spirit Trail where you’ll learn about local plants, animals, and mountains. They also offer educational programs designed for school groups focused on themes like flora and fauna, engineering, and wilderness safety.

Headlamp snowshoe tour at the Sea to Sky Gondola

Headlamp snowshoe tour. Photo: Sea to Sky Gondola/Keegan Pearson Photography

The mountains around the Sea to Sky Gondola are pretty spectacular, so it’s no surprise to hear that Arron thinks of them as his second home. “When you’re proud of something as much as I am, it doesn’t feel like work,” he explains. “It feels like play. My job is to take people on adventures and show them how cool it is up here… And when they get excited about it, it’s almost like a give and take of energy between guides and clients… I can relive the experience afresh through their eyes.”

Many people don’t realize how many hiking trails are accessible from the Sea to Sky Gondola. “A lot of times we get people up here who buy their ticket, they ride up, they walk across the bridge, and they think that’s it,” Arron says. “But there’s a whole world out there that few people explore. There’s the Panorama Trail, which is fully accessible for everyone – at least walk that.” There are also six easy front country trails and six more challenging backcountry trails, including the Sea to Summit Trail that climbs from the parking lot to the top of the gondola.

Summit lodge at the Sea to Sky Gondola

The Summit Lodge and viewing deck at the Sea to Sky Gondola. Photo: Destination Vancouver/Sea to Sky Gondola/Paul Bride

But if you are going to venture onto the hiking trails, Arron wants to make sure you are prepared. In his role as doing emergency patrols, he encounters a lot of hikers who are in over their head. “People don’t look at how long it is, or what they need to bring,” he says. “They did no research. And then they got stuck, they got lost, they’ve been on the trail for 9 hours, they’ve got no food, no water, they’re wearing flip flops. I don’t know if they think – oh, because there’s a lift here, it’s like Disneyworld and nothing can wrong. But it’s still the backcountry and things can go wrong.”


Learn More About the Sea to Sky Gondola

Located in Squamish, about halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, the Sea to Sky Gondola whisks you from sea level to their base camp high above Howe Sound. Enjoy incredible views from the deck, walk across the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, or enjoy a snack from the cafe or a meal from the Sky Pilot Restaurant.

Bring your hiking boots to check out the nearby trails. The Spirit Trail and Panorama Trail are short and easy options for everyone. More experienced hikers have lots of backcountry trails to choose from. And of course, guides like Arron will make your experience more informative and enjoyable on a hiking or snowshoe tour.


Arron’s Favourites

We also asked Arron to give us his recommendations for outdoor adventures around Vancouver.

Arron’s Favourite Vancouver Area Outdoor Destination: “Al’s Habrich Trail [at the Sea to Sky Gondola] is phenomenal. You get a full variety of everything: You get awesome views, no matter where you are on the trail. You get a little bit of rock bluffs. You get deep into the trees. You get the alpine flowers and meadows. If you go in August there are blueberries everywhere. It’s not an easy trail, but it’s not that hard, even for my family that comes from flat Ontario.”

Arron’s Favourite Spot for Apres: “There’s a little taco trailer outside A-Frame Brewing [in Squamish] called Luz Tacos. I love it because you can hit A-Frame and get local beer, and then you can also get a great burrito.”

Arron’s Outdoor Advice for Beginners: “Just always do a little bit of research. Find out how long the trail is, how difficult it is. If you’re new to hiking don’t choose something long and hard. Start with something easier. And always carry the 10 essentials.”

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