Patricia and Blain Pouliot are a lucky couple who have created a booming business out of their passion: ATVing on Vancouver Island. They are the owners, tour guides and hosts of West Coast Edge ATV Adventures in the Alberni Valley and Tofino. “A passion for the outdoors is how it started,” said Patricia. “My husband and I went out fishing and hiking all the time, so we decided to buy an ATV to explore further. We just love it so much.”
Starting a trend
Their passion for exploring the outdoors was apparently contagious. “We started a bit of a trend,” Patricia said. None of their friends had ATVs when the couple purchased their first machine in 2007. Excited after each ride, they would tell their friends in the Alberni Valley all about their days outdoors.
“The next thing we knew, we had friends purchasing equipment,” she said. “They wanted us to take them with us to show them the places we were riding.”
After becoming expert riders in the area, and already giving tours to their friends, it was a natural transition to open Vancouver Island’s only ATV tour company in 2012. They give visitors a wild Island experience on Polaris RZR 4-seaters.
The ATV season in the Alberni Valley extends as long as the snow doesn’t fall, but the summer is the busiest at West Coast Edge. Now, Patricia and Blain ride almost every day with clients from mid-June to the end of August. “It’s not common for us to get out leisurely now,” Patricia said. The family sneaks in rides between tours, or they ride to their private property on Henderson Lake to prep for overnight visitors.
Must-see spots on the Island
ATVing is a sport that people as young as five and as old as 80 can participate in, granted an appreciation of the outdoors—and maybe a few speed bumps. Steep grades and rocky sections lead to panoramic views.
“You just don’t get to see Vancouver Island from that vantage point unless you are out there ATVing,” Patricia said. To the Pouliot family, the terrain and views are normal. Anyone from the mainland is “absolutely wowed by the terrain we travel on, and the views we hit.”
“We have some of the best terrain on Vancouver Island for riding,” Patricia said. Her family loves riding through Vancouver Island’s wilderness, through old-growth forests and wide valleys, and up mountain peaks. “There’s a peaceful serenity,” she said.
The Island’s lakes are her favourite. “I love when we are at lakes that no one else knows about or can even get to. I love the water.” On the Island, there are remote lakes, trickling rivers and waterfalls everywhere. Often, wildlife lingers near by.
Their Henderson Lake loop offers especially beautiful views. They start tours at Sprout Lake, moving through the Nahmint Valley to finally explore the Henderson Valley.
“That area is vast and open to anybody,” Patricia said. “If anyone wanted to just take a day and go, they could go for multiple days because there is so much land.”
West Coast Edge offers multi-day tours with their Henderson Lake property as the home base for up to 10 guests. Patricia recommends the Tofino area as well for visitors who want to catch Virgin Falls in Tofino’s backcountry. When it starts to snow in the Alberni Valley, the mild climate of Tofino and Ucluelet means it is often still warm enough to ride.
ATVing around Alberni
Vancouver Island has yet to recognize ATVing as a sport. Unfortunately, they haven’t been granted a complete trail system yet.
The local ATV enthusiasts are working on this issue, but “there is still an endless amount of opportunity for exploring,” Patricia said. Local riders typically know where to go, but use back road maps when exploring.