Eighty-year-old snowboarder finds his calling in the mountains

Eighty-year-old snowboarder finds his calling in the mountains

Eighty-year-old Ed Kozuki passes on his love of snowboarding teaching people with disabilities.

Ed Kozuki is the adventurous type.

If you’re ever at Mt. Timothy Ski Area, or one of the many hills around B.C., you might catch a glimpse of the 80-year-old Williams Lake resident flying down the slopes enjoying one of his favourite past times — snowboarding.

Kozuki picked up downhill skiing at the age of 45 when his children made the transition from cross-country skiing to downhill skiing. That lasted 15 years, until he discovered snowboarding at 60.

“I was watching those kids going boarding and I thought: ‘They’re having all the fun. I’ve got to try this,’” Kozuki said.

“I took a lesson one day and just kept on going from there.”

Kozuki’s longtime skiing friends, meanwhile, initially gave him a hard time about making the transition from skiing to snowboarding.

“They were calling it the dark side,” he joked. “Snowboarders weren’t really welcomed on the slopes back then.”

His foray into the world of snowboarding transitioned into a passion for teaching people with disabilities how to enjoy the sport.

His daughter, Kim — one of his three children — had been involved with the Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports (VISAS) based out of Mt. Washington.

“Kim was afraid of what I was going to do after I retired,” Kozuki said. “She thought I should look at some activities in the winter, so I got involved with the program.”

For the past six years, Kozuki has been travelling twice a winter to Mt. Washington to teach snowboarding to children, and veterans with disabilities through two programs: the Learn to Ski Snow Festival and the Veteran’s Festival.

“(VISAS) provided me the training over a period of time, teaching new techniques being developed and the thing is it’s for all winter sports to do with sliding — snowboarding, skiing and cross-country,” he said. “You’re assigned a student — there’s two instructors per student — and some of them have never been on sliding equipment before so you have to start from scratch. They could have a physical disability or cognitive.”

Students in the classes get free rentals, the use of adaptive and related safety equipment, half price on lift passes and insurance coverage, along with free instruction.

While he gets to spend some time on the ski hill teaching his students, his greatest reward is watching his students progress.

“We try to figure out the best way to teach them,” he said. “It’s challenging, but interesting and rewarding. You see these kids at the end of the day with a big smile on their face.”

Kozuki, meanwhile, has always been the oldest instructor in the group. He’s made friends, learned a lot and, the best part, he’s had the opportunity to board at ski hills throughout B.C. and Alberta including Lake Louise, Jasper, Whistler and Sun Peaks.

“It’s how I keep in shape,” he said. “This is recreation. It’s really about enjoyment and feeling good about your accomplishment.

“Of course we teach the skills, but the big part is to have fun, and we do everything we can to achieve that goal and make good memories.”

 

Photo submitted                                Ed Kozuki, 80, of Williams Lake works with one of his students, Nathan, during an instruction session through the Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports at Mount Washington this winter.

Photo submitted Ed Kozuki, 80, of Williams Lake works with one of his students, Nathan, during an instruction session through the Vancouver Island Society for Adaptive Snowsports at Mount Washington this winter.