By Julia Magsombol 

Local Journalism Initiative 

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They say when you appreciate the little moments in life, you feel more connected with others. That’s how Sandy Ward feels, an Indigenous snowboarder who empowers others through her talent.

Ward is a member of the Lil’wat Nation. She started snowboarding when she was 15, and it has been nearly 20 years since she has been carving up the snow.

A couple of years ago, the First Nation snowboard team contacted her to join their crew and train for the Olympics. She loved it, but there were times that she felt lonely as she knew she was the only Indigenous snowboarder at that time.

“I didn’t really feel like I belonged there, and I felt like what I was doing wasn’t traditional enough,” Ward said.

Her perspective changed when she joined Indigenous Women Outdoors — an organization that helps bring Indigenous women together and excel in outdoor sports activities.

“It’s not about racing to the top to get to the peak as fast as I can. It’s about enjoying where I am —- looking into the forest, smelling the forest, feeling the forest, and just enjoying the way up just as much as the way down,” Ward explained.

She has also been using her knowledge to teach other women not just how to improve their skills on the mountain but to reconnect with their culture.

Tom Smith, the founder and coach of the sports programs at Columbia Lake Recreation Centre (CLRC), commented on how he is proud of Ward’s achievements.

“I believe that sport is for everyone regardless of their background, and the benefits go far beyond just physical,” he said.

As a coach, Smith knows how amazing different athletes are and how inspiring they can be with their passion. He is proud of the people he is currently coaching, especially the youths in the valley.

“It’s great to see how Ward’s  passion for snowboarding has helped her to connect more with her Indigenous culture and empower other women to do the same.”

Smith said it’s “really beautiful to see that growth, not just in [women’s] skills, but finding who they are and where they come from.”

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