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‘He had time for everybody’: Remembering Steve 'Cuz' Cousins

The long-time Spicy Sports owner died suddenly on Nov. 2 at age 61
Friends, employees and riding buddies are remembering longtime Spicy Sports owner Steve “Cuz” Cousins for his kindness and adventurous spirit. Cousins died suddenly on Nov. 2.

Julian Base first met Steve “Cuz” Cousins in the late ’90s. As Base recalled, he was working as a sales rep for Nordica at the time, while Cousins was an owner of Spicy Sports, the ski, snowboard and e-bike rental and repair outlet that first opened its doors in the Le Chamois Hotel at the base of Blackcomb Mountain in 1992.

But in recent years, the friends’ meet-ups started taking place not in Cousins’ rental shop, but on the trails, long after most Whistler businesses had closed for the day.

“Over the last couple of years, we've been mountain biking together, and mountain biking at, like midnight, or 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. and hanging out and chatting,” Base explained.

“I’m super busy all the time and I have kids and a wife, so [finding time to ride] is just really hard for me. We got into e-bikes and Cuz said, ‘Well, we’ll just ride after the kids go to bed!’” Base said with a laugh. “He's a crazy night owl. And we go way out in the mountains—like, we go for hours, and there’s nobody out there but wildlife and animals. But you feel safe with him because he's—well, he was—super huge.”  

With a height measuring closer to seven feet than six, Base described Cousins as “a beast of a man” in stature, but “a gentle giant” in demeanour.

“Cuz was the person that, I would say, cared about everyone,” Base explained. “He had time for everybody. He always had time to listen.”

Cousins died suddenly on Nov. 2, after suffering a heart attack. He was 61 years old.  

The long-time Spicy Sports owner was born and raised in Sarnia, Ont., where, as his brother Stuart remembered in a Facebook post, he excelled more as a championship-winning lacrosse and hockey player than as a student. Eventually, Cousins' “restless spirit” drew him to leave school for good in Grade 12, heading west to pursue life as a ski bum first in Lake Louise, and then in Whistler.

His adventures also took him from behind the bar at Buffalo Bill’s, to the skies in his paraglider, to the rapids surrounding Whistler with his venture C3 Rafting, and to slo-pitch diamonds where he could usually be counted on to provide a few home runs. Most importantly, Cousins’ journeying took him to Japan, where he met Sawako “Sassy” Kobayashi. The two were married in 1997 and settled in Squamish, filling their days with travelling, skiing, hockey, live music, and, of course, leading the Spicy Sports team.

Tragically, Sawako died in September 2012 after a lengthy battle with cancer. “Steve was devastated,” his brother recalled. 

In the years since, Cousins was proudly known as the sole proprietor of Spicy Sports’ two locations, as a wealth of Whistler knowledge and as “uncle” to Isshin, Ryoma, and Yamato Chiyasu.

“Everybody knows him,” said Base. “Of all the business owners I know, he would be one of the ones most connected to his employees, and most concerned about their welfare.”

Will Naylor, Spicy’s sales and marketing manager, can attest to that. He worked for Cousins for the last decade, but said some members of the team have been around for even longer.  

Cousins often spoke about wanting to treat the rental and retail outlet like a family and always went above and beyond for his employees, Naylor explained in an email to Pique. “In recent years, particularly during the lockdowns and pandemic, he really showed this was true. Keeping us employed full time when other shops were closing, keeping us all safe in the shop, and putting our needs above that of the business,” Naylor wrote. “His presence and personality will be missed.”

In particular, Naylor remembered how “Cuz loved to give the staff gifts, particularly Christmas presents.

“Although instead of giving a gift to me, he would often give me something and say, ‘This is for your wife, make sure you share it!’ which I guess showed what he knew about the importance of family and treasuring them while they are here."

According to a social media post last Friday sharing the news of Cousins’ passing, Spicy Sports will remain a local, family-owned business, as per his wishes. “We look forward to continuing his legacy, and making him proud this winter,” staff added.

Friends are invited to the GLC this Friday, Nov. 25 to celebrate “Cuz” and to share memories from 8 p.m. to midnight.