Marc Gostoli, from La Plagne, is the founder of Antenne Handicap in La Plagne
I was lucky to have been born into snow. My father moved us all to La Plagne the year I was born to open the resort’s first outdoor sports shop. I grew up in this beautiful place and have been here my entire life.
To live this remotely in the mountains breeds creativity. Specialist shops and stores are hours down the valley so solving everyday problems with what you have around you is essential. These conditions gave me a passion for mechanics and continue to fuel my work.
You form strong bonds with the people around you and there’s a great sense of solidarity amongst the community. This can be seen in my early inventions: I purposed and repurposed a lot of old mountain equipment to finally achieve my designs. For me, my work is definitely the fruits of mountain life.
The environment has certainly shaped my character on the outside but over time you’ll discover a much more gentle person. 10 years ago a big guy (over 6ft 2 and 16 stone…) came into my office for work. Up until that point, he’d only heard my voice, but when we met he was surprised and explained that my certainty and confidence over the phone had led him to believe I would tower over him.
What I love about this life is being able to share my joy of skiing and the mountains with people who would never normally have dreamed of experiencing it. To see the happiness on the face of a boy who is wheelchair-bound when he discovers he can ski standing up is truly amazing. There are such optimism and positivity in the people that come to visit me.
The Winter Olympics influenced the area and me greatly. In La Plagne, we have an old style bobsleigh course from the 1992 Games that visitors can enjoy. The 92 Games were also the first Paralympic Games, which is where my life changed.
In 1995, I set up the Antenne Handicap association in La Plagne.
One of my main achievements was to create the “Trottiski” a machine that mechanically reproduces the eight movements that are essential for skiing. It was initially created to allow disabled skiers to ski upright.
I really wanted to make sure disabled skiers could get the same feelings non-disabled skiers felt. I wanted to push back against the limits of their handicap and, above all, help them be as independent as possible on the mountain.
After thoroughly analysing the technique of skiing, I realised the “Trottiski” could also be used by beginners so they could learn by perception rather than mimicry. Some ski schools have actually already started using the concept. I also asked European Cup skiers to test the machine, and they’re now using it to refine their body position. A freestyle version and an extreme ski version are currently being developed. I hope it will be like the invention of the television remote control which was originally designed for disabled users but is now used by everyone!
One of my latest inventions uses gravity to transport materials in the form of a rescue chair that is revolutionising the use of the traditional snow patrollers’ sledge. And I created a snow wheelbarrow for transporting food or equipment.
On a clear day, the face of Mont Blanc shines brightly on the horizon. Staring at that view with the sun on my face, I know the day will be beautiful and enriching. I can’t think of a more inspiring place to work.
My friends always joke that I’m always on the go. “Mr. 2000 volts” they call me, skiing while eating, taking phone calls while running, spend one day with me and you’ll learn how to do many things at the same time. It’s how this resort was born, by many people doing many things at the same time; it’s the history of this valley
What I love about this life is being able to share my joy of skiing and the mountains with people who would never normally have dreamed of experiencing it.
Photos : Alexander J Collins.