Cyril Cote, is a ski maker from St Gervais, Haute-Savoie.
Wood is a noble material which makes me feel close to nature and close to the environment. That feeling and that sense of awe is the same feeling I have when I’m in my workshop and I can watch Mont Blanc while I work. Everyone knows Mont Blanc. I’m so proud of the fact that I can craft hand-made wooden skis at the foot of such a revered and important mountain.
I first skied when I was three years old and woodwork has been one of my lifelong interests, so it was only natural for my two passions to eventually come together. My love for woodworking was inspired by my grandfather. He was a carpenter and I used to watch him work and tried to tinker with him. When I met Mr Tardy, it was like I was a small boy again, back in my grandfather’s workshop. Mr Tardy wanted to see someone carry on his work and after nine months of watching and learning under his careful eye, I finally mastered his meticulous and beautiful craft. It wasn’t easy, but I wanted to get it right, to carry on the legacy that he worked so hard to build. These days, my favourite wood to make skis with is ash, because it’s flexible and resistant. I try to make my product as environmentally friendly as possible. It gives me great satisfaction to know that my products ‘trace’ the mountains.
I first came to St Gervais with a close friend, who found me a job in a restaurant here. It was a good opportunity and I’ve always lived in the mountains, so I stayed and fell into the rhythm of life here. Later I met the mother of my baby girl and now, it’s home. Not only does it feel like home, it’s also the perfect place for my work because skiing is such a common thread among people here. For many of them, it’s also their work. Seeing my skis and the way they are made is something different for them and something I can share with people. My daughter will be on the skis soon as well. It’s part of her community and part of where she lives but with a grandfather who is a ski instructor, and a dad who makes skis, it’s also part of her heritage. That’s what I love about these mountains, they bring together people who live here, but they also have a way of binding generations and families together.
The real power of the mountains is in the way they can make you feel so small. We can adventure out and up and feel completely isolated, facing the glacier. We can admire a sunset from the top of Mount Joly. It feels like a secret garden and I’m always being surprised. Just when I think I’ve found my favourite thing about the mountains, I find something completely fresh that gives me an entirely new perspective. Going out and looking at the mountains helps to change your frame of mind, and recharge your batteries. When I go out, I stop, I admire, I breathe, and I'm good for another couple of hours of work.
My perfect day in St Gervais would be a day filled from start to finish with skiing, taking in all these beautiful mountains have to offer at the same time. From St Gervais, take the DMC cable car to Mount Joly, then you can make your way down to St Nicolas to drink a vin chaud. From there, it’s a short trip to the thermal bath, before ending the day at the torchlight descent. That’s the perfect day and one I love sharing with my family and friends. My friends are quite amused by my work, making these skis the old-fashioned way and putting my heart and soul into each piece of wood, each ski. They think it’s a little farfetched that I’ve chosen this path. But to me, it’s not 'just' work, it’s become my entire lifestyle. It’s too important to me to ever let that go.
My friends are quite amused by my work, making these skis the old-fashioned way and putting my heart and soul into each piece of wood, each ski.