Handcrafted wooden skis in Les Contamines
Skiing has evolved considerably since those brave souls in the early days took on the mountains with nothing more than two planks of wood and a pair of leather boots. New technologies and materials have given us ever more advanced equipment and an almost bewildering array of choices.
There are skis for everyone and all conceivable conditions these days. Whether you are a nervous novice wobbling your way down the blue runs or an advanced skier for whom no black run is quite black enough, you will find skis which suit your style and ability. But mass-produced skis lack character and their production is far from environmentally friendly.
Perhaps that is why many skiers are abandoning their Atomics and Fischers in favour of equipment with altogether more soul. There’s a unique quality to handcrafted wooden skis and you can commission your own in Les Contamines Montjoie.
Artisan Cyril Cote has garnered an exceptional reputation among those who cherish their wooden boards. He is the go-to guy in the region for beautiful skis and his business has enabled him to combine his passions for skiing, life in the mountains and woodwork. He began crafting skis after meeting local legend Jean-Louis Tardy.
Jean-Louis Tardy had been crafting wooden skis for decades and his brand Ski Bois Tardy was highly regarded. In 201, a friend of Cyril Cote bought two pairs of skis from Ski Bois Tardy in Saint-Pierre-d’Alvey. Jean-Louis was then 67 and had begun to consider the idea of passing on his skills to a younger artisan so that his brand could continue after he retired. He happened to mention this to Cyril’s friend.
When Cyril Cote, a native of Saint-Gervais, heard this, he decided to visit Tardy. Following their meeting, Jean-Louis agreed to train Cyril and to sell him the Ski Bois Tardy brand. Cyril had always skied and worked the ski lifts in the winter. His grandfather was a carpenter and had inspired Cyril’s love of working with wood. Jean-Louis Tardy had found the perfect protégé.
Mastering the craft
Cyril spent 9 months working with Jean-Louis and eventually mastered the art of crafting skis. He produced his first pair in 2012 and has never looked back. Cyril works alone, cutting ash to create stunning skis which carry the Ski Bois Tardy brand. Appreciated by connoisseurs, enthusiasts and those with environmental concerns, the skis deliver a completely different feel to mass-produced models. Absorbing the terrain with ease and travelling silently, the wooden skis provide a whole new experience.
Each pair of skis is created from ash taken from the same tree to ensure identical flexibility and characteristics. The trees are selected from the local forest and the wood is vacuum dried to preserve its qualities. Certainly beautiful and characterful, the skis are also environmentally friendly. Cyril works in ash because it is both flexible and resistant. It has veins which blacken over time to produce striking effects which complete the unique nature of the skis.
Turning full circle
Cyril Cote has now developed a snowboard prototype. This is being tested by his friends and so you can expect to see handcrafted wooden snowboards on the slopes sometime soon. He currently makes up to 40 pairs of skis each year and is seeking a larger workshop to enable him to produce many more.
Technology may be marching forward but skis have turned full circle, at least at Ski Bois Tardy. Perhaps the old timers with their wooden skis weren’t so disadvantaged after all.
Participants at this years Strateski will be treated to a free Tardy Ski test.