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Meet the disabled piste basher

Antoine Motillon
Antoine Motillon Image credit: telegraph.co.uk

Clearing snow can be on hell of a job, but for Antoine Motillon it’s all in a day’s work regardless of a condition which some small narrow-minded people may believe would hold him back.

Antoine was left paraplegic after a serious motorbike accident in 2004 when he was 20. But the crash only spurred him to achieve lifetime goals…Such as learning how to fly a glider and becoming the first paraplegic flying instructor for new pilots in France.

Whilst gliding above the mountains Motillion noticed his dream job was right below his feet. He wanted to be a piste-basher.

Realising this was the career path he wanted to take Antoine contacted Kassbohrer – a manufacture for the snow ploughs used at the Handiski ski resort.

“From the first meeting, they were interested in the challenge,” Motillion told The Telegraph. “They suggested some ideas for adapting the vehicle and then invited me to the Salon of Mountain Professionals in Grenoble with the hope of meeting some resorts.”

After meeting the team at the event Antoine was invited on a six-week trial course over the winter period of 2016/17 by the Société des 3 Vallées (S3V) team.

“The trial was partly to see how it worked out with their existing team, to see if I could do it, but also to see if I actually liked the work,” Motillon said.  

“It’s completely different from other jobs because we work through the night, when everyone else is asleep, but we get to see the beautiful nights, starry skies, animals and incredible sunrises.”

He did so well Antoine landed a full-time role for winter 2017/18.

The new employee didn’t come cheap for the company as they had to spend €100,000 (£89,600) to make reasonable adjustments on the groomer replacing the steering wheel with a stick, installing an accelerator which is controlled by hand instead of feet and a hydraulic arm to make sure Antoine could manoeuvre himself to and from his wheelchair and the driving seat.

The Handiski ski resort doesn’t just lead the way employing disabled people, it also offers a dedicated learning area for budding skiers with a disability and a third of the lifts are fully accessible.

Speaking about the facilities which the centre offers head of the Service des Pistes in Courchevel, Herve Tuaz, said: “It is a message for society in which everyone can have their place,” he believes. “It’s another look at disability, more human, more dignified.”

Antoine added: “Courchevel and S3V have already given advice to other resorts, so if there’s ever a driver who has an accident he can keep driving.”

“It is about equality but for me it’s also part of being able to forget about being handicapped. Back at base, I’m in a wheelchair, but out here on the slopes I’m driving one of these machines just like everyone else.”

For more information about skiing for disabled people visit the Disability Snowsport website.