Pierre Hotte: crazy about snow

Roche Bobois

HUSBAND, FATHER, PROFESSIONAL, MULTILINGUAL, VICE-PRESIDENT OF A BIG COMPANY: THIS IS THE PORTRAIT OF A WISE MAN WITH EXCELLENT VALUES. PERHAPS YOU CAN’T IMAGINE HIM CARVING SLOPES – ON SKIS OR A SNOWBOARD – ON MOUNTAINS COVERED WITH TWENTY FEET OF SNOW?

Looking at him you’d think he is a serious and accomplished businessman; his suit, tie, glasses, age (56) – it all fits. But he
isn’t at this photographer’s studio because of his business achievements. He’s here as an athlete. At six feet and 225 lbs., you’d likely guess being a rugby or football player, wrong, it’s skiing that gets him excited: he’s compulsive about it – “a real nut!” (that’s a quote).

A geological and civil engineer who graduated from Montréal’s École Polytechnique, he owned a business which he lost in the 80s following the economic crisis. His wife Danielle, a psychologist, didn’t say a word. Her husband got right back up in the saddle; became a road work entrepreneur and created SOTER. What’s more, he had a patent for foamed bitumen, something he had created in a research laboratory. Over the years he paved roads in countries such as Mexico, South Africa, Japan, Germany, and Australia, among others. But then copycats began going after his process, so he decided to sell his company. He went on to join forces with childhood friend Jean-Pierre Sauriol, also an engineer, to end up at Dessau, Canada’s fifth largest engineering firm with 4,700 employees in over ten countries. Hotte is Senior Vice President of International Business Development. Having visited 68 countries, he has spent a lot of time on planes and in airports. He works in Chili and Qatar; he travels in the week to be back home for the weekend because in the wintertime, you’ll find Hotte on the ski slopes.

Unlike most folks who ski down, Hotte climbs up the slopes – on skis. It’s called touring. To climb, he attaches climbing skins to his skis and removes a few layers of clothing because when zigzagging toward the top, staying dry is necessary. When he reaches the summit, he puts some layers back on, removes the climbing skins, and skis back down the mountain. Imagine getting to the top of Mont Tremblant without a ski-lift. For two hours, sometimes three, he’s in his bubble listening to his iPod Touch – music supplied by one of his two daughters (Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Plume Latraverse, and Adele).
He’s also been known to ski the runs reserved for racers. The girls are proud of their dad who really isn’t built like a skier. Sceptical onlookers who doubt that this daredevil will cut an attractive figure on such demanding runs have forgotten that Alberto Tomba was also impressively built. OK, so Tomba wasn’t in his fifties, but Hotte, a Ste-Adèle native, has been skiing since he was four. He was already a risk-taker back then; it was actually his younger brother who broke his leg. Hotte has nonetheless suffered his share of falls in fifty years. He has vertebrae that are dislocated in three places but he is not interested in reparative surgery because of his physiotherapist who he thinks the world of; Mathieu from the Club Sportif MAA pampers and trains him twice a week.

You don’t practice high-level sports without doing a bit of exercise. Hotte loves to swim – across the lake to a friend’s place for example, or cycle with a group of cycling maniacs. He’s proud of his rock-hard legs and gluteal muscles. He’s often been called fat, but he couldn’t care less. As long as he has developed the areas that count, he’s good. You need strong legs to ski down the icy slopes of the Versant Nord at Tremblant when it’s minus 30 degrees outside. That’s where his weight is a plus: he cuts into that ice as he cascades down – carefully, for himself and other skiers – at staggering speeds. His wife isn’t overly worried (they met and started dating on the ski slopes in the Laurentians). His associate (boss) sums up the situation, insisting “It’s not for a man of his age.” He leaves no room for argument, but it turns out there’s nothing to be done: Hotte has skiing in his blood.

Five years ago Hotte started a little club with four friends and named himself president. They go touring and cat skiing in the Rockies. There, on fat skis, they attack slopes so steep they’re almost parallel with the trees – and the snow can be up to thirty feet deep! They ski down the mountains as if floating on the snow. Hotte’s weight can be a disadvantage causing him to get stuck more often than the others, but since he skis faster, he avoids sinking. When he falls, getting up isn’t always easy. The teammates, armed with whistles and following a strict protocol, help each other to get back up. They also have to be wary of “tree holes” – sudden holes several feet across where there should be snow. This type of skiing is decidedly dangerous if safety rules aren’t followed. Adrenaline is always involved. It’s an indescribable intoxication!

Hotte sings the praises of winter and skiing, as every native of the Laurentians should. This interview and photo shoot took place quite a while before the start of ski season, but he brought along some skis and a snowboard (an F2, a gift from the president of Doppelmayr’s Canadian division) to the photo shoot. He also had some Blizzard, hydraulic suspension skis, one of only five pairs in Canada. He treats his equipment with care, pointing out that they weren’t the kind of things one lends out and clearly didn’t appreciate a joke about the “scrap metal”. (Evidently, they’re made of composite materials.) It’s obvious that Hotte loves skiing and ski hardware – seriously. When will he retire? He thinks with a lost expression on his face, and he appears to be moved; then he yells out, “Never I hope. I’m pretty sure it will be never. I think I’ll be able to ski for a long time. I’m training to make sure that’s the case.”

Pierre Hotte

Pierre Hotte and his GI Joes, the way he is pleased to named them: Jean-François Trudeau, Guy Laurin, Simon Gauthier, Scott Davies (guide) and Marc-André Roy. Revelstoke, BC.

Pierre climbing. Sol Moutain, BC

Pierre working hard. Sol Moutain, BCEnjoying powder skiing ! Sol Moutain, BCPierre working hard and enjoying powder skiing ! Sol Moutain, BC

The boys at the top. Mustang Powder, BCThe boys at the top. Mustang Powder, BC

PHOTOS : MICHEL CLOUTIER

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