Paolo Bellini is a ski coach, sports psychologist, nutritionist and co-founder of Vertikal Snow Sports offering skiing and snow boarding lessons on huge inclined moving ski slopes. It’s a whole new way of working on your technique without the cold!
Paolo was after a rustic alpine look and opted for our Rough Sawn Oregon Cladding to line the bar and our dense brown hardwood for the interior walls. Salvaged from a decommissioned nursing home in Bathurst, our recycled Oregon cladding makes a great interior feature and looks great with the old saw marks, bolt holes and remnants of whitewash.
We sat down with Paolo in his new space to hear more about his inspiration.
After a ski accident that left him in a coma, Paolo Bellini woke up on the wrong side of his hospital bed –unable to walk and angry with the world. The kid he describes seems worlds away from the guy opposite me, brimming with positive energy. The huge warehouse space is populated with a small nation of vintage ski equipment—from a chair lift to a gigantic ceiling fan fashioned from retired racing skis—set against a backdrop of reclaimed Oregon timber cladding and recycled timber furniture. It doesn’t take me long to uncover that Paolo isn’t your average ski coach.
This place is amazing...
Paolo: This table your sitting on is from recycled [sic]. This part was a door jamb, down there, that was a pallet and that box was an from the air conditioning duct.
Everybody was going, “let’s throw them out”. I said, “you don’t throw nothing out mate!”
That cladding...that was the back of it. The front would have been nice and new and smooth. I wanted it rough, with plenty of character.
So is building a hidden talent of yours or something you’ve always done?
Paolo: My Dad was a builder and I just picked it up. One day I said to my Dad, “Dad, you stink...like saw dust or something!”
“You know what that smell is?”, he said. “If I don’t smell like that, you don’t eat.”
Paolo didn’t think anything more of the exchange with his Dad until one Saturday morning when his Dad woke him up and dragged him off to work with him, against his will. He wondered (out loud) why he was being put to work instead of studying.
After about four weeks, Paolo’s Dad revealed the lesson.
Paolo: After a long day in the workshop Dad says to me “Can you smell me?”
“Smell what?”, I said.
“So you can’t smell me? Now you’ve got saw dust in your nose. That’s what work smells like”.
The lesson has stuck with Paolo. He designed and built the Vertikal ski lodge from corner to corner. This also allowed him invest in the quality materials like the Oregon timber cladding. “It’s not cheap, but it’s worth the investment in good materials,” Bellini admits.
So if saw dust smells like work, what does snow smell like?
Paolo: Heaven [laughs]. To me it’s heaven. To me it’s my life. I’m not working when I’m on there [pointing to the indoor ski slopes]...It’s my love to see people enjoying what I enjoy.
It’s also really important for me to give back. I don’t think about this place as an indoor ski centre. We have people coming in for physical rehabilitation and kids who need a bit of help to refocus.. And as a sports psychologist I’m able to get them on the slopes and connect with them through sport, in a way that someone sitting in an office couldn’t.
And how does the lodge (apres) contribute to that purpose?
Paolo: When you go out for a drink, the conversation is all about what you do for work or where you live. When you’re here in this environment, it’s all about skiing. You don’t talk about your work. You’re escaping from that and coming into another world, relaxing your mind.
So it’s kind of an environment where you can let your guard down...
Paolo: Yeh, and be who you are. We don’t have to be afraid to be honest here. We empower kids and adults with the confidence to say “I’m good at this. Take me for who I am.” That’s how you become a leader.
Sounds like you’ve created your happy place...
Paolo: Exactly. And you don’t have to buy anything in here. You can just come in and chill, and discover a new side of yourself. We’re not about business. We’re a family. I even hate calling it a business. I was in a coma for 3 months and had an amazing nurse that I was really nasty to. She persevered with me and physically forced me to read this book, called ‘Thinking Big’. She changed my life and inspired me to use my powers for good –to give back.
[In Austria] from 1989 to today it feels like you’re going back in time. Like when I was 18 or 21 when I first started over there, it’s the same thing. It feels like I’m stepping back in time. Makes me feel alive. Makes me feel my youth. And that’s what I wanted to feel here everyday.
The results are more than just a heavy dose of nostalgia though. Paolo and his family have created a place where people can come together to learn, share stories and enjoy the magic of losing yourself in time. Take a trip to Fyshwick and experience it for yourself –Vertikal Indoor Snow Sports (https://www.vertikalsnowsports.com/#home-section).
This is the first in a fortnightly series of articles featuring inspirational people and projects, called People of the Hammer. Sign-up to our newsletter below to have them delivered to your inbox.