Peter Steltzner : dreams are made of hard wood

Three years after the fired which ravaged the old saw mill in Les Praz, Bruno Compagnet and Layla Jean Kerley wanted to present one of its main protagonists, Peter Steltzner, alias Rabbit on the Roof, maker of made to measure wooden skis. For the moment, it is time for rebuilding the workshop in this old building which he shares with the mountaineer and artist Andy Parkin. In spite of the fire which destroyed his place of work and home, this Californian, who spent many years in Montreuil before moving to Chamonix, has never stopped his work. Today, after a lot of uncertainty about the sustainability of the site, the future seems to have expelled the fumes and clarified the horizon for Peter and his partner Anati. The one whose accordion sings enthusiasm in the face of adversity.

Layla Jean Kerley

The story began in March 2006, at the summit of the La Meije cable car where a small village of exhibitors and crafts people had arranged themselves around an imposing tipi. I was soon to meet the one who was at the origin of those very beautiful wooden skis, a pair of which had caught my eye at the Grands Montets the previous winter. The man who stood before me with his modest production of snow planks had the air and banter of an enthusiast who masters his subject. The logo of the Rioboy marked with a red iron on the skis is similar to a message between the initiated. One doesn’t choose the oldest known representation of a skier discovered deep inside a Norwegian cave by chance. A firm worker’s handshake, a few words and we went off to ski. There is no more direct way to get to know the heart of a person and one descent was enough for us to become friends.

Layla Jean Kerley

Autumn 2007, I went up to the capital. With a bit of time on hand, I decided to contact Peter who had told me about his workshop in Montreuil. I was curious to visit his “production site” in this still popular suburban town. I was to find an enchanted world. The workshop’s vocation was that of bending wood for furniture, the fabrication of sulkies for harness racing and … water skis. A colossal press not much different from those commonly used for skis was like a throne in the midst of other machines. The jets of inopportune vapour provoking the escape of a multitude of angora rabbits. There I as plunged into a universe style Jean Genet (author) while I was introduced to Manuel, a worker, Spanish by origin, who had fled to Paris to avoid Iberian persecution. Listening to them discuss impenetrable technical points , I felt more and more as if I’d been rushed into a scenario. I profited from a pause in the conversation to ask why there were so many rabbits there. Peter told me that when he took over the workshop, Malien, a friend had given him a buck rabbit. Then, later on he inherited a doe. A few frenetic copulations later and the roof of the workshop the scene of the frolicking, the name for the skis had been found. Later in the day, we lunched for a few euros in an African centre. I was, by then, far away from everything.

Layla Jean Kerley

July 2010, through the game of contacts and energies, Peter ended up installing himself in Chamonix. It is a subject that we have discussed, for him as for myself, despite the magic of his Parisian life, it was obvious that his small business could only flourish and expand at the foot of a mountain. So, if you want to attempt an adventure, you might as well choose the most prestigious one, with its frenzy of people passing through and its potential for customers. Once the step had been taken, Peter gradually made a name for himself. In a world where brands utter their image in every way, authenticity has become a desired value. He has benefitted greatly from the press and I am very happy about his success. Things seemed to be going well, until I learnt while travelling that the Mill had burnt down. The image of Peter in front of the inferno of his home and workshop remains installed as an imaginary memory.

Layla Jean Kerley

Today, Peter has restarted production and revived his press. The sum of the work and courage which he showed in order to get there could only be his. He saved what he could. A fervour of solidarity from dozens of people from Chamonix and friends boosted his spirits. He housed the press, cleaned and repaired it bolt by bolt. He built and fitted out a small caravan so as to stay near the workshop. Chasing from his spirt the loss of all his raw materials collected over the years, he started to rebuild his stock of noble wood. His press, ageless, but as valiant as ever is placed facing a forest, beyond a wall ripped open by the fire. It is in working order, smoking at everything in sight.

Layla Jean Kerley

The image of the phenix rising from the flames naturally comes to mind. A timid beast whose know-how forged by hours of work and unwavering passion shapes non-standard sliding machines. Planks born of wood and which become skis between his hands with an unique DNA. The poetry is both real and diaphanous, following the free race of the culture of sliding, of which Peter is a part.

Articles associés


Love in the time of Corona


A foursome for Easter weekend


Skiing as a therapy