The Art and Soul Within Rabbit on the Roof Skis

This American ex-pat makes gorgeous, functional, and almost spiritual wooden skis by hand in Chamonix. Here’s his story.


UPDATED, BELOW.

In 1989, Peter Steltzner moved from California to Paris. There might have been a girl involved. Years went by and eventually there were rabbits.

Steltzner found his way into the art of wooden ski making on the outskirts of Paris. He lived above his shop, and, as he related it almost a decade ago, “A large part of the roof is inclined and protected in a natural way by the walls of my neighbors. A friend gave me a rabbit for my kids, and after eating a bit too much stuff in my house, he ended up there…Another friend came by one day and saw the sight, and pronounced with his charming
French accent, ‘Rabeet?, rabbeet on the roof?!’ and the name stuck. Since then, many generations of rabbits have come and gone. Especially after another friend gave me a female and voilà! The first births happened between the roof and the sub insulation, so it started ‘raining rabbits’.”

Today, he’s in Chamonix, still making making gorgeous wooden skis under the name Rabbit on the Roof, and it’s no coincidence that he brands them with the old known rock art representation of skiing, a creature that just happens to look like a rabbit.

Now in his early 50s, Steltzner has the appreciation of an apprentice who’s come into his own.

“I have been very lucky to work with old guys, very strong, hard workers, who have passed on a lot to me,” he says in this short profile by Yucca Films. “This makes me feel very emotional and to now be working with this heritage is a great feeling.”

Nobody makes wooden skis by hand—or rides them with deep-knee genuflection—for the money, the glory, or the efficiency. It’s the art of it, and the spirit.

The soul of cold objects, says Steltzner, “originates from the passion and mindset of their creators. The true value of these things resides in their soul.”

UPDATE

We’ve just learned that the building that the Chamonix building that housed Rabbit on the Roof, as well as the studio of sculptor and mountaineer Andy Parkin, burned down on December 9. The structure, called Moulin des Artistes, is thought to have been built in the 16th century. No one was hurt in the fire, but the facility was destroyed.

A fundraising campaign to help them get back on their feet has raised almost $30,000. You can contribute here.

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Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
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Showing 3 comments
  • NateK
    Reply

    so beautiful.

  • Dave Cumming
    Reply

    Great story, Steve! Love it.

  • L Dakota
    Reply

    What a quirky cool little piece on an amazing life.

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