French entrepreneur Paul Petzl, the president of Petzl – a company that supplies mountaineering equipment and work-safety gear – has been named this year’s “OutDoor Celebrity of the Year”.
This year, Messe Friedrichshafen has once again honored an important personality who has made a significant contribution to the world of the outdoors: During the OutDoor Show, the world’s leading trade fair in this industry, Paul Petzl, the president of Petzl, a company located in Crolles, France, was celebrated as the “OutDoor Celebrity of the Year 2011” on 14 July 2011.
Petzl was born in Saint-Ismier, at the base of the Dent de Crolles, a rugged mountain (2062 m high) in the Chartreuse mountain range, 20 kilometers north of Grenoble, on 5 April 1950. One of Europe’s most complex and most expansive cave systems can be found inside this mountain. Paul’s father, Fernand Petzl, was one of the first people to investigate this system of caves during the Second World War – and it became the place where modern cave exploration was born. Fernand soon began to develop caving equipment to aid in his explorations.
Paul Petzl followed in his father’s footsteps and also became an enthusiastic caving expert – but one who had decided to combine work with pleasure. Paul first used his equipment for sports climbing and mountaineering and then later in the working world for work-at-height jobs. After completing his university education, he joined his father’s company – a small-scale workshop with just seven employees at that time.
Father and son achieved a breakthrough in 1973 with the development of a new type of rope clamp and a new headlamp. In 1975, the company became a corporation and the first building was completed. A short time later, the Petzl company was attracting attention not only among the cave explorers; rock and mountain climbers were also becoming interested. Petzl invented special climbing harnesses for these new markets and designed the machinery required to produce them. In 1986, Petzl was the first company in this sector to set up its own test laboratory. The Petzl Foundation was formed in 2006 to focus on three main areas: Safety / Environmental Protection / Research Project Funding. V.axess – The Petzl Institute – was formed two years later. It is used as a research as well as a training center.
Today, Paul Petzl heads an internationally successful business for mountaineering and sports-climbing equipment and work-safety gear with sales amounting to more than € 80 million, 450 employees and a distribution network spanning 51 countries. He lives with his family at the base of the Chartreuse. One of his two sons is already part of the Petzl team.
As a true entrepreneur, he hopes that all his employees, suppliers and customers would say: “We would be happy if our children worked for Petzl – it’s a place where people get the respect that they deserve, where common values are established and lived, based on a job well done, and where the employees learn how to continue to develop by working together.”
Paul Petzl was chosen by a group of internationally leading trade journalists and representatives of this industry: Klaus Haselböck (Land der Berge, Krems/Austria), Piotr Turkot (4outdoor, Krakow/Poland), Mikko Lamminpää (RETKI – The Finnish Outdoor Magazine, Lahti/Finland), Christian Jaeggi (Black Diamond, Reinach/Switzerland), Nicolas Warchalowski (Haglöfs, Avesta/Sweden), Chris Townsend (TGO Magazine, Grantown on Spey/Great Britain), Peter Luscombe (Outdoor i, Cumbria, Great Britain), Therese Iknoian (SNEWS®, an Active Interest Media company, Grass Valley/USA) and Birgit Lutz-Temsch (Süddeutsche Zeitung, Munich/Germany).
Peter Luscombe (Outdoor i, Cumbria, Great Britain)
“An internationally acclaimed company, Petzl designs are recognised worldwide and Paul has never strayed from its core values, his commitment to product and the outdoor environment as strong today as it was all those years ago. In today’s world he remains, and continues to be the embodiment of authenticity.”
Piotr Turkot (4outdoor, Krakow/Poland)
“The name of the company, of which he is co-founder and president, is some kind of the synonym for best-quality mountain gear. For years, Paul Petzl has been involved in the development of the outdoor segment with his very good practice and business standards.”
Birgit Lutz-Temsch (Süddeutsche Zeitung, München/Deutschland)
“Petzl is very aware of his responsibility as an entrepreneur – with the Petzl Foundation he has made an important contribution to sustainable production and safety in mountain sports.”