Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Deer Valley's independence ends

Back around mid April of this year, following the merger announcement of KSL Capital Partners, Henry Crown and Company, Intrawest, Mammoth and Squaw Valley, I wondered how long the other independent ski resorts could survive.

I was thinking in particular about our local resort, Deer Valley that I suspected soon would be gobbled up by Vail Resorts, as its owners were probably tired and ready to let go of that investment as their resort had reached a certain plateau.

What's telling is that Deer Valley couldn't even sell Solitude to that multi-resort entity, a dubious, recent investment that they will have to "unload" sooner than later, to Brighton, its neighbor.

I was wrong, even though a Vail's acquisition might have saved the “skiers-only” identity of the resort. Instead, the acquiring party was KSL and company. I was wrong about Vail, but perfectly insightful about the sale of Deer Valley.

Today, most skiers patronizing that resort are wondering with justifiable terror if snowboarding will ever be allowed there (in fact, this is the only resort in the world, along with Alta and Mad River Glen to still discriminate against snowboarders).

Well, these die-hard skiers should breathe easy for another season as Deer Valley's announcement states that there is no plan to allow snowboarding “at this time”.

My sense is that skiing-only might have survived with a Vail ownership, having a snowboarding option next door at Park City, but not with these new owners that will offer a common pass along with the implicit expectation that Utah, hence Deer Valley, is open for snowboarding too.

This said, change is good most of the time, and I'm pretty certain Deer Valley will continue to do well and might even benefit a lot from that merger. I'm a skier that happens to like snowboarders, know that there are families composed of skiers and snowboarders.

Why not keep them together? Isn't it time to be a little more inclusive?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Racism and territoriality

There's a long overdue debate about racism these days in America.

For me racism is linked to territoriality and ignorance that only education, culture and travel can cure. I remember growing up in the Alps, in a tiny village, where everyone was suspicious of folks living in neighboring communities. It wasn't racism, it was territoriality, but the roots were the same.

Alpine populations disliked people from Paris, French didn't like the Swiss, Italians or Spaniards. It was subtle because it was hard to tell for sure who was what; still, detecting an accent was always a great help in performing that type of triage.

Of course, when skin colors and facial traits are different, this kind of discrimination becomes much easier! You don't need to be nuanced; being plainly stupid will suffice.

The best cure would be to send all these idiot racists into space, so they can appreciate that the world isn't partitioned into white, red, black or yellow sections. It's just a big, open, unobstructed and beautiful blue planet.
Of course this could be quite expensive and perhaps we should try first with cleaning up our culture at home and opt for more wide-open, quality education in schools. So, what's taking humanity so long?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Trump-Bannon quandary

I don't know what to think of the puzzling Trump-Bannon hookup. To me, it makes no sense, with all of its drama, its provocations and contradictions.
Was it ever a good alliance? I don't know. Perhaps, Bannon can get credit – along with the Russians – to have gotten Trump into the White House, but Bannon's philosophy hardly makes any sense and is difficult to believe.

All of the “good cop – bad cop” situations within the administration lead me to believe that it was more a blatant proof of total confusion, a case of the right hand not knowing what left hand was doing, instead of any well thought-out strategy.

What seem sure to me is that these two protagonists are not just evil, but are also mentally deranged...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Squirrel story

Our little property witnesses an incessant wildlife traffic, from “big guys” like moose, elks and deer to smaller creatures like birds of all kinds, including humming birds, but also cottontail hares and squirrels.

If you didn't know it, our small Park City tree squirrels live, you've guessed it, in trees. This is where they build their nest, called drey, that's usually built of twigs, dry leaves, and grass, and squeezed inside the forks of a tree about 30 to 45 feet (9.1 to 13.7 m) above the ground.

Squirrels may also nest in attics or exterior walls of buildings, where a drey could be considered a fire hazard, as these critters love to chew on electrical cables. In our mountains, smarter or luckier squirrels sometime inhabit a permanent tree den in the hollow of a trunk.

The squirrel you see on that video is one of many we observe everyday, that carries pine-cones to its drey, and this time, we saw one being systematic about harvesting them from our next neighbor's tree by first pulling out as many pine-cones as possible, before collecting them later on the ground and bringing them home for storage...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Summer Heat: Beliefs vs. Facts

I have said it many times: “This summer felt really hot, nights were unusually warm; the planet is heating up!” This repeated statement forced me to look at the records I keep on a daily basis to substantiate what I thought was true.

I have kept track of daily and nightly temperatures for the past 11 years and have a pretty good database to work with. I am talking about my definition of summer season in the mountains, namely a period that is between June 15 and August 15. Just a 62 days span and a good representation of what a short, normal summer feels like in Park City.
Granted, this summer was on top in terms of heat, particularly on account of a long series of very warm nights, but when I lined the numbers up, I was shocked to see that 2007 was almost a mirror image of this year and, in between, the nine other years were not that far off!

While I am not a global warming denier, I must admit that our little mountain town is not turning into hell quite yet!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Another shaky real estate story

Over a decade ago, I worked with a company associated with a famous real-estate developer that always professed that large homes in ski resorts would always sell extremely well to wealthy families that would see in them a family meeting-place where multi-generations would congregate and partake in mountain living for ever and ever.

On paper that tale sounded good, sold well, but failed to stand the test of time and of common sense.

First, a large home comes with constant, massive headaches as they invariably need lots of maintenance and are fraught with incessant costly problems especially on account of an extreme climate and limited use (most second homes get occupied 20 to 30 days a year).

Second, another side to that fallacious tale is that whatever the parents happen to love about mountain living isn't necessarily their kids' taste and even less their significant others'; then it goes downhill from there with grand kids and even their own children.

The result is that Park City currently shows a glut of expensive homes for sale and the priciest they are, the slower they seem to move. We are not talking about condominium properties that also are available in large numbers; just large single family homes.

Consider this:
Our market currently has 75 houses for sale priced over $5 million, 23 houses from $4 to $5 million, 46 from $3 to $4 million and 71 from $2 to $3 million for a total of 212 mountain houses.

My sense is that these big houses (at least over 5,000 square feet) are seen as “uncool” white elephants to own these days as they generally make poor use of natural resources and are seen as an environmental embarrassment.

The future of these houses and their resale ability has become a huge question mark, something I'm not too bullish about...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Terrible knee pain, weird name

Last week I was visited with a terrible knee pain, mostly felt on the outside of my left knee.

At first, I thought it was related the MCL problems I had suffered this winter, but this pain was much different and horribly painful.
If it had not been the weekend, I would have seen an orthopedic doctor at once.

Instead, I went on the internet and determined that I was suffering from IT Band friction. No “IT” is not for “information technology” and “IT Band” isn't a metal rock band either. It means “Iliotibial band”, a condition that causes acute lateral knee pain in runners, hikers and bikers.

The iliotibial band is a sort of thick, hybrid muscle that runs from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and the knee, and anchored just below the knee as it becomes a tendon. This band plays a key role in stabilizing the knee as it moves from behind the femur to the front of the femur during activity.

What causes the knee pain is a continual rubbing of the band over the lower part of the femur coming in contact with the knee, combined with the repeated flexion and extension of that joint when someone runs, bikes or hikes and causes the area to become inflamed, which is exactly what happened to me.

The symptoms were a horrible pain when I went from a sitting to a standing position and began to walk or worse yet, going down the stairs. The remedy is to be patient (so hard!) and let time do the healing as well as doing some physical therapy. Can't wait to get back on my bike...