Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A beneficial slow ski season start

Most skis seasons are almost the same. The snow comes parsimoniously if at all; snow-making only begins when it's cold enough, it takes always more time than planned before a few runs are passable and while skiers always delude themselves in wishing for six feet of snow on opening day, this is seldom the case, especially in November. 
Instead, all hungry powder-hounds are served piecemeal in tiny portions, one bit at a time. This in fact is a blessing in disguise as it enables us to start slowly, regain our footing, get used again to the effect of speed and the presence of other users all around us and re-train ourselves into good skiers.

Not that we forget the sport we love during the off-season, but we need to gently get back in the swing of things. If we didn't have to tip-toe back into it, it would feel like entering a shower set at full-blast and it sure would be disruptive if not downright dangerous.

So, thanks Mother Nature for easing us slowly and safely back into skiing!

Monday, December 5, 2016

If success fails to bring happiness...

...Can happiness bring success ? Most probably, I think. Recently, I was reading that aphorism and thinking at the “cart-before-the-horse” quandary.

It's probably true that happiness is a predisposition that we have or don't have. In other words, it is a state of mind that we deliberately chose at no direct cost to us.

Just like a positive outlook, a smile, a friendly gesture, an ability to always see our cup half-full and appreciate what we've got, as slim as it may be.

Happiness can be the color, the backdrop of our lives. If it's constantly bright, chances are that it will attract good things and desirable events.

Sure, they don't have to be called “success”, they just have to feel good and feed on the happiness that we borrowed when we “primed the pump!”

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Stuck in the middle with 'em...

A few days ago, I was riding a wide 6-pack chair with two grown men on either sides of me. They both were in their late 40s, early 50s, looked strong, tough and gruff. The man on my left had a pair of Head skis, the man on my right had a pair of Atomic slalom skis along with a pair of curvaceous ski poles.

Over me, while I was sitting quietly and silently, smack in the middle, both men struck a conversation as we went up the hill.

Man on left: “Do you like your Atomics?”
Man on right: “Yeah, these are 'race-stock'...” This man sounded just like Marcel Hircher.
Man on left: “I used to have the same before the Heads, but I liked the Atomics better, they were bouncier, had more life in 'em!”
Man on right:“Yours aren't 'race-stock', that's why...”
Man on left: “What bindings do you have?” The man probably thought he was Aksel Svindal.
Me: “Those are just Look bindings...” I had not realized that the man on left was not talking to me. I had ordinary Dynastar Power Pack and since I must have looked like a 70 years old, who would probably not grasp what both were talking about.
Man on right: “They're race-stock too. They go to '22'!”
Man on left:“That's high!”
Man on right: “You don't have to set them that high, though...”
Man on left: “You're probably right...”

We reach the top, I poled explosively out of the way, skied down like a rocket and never saw these two jerks again...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My ticket to America is 40 years old!

It's in December of 1976 that my life suddenly and unexpectedly changed. At that moment, my young wife and I had decided that Nevers, the boring provincial town where Look bindings was located, just in the middle of nowhere, as well as my job there, weren't bringing us the modicum of happiness we wanted from life.

Within weeks, we put the small and old apartment, we had purchased in the center of town for sale, got just more than our money back and had made plans to return to my brand new house near Morzine, in the Alps, where I would resume ski instructing up in Avoriaz.

At about the same time, Look held its international meeting of agents and distributors at its factory and the executives from Beconta, our American distributors, were in attendance. When they heard that I was leaving Look, they asked me if I would consider a job at their New York offices to assist with the nascent subsidiary that Look bindings wanted to start within its distributor infrastructure.

Kip Pitou is the one who actually came up with the suggestion on the account that I would well complement the skills and the lack of ski industry knowledge Ed Paul, the new president of Look Sports Inc, brought to the table. The offer captured my undivided attention and after a rather short negotiation, I must have decided that the opportunity was a life-changing deal for me and my career.

I took the job with enthusiasm while my spouse wasn't too sure, not knowing English and never having set foot before in America. I must say that I forced the issue in accepting the job. I would instruct skiing in Avoriaz during the Christmas – New Year Holidays and would begin my new American job, early the following January.

Ignorance being bliss, I had no idea what I was doing and what this fateful decision would entail in terms of pain, suffering and sundry disappointments along the way, but it would set the stage for a long career, a brand new experience, two American children and a new life on this side of the Atlantic that I still cherish to this day!

Friday, December 2, 2016

The freezing month of February 1956

I was a kid living with my parents at the time, and the month of February of 1956 was the longest cold spell in our mountain village history; it lasted from February 7 to February 29, with 23 consecutive days of extremely cold temperatures.

Recently, I was reminiscing these days with my brother, with whom I was sharing the same bedroom. He remembered that the inside exterior wall was covered with ice. That's right, sheer ice! Hard to imagine, ice on the complete wall, not just the windows; now, I remember it quite clearly!

Our parents cinder-block house had no insulation whatsoever and my brother who always had a weak pulmonary system was just in the worst possible environment that would exacerbate his current prolonged and very severe case of emphysema.

Of course, our parents had no idea at the time and for them it was simply a way to fatalistically accept the idea of the survival of the fittest!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why is American healthcare so expensive?

In the United States, the cost of healthcare is by far the highest in the world when compared to the country's GDP. Most other developed nations spend far less than we do compared to their own GDP. What creates such a disconnect?

Today, American spend around $3 trillion or a whopping $9,500 per person on healthcare for outcomes that are no better than any of these countries, and a life expectancy that is the lowest among these same nations. Over the years, prices keep on climbing, letting to think that, one day, healthcare might have to be limited to remain affordable...

Could our system be so inefficient to cause this disparity are there an army of parties that enrich themselves along the way, like hospitals, doctors, drug and insurance companies? Most probably. Common sense would suggest that there must be a way to look at what other countries do right to get their healthcare at a fraction of the cost Americans pay.

What ever happened to best-practices? Have be become so insular that we've also decided to so full of ourselves and chosen to ignore what it is that some other countries do better than we do? These questions call for more discussions and reviewing a selection of game-changing solutions!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

François Baud, 1928-2016

This man from Morzine, near my hometown, just passed away on November 24. Back in the 1950s, he was the local hero when he was named a member of the French Ski Team.

François Baud aka “Piron” was a strong and talented skier who competed at the 1950 Ski World Championships in Aspen and managed, while in the USA that very same winter, to win the slalom of the Harrimann Cup, in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Our local Olympic Champion, Jean Vuarnet marveled at Baud's athletic abilities. I remember him when I first began working at the Avoriaz Ski School, where he was a ski-instructor-at-large and also a significant catalyst behind the 1971 crisis that shook-up its entire foundation and altered the course of my career in the ski industry.