Saturday, June 23, 2018

A guaranteed income for working people?

I just finished reading “Fair Shot”, a recent book written by one of Facebook many “co-founders”, Chris Hughes, in which he makes the case that “one-percenters” like him should pay their fortune forward in a radically simple way: a guaranteed income for working people.

That's not quite what he says in the book as the funding mechanism would happen by taxing gasoline and other stuff. The idea isn't new and is currently tested and debated the world over.

More recently, it was tried in Finland where it seem to have failed after 2,000 randomly selected unemployed Finns got about $675 a month during a two year test period without having to give anything in return.

I always had some skepticism about the concept and, except perhaps for stay-at-home moms that perform a real serious job, I'm not a believer. This said, I've evolved a bit over time, and really believe that the need for a guaranteed basic income starts with a decent minimum wage.

Currently, our Federal minimum hourly wage is still at $7.25 and I do believe that it should be jacked up to a living wage $15 or more per hour, instead.

For a host of good economic reasons, this shouldn't and couldn't be applied overnight, but gradually, say over 7 years, with a manageable $1.50 a year increase per year, reaching $17.75 on year 7 and then kept up with the consumer price index.

The rest of the proposed ideas are just a pipe dream.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Solitude's fate settled!

On June 20, the new Alterra Mountain Company announced it would purchase Solitude Mountain Mountain Resort in Utah, growing the company to 13 destinations throughout North America, including Canada's CMH heli-skiing.

My guess is that after unsuccessfully trying to sell Solitude with Deer Valley, its owners Stearns and Penske, not knowing what to do with that small, challenging resort simply threw the towel and chose to unload it to Alterra rather than having to run it themselves. Alterra probably didn't pay much, if at all for this last acquisition, and it might be possible that the sellers will be bringing some money at closing to sweeten the deal.

There seem to be nothing strategic about Alterra's purchase: Solitude, just 34 miles from Salt Lake City airport is fairly small with only 8 lifts, 77 runs and three bowls spread over 1,200 acres for a 2,047 feet vertical drop. It is and will remain a challenge to turn it from local resort into full-fledged destination resort with a tiny village and limited accommodations.

What is interesting is what will become of Brighton, its next door neighbor. Adjacent to Park City Mountain, it could be a logical and strategic high altitude extension of the resort owned by Vail, but Boyne Mountain, Brighton's parent company already has accords with Alterra through its Ikon pass involving Big Sky.

Time will tell, but the merger mania is currently so fluid that we might know sooner than later...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A bittersweet jet ride...

One June day, just 50 years ago, as I was serving my mandatory time in the French Air Force, I was asked to come to the Captain's office.

At the time, I happened to be in Solenzara, Corsica, where the squadron I was assigned to was stationed for target shooting over the Mediterranean Sea. The Captain tersely announced that my dad had passed away as per a cable he had just received from my Salon Air Base, near Marseilles.

Needless to say that I was both shocked and distraught, and didn't know how to react. He then told me that he could get me a ride on an air force jet trainer back to the Dijon Air Base a little over 200 miles away from my parents' place.

In less time than I could figure, I found myself fitted into a pressurized suit, helmeted and belted inside the jet cockpit.

We took off, flying over the picturesque island, I remember seeing some snow around Monte Cinto, and following a fast flight over the sea and the Alps, we landed in Dijon.

While I normally love to fly, I didn't fully enjoy that strange trip. From there, I hitch-hiked to my home where I got in the middle of the night, apprehending the situation I had been told about.

The front door was locked, which surprised me because I thought my mom might have expected me to come that night. I remember walking in the yard, under my parents' bedroom. My mom must have heard me and spoke to my Dad.

Elation followed confusion; I explained the reason for my being there. She said: “Dad is well!” The military had goofed up and got the names of two soldiers badly mixed up!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Utah's ski numbers are out!

Utah's skier-day numbers are just out. This past season saw 4,145,321 days, a 9.6 percent drop from the previous season that was an all-time record.

This honorable performance happened in spite of measly snowfalls representing only 60 percent of average, along with winter temperatures at resorts three to five degrees above normal.

Since the number of skier visits per resort is undisclosed, I've tried once more to reconstruct how the skier-days as I think they are spread among individual resorts.

Nothing to take to the bank, just a simple guesstimate!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Untangling the immigration knot

The subject of immigration is front and center these days. While I believe that we all belong to our blue planet and ought to be able to roam wherever we want, unregulated, free movement of individuals would create chaos and there's a need for rules established and managed by national governments.
The easiest to understand and deal with is the economic immigration stream, based on moving skills that are in demand in certain countries.

This should also include people willing to pay a hefty price of entry. Immigration, however, has three additional entry routes: the humanitarian stream with its refugees and asylum seekers to whom states are willing to offer protection; family reunification; and illegal immigration.

While I am totally in favor of bringing people to a country based on skills that are in high demand, a better way to deal with asylum seeker is to address the root of the problem with countries that have no rules of law, are in the midst of wars or have their social and economic fabric in tatters. Richer countries have a responsibility to address these imbalances.

Family reunification has merit but must be contained within a limited scope only. Illegal immigration, of course, is not okay and should be vigorously enforced unless a country doesn't really care or turns a blind eye on human exploitation.

Like in all other domains, there should be best practices established by comparing the various immigration policies all across the planet and developing compromises that are fair and well tested.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Raising “religion-free” kids

As immigrants to America and so far away from our families influence, we were under no pressure to forgo religious teaching upon our children.

Since we were non-practicing Catholics and thought it would be hypocritical to teach our kids religious tenets that we didn't follow, we choose to educate them outside of any religious influence.

Raising them in Park City was a good place, because about half of the population was irreligious, even though the formidable Mormon influence was besieging our ski resort community.

Without religious education, but with the force of their parents' example and moral values, our kids turned out to be great and successful human beings.

Some studies allege that children growing up in a faith community experiment less with drugs and alcohol and juvenile crime but they're countered by others that show that kids raised without religion are more resistant to peer pressure and more culturally sensitive.

In retrospect, I think raising kids “religion-free” is the way to go; I strongly believe that the opposite amounts to a form of child abuse.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

An factual winter summary

The website Opensnow.com provide some interesting stats about winter snow cover and help us keep our memories straight.

As many know, this past November, December and January were some of the worst months on record since at least 40 years, until February 19. I've attached the graph related to Park City snow accumulation.
  • The dark blue line is the average of seasons 1989 through 2010.
  • The green line is this past 2017-18 winter; it's easy to see that we were well below average, peaking just under 70% of our normal peak annual snow-pack. 
  • The light blue line is 2011-12 season, another dismal snow-season. Both had slow starts, then made modest comebacks. 
  • The red line is 2014-2015 season that had the distinction of being the worst Utah season since at least 1976-77. 
 I had almost forgotten about it, which goes to show how fast our memory plays tricks on us, absent some written statistics!