Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What do I have to show?

Another year is ending and the question I’m asking myself is what do I have to show for it? I know that I have caused a few things to happen, most of them material, but was it all worth my precious time and my potential? The answer is a resounding NO. Deep inside, I know that I could have done better; I could have gone much farther and could have really surprised myself and those who know me well. As I become older and less nimble, it would be nice to see more “stretching” in all directions that would produce beautiful and rich achievements. In that final day, I don’t know yet what all these efforts will be, but I can guarantee that in 2009, at this time, they’ll have been there…

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Age and happiness

Yesterday, as we were skiing with a friend of ours, the question “what’s been the happiest period of your life?” was somehow weaved into the conversation and my response to it was a genuinely spontaneous “now!” I was more surprised by what I blurted than my chairlift companions, and this got me seriously thinking, starting of course by how we define happiness. To me, this ethereal value remains one’s ability or gift to get as close as possible to his or her dreams; so that’s about it, my candid statement would mean that I’ve got everything I wanted, and I truly believe it. Today, my life is stress-free, I am surrounded by folks I love and appreciate, I live in a perfect place and I can do whatever pleases me. Most importantly perhaps, my insecurities and the tensions that have escorted me through most of my life have lost much of their potency and I feel that I’m almost floating on a cloud. Wow! I’ll stop everything there and pause for a while to seize the moment…

Monday, December 29, 2008

Escorted joy-ride

About three weeks ago, my friend and Air Force Colonel Lynn Carmichael called me to come and discreetly check out the new F/A-22 delivered to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the first operational base to receive the brand new “Raptor” fighter in replacement of the aging F-15. This plane was very expensive to produce as its cost per unit is at this point about $339 million. According to the military, this plane can’t be matched by any known other fighter aircraft. What impressed me the most was its cockpit reminiscent of a giant iPhone. At any rate, after spending a morning in the flight simulator during which my quick-responses didn’t perform too well, my friend Lynn got me all the special gear and somewhat reluctantly, let me fly for a quick twenty minute ride under the name of Paul Feldmann, a Canadian-born pilot at the base. Since I wasn’t supposed to, I didn’t try to execute any Herbst maneuver (J-turn) or the Pugachev's Cobra; I just took off, climbed up to 40,000 feet, made a few turns and landed the plane without breaking anything, under Lynn’s sharp eye who was escorting me closely all along in a two-seater F-15 accompanied by Captain Bert Langford…

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Israeli-Palestinian mess

Israel is a bad as the Palestinian, with one big difference; they’ve got the money (my tax money, by the way!) and are fully supported by the US, Europe and the rest of the industrialized world that is afraid to offend the Zionists. If everyone remains happy with that, we’ll see this situation continue to worsen, we’ll watch more despair and much more terrorism will bloom from the Arab world. By letting Israel acts as a colonial power over the Palestinians, we’re condoning genocide in another time and in another place; we’re also cultivating terrorism for the long term. If you don’t believe that 9/11 started by Israel’s abuse in Gaza and in the West Bank, your understanding of geopolitics might need a serious overhaul.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why we switched…

For the past 23 winters, we have purchased a ski pass at Park City Mountain Resort. The biggest advantage of skiing there was that, of the three mountains we’ve got in town, it was the closest. Because it’s also the most established (more than 45 years of operation) it’s also the busiest and in recent year, its extensive “park” facilities (half pipe, rails, huge bumps) have make it more of a “circus” and less of a skier’s mountain. Deer Valley was an option but takes even more time to get too; perhaps, this will be for later in our skiing careers, or better yet, when our “backward-thinking” mountains suddenly come up with the idea of linking their lifts (with today’s economy, this might come faster than one could believe!) So this year, we decided to try something else and bought our ski passes at The Canyon, the newest and largest resort within our small community. The expanse of terrain is much larger, the variety greater and the tree skiing options superior. In addition, the lifts that we’ll be using most are significantly faster, which mean less time on the mountain for the same number of turns and just more fun. Getting there takes a tiny bit longer, but what the hell, we’re retired!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Perfect storm, Park City style

Yesterday, I had the privilege to take my daughter Charlotte and her friend Kate for some high-power powder skiing under extremely rare conditions. The weather was awful; a real blizzard, a total white-out, and the wind were such that the snow was falling horizontally. Skiing was out of this world with snow well above mid-thighs and face shots to match. The only problem was riding up the lift which was going extra slow because of the high winds and had all of us withstand the bitter, piercing cold all the way to the top. While my team was surprised at first, they soon got into the thick and deep of things, and quickly stayed glued to my tails until their legs started to signal some hard-to-ignore symptoms of advanced deterioration; we stopped in time before we had to amputate...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

For more than thirty years, we’ve been celebrating Christmas as a very small family unit; first with no children, then with one and soon with two. This Christmas marked a new milestone in our lives as a completed clan - three-generation of our own - took part in this season’s Yuletide festivities. The arrival of Finn has finally made us a typical American family. While we’ve always been somehow attached to the old continent when our own parents were still alive, we now stand on our very own. Still a small family, but with a growing set of roots into the greater America…

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snow is snow, right?

To many folks, snow is the same white nasty stuff that makes a car dance or blocks a driveway. To me, it’s a lot different; it’s a world of its own. You see, I’m into my 62nd winter and I have seen tons of snow and can tell you that no snow is ever the same. I’ve seen the white commodity in several continents, under many different climates and during most seasons to assert that – like the 6.6 billion folks living on this earth – each crystal is a tiny bit different and ends up with a very finite destiny. I continue to learn everyday of winter about snow. When I run in the morning, I make it a game to see the part of the snowy road that offers the best traction, when I ski I can pick an appropriate technique from what the white surface communicates to be. I’m not talking here about the myth that Eskimos have a myriad of words for snow; they don’t - but we do and I won’t spell them all, but here’s a sampling of what’s available:
Falling snow: Blizzard, flurry, freezing rain, graupel, hail, needles, rimed snow…
Snow on the ground: Blowing snow, chopped powder, corn, crud, crust, ice, firn, powder, slush, snirt, windslab…
Now that you've gained more understanding about snow, go skiding in you car, sliding on your boards or slipping on your shoes with much greater appreciation, class and confidence!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Légion d’Honneur for Anselme Baud

On December 14, Anselme Baud received the Legion of Honor, a coveted medal that France offers to men and women fit to deserve the recognition. Skiing legend Emile Allais pined the medal on Anselme’s chest. I remember the young Anselme when we were in middle school together and later in Avoriaz. Soon he took off to become the extreme skier he’s best known for along with Patrick Vallençant and a top-notch mountain climber as well as a “professor” at ENSA, the French ski instructor and mountaineering guide school in Chamonix. The “Légion d'Honneur” is a French order established by Napoléon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802. It was the first modern order of merit, that was before limited to Roman Catholics and to noblemen. The military decorations were the perks of the officers. The Légion, however, was open to individuals of all ranks and professions; only merit or bravery counted. This is unlike America where one needs to go to war in order to get this kind of recognition. Oh, I almost forgot, members are still paid a yearly stipend that - with inflation - has now eroded to just over six Euros. Even at that rate, heartfelt congratulations, Anselme!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Purchase of Look bindings by Rossignol

This is the follow-up to my previous posting regarding what really triggered the sale of Look bindings to Rossignol skis back in 1994. A short bit of history first; Look was founded in Nevers, France by Jean Beyl, an avid skier in 1951. The company that started with a 360 degree plate binding called the “Antifracture” did at first very well with its Nevada double-pivot toe unit paired up with a basic turntable heel that equipped all the famous ski racers of the time. It was then followed by the Nevada II and N-17 (a.k.a. Grand-Prix) combination that remain a classic for many winter seasons. Selling almost exclusively to the high-performance users and unable to sell to the masses, Look unsuccessfully tried to compete in the entry-level to mid-price segments where it was out-marketed by Salomon. Management miscalculations also contributed to the brand going bankrupt in 1982 when it was picked up by Bernard Tapie a corporate raider, high on PR and low on business acumen. Tapie added the German-made Geze ski bindings to the package but the enterprise continued to flounder and its assets were mostly held by a subsidiary of the Credit Lyonnais a.k.a. “Crazy Lyonnais,” a French bank that had engineered the Look and Adidas buy-out by Tapie. Later, Pierre-Alain Blum, the owner of Ebel watches took over the firm along with Authier skis but failed to re-energize it. In 1993, as the conservative regain control of the French Assembly, Laurent Boix-Vives’ friends suggested it was time to pick up Look as Ebel was looking to unload its unsuccessful acquisition. Stripped from most of its debt, the ski binding division was repackaged into an offer that Skis Rossignol couldn’t refuse, and in 1998 the bike division of the company was then sold to Dominique Bergin and became Look Cycle International; knowing Mr. Boix-Vives, it’s very likely that Rossignol recouped more than its overall purchase price on that later sale. Where Olle Larson might be right, however is that upon taking over Look, Rossignol looked at its product and determined that the Geze toe (the system licensed to manufacture the inexpensive Salomon 222) was not only a good combination with the Look turntable heel but was also much cheaper to manufacture. The turntable heel has now been abandoned in racing and replaced by a crude heel-unit reminiscent of the lackluster Look 27 from 1980. In hindsight, and I must confess to my surprise, Rossignol has succeeded in resurrecting Look by streamlining the line and putting its entire organizational horsepower behind the effort.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Marker, Rossignol and Look

Olle Larsson is a ski coach who's originally from Sweden, and had competed on the Grenoble University ski team, in France. After coaching the Canadian National Team, he founded Rowmark Ski Academy in Salt Lake City (Utah), one of the first Ski Academies in US. Mr. Larsson is recognized among the world’s top ski coaches along with Honoré Bonnet and Hermann Noeckler. Because he’s an older guy and has been around a lot, Olle knows everything and everyone. While, he was at the University of Grenoble he even had a chance to come to Avoriaz and work with Annie Famose’s “village des enfants.” I’ve known Olle for quite some time, and today, as I was side-slipping the course, he told me an interesting story - for which I know another version - but listened to anyway... His brother Jan Larsson was the director of racing with Rossignol. Years ago when Hank Tauber was still running Marker ski bindings, he wanted to petition the International Ski Federation to be allowed to place a sticker with his binding brand right on the racers’ skis. During a World Cup race in Park City, he had lobbied Larsson to support his idea; instead, Jan had told him that it was a lousy initiative and didn’t offer him the help Mr. Tauber was seeking. Some time later, and according to Olle Larsson, Hank Tauber cornered Jan and told him in no uncertain terms that he was mad at his lack of support, that he would talk to Laurent Boix-Vives the owner of Rossignol and use his influence so Jan Larsson would be fired. Unbeknownst to Tauber, Larsson had a rather good relationship with Boix-Vives, so when the former confided in the threat he had received from Marker’s boss in Utah, Rossignol decided to buy Look bindings. Please stay tuned for another version of the real reason behind the purchase…

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Planted in the snow...

With a new winter season, I’m back volunteering at the Park City racing department. December weather is brutally cold and I’m not yet used to it; the days are both snowy and dark and it takes guts or foolishness to do that! As I have for the past four years, I participate in the “Eric Hays” competitions; a four day racing series involving some 250 young men and women aged 13 to 21 and racing in slalom and giant slalom competitions. For the first day, I was planted in the snow, outfitted with headset and mike to signal the moment racers were clearing a certain point on the course that wasn’t not visible from either the start or the finish; with a daily temperature staying in the 15 degree range, this was a cold assignment and after more than 7 hours of doing just that, I was surprised that I was still alive...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Age and wisdom

In speaking with many of my contemporaries, I can detect a massive effort on everyone’s part to “fight” the aging process by staying very active, eating right and looking good. I also must admit that I’m part of that crowd of folks who are dead set against aging and decrepitude. What we fail to appreciate however, is that with aging comes much more wisdom. This in my view is priceless. So instead of seeing a new birthday as a step into a proximate tomb, it brings much more than just that. It’s shedding some part of our purely physical “skin” for a new one, wisdom, which is very much more profound and essentially spiritual, that reconciles us with ourselves and our purpose in life. From now on, I’ll see each new birthday as a form of enrichment and a welcome transition of scenery…

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Would I make a good “con man?”

I’m certain that, by now, the adventures of Bernard Madoff are inspiring lots of “wannabe” in America and around the world. From time to time, I ask myself, what should I do to have a more fulfilled life? It’s clear that over the years, I built a pretty good reputation and that, as a result, many people seem to trust me. I look serious and now that I’m over 60, with few and white hair and have been around to quite a few places, been in countless jobs and have a huge network of acquaintances. In a nutshell, I have what it takes to start a profitable fund. Unlike Madoff, I’d be more democratic and talk to a broader spectrum of individuals. I’d set the bar a bit lower, let’s say a minimum of $100,000. Like Madoff though, I’d save on administrative expenses and would just email the account balance when pressed by my client. My time will be better spent looking for tax-paradises and ways to maximize the funds’ holdings. What I would also do, is carefully plan my exit as well as my next off-shore refuge, just at the top of the next financial bubble; that way I won’t even have to hear your complaints and see your disappointment. Now, enough chatter; who wants to be my first investor?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The elephant in the room

Overpopulation is just like that elephant. I’m currently reading a book about sustainable living on the planet that details all the steps that must be taken and are currently implemented, but at no moment there’s the smallest mention of the impact of population growth. If you’ve seen Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” he speaks about all the ills created by global warming and pollution, but fails to address the real cause of the problem, namely the fact that world population is totally out of control. Oh, yes, I almost forgot an exception, one smart man who’s holding a strong opinion on the subject; Warren Buffet, the most successful investor on earth… But in the face of all that evidence, why is such an obvious problem pushed under the rug? It can’t just be religious, but I’ve come to the conclusion that no one has really tackled the issue and made it look as ominous as it should be. Opinion, anyone?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This guy has balls!

A lot of folks have been vocal about their opposition to George Bush and Dick Cheney’s invasion and mass slaughter in Iraq, but none, until two days ago had the courage to act on it and say what he thought of the man in front of him by hurling a pair of shoes. Today, the man is in custody and his brother, Maythem, said his brother did not premeditate his action. He simply exploded when Bush said that his visit was “his farewell gift to the Iraqi people.” Good for Muntader al-Zaidi, the correspondent for Al Baghdadia. To me, without a question, this guy is the true “Man of the Year.” Let’s hope the Iraqis put enough pressure on their government to get their hero freed soon!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Voodoo doll?

Since the end of July, I’ve been struck by a mysterious pain, right above my heart and quite peculiar in the sense that it begins very early in the morning, around 2 am, peaks at about 4, and then lingers on through the morning. After undergoing cat-scan, echography plus other complicated and expensive medical testing, doctors have fail to find anything, including my car keys lost some ten years ago. That absence of definite result has left me immensely frustrated, until last night, when I finally realized that someone, probably living between Norway and South Africa (if that character works during the day) was poking my voodoo statuesque representation with a needle right where the heart is. That theory sounds acceptable to me and I only wonder why my tormentor is only hitting the left side of my chest and never pricking my belly or my neck, among other sensitive spots; thanks god the needle tip is rather dull, blunting the pain! Furthermore that guy never takes a day off and is incredibly consistent with the treatment. In days in which it’s so hard to find reliable help, that voodoo doll operator would have no problem getting a full-time job, but then, what would I do and say without that familiar, daily heartache?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Back to "pre-bubble"

I must be obsessed with the real estate market. Yet, it seems to me that no one, in the entire United States of America, has accepted the fact that it may continue to go down. Why? Because first and foremost there’s no way to locate its bottom at that point and second because the brutal answer to that question is that it’s situated around its "pre-bubble" level of circa 2002. Until now, everyone has been hoping, wishing, and crossing their fingers for the slide to stop, but as any savvy investor knows, these tricks, including prayer to God don’t work. On one hand there are the realtors trying to hide the depth of the abyss from onlookers and on the opposite side the banks, the government and all the homeowners in a profound, collective state of denial. Get real now, take your blinders off! Your home is no longer worth what it used to…

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The era of transparency

Want to buy a car, a book, a new computer, travel or trade stocks efficiently (with minimum commission)? Go on the web. The internet has become the crystal-clear fish bowl in which you can see where real price levels are at. Now try to do the same with selling or buying real-estate, it won’t work. You’ll only get a murky picture at best, compliment of the National Association of Realtors. Under the guise of preserving their business monopoly and juicy commissions, this entity is one of the last bastions of institutionalized opacity, and because it only promotes a fractional picture of its business, its members don’t even know that their organization is driving their business into paralysis and contributing markedly to this country’s current recession. Time to wake-up “Realtors,” give up you isolationism, dare to reveal some useful data, expose yourself to the changing world and show us that you can compete in the open!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Time to (really) tax gasoline?

Yesterday, as I was filling up my tank, I was shocked to discover that the premium’s cost per gallon had fallen to almost $1.50! Not so long ago, in July if I can remember, we were still paying $4.30 or so for the same quantity of gasoline. Wow! That means we are doing to almost one-third of what we were charged at the peak… This brings me to the next, logical idea which would be to seriously tax gasoline now, let’s say by adding an extra dollar per gallon. In the course of one full year, this could produce one trillion in taxes. It would pay the current financial bailout and would go a long way to start mopping up the ten trillion dollar debt we’ve accumulated. I really think that Obama should seriously think about it, before we start believing again that gasoline at around one dollar a gallon is our God-given right…

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Writing and running

In the sport of running, I’ve always been biased in favor of the marathon, because it’s long, hard and truly represents the suffering and the survival of the fittest; yet, in analyzing it against the sprint, it offers more chances to redress a mistake, make up for lost time or affords a change in strategy as the race goes on. The one-hundred meter dash, on the other hand, requires absolute perfection from beginning to end. The start needs to be flawless and both the concentration and the available power must be one-hundred percent. In thinking about it, the sprint is much harder. Writing is the same; a long story can be good, will have its ups and downs, but can survive with less than perfect prose. The short story has to embody perfection; it must make sense in a tight space, be well crafted and tell itself in very few precious words. All other things being equal, a short story will stick into someone’s mind more vividly than a very long tale. I like short stories…

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Listen up… And stop political corruption.

The arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was another spectacular example of a politician who had became a monster of corruption. Charged with nominating a successor for Barack Obama’s vacated senate seat, the man tried to make some personal hay from it and got caught thanks to an ongoing FBI investigation involving extensive wire-tapping. In recent time, and probably since the beginning of politics as we know it, politicians have had a rather troubling relationship with bribery and corruption. Some have gotten caught, but the vast majority has not. After this latest incident, I now see all politicians as suspect and it’s difficult for me not to entertain the thought that somehow, whether it’s a tiny bit or an awful lot, opportunistic or premeditated, all the folks who govern us are untangled into some form of graft. Since I’m a man who loves simple solutions, I propose that we wiretap each and every one of them, twenty-four-seven, starting with our mayors and going all the way up to the Oval Office. A group of “listeners” who could be folks like me, that is, who have nothing better to do, bi-partisan and volunteers would release a monthly report detailing all the bad things that are being said behind close doors and on the taxpayers’ back. The good, funny lines could be sold to Saturday Night Live in an effort to make us laugh and use the proceeds to beef up our bridges and repave our roads. Politicians would no longer have to say and do stupid things, would no longer have to worry to end up in jail and our tax dollars would go much further. Who’s objecting?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How “green” are you?

You probably recycle religiously and already run all your errands with a special canvass bag; you may drive a hybrid or commute to work on your bike or by using public transportation, and yes, I forgot, you replaced all your incandescent light bulbs with new, efficient ones, so you’re feeling a bit better as you’re doing your share to improve our planet’s chances of survival. The problem is that you’re sticking your finger into a hole of the proverbial dyke hoping it will hold. You’re in the “band aid” mode. While it’s okay to keep on doing all of these nice things, you need to do much more than that; you must start believing that we need to do something about overpopulation which is the cause of all that environmental disaster. I believe that if many more of us understood that we’re overcrowding our earth, we’d start communicating that to our neighbors, our politicians and all the philanthropists and folks with good intentions but no idea on how to channel them. Well orchestrated, that pressure may turn into a tsunami that will go a long way to influencing religious leaders who still believe that “multiplying” is a laudable goal and also convince the world at large, that a massive and sensible education will eventually relieve the pressure of unsustainable birth rates. You see, just like with smoking cessation, we can’t force people, we need to help them see the light and grasp the truth. We’ll do it by bringing the subject to the attention of the many. Now, that’s also being “green” but this time, it will make a huge difference…

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thoughts on helping foreclosed homeowners

Another element of solving the real-estate/financial crisis would be to help homeowners saddled with unmanageable mortgages in a way that might be fair and workable. First, this idea is very remote from FDIC Chair Sheila Bair’s recent proposal.
Again, my plan is simple; let’s say that faced with a troubled loan (the house is worth far less than the loan, the rate may readjust soon and the owner can’t no longer make payments), the financial institution that owns the mortgage would discount the amount of capital to address the current situation; for example, if the house is only worth $300,000 and the mortgage amount is $450,000, it would re-set the mortgage at $250,000 which would make possible for the homeowner to either keep the property or liquidate it. This would leave that same owner still owning the bank the $200,000 difference, interest-free, that would be carried forward as a deed-restriction and/or on the individual’s credit records, in the form of a floating debit following any transaction that he might enter into in the future. For example, if that same person keeps the home and then sells it ten years later, any capital gain would go to reduce or satisfy that interest-free debt. If the property is sold right away, the ex-owner would continue to carry that debt that wouldn’t be counted towards his personal financial statement, but would remain available to offset any future real-estate or financial capital gains. There would be no government guarantee; the system would be painful on financial institutions, very generous to those troubled homeowners, but extremely fair to folks like you and me who just live below their means…

Sunday, December 7, 2008


The current crisis is asking the American people to “switch religion” and go from deficit spenders into savers. Some of you may know that on average, Americans save in “negative territory” compared to their developed nation’s counterparts that are well into the black. Cushioning the transition - if it happens - may be extremely painful and could define a long hiatus in the economy that will have everyone tighten their belt in ways never felt before. The only hope is that once reversed, that trend toward positive savings becomes an ingrained habit… We’ll see!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A cheaper way to fly

In these days of financial crisis, if you don’t mind being cramped for a while, feeling extremely cold, if you have good lungs, own warm clothing, some specialized equipment, travel without luggage and are willing to forgo mileage credits, you might want to consider doing all of your air travel as a stowaway, tucked into the landing gear well of the airplane that will take you from your closest airport your final destination. I have researched this mode of transportation extensively and have found that, if you own the necessary gear, it’s by far one of the best values in the travel market. Of course, you should be mindful of local regulations as this mode of transportation might not legal everywhere. Start by choosing a trip that is not too long, like an eighteen hour Mumbai to Atlanta flight; you could get so cold that you might drop like an icicle as soon as the plane it on its final approach and drops its landing gear. Instead, pick shorter flights and unless you take supplementary oxygen with you, stay well under a ten hour flight time. It’s always a good idea to pick a large enough airplane; I personally recommend the Boeing 777 as it has the largest landing gear in the business, a six-wheeler on either sides, that requires a super sized well making it easier to nest and far less dangerous when the doors close and the whole wheels and struts assembly collapses inside. It goes without saying that short of getting a detailed sketch of the interior space from the company that has designed the plane, you should visually inspect the space and visualize the safe, empty volume where you’d tuck prior to taking off. If you want to survive your trip, it’s critical to dress warmly as if you were going to ski in New England at sub-zero temperatures. Don’t skimp on the number of layers, put after-ski boots, ski hat, goggles and gloves on. I know, you might look weird if you board in Miami in that attire, but it always beats arriving frozen-stiff. Include a “Camelback” filled with water that you’ll wear under your parka and just pack a bag of granola for snacks. If you don’t mind a carry-on and the extra weight, I strongly recommend bringing along one or two bottles of oxygen plus a mask; these will come in handy on the longer flights. Do not take sleeping pills as you might find yourself sound asleep at arrival time, which is never a good idea, as you don’t want to deplane before the aircraft touches the runway. It’s always a good idea to bring along a pair of nylon straps and if possible a harness to secure yourself to some fixed hardware inside the wheel well (do not attach it to the struts or the wheels!) If you follow my instructions, you’ll find that the hardest part of the journey is to get in and out of the tarmac, through the chain-link fence. Gee! I almost forgot to tell you to bring along a pair of wire-cutters… Now that you’ve got all the information, enjoy your low cost trip!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Not excellent at everything!

By now, if you’re reading that blog with some regularity, you’re well aware that my number one hero is Leonardo da Vinci. Besides being a lefty just like me, Leonardo could almost do anything and was a creative genius. That’s why I like the man and often convince myself and my entourage that I’m almost just like him. This kind of attitude comes with a price though, because living up to such a reputation demands being good at everything, all the time. Yesterday, as I had left the coffee machine on, which in our household is tantamount to committing a crime, I acknowledged my failure by saying “I can’t be excellent at everything” and was in awe as I discovered the exonerating power contained in that very short sentence. That’s true, leaving the coffee pot on was in my view such a minor transgression that it couldn’t really hurt my almost-perfect image. I liked the effectiveness of these few words so much that I plan to re-use them as soon as I have the opportunity. Promised!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Solving the real estate crisis

It seems that resolving our current financial and economic crisis hinges upon “breaking” the current real estate “paralysis.” That’s right; not just in Florida or Nevada, but in places like the most expensive vacation retreats, England or continental Europe, real estate isn’t moving. Investors are waiting on the sidelines for some kind of magic signal that the bottom has been reached and that it’s now time to re-enter the market. The problem with that way of thinking is that all pundits are predicting that the real estate slump may not see its bottom for another year of two, and that’s a major issue, because this paralysis may go on for a very long time. Obviously, one could expect prices to keep on going down albeit too slowly to generate maintain investors’ interest. In the meantime, a trickle of transactions is taking place, simply because a few savvy buyers are able to get the property far below its advertised price and that way, the real market price level remains total invisible to the public at large. So here we are, on one hand faced with a plethora of properties, all overpriced and that no one really wants to seriously consider, and on the other hand, a very limited of sales that take place for a variety of reasons, that very few see, even less have the courage to analyze and that, because of these reasons, remain largely hidden from the broad market. We can first try to imagine why these rare properties do sell. First, a tiny number of individuals buy with little or no negotiation, either because they’re stupid, are infatuated with their purchase, or are filthy rich and don’t care or don’t know any better. Then, you have the most astute crowd that wants a property, does its homework, knows what kind of latitude (read equity) the seller has, is very patient and wait till the seller is near the end of his or her psychological rope to lowball the property and eventually get a good price that is more reflective of the “pre-bubble” levels. The challenge for the market at large is to get a clear picture of these transactions given the level of secrecy afforded by the realtors’ multiple listing service (MLS). That situation contributes to hiding the reality of the market, thus protracting the “freeze” of activity and torturing to no end the sellers, the realtors, the financial institutions, the would-be buyers and the economy. The current situation shows the widespread “denial” on the part of the key protagonists that are the realtors and the financial institutions and its suicidal effects. Instead of accepting to see the situation as it is, they’re still hoping that it will somehow “come-back” soon to its pre-crisis levels. Dream on…
To address that continued inaction, I propose that the realtor community brings a bit more transparency to its MLS information system and starts broadly and overtly publishing the actual selling prices. This would help defining that “floor” price ranges instead of the inflated, bubble-era asking prices that are discouraging buyers and shutting down any activity. It would in turn promote a more realistic pricing that would restore both interest and confidence. Granted, that real “floor” may still continue to creep down, but at least knowing where it is and where it’s going would provide a basis of reference and would go a long way to encouraging broad market participation. My solution is simple, badly needed and guaranteed to work.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Undersecretary of “la Joie de Vivre”

Up until the election, I actively supported Obama by planting a sign in my yard, placing bumper stickers on our cars and attending his volunteer seminars. All along, I was secretly hoping to get a position in his new administration. My plan was simple; I wanted to become the undersecretary of “la Joie de Vivre” (the happy life) working for Tom Daschle who will be heading the Department of Health and Human Services. The platform I had developed would have changed America; consider this, among other social improvements I would have built a coast-to-coast skateboard lane along highway 66, I would have offered free Botox, breast or hair implant to folks over 55, I would have made available free energy drinks and potato chips at town and city council meetings to foster participation to civic events and I would have forced cable and satellite dish companies to offer at least one free movie and sport channels. I would have invited Hugo Chavez to talk about self-promotion on television, Fidel Castro to discuss maintenance and care of military “fatigues” as well as jogging suits, and brought Martine Aubry, a French socialist, to introduce the concept of a 35 hours work week, something she'd invented and successfully introduced several years before in her country. All these programs would have been paid by a small tax on food stuff that nobody would have even noticed. Well, apparently Barack Obama didn’t seem to value that plan and turned it down along with my candidacy. Am I crushed? You bet. Would I consider suicide? Probably not, because I’m afraid of death. Would I vote for McCain? Definitely, but it’s perhaps too late now…

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How to manage worry

What worries us the most are things we don’t control like for instance death and the stock market, so what are we to do if we don’t want worry to terrorize us for the rest of our lives? I have already attempted to address the issue last summer, but will revisit it today by adding a dose of prevention. That’s quite simple, to address the devastating damages and the uselessness of worry, let’s act on matters that can be changed and let’s ignore those that can’t; this of course is no quick fix; it’s a long term endeavor. Let’s take health for instance where we can make a habit of not smoking, eating right and regular exercise. We can take the same approach with our mental health by feeding our mind with all the right resources that are available; good reading material, smart information gathering, cultural activities and a lifelong approach to learning everything that surrounds us. We could add to that list our political and civic involvement that can influence the way we are governed or we live, and the list could go on forever. The bottom line is that there’s a way to control our long term horizon and root out most worries that can populate it. As you can see a well managed life is likely to cut out most of the worries we can act upon and leave our minds free to have good, clean fun. Oh sure, don’t go in the middle of an empty field during a thunderstorm and don’t do aerobatics next time you fly your single engine plane, but I already hear you telling me that there’s a HUGE margin between a quick adrenaline rush and deep lingering concerns!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Are these realistic expectations?

Yesterday, I spoke with my friend John Evans from Vail who told me that his company and most Colorado resorts are expecting business to be down by about twenty percent and are planning their business accordingly (no new hires, salary freeze, scaled down budgets, etc.) Vail Resort is doing its part with discounted lift ticket and attractive lodging packages. Their only fear is that business could even fall beyond that, making it much harder to keep cost and profitability in check. Aspen has already put a promotion together with UPS to counteract the luggage fees charged by airlines and give an extra reason for visiting Ute City. Compare that the rose-tainted glasses worn by the Park City Chamber and its business community. That’s what could also be called “arrogant denial” and might bite everyone too soon and too painfully. A few weeks ago I was wondering if there was some “Plan B,” just in case; apparently in the land of Zion we’re much too good for that and God still loves us…

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Start by telling a friend...

These days, the topics of discussion are the financial, economic and environmental crisis. Oh yes, you still hear about terrorism (Mumbai) and illegal immigration, yet there’s something that stand behind all of these ills and it’s the world overpopulation. Humanity on planet Earth is like150 people riding in a bus made to carry a maximum of 35 of them, including the driver. There are passengers all over; hanging on the sides, squatting over the roof gallery, filling up the aisle and invading the driver’s space. If God wasn’t such a terrible absentee manager, he would have long brought some order to that mess. That’s right fighting global warming, wild immigration and dirty waters are as many “Band Aids” as we can think of. Addressing the real cause is going after the crowding of the earth. If we want to save the planet, we need to grasp that basic truth that stares us in the face and yet that no one wants to see. We need to educate our friends about it by making them understand that their quality of life and the survival of their offspring starts there. I’m not finished with the topic; you’ll read more of it very soon, but for today, begin by telling a friend or two about the concept…

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Numbed by the numbers...

The other night, Christopher Dodd, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee was saying on the news that the entire bailout offered by the U.S. Government is now reaching the $5 trillion level in an attempt to shore up the collapse of the financial system. This information actually originates from CreditSights, a research firm in New York and London; so, it’s not just the $ 700 billion that was passed in October, the $800 billion offered last week or not even the $ 2 trillion that the Federal Reserve is apparently on the hook for. All counted, that’s roughly a $ 16,350 extra burden for every man, woman, and child in the United States. Another way to look at it would be to equate the country’s GDP ($13.78 trillion) to the median annual U.S. household income ($48,000) we would have the following; that household would be spending about $50,000 a year – that is, exceeding what it makes by close to $2,000 – and would have piled up about $43,000 in credit card debt and now would have to face another $17,000 in debt with that impeding bailout. If this is not insane, tell me what is. When these huge numbers are put in perspective, their sheer size clearly shows that our government is now “numbed” by them, doesn’t think clearly anymore and after all, what’s one trillion? We’ve passed that point; today, anything goes under the pretense that AIG, Fanny Mae, Citigroup and the auto industry are “too big too fail...”

Friday, November 28, 2008

The view from 30,000 feet

To seize any economic or financial situation properly in a global context, it becomes essential to take the high altitude view, that is, not be blinded by the immediate nooks and crannies, the very short term and all the current irritations. That is, looking both ahead, around and in a longer time-span to obtain a truer perspective. The immediacy of television, radio and newspapers news doesn’t allow much for reflection and long-term outlook. More often than not it brings us back into the “here and now,” the lowest possible view and yet, nothing smart can be envisioned without seeing from above and envisioning a longer term horizon. For the more than thirty years I’ve now lived in America, we’ve seen a significant number of downturns with their depressing meanings being distilled non-stop on the airwaves and in print, yet we've survived them all. I know, America is particularly resilient and fiercely optimistic when it must get back up on its feet and with tomorrow’s leadership getting organized by Obama, we ought to be much attuned to the future and its promises rather than staying stuck in the negative rut of the present malaise…

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Another Thanksgiving…

Today I feel young as we’re ready to celebrate our 32nd Thanksgiving even though some folks could say that I’m almost twice that age… That’s right; we’ve been celebrating that all-American Holiday ever since we moved to the United States. At first, we were invited at friends’ houses to partake into the traditional meal, including turkey, sweet potatoes and other pumpkin pie… Since these early days, we’ve adopted the tradition albeit in making some subtle, but key gastronomic changes to the event. Today will be no exception with again a few twists; it will be the first time we have three generations around the table when we’ll host our son, daughter-in-law and our grand-son Finn this afternoon around a delicious... Raclette. That's right, we felt we should give the traditional bird a break…

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Express bidding

Ever since we’ve owned our small house, we’ve been doing a new improvement each year. Next spring won’t be an exception; in April or May, we’ll redo our furnace room and upgrade our heating and hot-water systems to state of the art and much “greener” equipment. So this week, we started the bidding process for this remodeling job and, as of yesterday, had already seen four contractors. It’s amazing how each one approaches the task; some are pontificating and seem fixated on certain issues, others take abundant photographs and want us to do the job right away. Only one out of the three first contractors we saw stood out by his thoughtfulness and his grounded attitude; all the others displayed some “suspect” traits. That was until a fourth one came late afternoon, barely took five minutes to seize the scope of the project before declaring: “This will cost you $11,300; call me when you want to start.” No calculator, no paper, just these exacting figures… Some Park City contractors are real geniuses!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Crumbling trust…

Besides having taxpayers explicitly picking up the tab for losses and “toxic” assets, the recent “rescue” of Citigroup opens up a cortege of questions. First, why in the world its new CEO Vikram Pandit didn’t see that train wreck coming a month ago? I don’t care what others think, that guy should go. Everyone is saying that “Citigroup was too large to fail” but this bring up another lesson; why in the world did the Fed allow banks to become so huge in the first place by swallowing its smaller competitors and picking up so many “garbage companies” in the process? Also the saved giant now has an unfair advantage over its competitors that are all going to turn to us, the taxpayers, when problems start to emerge with them (and they will...) Finally, isn’t it ironical that congress spends the time to place our three top auto execs on a hot seat while giving our same financial chiefs a blank check. Well, as I’ve said before, I trust Hank Paulson and the bank chiefs even less and believe that the average American still has no clue on how bad the banking mess really is. Again, we’re still talking about a couple trillion dollars worth of catastrophe in the making… Tighten your belt even more, America!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Moving from quantity to quality?

Could the outcome of this economic-financial crisis going become a dramatic paradigm shift as I suggested late October? Could America and its western brethren known until know for everything “large,” “big” “biggest” and “fastest” evolve into a culture that could be focusing on what’s at least “better,” “sustainable,” or “more secure?” In the past years leading to our current mess, everything had to be impressive, done quickly and on a massive scale. Speed, productivity and panache were always sacrosanct considerations, allowing large quantitative output but more often than not at the expense of quality, the environment and other folks’ impoverishment, whether we consider the production of goods or the delivery of services. Big numbers and impressive feats have always been worshiped, and our prosperity was built on economies of scale and shock value. One of the fuels behind this frenzy has been the ever-increasing global population that kept on growing and would in turn guarantee that Coca-Cola, GE and Nestlé would keep peddling their “stuff” to an ever-increasing market. You know what I think about increasing world population and with future stabilization and hopefully, reduction in mind, these times could be the right opportunity for switching gears and going into a quest for quality in everything humanity strives to accomplish. Since high-quality warfare is an oxymoron, this decadent option might have to be removed from the nations’ economic quiver, but everything else would work beautifully if we were to reduce the portions and increase the nutritive value of each serving…

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Practicing fortune-telling...

There are events that can be very difficult to predict, like “acts of god,” natural catastrophes as wells as many accidents and forms of death. While everything can always be somehow explained in hindsight, the domains that are easier to foretell are those linked with human behavior, man-made schemes and economic evolution. Today, we’ll focus on what it takes to make smart and accurate predictions. First, like the street-corner fortune teller, it helps a lot to have a great amount of practice. This is something I’ve been trying to do on a daily basis when I focus on the stock market and attempt to guess where it will go for the day. Sometime, I get Evelyne involved in the exercise, and most often than not, both of us can guess its movements with a fair amount of accuracy. What I’ve also learned so far is that, barring a catastrophic and unforeseen event, predicting is a subtle mix between listening to one’s gut feelings and integrating it with a related knowledge-base, but it needs to be done both in an intuitive yet detached manner. That mean you need to learn a lot through reading, listening around, observing as well as probing deep into yourself. That also means that you shouldn’t pay too much attention to the television’s “talking heads” or other gurus because these folks are there to put up a show and seldom will speak from their heart and will certainly try to peddle their own bias. You should also remember that no one will every say truths that could profoundly disturb the populace and create a run on the banks, so the final analysis will always be up to you and no one else. With all this, you may want to conclude that seeing forward is more an art than a technique, but we all knew it already…

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Be wary of signs…

Some can be intimidating, forbidding or just… misspelled! I’m sure you too have picked up the “suspisious” at the bottom of the sign and realized that its author’s command of English is downright suspicious, even though these signs are plastered all around Park City. This is not unique to our Utah town though; when I worked in Vail in the early 2000’s, my office was situated in a complex where the local lawyer displayed an impressive hand-painted sign pointing to his place of business, with a British-inspired approach that said “Attourney”. While this might have looked upper-class it was nonetheless misspelled. I know that languages are constantly evolving but most graphic artists' ability to master their very own is falling like a rock!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Linking health care to immigration control

In the midst of the financial and economic crises, both health care and immigration reforms have taken a back seat, yet both could be effectively addressed by linking them intelligently. Let’s first address health care; by this time, most parties seem to agree that any reform must include universal coverage. In other words, everyone will have to be insured so no single individual should “fall through the cracks;” this means that everyone would need to pay some kind of a premium and there would be no more “free ride” through the emergency back door. At that point, let’s imagine that each American and legal resident is given a smart card (like its “Vitale” French counterpart.) Now, when anyone shows up for any kind of treatment without this card, it will red-flag that this person is either a tourist or an illegal alien. From there, health authorities will have to inform the immigration services about the person’s status. Two things will occur; the individual will be held financially responsible for the care received and it will have to be paid through assets held in America, in the foreign domicile, or through the country’s Embassy (tourist situation.) In addition, a one-time grace period of six month will be offered to legalize the person’s immigration status – if possible - while staying inside the United States; should that prove impossible, voluntary departure or deportation will follow. Without exception, both health card and driver’s license would solely be issued to citizens and legal residents. Unless, this idea proves unconstitutional (any lawyers out there?), it would go a long way to solving our illegal immigration problem…

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mud and mountain biking

Two days ago, thinking that our warm November sun had finally dried up all the nearby trails, we took our mountain bikes back from storage and went out for one hour or so. Well, it was still a bit wet and any kind of “wet” is always too much for single track riding, especially in shady spots. Fat tires collect mud on their periphery and spit it in the rider's face and back, making for a sticky, arduous and dirty experience. In addition it's the bike that controls the rider which is never a good outcome. Shortly after we started we altered the itinerary we originally had in mind, sticking to the driest possible route that was still too "spongy" and made our workout even harder. Don’t get me wrong, we still had plenty of fun and are seriously planning to ride later on this weekend if the good weather holds; that late season biking experience was a reminder however, that great mountain biking can only be enjoyed to its fullest in super-dry places like the Rocky Mountains and California. Not in places where mud is an ordinary occurrence!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Making pirates think twice

Here’s a novel idea; put our international institutions and armed forces to (good) work… Have Mr. Ban Ki-moon spearhead a UN resolution that would provide for a permanent naval presence along the coast of Somalia, or any other pirate “hot spot” in the world for that matter, and make sure an aircraft carrier is stationed in these areas at all times. There are plenty of these vessels that could be put to good use; as a matter of fact twenty-two of them are in service with the navies of the USA, United Kingdom, France, Russia, Italy, India, Spain, Brazil and Thailand. An alert system would be setup and when a tanker, cargo or any ship would feel threatened, appropriately armed aircrafts would be dispatched. After visual confirmation and identification, a summons protocol would then be issued and if not immediately obeyed the aggressor’s watercrafts would immediately be sunk and their surviving crew left to negotiate with the local sharks. Quick, simple, dissuasive and for once, our expensive military forces would be used more wisely and they could still bill the ship's insurance company for services rendered…

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

People I admire…

Some of us have role models; they’re generally so good that we stand in awe before them and sometimes they propel us to go beyond what we would ordinarily do and can be inspiring enough to get us on the way to reach our true potential…
There aren’t too many of these on my list. I could start with Leonardo Da Vinci who was the consummate creative machine, followed by Jean-Claude Killy who literally sucked me into the world of skiing, Mother Teresa the spiritual as well as minimalist "giant" and Mozart who stands there, no matter what along with my favorite band, the Beatles. In my working environment no one, around my peers or my bosses ever stood out, with the exception of Georges Salomon, a competitor. For the most part, I had to find my inspiration elsewhere. Sure they were folks that I envied, admired but not to the point that I would model my life after them. Mediocrity was more often the rule than the exception. I shouldn’t go into the realm of politics as it’s overflowing with the worst society can produce, except perhaps for someone that has popped up very recently. He’s much younger than me; is name is Barack Obama and promises to act like another formidable inspiration on me and millions…

Monday, November 17, 2008

An almost perfect “kill”

Major Snelson from the 4th Fighting Squadron was about to conclude his mission over Duschene County and was now ready to head back towards Hill Air Force Base. As he was flying over Route 40 on this Sunday afternoon he noticed very little traffic; everything below looked brown and dark and the highway just an undulating grey ribbon. He barely could see it at first, but now he could discern a lone silver car moving westbound on that gray line of asphalt. Just for fun, he aimed at the vehicle, locked it in with his laser and could have fired one of its Maverick missiles into the target. Problem was, these rockets are expensive, it would have dug a huge crater into the road and there would have been a lot of explaining to do for the smashed car. Had that happened over Iraq or even Kuwait, that wouldn’t have been a cinch, but not here, in Utah.I was driving back home in that late afternoon. The weather was perfect, nature ready to take its white winter coat and I was just wary to make it back before dusk. You see, the unique and big danger on these rural roadways is always wildlife; I’ve already hit three deer with my car and don’t like it one bit. For some reasons I happened to be just a bit apprehensive for a moment. A fraction of second later, I heard a huge roar, saw two F-16 passing me overhead and veering suddenly to the right, over the hill. God, I love these flying machines!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Where do we begin solving the financial crisis?

After a big, impressive meeting in Washington, twenty representatives of the leading economic countries in the world didn’t bring anything new on the table. Of course, with Bush on his way out and Obama not ready yet to fully participate in the debate, no one expected a landmark decision following that get together. Yet, I believe in simple solutions to most problems and there’s one thing that should be agreed upon in this financial realm; it could go like this: “Thou shall play no games.” Investment and financial undertaking should be positive and discourage nefarious speculation like short-selling, derivatives, betting on others’ demise (CDS) when one has no underlying interest and “products” that aren’t positive or fully transparent. That toolbox of tricks is a huge parasite on society and doesn’t contribute to creating wealth. Had our bright twenty participants only stated that, they would have contributed to cleaning up 90% of what has caused the mess we’re in at present, but did I say that “courage” was part of most politicians’ attributes?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It’s skiing time again!

Yesterday, I got back on my skis, less than six months after I quit, and still at the same place, in Snowbird, Utah. The resort received 46 inches of snow early November that enabled it to open for more than ten days now, and I must say that the conditions were pretty good. Since the beginning of the month, snow had kept on piling up and the night before it rained and froze solid on the lower third of the mountain, making for an excellent base at this early stage of the season. The upper two-third was just perfect, and I skied most of it in windblown crud and had a great time. I mostly rode the tram (ten of these skiing non-stop) that was almost jam-packed with its 125 passenger load each time, eavesdropping on banter and summer accomplishment of all kinds, and ended up logging 30,827 vertical feet by 2:55 pm when I got back to my car. I’d never skied so much on a first day of the season, and this morning, my legs reminded me…

Friday, November 14, 2008

Salt Lake City no longer landlocked…

A couple days ago, Delta announced that it will start direct flights from Salt Lake to Tokyo early June of next year. After the Salt Lake – Paris flight that apparently is quite successful, we’ll now be able to walk in Ginza only a few hours after taking off from Utah. I remember my days in the ski business when I used to fly a lot internationally; I would buy round the world tickets that were Delta-Swissair “combos” and would take me from Salt Lake, to Portland, then Tokyo-Narita, then Zurich after making a quick stop in Seoul. Then, I’d often stop in Geneva, to go and visit my folks, or Munich and London, and then back home in the USA via New York, Cincinnati, Chicago or Atlanta; too many stopovers always making for an exhausting journey. A direct “arc” between two points is always much quicker and easier and Delta that has just grown to be the largest airline in the world is already talking about adding a direct flight from Utah to Amsterdam, thanks to its Air France – KLM partnership. In these changing times I should perhaps get back to work and resume traveling for a living…

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stock market predictions

Since I love to play the game, this is what I see ahead for the stock market. If we’ve not reached that level yet, we’re very close to the bottom, but that one could still be a 15% drop away. Let’s take only one index, the Dow Jones and let’s run the numbers: While hitting a low of 8283 yesterday, the Dow could go reach 7040. Sounds impossible? Nothing does these days. From a practical standpoint, this will be hard to exactly pin-down, but let’s say that if an investor were to enter the market now, he or she might have to sustain some unpleasant tummy aches until the elevator starts returning towards the upper floors. As for when that ultimate dip is likely to happen? I’d say sometime in January, perhaps a few days before Obama’s inauguration. Let’s settle for January 15; we’ll see…

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Where’s “Plan B?”

On October 29, I attended the Park City’s Chamber pre-season presentation a forum in which self-congratulations abound. Along with our three local resorts, Deer Valley, Park City and the Canyons, Arnie Weissmann, editor-in-chief at Travel Weekly spoke and express some dire warnings about this year’s snow season. Among other predictions, he said that the economic crisis and higher plane fares are affecting all forms of tourism, and the cruise industry, Las Vegas and eastern ski resorts will make it tough for Park City and the other western resorts. In spite of an admitted decline ranging between 15 to 20% in early bookings as of the end of September, all three resorts and no one in the Chamber’s leadership appeared too worried and what’s worse, there doesn’t seem to be any “Plan B” should the booking situation and visitations keep on deteriorating as the season advances. This to me is denial at its best. We certainly are competing with the cruise business, Las Vegas and other warm destinations, but also against the Vail, Whistler and Lake Tahoe of the world. Why is there no mechanism in place that would declare and promote a roll-back on prices and rates, attractive “specials” on lift tickets and all kinds of creative “product bundling” ideas, should bookings keep on dipping south, in order to steal some clientele from our neighboring destination resorts? Of course, we’ve got too good a product in Park City to even take interconnecting seriously to give our visitors a much better reason to pick us over the rest… I am missing something or has “competition” become a dirty word?