Friday, April 30, 2010

Drill, baby drill...

Sarah Palin's mantra has come crashing down with the latest, huge oil spill going on in the Gulf of Mexico. We're sure not hearing much from the conservatives and from the tea party bunch about this disaster. While just one week ago two-third of the American public thought it was a good idea to drill for oil in the midst of sea water, President Obama should also now rethink his newly announced offshore drilling strategy and take the necessary measure so this program doesn't turn into another nightmare.

My first concern is while oil companies are always first to pocket huge profits, the taxpayers shouldn't be the one to mop up their mistakes; we'll see how this catastrophe pans out when the last drop of leaked oil is cleaned up. One thing is certain, this mishap replaces the U.S. Energy Policy front and center in the current debates after Financial and Immigration Reform, this subject should be vigorously debated and should help us begin to wane ourselves from over-consumption, make off-shore drilling fail-safe, implement energy saving measures, make big oil accountable for more than it is at the moment and turn us more decisively towards alternative energies. That's right, I must be dreaming!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Good money for just “selling” turns

How much do ski instructors make? It mostly depends on where they teach and what they do in the ski school. If you want to earn lots of money "selling" turns, don't work in North America or in the Southern Hemisphere. Go to the Alps and zero-in on France. Not only is that country – like the USA – the larger producer of skier days (about 60 million annually for both,) but ski instructing is still considered a very honorable career in which professionals are self-employed and can make up to 30,000 Euros ($40,000) in one short winter season; of course they have to pay the full equivalent of Fica and other French taxes that are meant to elegantly separate these fine skiers from a large share of their earnings, but it remains a pretty cool job.

The reasons for their success is that they are extremely well trained, incredibly motivated, they offer a just balance between fun and technique, the fact that their profession is organized like a McDonald franchise and, like no one else, they continue to sell their services amazingly well. Want to earn more? Become a ski school director; your peers will vote for you if you know how to sweet-talk them into it, appear trustworthy enough and you'll earn 160% of what the average top ten instructors are making; at that stage, your extra responsibilities will require that you attend to the ski school business year-round, refrain from dipping your hands into the “cookie-jar,” but that doesn't prevent you from laying bricks, running a restaurant, or just sipping Pastis all spring, summer and fall, waiting for the next snow to fly...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Unreasonable folks

Is it just me, or is it that as time goes on, some people are becoming totally unreasonable, ignore established rules and decide to make their own, I mean, follow steps that are just convenient to them? When that happens, instead of just pushing back and losing my cool, I'm a bit better at thinking things through, never responding in the spur of the moment, and instead plotting the strategy that is likely to serve me the best, and by so doing protecting my interests before moving on. We've discussed emotions and business in the past and they are indeed a bad mixture. Separate the two, stay true to your plan and what serves you best, and you'll stay on the wining side.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Last ski day at Snowbird

Yesterday was one of those perfect days out on snow. Cold for the season, but with blue skies and few people on that last Monday of April. For those who don't know Snowbird, or the “Bird” as it's known by its fans, just picture this: A wonderful skiing place, just 10 miles away from a one million plus people metropolis and to boot it's open each year for snow business from November through the end of May; sometimes later, I've seen it close down on July 4th.
This is true alpine terrain, with its own classic, “Pipeline” couloir and lots of chutes along with multiple steep and long-lasting runs. Hard to find a match for that anywhere in the world, from Grenoble to Teheran! The folks that filled the tram on each ride had more ski-DNA in their blood than one could imagine and most of them were of the true ski-bum type.

These guys' skis were very wide, perhaps as a way to express their shredding power, reminding me about that French saying: “Plus l'pantalon est large, plus l'homme est fort...” which means something like “The larger the pants, the stronger the man...” and that certainly should be extended to the skis we saw all over yesterday that are now getting to be wider than they're long and all contorted as if they had sustained the most severe post-molding convulsions, but that alone should be set aside for an entirely different discussion.

At any rate, we had a wonderful day, this was my 93rd day skiing (actually 99th on skis, if I count my volunteering work) and the one that thrust me over the 2 million vertical feet skied for the season (my lifetime record...) I'm now ready for something else, perhaps some “skinning” but we'll see...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Walking, running and burning calories...

Recently, my son who is not a runner, was saying that there's no major difference in terms of exercise value between running and walking, and that walking was preferable as it was gentler on joints. While we listened attentively to his opinion, intuitively, we knew that it couldn't be quite the same. That debate has been going on for eons and we needed some proofs to at least convince ourselves that running is more efficient and a more potent exercise than just walking.

First there's of course the fact that running a certain distance can be packed in less time and that's advantage number one. Thinking that both exercise are the same opens the door to absurd concepts like this one: I we're expending about 100 calories per mile when moving over level ground we'd use up the same amount of calories crawling or sprinting; this doesn't make a lot of sense to me! If I drive my car at 35 or 75 mph, there's a huge difference on gas mileage...

In 2004, researchers at Syracuse University compared the energy expenditure of walking and running with equations incorporating energy expenditure and took into consideration the true number of calories burned from exercise by taking away the “resting” calories we just consume while standing still. They found that the net calorie burn for the women was 91 running versus 43 walking. For the men the net calories burned was 105 running versus 52 walking. So, in reality, the subjects were burning more than twice the calories when running versus walking.

Sure, this is one case among many and it appears that at specific paces these result may vary as claims another study conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine. Yet, no matter how you slice it, the faster one goes, the more calories it burns and since it's much easier to go fast by running instead of just walking, we've decided to continue to run until our ankles, knees and hips begin falling apart!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What kind of growth?

By now, you may have realized that I'm against overpopulation and also against quantitative growth, its twin by-product. I'm not against good growth as such and instead, would like to see a development of “qualitative growth.” So without further ado, let me try to define what I mean by that. Instead of putting out more stuff, big stuff and bad stuff, I propose that we work on generating “better things” that would range from better products that are lasting longer, cost less to keep up, generate more user's satisfaction and cost less to produce (all in terms of direct, environmental and other “hidden” costs.)

All this betterment should be shared between designers, producers and end-users. Sounds utopian? Perhaps, but this is worth exploring. It is a least a new way of seeing opportunities that could be compatible with a flat-growing or even a future dwindling global population. This novel approach of qualitative growth could be stimulated by an appropriate tax system and more importantly by a raising consciousness that we must begin doing things right for the planet, the rest of the natural world and our own offspring. In the final analysis, probably more sustainable than utopian...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My buddy François Feuz

Yesterday, I had decided to call my friend François Feuz in Switzerland. I got his wife Marie-Jo on the phone; she sounded distraught as she told me that about one month ago, while skiing in Courchevel, Francois had taken a bad fall, damaged some of his vertebrae and was now in a Swiss hospital undergoing extensive rehab work. The offshoot of that accident is that François is likely to be at best paraplegic.

This couldn't have happened to a nicer guy and should make us appreciate how lucky we are to be able to walk around on our own two feet! While on that call, I also spoke to his youngest son who said that it was important to keep his Dad's spirits up, and that feeling sorry wasn't going to help him much. He asked me to ask all the folks I knew who had ever come in contact with Francois to shoot a short video reminiscing the good old days and expressing a message of strength, hope and “can-do” attitude.
A larger film will be pieced up from all that footage and his son plans to show him shortly to cheer him up. If you have questions about video format or where to send it, just ask me. Currently, François is hospitalized at Nottwill, near Lucerne and will stay there through November or December. He can't take any phone calls, but the hospital will read email messages sent to him through this link; so if you happen to know François, tell him you're 100% with him and want him to feel his personal best very soon!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Roller coaster ride

Some business deals seem to take forever and without some extraordinary patience, many might never come to fruition. It takes sometimes an incredible amount of self-control, detachment, sense of self-derision and wisdom to let these seemingly impossible cases bloom into consumed transactions. I'm currently in the midst of one of these “cliff-hangers” and since nothing is signed or delivered yet, I'm present, active but certainly not holding my breath...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Even though I hardly ever noticed until recently it existed, I'm realizing 40 years after its creation - this alone dates me a lot! - that this celebration has become more important to me than Christmas, President's Day and all of our Holidays combined.
It's about our precious home, that little blue ball floating in space and still alive in spite of 6.8 billion of us doing all we can to choke it to death and turn it into a brown, lifeless sphere... So what am I going to mark this day? Keep on living simply, working everyday at minimizing my impact on the environment and looking for better ways to achieving it, preaching forcefully to decreasing human population (what a concept!) and doing all I can to slowly, but surely turn things around for our kids, our grandson and all his little buddies. Simple, but I believe, quite powerful.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More careful...

In spite of some negative gutfeelings I went to Snowbird yesterday for some more skiing. The spring conditions were as bad as they can sometime get when the temperatures are far too warm as they were and to make matter worse, I arrived around 11 am, after the few groomed runs had began to turn into slush. Never to give up on a skiing opportunity and on my day pass investment, I stayed well after past 3 pm and almost skied 40,000 vertical feet, most of it riding the tram.

Needless to say that I was done when I got back to the car, but if I skied intensely, I remained extremely careful the all time. Three broken ribs and one severed Achilles later, I've now decided that I don't want to hurt myself anymore while skiing. I've become much more aware, careful and watchful. I don't embrace the kind of risks I used to take and instead, have become much more calculating. This doesn't mean that I don't go fast anymore, but I've simply become much more selective in the manner I blend velocity and conditions. This could be an admission of growing older; I'd prefer to say that I'm becoming much wiser...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When people and companies won't change

Change to me always represents an exciting opportunity. It doesn't have to mean growth, as I would like to see it as a chance to improve overall quality. Yet to many, change is something they don't want into their lives. To them, it never can be a free-choice option, but only be a necessary evil.
They will only implement a change in direction when there's no other choice left. So my dilemma today is how to do convince people and their companies that change can be good and should be implemented sooner than later? Self-induced change is a pro-active move instead of a knee-jerk reaction. Perhaps the only answer to that quest is simply to go elsewhere with the idea and make it happening in places where the ground is much more fertile and the minds still open to new ideas. I'll try that...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Taking a vacation from... skiing!

Yesterday, I marked Park City Mountain Resort closing day by my active participation. Since the weather was rather warm, I skied from 9 to 12:20 pm and then called it... a season! Well not quite, since I still plan to ski 2 or 3 times in nearby Little Cottonwood Canyon as this as become a tradition for me in recent year. The difference being that instead of being the rule, skiing will now become the exception from my daily life as spring days are becoming a warmer reality. Long and fast turns will be replaced by yard work, dandelion salads, some biking and longer walks in the afternoon. This snow season that started on the skimpy side ended up being a very good one and with so many days on skis, I feel very fortunate...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Embattled USSA Chief...

Almost two years ago there were already discontent about Bill Marolt's cushy compensation as the CEO of the US Ski Team. These underground rumblings erupted yesterday in a New York Times article, in which Marolt $652,000 yearly compensation became a focal point. One of the questions is whether a non-profit like the US ski and snowboard federation should lavish such a pay on its top executive.

Another one is who exactly are the board members and what they're thinking. Of course there's that recent DUI story that doesn't not add up with the idea of leading by example and yet another is Marolt's age; does it still make sense for USSA to have a 66 year old CEO who is contracted to stay through his 70th birthday? Seems like we may hear some answers to these question in the very near future...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New world vertical skiing record?

Yesterday, I learned that on March 22, 2010, Oliver Kern, clocked up 199,718 feet in one day and that it took him a little over 15 hours to accomplish. That same day, he also racked up 18,209 feet within one hour, breaking the previous Guinness' world record of 14,731 feet. This record seems to ignore the one set by Chris “Superman” Kent in 1991 on Ajax in Aspen at 271,161 feet and makes that new claim quite questionable.

To accomplish that, Kern is said to have been eating spaghetti bolognese while riding the gondola and ended up skiing with a head-lamp as night fell. Hailing from Munich, Germany, the plump Oliver Kern is a well-known character. The 36-year-old founder of the internet portal claims to have visited over 700 ski areas. In the past, he has boasted some weird world records, like skiing in three ski areas on two continents in one day (on two different sides of the Pacific coast) or riding more than 70 different ski lifts within the same day – this guy is always on the lookout for some high-visibility exploit.
The place where he claims to have broken the record is “Speikboden Ahrntal”, a ski area located in Italy's South Tyrol. He said he picked it because of its excellent grooming, its fast eight-passenger gondola and because it lands itself perfectly for a vertical skiing world record. The lift he mostly rode is the Speikboden Gondola; its 3,353 feet vertical rise and 9,459 feet length meters and 35.45% gradient serve a 3.4 miles run that he skied 58 times. The skier added a few more runs to bring the overall distance skied to 225 miles and the combined distance traveled between slopes and lifts to 323 miles.

Now, where does that leave Dirk Beal and me, the alleged vertical record holder for Utah? A bit dubious, because we logged 112,750 feet in 8 ½ hour in perfect conditions, which means that in 15 hours, it could only translate to 198,970 feet, a bit short of Kern's claim. The lift he rode is very similar to the one we used but the snow conditions in Utah were significantly better than in South Tyrol, so unless we get a lift operator to let us ride for some 15 hours we'll never know. Sure, there's always the helicopter; remember the absolute world record set on 29 April 1998 in British Columbia, totaling 353,599 feet in 14 ½ hour by Kent, Perret, Podivinsky and Sauder.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Top-ten chairlifts in Park City

This may sound like a trivial subject, but it's there to tell what contributes to a quality ski experience. Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine, Marcel Grivel-Delilaz, who was complaining about the large number of “fixed-grip” chairlifts still plaguing his resort of Morzine, France. So what makes a great chairlift? In my view, the first aspect is the type of terrain it serves, the variety of runs, the exposures, the scenic beauty and anything that can make it unique or different. I'll give this aspect the most weight. The next element is a combination of chairlift speed (that's where the detachable machines can score big,) the uphill capacity and a combination of vertical drop and steepness.

This is a measure that makes skiing efficient and enable a maximum of vertical in a minimum amount of time. This dimension, while a bit less significant than the previous, still weighs heavily in the rankings. Finally the third measure is how crowded the place is and this has to do with lines, on slope traffic and the overall quality of the skiing experience; obviously this is the least important of the three. When I mixed the data, everything contributed to make 9990 at The Canyons an overall winner before Deer Valley's Lady Morgan and Sultan, among ten others. If you'd like to comment or argue this ranking, just leave a comment!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jupiter revisited...

Yesterday, I skied Park City Mountain Resort and had a great time skiing Jupiter. For years, I thought Jupiter was the best, but my recent and extensive skiing experience in both Deer Valley and The Canyon had showed me the limitations of that little ski bowl. First, the steep runs are very short. Sure their incline is at the top, but that doesn't last long.

The run-off portions are quite significant and accessing West Face and Scott's Bowl requires long traverses (I'm not talking about any hiking.) This said, the place is great to visit on a few occasions for a few runs and there's nothing like Portugese Gap! Park City Mountain Resort would be well advised to upgrade its rickety fixed-grip twin chair into at least a triple; just doing this would increase uphill capacity by 50%! In addition they ought to install a lift serving West Face and Pioneer Ridge as well as one serving Pinecone Ridge; this would bring Park City out of the snow-stone age and into the 21st century and usher the long needed connection to The Canyons!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ah! Technology...

These days, there's a computer or a smart chip everywhere; not just in our PCs, but in our cars, garage doors, watches, phones, alarm-clocks, outdoor temperature monitors, thermostats, climate control systems, TV receivers, DVD players, internet radio, cameras, coffee-machines, kitchen hoods, microwaves oven, refrigerators and stoves. All is computerized and when something breaks down, needs a replacement battery or just doesn't work right, it's time to locate and decipher the instructions for use and spend quite a bit of time fixing the problem.

The other day, I had to reset our kitchen clock that also tells us the outside temperature and a bunch of other stuff. Unknowingly, I set the alarm, and for the two following nights, we heard an unidentified “beep-beep” at 2 am! The next morning, I went back to the instructions and fixed the problem. My wife is terrified when she thinks of the day I'll die, and she'll be left alone to fight against all these out of control computer chips. When she does, I just smile thinking that in spite of all these pesky downsides progress isn't that bad after all...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The atomic elephant in the room

If you have followed the recent nuclear security meeting in Washington and the resuming of disarmament protocol between the US and Russia, there's been an incredible silence about Israel's status as another nuclear power. It seems to me that the two other permanent United Nation seat holders that are Russia and China will never enforce meaningful sanctions against Iran for his pursuit of nuclear technology as long as Israel continues to cover up its nukes and, by doing so, contributes to destabilizing the Middle-East.

My solution is fairly simple: Step one would consist at denuclearizing the Jewish State, that by the way keeps on ignoring the non-proliferation treaty, while assuring that it will remain protected by the US nuclear umbrella, and then get both Russia and China to step-up pressure on Iran, this other out-of-control theocracy. Short of doing that, we'll keep on antagonizing Teheran and push its leaders into becoming the other nuclear power we need like another hole in our head...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Will change come at The Canyons?

Yesterday was the last day at The Canyons, near Park City, Utah. Alongside with Deer Valley that's were we ski during the winter season. While Deer Valley is super-sophisticated and has been ranked number one by the readers of Ski Magazine season after season, we like the mountain at The Canyons; it's huge, varied and still has a significant potential for improvement. It was purchased a year or so ago in a bitter, competitive bid against Vail Resorts by Talisker, a real-estate development firm from Canada, who owns a lot of developable land around town; unfortunately for that company, their specialty, “luxury real-estate” is dead at the moment and may take between 5 and 10 years to recover.
It seems that right now, The Canyons and its parent company are totally out of cash and it shows in their lack of attention around the resort and the “blah” atmosphere that prevailed yesterday. There are myriad of little things to improve in that place that would make an instant difference on users, but nothing gets done. There's either a lack of cash, a lack of imagination or a desire to sell the place as quickly as possible; perhaps it's all of these factors combined...

This Sunday, the weather was mild, the skies gray and there was almost no one in sight. Yet, the snow was groomed to perfection and remained excellent until noon, the time we chose to quit. We had a whole morning of skiing fun and racked up more than 26,000 feet vertical in 3 hours. Too bad the atmosphere wasn't more festive. This was a huge (missed) opportunity for The Canyons to promote their product and reward their season pass holders with a themed day perhaps, barbecue, music, clowns and drawings free passes and swag! We'll stay tuned to see what develops...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Is my friend's friend also my friend?

Well, are they really? Just let me tell you a story. Paul following on a suggestion from his good friend Bill decides to fly over to Park City to sample the incredible snow we've received early April. Paul, who is well-to-do, but a cheapskate, will stay at Paul's, but Paul feels obligated to get his very best friend someone good to ski with; you see, Paul is pretty old, but still a relatively good skier. So Bill sends an email to Mike, a neighbor who happens to be a very, very good skier and asks him to ski with Paul. Mike has skied once with Paul, barely knows him and is by no means his “friend.”
Like anyone else, Mike has a schedule, so he warns Bill that he can't commit for sure to ski with his neighbor's friend, but will do his best. Bill emails Mike back that his friend Paul would be utterly disappointed if he couldn't ski with him. Pushed to the brink, Mike finally devotes a day to Paul who has a blast, and towards the end of the day, barely offers him a “cup of tea or coffee” for his time, which he declines. Mike is of the opinion that, next time, Paul should hire a ski instructor for the day. Since when do your neighbor's friends automatically become your friends?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Avalanches in back-country

In a recent French newspaper article, Anselme Baud, one of the extreme skiing pioneers, was up in arms about the reckless risks taken by folks who venture out of bounds in total disregard of visible avalanche danger. It's not just visitors who may be pressed by a tight schedule or a need to pack as much adrenaline in a limited window of time who don't always pay attention to the conditions, but too often, well informed, mature locals who believe they're to smart to be caught by the slide they'll trigger. He certainly does not accept the fatalistic notion that these tragic accidents are totally the mountain's fault. For everyone's benefit, he's offering his minimal rules of safety:

1.After analyzing potential risks, be ready to pick a line that may fall short of looking great. Also, never hesitate to put off the ascent/descent for some later date.
2.Before starting a climb, and especially launching a downhill into an untracked slope, never count too much on your beacon, shovel, probe or avalanche airbag system, and that help might come get you.
3.Always leave enough space between skiers while climbing, descending and always wait for the first member of the party to signal it's okay to go.
4.In case of uncertainty, always spot an area where you can safely escape from a slide.
5.Always expect, anticipate and visualize what would happen if a fall or a slide occurred, whether started by the skier or others.
6.In the event of a slide pole and traverse quickly out of its path.
7.Always ski down with tracks forming thin toothed strips, like that of a comb, in tight radius turns, each skier sticking to the preceding tracks...

If you really want your back-country fun to be long-lasting, keep these tips in mind and always put them in practice...

Friday, April 9, 2010

The art of spring skiing

While it's often dismissed as being just sunny, warm and slushy, spring skiing is much more than that, at least in Deer Valley. Of course, I'm not talking about this record-breaking April that has seen more snowfall than the entire season, but of late season skiing in general! For starters, spring skiing is a feast of light. Unlike the dead of winter, everything's bright and visibility seldom poses a problem, even on a snowy day like the ones we just experienced. The massive brightness always pierces the cloud cover to bring abundant light and crisp terrain definition for all skiers.

The snow quality may vary and, at times, can range from usual, Utah-perfect powder to smooth hard-pack groomer, corn and later in the day when it's about time to call it quit, to a tiny bit of slush. When it snows hard, like it just did this past week, it feels just like the best December or January days, but not nearly as cold and a lot much brighter. More stormy, overcast weather is what to look for to preserve that gift from heaven and make sure it lasts until our legs start crying for mercy...

When the sun makes its apparition, conditions evolve fast, and its precisely when the art of spring skiing requires some orienteering in spotting where the sun will first hit the mountain and make the snow “just right.” That's correct, if skiing corduroy is fun, a cold spring early morning can make it hard enough to generating big vibes as soon as you try to arc on it. While everything is always a matter of personal taste, I like to wait until a “groomer” begins to turn “creamy;” that's right, when the skis can effortlessly swoosh over the corduroy, leaving beautiful rounded tracks that all can see from afar and make you want to go for one more.

So without using a GPS, simply look for the runs that first receive the morning sun and ski them in priority. Make sure you begin with “groomers” and leave the bumps and the crud for later in the day. In the groomed run category “Jordanelle” is not just a perfect choice, it's a “must-do” to begin your day on the right... foot, and so is “Supreme” at Empire, on the opposite side of the mountain. As the sun begins hitting the other hills, it's time for moving to other runs that have become ripe for buttery skiing.

If you can't do without bumps, reserve these for late morning fun and if you choose to eat lunch a bit later, ski the moguls while there's still some energy left inside your legs. If you have the needed skills why not tackle something even more difficult and venture into crud. This is when steep, sunny slopes can, on certain warm days, offer incredible conditions by allowing you to ski into an almost liquified snow that will provide you yet another totally new gliding experience.

Of course, with light and sun turned up to the max at this time in the year, don't forget to carefully protect skin and eyes; again, it's springtime, so be liberal with a strong UV cream, wear good protective eye-wear and dress for the clement temperatures. From a technical standpoint, make sure the bases of your ski are kept clean as they will never fail to pick up grit, oil and other foreign body that always accumulate on the snow surface in late winter; make sure you require it when you get your skis waxed. Of course, don't forget to indulge into a lazy lunch on the deck and perhaps one more run before you call it a day... See you next season!

Sometimes, I'm too much...

When I step into any business situation that I can understand, I can't resist visualizing what I would change, modify, tinker or experiment with. You can put that on the account on my perfectionism or my unrelenting need to optimize everything I come across with. That's right, I can't be satisfied not just by pure mediocrity, but also by whatever isn't perfect and could easily be improved. That's my nature and I know that it still ruffles a lot of feathers today as I'm retired than years ago when I was active.

If I care for a business, for an industry or if I see a void that isn't filled, I immediately “connect the dots” and imagine or suggest whatever needs to be there. Is that bad? Probably from a political standpoint; folks don't want someone who brings change and screws-up the status-quo. This is probably why I could have gone much further in my careers had I been more muted, much slower and less vocal. But that's the way I am and I don't regret one single of my apparent foolish moves. Live is short, resources are scarce and what we need on this planet are more people willing to think and act boldly...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

When everything stops in Utah

Yesterday was a day to remember, perhaps for the entire year and surely for this rather dry winter season. After our northern Utah mountains were pounded with feet of snow, it suddenly stopped, the skies turn blue, all Utahans called sick and went skiing. That's right, the state came to a pure standstill. We went too, and had a blast skiing Deer Valley. Last night as we were trying to watch “Buddha” on PBS, we fell asleep, stoned into snowbliss that we also know as being skiers' Nirvana. The temperature pegged at 9 degrees F early morning stayed cool, the snow remain powder-perfect everywhere, but in south-facing slopes, and between the light, the fluffy powder and the fun, the world, not just Utah, could have stopped under those rare circumstances...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Never trust a travel agent!

After spending a good, comfortable winter in central Mexico, the robins (turdus migratorius) called their travel agent four weeks ago to inquire about conditions in Park City, Utah. Not being very sharp, their travel pro told them, “no problem, it's spring already over there, we've even heard of dandelion already spotted on sunny slopes...” Without waiting, the birds packed everything, flew over the border and I saw them arriving in our garden on March 15, ready to refurbishing their nests and laying eggs. Since that time, our weather has reverted back to winter and yesterday, these poor birds were really ticked off, with blizzard ragging, nothing to eat and literally grounded.

We first saw a large flock of them assembling on our backyard aspens and a few moment later, my wife spotted another flock “working” a non-identified tree in our neighbor's garden. Part of them were frantically shaking the branches in all directions, letting some sort of nuts or edible matter down on the snow and taking turn to eat the proceeds. We felt sorry for them all and could only think that next time, instead of relying on a clueless travel agent, they ought to call us first!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The ABC of looking good on skis

Looking good on skis doesn’t have to mean having beautiful facial features, tanned skin, fit body shapes, cool sunglasses or hip ski clothes; instead, we’ll discover how just being ourselves on skis may lead to showing some “natural beauty” on the slopes and, in the process, greater effectiveness on skis. So please, bear with me and discover how you too can become a stunning skier!

We all have different bodies and with them a trademark way of standing, walking or of course, skiing. There is no right and wrong, it’s just “us,” the way we really are and this personal “look” can and should identify us to our advantage when we’re on the slopes. One way to get into the exercise is to begin by forgetting most of your entire body; that’s right, cut all that superfluous matter below your eyes and a tiny bit above your ankles. Nitpickers might say “of course, by doing this you’d be lowering your center of mass so much that you couldn’t possibility take a spill!” I’d say good observation, but not the essence of what I’m driving at.

The point is that the less you do with your chin, your neck, your arms, your torso, hips and thighs, the better off you’ll do on a pair of skis, so try to forget about that extraneous “stuff,” shorten the communication path between your brain and the sole of your feet to speed up the flow of information where it really counts. Then you might jump in and ask: What about the poles? I’d almost forgot about them; besides giving you support and balance during turns, they’ll just quietly keep company of your arms the rest of the time. The end result is that if anything between your eyes and your ankles is quiet, nothing in your body will look out of place and won’t embarrass you on the mountain. This is step one in looking good.

The next idea is equally as critical while closely linked to the first one; it simply consists of standing as erect as you can whenever you’re on your skis. As many of you already know, the right way of balancing yourself mostly comes from your ankles instead of just your hips and knees. While this may sound logical, it’s always difficult for most skiers to get to the point where ankle-balancing becomes second-nature. This observation, based on my personal experience, is guaranteed to deliver results and contribute to making you look much taller on skis instead of all crunched up.

Standing upright is also going to influence which joint actually picks up the job of balancing your body. If you stand up on your skis, as if you wanted to be tall and proud, that task will automatically go to the ankles. Why? Because by standing in a more erect position, you’ll be neutralizing both hips and knees so there won’t be any other means but for your ankles to shifting your weight fore and aft while in motion.

The added benefit of the exercise is that it will promote more elegant and longer radius turns, which in my book is the holy grail of skiing. Like most, this practice is initially easier on gentle slopes. So you’ve got it; just progressively increase the steepness as this particular skill develops. Begin this training soon; you’ll feel mentally taller and more positive about your form and your ankles will start running the whole show! After a while, you’ll discover that it’s easier for you to stay centered and quiet longer on your skis and this will go a long way to making you the envy of all the other skiers who are looking at you from the chair.

This brings us to the frosting on the cake: Effortless skiing! Think and believe that you’re skiing on a cloud, that you’re “caressing” the snow. That’s right, the smoother, more effortless your skiing will become, the more natural skier you’ll be and of course, the more beautiful other folks will naturally find you. Only now should you worry about matching your helmet with the rest of your outfit and trading these aluminum poles for thin, composite ones. And by the way, now that you’re looking so cool on skis, don’t you think it’s time for trading-in that faded, old one-piece suit?

Is advertising immoral?

Advertising could be justified as a way to exposing and communicating the merits of a product or a service. Yet, when it becomes manipulating - as it always end up doing - we could justifiably wonder if it hasn't become perverted and has instead turned into one of the major tools employed to separate people from their money. In our society that value image and brands so much, advertising is often said to have become an alternative art form and the best example for that transformation is the fascination that goes towards watching ads during major sporting events like the Olympics and the Superbowl.
The cost of TV advertising is so high that only the most sophisticated spots can appear during those times. This said, advertising has evolved into a tool of conviction that is no longer selling what it was purported to do; instead it sells self-image, security and dreams. Sometime I blame that tool for debasing our society, for making folks borrow in excess to get, perhaps what they desire, but definitely what they don't need and, in so doing, debasing their fragile economic stability. That is why I truly believe that, most of the time, advertising has become routinely devious and blatantly immoral.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter and doing good

While many in our town went, we didn't go to church on Easter. Instead, we watched our grandson so his parents could enjoy the abundant powder snow. This doesn't mean that we aren't using this time of the year to renew ourselves and continue working to become better people. Doing good brings so much satisfaction that it would be downright stupid to miss on this wonderful opportunity. So that's it; here is our commitment to keep on performing good deeds around us. Many won't be seen at all, and we could care less about it, but every time we can bring a ray of sunshine in someone's life we'll do it and we'll try to move everything around us into “positive territory.” That way, we definitely just won't grow older, we'll grow much better!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Just do the math...

On Friday morning, I skied just over a couple of hours. I went to Deer Valley and ran “laps” on Lady Morgan into one foot deep fresh powder. I counted 20 rides, non-stop, if I can include one spectacular flip when my skis hit a bump or something and forced the rest of my body into a full somersault. All told, in just 150 minutes I skied more than 26,000 vertical. The next day, I repeated this series of laps in the afternoon in yet another foot of dense spring powder and tallied over 31,000 vertical in about 3 hours.

This time my legs felt bruised and I was literally on my knees after 2 Wasatch and 15 Sultan, all non-stop. In fact I felt more tired that day than when we broke the Utah vertical record (112,750 vertical) on January 4. All this to say that if you want to ski an awful lot in a very short amount of time, namely more than 10,000 vertical an hour, these two unique Deer Valley lifts are the “ticket...”

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Dodge ski boot

Dave Dodge is someone I have known since my days with Lange ski boots. At the time, he was working as a consultant to the ski industry in the arera of composite material technology. Over a year ago, he unveiled a new ski boot design that uses composites and is aimed at the top performance skiers such as world level racers. I recently saw the boot when I met with Dave and his friend and business associate Bill Doble. The product is extremely lightweight, lightning-speed responsive and has a patented entry feature that enable to slip the foot into its super rigid cavity. The price is commensurate with the product uniqueness: $1,500! While none of the sizes made could fit me at the time, I didn't get a chance to try one on snow, yet alone in the lobby of the hotel where we met, I was impressed with the concept. I showered them with marketing advice and wished them success...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Turning a hurdle into a winning opportunity

Without sounding pompous, I like to think of myself as a rather creative individual. Today, I'm faced with a tough challenge and I believe I can put that creativity and resourcefulness of mine to work in order to attain the greatest possible outcome. What motivates me is that - as I am confronted with the ocean of stupidity and mediocrity that surrounds us - I continue to believe that there must be a better way to moving forward and succeeding. We always tend to be too quick at blaming others and current circumstances when in fact there's always a possibility of triumphing with a more clever approach to problem-solving by developing solutions that are both effective and original. I've found my assignment for the coming spring and summer seasons and find it quite exciting!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

When the emperor has no clothes

Between last night and this morning, I've been in contact with some folks that would like to do business with me.
Like birds of color they want to impress, act cool and if you weren't critical, you'd think these guys are true “winners” and worth associating with. Then you examine closer, look a bit under the “hood” and the “undercarriage” to discover signs that are less than pretty. It's when you realize that their demeanor is just appearance, flash in the pan, as it were, and must accept that these fake people are a huge component of our ski towns' fauna...