Friday, December 31, 2010

A worry-free life

We've already established that worrying is a major waste of time and energy. Of course, there might be some matters that still could justify some modicum of concern,
but by and large, a worry-free life is possible if we apply ourselves to getting the necessary discipline and the proper training needed to achieve that goal. The first idea is that we should never worry about issues we don't control. Death and natural catastrophes like a meteorite slamming into earth and destroying everything.

If there are things that still worry us and that we somehow control, we just need to do something about them by taking active control of them, right away, and little by little chip at them if they're too overwhelming. We need to turn these worries into remedial actions, that's it. Then, when we act on some of these causes, we free ourselves and become actors instead of passive and powerless victims. You see, the remedy is simple, with nothing complicated at this early stage of treatment. I know the subject is vast and needs to be explored further, but for this last day of 2010 that will suffice!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Embracing maturity

As we grow older, there are several ways of dealing with the work of time. One of them is to deny it by trying anything that could undo or slow-down the ravages of aging; from cosmetic surgery, to Botox, to anti-aging lotions or even to wigs or hair implants. Another approach is to avoid the subject, pure and simple. Many folks chose that response as it's the easiest and by far, the one that's less painful.

It's not that by avoiding confrontation symptoms will go away, but by not bringing the subject front and center, it sure produces a certain peace of mind an keep that reality away. My approach with that issue of maturity is to embracing it head-on and by so doing accentuating the positive of the aging process. For example, I wear my wrinkles as if they were badges of honor and I sometime marvel at the beautiful eroding work time is doing on my face. Beauty remains in the eye of the beholder and without falling into a narcissistic contemplation of my old face, I approve of it, think it's okay and live well with it.

We have in our house a framed black and white photograph of an anonymous French peasant, taken in St. Véran in the southern Alps, by my former school teacher. His face is weathered, rugged and just beautiful. Everyone who sees it is generally taken by its natural beauty. To me, it's a benchmark.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Full body transplant

Since I've approached my sixties and entered into them without even batting an eye, I've wished that there would be a “full-body-transplant” available. Picture this: I keep my old head, but right at the neck, I get a 24 year old male body in excellent physical shape that should pleasantly take me into my nineties and perhaps beyond. Technically speaking the neck area is small enough in section to allow a minimum size transplant and a relatively easy reconnection of all the vital circuits and tubes. Nothing that modern science couldn't do. Up at the top, I'd keep my knowledge, my thinking and – hopefully my wisdom.

Nothing fancy or plain impossible, just a natural evolution in our wonderful world of science. I know that some of you will think: “Wait a minute, another five year and the guy will ask for a head transplant...” No, I know much better. I can live with my baldness and my wrinkles; I prefer to stay in control!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The original and the copy

We couldn't afford to see the Rolling Stones when they came to Salt Lake in 1999 with their “No Security Tour” so the next best thing for us was to go and see some Stones “look-alike” which we just did last night at the Egyptian Theater, in Park City. “Satisfaction” is the international touring tribute show dedicated to the famous British band.

Started in Shreveport, Louisiana, this show has been produced since 2001 with over 1500 performance dates to its credit. It's actually the only full time touring show of its kind in the world. This highly acclaimed production showcases the most authentic cast audiences have ever seen. The likes of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and supporting cast bring a colorful performance to over 45 years of classic hits.

In 2008, the band assisted in the promotion of the new Martin Scorsese documentary film "Shine a Light" about the Stones performance in New York City. Like in the real world, Chris LeGrand, who plays the role of Mick Jagger, is the big star of the evening and did a really great job last night with his perfect mannerisms, his explosive dynamism and genuine representation of the original artist. Even though “we don't always get what we want,” we certainly got plenty of “satisfaction” last evening!

Monday, December 27, 2010

A new fun toy...

Since I have been very good, Santa Claus brought me a wonderful toy. It's actually more than a toy because it also doubles as a very useful watch. But it's a smart one, even much smarter than my old Suunto that I always failed to fully understand. This one is much more intuitive and user-friendly and tells me in seconds how far and how fast I go as well as how much vertical I lose or I gain. It's my new Garmin Forerunner 110, that combines GPS, computer and timekeeping functions in a small and stylish wristwatch.

Since today was the day after Christmas, I went on a walk this morning to test it, but accidentally erased the results. So instead of going skiing this afternoon, I went running to test it again. It worked beautifully and had only one thing wrong with it. It told me the painful truth about how slow I was and how short my runs were.

I can't hide or make up stories about my running, skiing or mountain biking prowess anymore. For instance, instead of believing that we run 4.4 miles most of the days, it's now only 4.17 and instead the 3.6 miles of our “short run” has shrunk to just 3.5 miles ... I had measured these courses in total good faith with my mountain bike and its overinflated tires also overstated the truth, but no one's perfect!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The great skiing shortcut

These days, learning how to ski is easy. The same could be said – even to a much larger extent – about snowboarding. Both sports now offer a much faster learning curve than they used to. However, when the newcomer has enough autonomy to go everywhere, stagnation creeps onto the scene in a big way. The skier (or snowboarder) has to put in even more time and miles in order to keep on improving. Basic skills like edge control (the holy grail of skiing) take years and miles on the slope to fully master and this can be very hard, for the newbie, to fully comprehend and accept.

This said, it's wonderful that new equipment and impeccable slope grooming can give a head start to all these new skiers. The industry needs it badly. But to becoming good and very good, still takes the same amount of time, work and dedication; the problem is that, with an introduction so fast and so easy, getting really good can be seen as much more frustrating and almost unattainable. In skiing, like in any other life endeavors for that matter, even the best shortcuts are never a substitute for running the entire course...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Present-packed Christmas

Last night we had a fun family celebration of Christmas, with grandson Finn, the centerpiece of this annual event. Good food, good company and a present overload. In spite of what we say all year long, it's hard to keep Christmas gift-giving simple and minimalist. We're all guilty of getting a little carried away. Commercialism has for sure taken over the annual festivity. We should establish present-giving rules and follow them faithfully, but the temptation is always lurking and never fails to take over the whole process. Well, there's always next year. In the meantime, Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

At last, the mood-o-meter!

In time for Christmas Eve, and for those procrastinators, I'm suggesting a terrific gift idea. It can be worn like a wrist-watch, placed on your desk-top or your car dash-board and remind you all-day long about your state of mind, let's say mood if your prefer, and this way, we can call the product a mood-o-meter for lack of a better name. It's true that we always have a vague feeling about how things are inside our heads, but sometimes we forget and quickly get in trouble as we're not able to adjust our behaviors in relation to our moods.

In other words, a lousy, current state of mind takes over and ruin the day or bring havoc into a situation that could be pleasant, or into an event that should be merry, and what better time to use that device, during the always highly stressed, Holiday Season. So if you're interested – and I see no reason why you wouldn’t – in this all important mood-monitoring device, place your order today, I'll manage to find investors and get a production line going. The faster you order, the sooner you'll get your tool. For those of you that are iPhone users, yes; there will be an app!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where are the snows of yesteryear?

François Villon, a XV Century French poet, thief, and vagabond wrote those lines and is not the only one having noticed that winters ago, there seem to have been much more snow than there's today. I've heard, you've heard it, you parents have stated the identical truth and I recall even having uttered the same, nonsensical statement. This week record snowfalls in Park City bring it front and center.

You see, I believe that the biggest problem with that observation is perspective. When I was 8 years old, I was 4 only feet tall and the berms left by the snowplow in the alps could reach between 2 or 3 feet in height. Contrast that with a 6 feet, 35 year old, who's looking at the same berms. They now appear tiny and a far cry from what they were more than one quarter-century before! Got it? Let's not discuss that ever again. Now I need to go out to shoveling and blowing the snow that fell again last night...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Discovering my aspirations

This might seem long overdue, but as we attempted to watch the two consecutive episode of “The Calling” on PBS, about these young folks that enter the religious service to become rabbi,
priest or imam, I was wondering why I never had such a religious calling. By the way, this was a wonderful show, but too much snow shoveling in the past two days only let me see 45 minutes of each two-hour installment; I intend to watch it on line, in full.

The answer to my lack of religious calling came to me clear and simple; I was forced into religion as a kid, never really bought into the convoluted story I was told and did everything I could to extricate myself from it. As for my true callings they were loud and clear: I wanted freedom from my parents and their attempts to dictating the way I should live, I loved skiing, I had a creative bend (first drawing and today writing and video producing), was insatiably curious and wanted to explore the whole wide world. One could discuss my choices, but they have managed to fulfill me and continue to captivate me!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cultivating friendship

It takes time to be a good friend, it takes a lot of attention too. I'm blessed to having many good friends and it's a lesson that I must never forget when I'm up to the task of maintaining my “stable” of good buddies. Just like tending a bountiful garden. It demands attention, precision, love. It also grows well with mistakes, forgetfulness, misguided words and sometime mean behavior.
All these disparate moving parts eventually fall in to place, like the pieces of a beautiful puzzle, helping us learn, understand and get much better at the business of being good friends. Friendship is never a destination, but always a work in progress. This message is dedicated to all my good friends whom I value a lot.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tech divide

This year we decided to forgo the printed holiday postcards and instead produce a video of my wife and I greeting our “public” and commented on the most notable events that happened in the past twelve month. This means that all the hard work was upfront as everything was sent via email to my large friends database, including many – but not all – of my Facebook “friends.”

As I was looking at the recipients' impressive list, it dawned on me that out of 320 names to whom I've sent that video, there are about one dozen left that don't have internet service; one-third of them live in the USA and the rest in France. These folks, most of whom are well into their sixties if not seventies, include one member of my direct family and it's pretty obvious that they're today literally left behind out of that new digital world and will be missing out a lot if they don't get on with the “program.” Will they really? I sincerely doubt it, but so is the cruel nature of change and evolution.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Learning from the young (continued)

Another learning element that comes from observing racers is the deliberate choice, or the happy medium, between smooth gliding and aggression while racing. Younger and female skiers generally seem to do better with the former while their older and male counterparts tend to pick the opposite approach. It's clear however that too much force goes against fine gliding and that a happy medium can be hard to strike.

Of course, snow conditions can influence these strategies in a big way. On very hard snow, some aggressive action is often necessary, at the very least to control speed while the reverse is absolutely true on softer runs.
At any rate the soft versus hard approach remains a continuous subject for debate. I'm clearly in favor of the former, but that's an opinion dictated more by my style and my athletic abilities than by some absolute proof!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Learning from young racers...

Each year, I "relapse" into volunteering for a consecutive four-day December junior race series in Park City. The weather is generally brutal (the first two mornings began at -1 and -4 respectively) and the days end up being too long as the field of racer is close to 250, but I find some compensation in watching these skis racers ranging in age from 13 to 18, and as years go by, I can see the technical progress made by that field of racers. Many of them are really at the top of their game and are able to maximizing an equipment in constant evolution.

I can tell who might be the next Vonn or Ligety and while I was thinking this, I took the short time of a break yesterday, between the two slalom runs, to go skiing, in order to keep warm, I rode one lift up with Bill Ligety, Ted's own dad who told me that during these same races, many years ago, as Ted Ligety did miserably, it finally downed on his son that he should take his training much more seriously. Evidently, that realization has since paid off and it made my day to think that my very small contribution is put to active use in creating new champions...

Friday, December 17, 2010

A (bad) ski dream

Yesterday was another day for me of volunteering at the Eric Hayes junior ski races at the Park City Mountain Resorts, and as logic would have it, I had a dream about skiing that night. Some would call it a nightmare, but I'd prefer to call it just a dream because I still believe that “skiing” and “nightmare” are totally incompatible. So there I was, spring skiing in some unknown locale in the Rocky Mountain West and approaching a transition in the slope at a fairly high rate of speed, when suddenly I found myself at the edge of a cliff and had no other option but going with the flow.

I soon realized that I was flying some 2,000 feet over ground. Since the flight was played in slow motion, I tried to position my skis properly and all along was looking for a steep landing spot that would somehow soften the blow, but the terrain was turning around, going the wrong way on purpose, it seemed, and I couldn't do much about it. When I finally hit the ground, the screen went blank, in total silence, and a few moments later I woke up. I was alive alright, but I had failed to witness the glowing tunnel that people claim they see in near-death experience situations. This is perhaps because I'm a heathen or there isn't such at thing after all...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

When skiing smoothly is a “must do”

As time goes on, energy dwindles. There's no denying this fact of life for us who are over sixty. Recently, I was bragging about the importance of “smooth skiing.” In fact, it was only speaking for myself, because as I'm aging and with reduced physical strength, I better be extra efficient when I'm on my boards. Yesterday was just another example of that searing truth.
I was having lots of fun skiing in Deer Valley under Lady Morgan's lift through 6 new inches of powder when a bush caught my skis and brought me down. No harm done, but this trivial incident did cost me a lot in terms of extricating myself from an awkward spot and getting back on my feet! In short, it gave me a renewed sense of appreciation for gliding smoothly, that is without falling, having to brush off and get back up every other run!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Belief, Faith and Passion (continued)

After I posted yesterday's blog, I thought a little bit longer at what I had written and it dawned on me that we're all different and respond to different stimuli. For those of us who are in situations of anxiety, a bit apprehensive or simply never too sure, faith comes in quite handy and gives that extra support that proves indispensable to carry on. Then, there another large block of people who are busy living their lives, working, raising their families and are happy to subscribe to certain sets of beliefs that work well for them. These may vary over time or could stay with them during their entire lifetime, and if they work for fine, more power to them.

Then the remaining group of individuals are where you'll find those that are intense, compulsive, never self-satisfied and also consumed with their own brand of passion. As they keep on pushing their own envelope, these characters generally create their proper set of beliefs that too evolve and often are never the same at any given moment. It is, I guess, different strokes for different folks. If you dissent with my view, please, speak up!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Belief, Faith and... Passion

Yesterday, I was watching and interview of Great Britain's former prime minister Gordon Brown promoting his new book (what else can he do!) and insisting that leadership was made up of belief and determination. I'm not sure I really like that, because other people beliefs isn't something I always trust. If it's justified and proven, so much the better, but experience has showed me that beliefs vary vastly with individuals and can't always be counted on or taken at face value.

In other words, my set of beliefs may work for me, but not for you, or they may just be flat wrong. By the way, I also find that faith is pretty much interchangeable with belief, from a quality standpoint, but is often even less reliable. So with that in mind, which moral compass should we trust? I'd tend to answer with “passion.” This, to me, is the genuine article and if that live energy inhabits your body and your spirit, you really can trust it. It's your lifeblood and the by-product of your deep-running instinct. Folks who followed their bliss have always given way to their passion. That's right, more than anything else in my life, I believe in and trust my passions.

Smitten with the Lady

For many years, I've held the opinion that Deer Valley's most challenging skiing was found around Bald Mountain, and accessible through the Wasatch, Sultan and Mayflower lifts. I liked that terrain and have spent hours exploring and discovering this entire side of the mountain. My paradigm only began to shift when Empire arrived on the scene and the Daly Chutes - which I covered extensively last season in this blog – opened up some new horizons and seriously cranked up the “inclinometer.” More recently however, I have spent a greater amount of “quality time” skiing around the Lady Morgan Express Chair and I am beginning to renege on my previous loves while furthering my appreciation for the very high performance skiing Deer Valley has to offer. That's right, there's so much to love about Lady Morgan.

To begin with, that chair is rocket-fast. In about three and a half minute it whisks you to the top of the hill and if you are willing and able to ski as hard as is humanly possible, you might get a full ten laps within the hour. But raw power is only one small part of the story. Variety of options is actually what makes that section of the mountain quite unique. If your friends or significant other aren't nearly as good as you on skis, they have the choice, from the top of that same lift, to go their merry way on a green run and meet you again at the bottom without any angst and might even have to wait for you at the bottom! All they need to do is comfortably follow “Pearl” and “Webster” and may even elect to make an unscheduled stopover at the Empire Lodge, that stands right on their path, and indulge on a snack, an early lunch or a warm cocoa while you wrestle with the mountain. This one is the easiest way.

The next choice is “Magnet” and while impressive at the top, this one-diamond run is quite manageable as it's often groomed, and since it's still a good distance away from the lift, it's not quite as steep as “Argus,” the next main run, also a one-diamond, which depending on conditions, is often my favorite way down the mountain. This run is steep and relentless. On it, it's hard to fake anything as it demands your undivided attention and good legs if you don't want to stop every six turns. On a new powder day, I'll stay on this run for the duration; when snow is a few days old, I generally cut over to “Hillside,” on skier's left that brings me right under the chair and keeps me out of the short section of Webster and its slower skiers. It's clear that for the best among us, staying close to the lift is where the most fun resides at Lady Morgan's.

Then further to the skier's left from the top of the chair, there is the double-diamond “Centennial” and its wonderful tree skiing, surprising relief and changing terrain. From the day Lady Morgan opened up in December of 2007, that run was already packed with excitement. This season, more glading has made this section of the mountain a tree-skier's paradise. Just enough evergreens to make the experience intense, but the extra spacing brings much more wiggle room and adds loads of fun to the package. This pretty much sums up the marked runs.

Then there are all the possible combinations between all these runs and this is precisely where Lady Morgan unleashes her irresistible attraction. Cliffs, steeps, trees, all can be mixed to create a smorgasbord of fantastic skiing in a very compact setting. I personally love to stay under the lift and negotiate the steep chutes that are half-way down the hill from the skier's left and continue all the way down under the towers. Most skiers can spend a full day venturing into a brand new line as long as they remain in shape for the challenge. That's right, at the end, what always counts is your legs ability to withstand the punishment, but always keep in mind that Empire Lodge and its soothing rewards stands vigil just a few turns away!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Evian's naïveté

Yesterday, as we were downloading the gondola at the Canyons, we rode with three young snowboarders, one one them sporting a t-shirt that said “naive” with the Evian water logo.
Even though I was born just miles away from the plant where the famous and expensive water is bottled, it had never downed on me that “Evian” spelled backwards could read “Naive.” Quite a slip of tongue, or a sly inference into the lack of critical thinking from snobbish consumers, that fall for the marketing promises that a well-branded bottle of water will make them feel healthier and much cooler!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vive la différence!

Last week as we were walking around our neighborhood, I saw that woman coming towards us and running behind something that looks like a jogger stroller, except that, as she approached, it didn't appear to have the larger wheels found on the genuine article. What she was pushing looked more like a modified grocery cart than the tool committed runners push around town with their offspring as passenger.

Just like certain strollers, there appeared to be space for several passengers, and I assumed these were twins. As she ran by us we saw two cats inside. Would it help to add that the lady was dressed like a scarecrow and was running in hiking shoes? Perhaps not; it was just another example of how different we all are and these particularities show up more dramatically in a small community like ours than in New York City...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The political sides of skiing

Even though I learned the rudiments of snowboarding, I don't enjoy it that much and while I can ride my monoski - some call it monoboard - pretty well, I haven't used it for quite sometime. Why is it? I have absolutely nothing against people on single boards, I marvel at the cool, elongated tracks certain leave in powder, but I don't envy them. For one thing, I am of the opinion that only having one set of edges in contact with the snow is clearly limiting and isn't as nearly fun as having two dueling skis wanting to do things on their own. To me that's what is keeping life on snow interesting.

That's right, I feel that riding the snow on one single board is far too predictable and lacks the adrenaline rush I get on two. It's far too boring for me; I have to stay awake! I would add that the spirit of contradiction that prevails between my boards is never the same; in fact, it evolves over the years. For instance, when I began skiing, my skis were converging most of the time, “making the piece of pie” as instructors would say. It didn't mean they agreed, they simply wanted to be close and appeared to enjoy starring at each other.

Today they still do it at times, but more rarely. Most of the time, they tend to diverge; like some old married couples, they want their own “space” and must be getting tired of so many years of togetherness. Worse, there are times when they can't seem to get along, aren't able to hold a straight line and one only carves because the other does. Harmonious team work might not be part of their value system. To sum it all up, they appear to be constantly crossed at each other. I wonder why? Rarely do they align their thoughts and pull forward into the same direction. Going straight is anathema to them even thought they often go schuss, but they do it because I like to ski fast and when they do, they can ignore each other.

This is why I am sometime tempted to call my left ski a democrat and my right one a republican, but I know better than that; I respectively call them liberal and conservative. Since, I'm naturally a “south paw” or a lefty, you might draw some premature conclusions. In case you'd still wonder however, the guy on top has to play the role of an arbiter and can't be anything but a true independent for the whole enterprise to work. This is why one single board, like a snowboard or a monoski reminds me of some totalitarian, single-party system in which dissent has no place. Yet, with all this pushing and pulling between my pair of skis, I can make bipartisanship work. I have been skiing for more than five decades and so far, my two skis have always managed to compromise and see fir and aspen trees from the same side. I just hope they'll continue...

Friday, December 10, 2010

The US Postal Service (redux)

I thought we had solved our mail distribution problems but was – once more – too optimistic, too soon! Our new, smaller box failed to produce the expected result of mail collection and yesterday, after three mail-less days, my wife went to the Post-Office front desk, cornered the same employee to whom I had given the change-of-address-form who, said he didn't remember anything having remotely anything to do with such a request.

He must have thrown the form away. At any rate, after a rather sterile exchange, the man disappeared into the back room and returned long minutes later with our mail that had piled up inside the old, large box. He then said that he'd make a note of that change in the old box and that things should be “alright...” We'll see.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Montage open for business.

Deer Valley Resort can now boast a new hotel, and what a place that is! It's called Montage. How do you say that? Just try “mɒn'tɑ:ʒ”, that's right, “Montage... Now, what does that mean? If you are French you ought to know as it means a lot of thing. But in the most general sense it define the operations that consist assembling various elements of an object so it can be used. The English sense is more refined in that it's sometimes defined as an art form consisting of putting together or assembling various smaller pictures to create a larger work.

There are two other Montage in operations; one is in Beverley Hills and the other in Laguna Beach where my wife and I had the good fortune to stay for a few days in 2005. Wow, what an experience! That's right, Montage is devoted to delivering a superior guest experience and reflects a commitment to refined living. Guests can expect impeccable hospitality, exceptional epicurean experiences, world class spas and an elegant, yet welcoming ambiance with the goal of creating lasting and cherished memories, which, trust me, stay with you.
The hotel offers 220 rooms and suites and includes a 35,000-square foot spa plus over 50,000 of meeting events and facilities. What must be placed next to these numbers are the 500 employees that will make the entire plan work. Just do the math: two and a half person catering to each guest room! In addition to the St. Regis Hotel, also in Deer Valley, and the Waldorf-Astoria at the Canyons, Montage is by far the most luxurious residence in Park City and will definitely help our tourist economy. With literally thousands of locals that were invited to the massive open house, we spent almost one and a half hours marveling at the new facilities and were all treated to some hot beverages and snack. A true class act. Thanks for inviting us, Montage!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Terrorism, Republican style

The Republicans held the congress and the president hostage and the latter was the first to blink. Right, there was hostage-taking as the president himself said, but nonetheless Barack Obama has failed me by giving in to the idea that his country is pain-adverse, and can't take what's really good for us in the long-term - the unavoidable immediate suffering. He became an accomplice to delaying the proper cure; by so doing, he's assuring the horrible reckoning (akin of an amputation) that sure will follow. This maybe a reflection of what the American people dream they want (something for nothing) but it still fails to validate Obama's action.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The US Post Office (end)

I'm no fan of the US Postal Services and this is another example why. About 10 days ago we decided to “downsize” our post office box. We had a cavernous one that we couldn't fill in spite of our best efforts. In the past we received plenty of junk-mail, catalogs and subscribed to a few more periodical. These days few folks take the time to write us letters and most of our transactions are made on line without any need for postal delivery. This is how it became time to forgo the super-sized box in favor of a more modest one. The process took me six personal visits to the post office and just came to a successful conclusion yesterday. Here's the sequence of events (true story) that I condensed a great deal so you don't have to go through the whole ordeal.

Day one: I go to the post office and ask to downsize our box. Fill some paper and ask for a special rate only granted by the local postmaster.
Day two: I return the forms, but the clerk, tells me I need to bring my passport in addition to my driver's license for identification
Day three: A different employee asks me for proof of ownership of the property that entitles me to the special rate
Day four: I bring the missing proof, the employee tells me that the postmaster will examine my request and get back to me by phone.
Day five: I receive a phone call from Rhonda, the postmaster; she asks me more questions and make sure I really want what I'm asking for. I confirm. She tells me she'll call me back with a final decision.
Day six: Rhonda calls me back and confirm that my request has been granted. That same day I go to the post office and am told by the desk clerk that the new keys are not ready yet for the smaller box and that I should return the following week (that was this past Friday.) I am also given forms for changing my address and getting a refund for the unused time portion of the larger box (an unexpected bonus!)
Day seven: I give my forms to the clerk; the keys are ready, but the man battles with his computer terminal to get it to spit out a refund. After a thirty minute struggle with the USPS recalcitrant technology, we finally triumph. I get a new set of keys for our new – smaller box – and a refund. Life is beautiful and simple.

I also don't have to wonder why the US Postal Services lost $8.5 billion this past fiscal year...

Monday, December 6, 2010

The trick with changing snow

Yesterday was a wonderful skiing day. My wife and I went to Deer Valley and enjoyed a March weather with... December snow! This said, we skied on a wide variety of conditions linked to both the exposure and the elevation of the slope. From hardened man-made, spring corn, to powdery blown sections and even to pre-groomed rougher surface on one steeper run which was not intended for “family consumption.”

On difficult snow like the latter, I discovered that there is an incredible feedback phenom that exist between the surface of the snow – call it perhaps the angle the snow make with the ski base at any given moment – and a skier's body. This pair of angles (there are two skis) varies constantly as a skier evolves on an uneven, changing surface and the faster the trickier. So what happens is that feet and ankles must somehow read that fleeting and quickly changing angle variations and telegraph the adjustments that must be made all through the rest of the body. Call it instant feedback that trump our conscious faculties and that only miles of practice and a lifelong spent on boards can allow to working successfully. Trust me, that's quite an amazing possibility!

Nine lives (the sequel)

This morning, in reading my hometown's newspaper I was shocked to read that, mid-afternoon yesterday, a man fell more than 100 feet off a pedestrian suspended bridge that span the Morzine valley, just a couple of miles from the village where I was raised in the French Alps, and managed to survive his fall with only two broken ankles and some degree of hypothermia as he landed on a snow pile before sliding into the nearby creek.
The man, who happened to be Morzine's very own mayor was conscious when the helicopter picked him up before taking him to a hospital in Annecy. He apparently voluntarily straddled the guard-rail and for seemingly no reason took a plunge that ended up being quite miraculous. As we discussed the other day, he evidently had not used up his full reserves of lives, yet!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How I became a skier...

Yesterday, my wife asked me how I learned to ski. This was something I had never, ever asked myself. I actually began skiing when I was 7 on a pair of skis entirely handmade by my Dad. My older brother got a pair too, albeit a bit longer, and we went skiing at a place called “le tremplin” (the ski jump) just 250 yards from our home. We would side-step up the hill and schuss down, go over the jump, land and end up with a hockey stop.

Later, I participated into a school cross-country race which I found to be horrible. After that, I managed a few outing on the nearby “télébenne” that was 2 miles from my parents house and required carrying skis and poles both ways. Quite an undertaking. When I was 10 or 12, my parents bought me my first pair of manufactured skis, a pair of Duret “Contreplaqué” and I would again, occasionally go the the “télébenne” with our middle school. I remember envying my more fortunate comrades whose parents had hotels and small businesses, that were members of the Morzine ski club with their Rossignol “Soupless” or their “Dynamic” skis outfitted with Look Nevada bindings...
When I was a teenager, I finally got a job as a lifty with Le Pleney, a local mountain, worked there every Christmas, February and Easter school holidays and also earned the privilege to ride the lifts free during the week-ends in-between. That's when my skiing began to take off. Up until that point, I had received no lesson whatsoever. I just learned by observing and imitating other skiers and not necessarily the best! It's only when I began teaching skiing at the Avoriaz ski school that I had to attend a ski-instructor clinic in Chamrousse, near Grenoble, France, when I received my first pointers. Later on, in Avoriaz, I received some sporadic coaching, but by in large, I was very much on my own and taught myself how to ski...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Trip to old town

Our home is about 3 miles from old town Park City and yesterday, we walked all the way to our downtown location. On the way, we stopped at the bank and then went on to the post office, right on Main Street.
When our errands were over, we went to the Park City Transit Center, caught the free bus back home and about 25 minutes later we were back to the bus stop that's only 300 yards away from home. Our free bus system is a wonder that we ignored for too long and only discovered when we moved to our smaller home.

Before, we had no bus stops nearby and as a result never used the facility. Today, we used the bus system when our town is congested with big events, like the film festival or during the peak tourist season. When I used to ski Park City Mountain Resort, I would at time ride the bus back and forth when parking was too difficult. The Park City transit system is clean, comfortable, ski & bike friendly, it won't just take you wherever you want to go and whenever you want to get there - but it does it in a surprisingly green way. Park City's buses are all powered by bio-diesel and make it possible for you to reduce greenhouse gases while enjoying the Park City lifestyle.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pre-season angst

It used to be different; I was always excited about my first skiing day. These days, there's a tinge of anxiety preceding my first day on the snow in the season. It's not that I had been off the slopes too long; five month and sixteen days to be exact, but there's a little something floating in the air that seems to holding me back. I think it's simply a measure of the wisdom that comes with age! I finally went yesterday and it was a wonderful day for beginning a new season.

Perfect weather, no one on the slopes and ideal snow. It's not that I feared hurting myself, but more perhaps that I was concerned about witnessing some decline in my technical abilities. I must say that these fears were totally unfounded and that I had a great time, skied all day on my favorite Park City runs (Thaynes and Jupiter) and left the scene at the end of the afternoon filled with regrets... The only negative was the harshness of my ski boots, which always is a problem after a summer spend barefoot or just inside clogs, sandals or running shoes. I'll probably get used to it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nine lives?

Just like cats, we all might have nine lives – or hopefully, even more! We all know that our lives are weaved with danger, fear, accident and luck (good and bad.) Navigating our existence is a matter of dodging the bullet and making it unscathed as we progress along the way. When I was 4 or 5 I made a frightful descent in a three-wheel wheelbarrow into a deep valley. I should have died, but I didn't.

Shortly thereafter, I almost drawn as I fell in a mountain creek overpowered with spring-run off and was luckily saved by a little boy that played with me that day; I even remember his name, Gerard Leserson. During my military service, car accidents were in the cards. I first had one while hitchhiking with my buddy Guibelin, in the south of France, when the 403 Peugeot we were in rolled over on the middle of busy Route Nationale 7; we all made it out okay. Another one, most spectacular, involved me and three others, inside another Peugeot – a 404 this time – that was driven by my good friend Michel Duret. The car hit a tree head-on after aquaplaning near Montpellier, also in the south of France. We were brought to the hospital and also all survived it well.

Still in France, one night, my brother almost got us into the lake of Montriond, when he hit a retaining wall at a high rate of speed; thanks heaven we stayed on the road. After that, my adult life became busy, filled with job and family responsibilities that shielded me from these elements of danger. Aside from a few close encounters while skiing and in spite of millions of miles flown the world over without a major crash, I have stayed quite safe. The last dangerous exercise I remember doing to drive up la Restonica narrow road in Corsica in 2006, and since then, I have stayed extremely secure, I don't want to spoil my remaining “lives...”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The joy of selling

When I worked for a paycheck I mostly was in sales and marketing and I have sold quite a few things. Big and small, remarkable and unforgettable, hard to close and routine, but I perhaps never have enjoyed it as much as when I sell a trinket on Craigslist these days. I don't use the service that often, but when I do it almost always works to my total surprise! The last item in contention was my Suunto sport watch that I have had for many years and that I never was able to figure out! What I wanted out of that watch was to compute my vertical drop while skiing and I never was able to assimilate the complicated maneuvers leading to tallying up what's such a big deal to me.

I even listed that achievement on my 2010 new year's resolutions, but failed miserably in my attempt! So, almost two months ago I finally threw in the towel and decided to move on with technology and get a new GPS watch that – if Santa is holding on to his promise and if I'm not naughty of course - I should wear it the day after Christmas. So to make room for that new toy, I sold the old one last night and felt as pumped up as I've ever been when I closed my biggest transaction ever!