Saturday, December 31, 2011

My (updated) inspiration...

As a kid, my inspirations were comic books heroes and Jean-Claude Killy. Since ski has played such a high role and continues to occupies a major spot in my personal life, I'd like to stick with it as a frame o reference for my future inspiration.

Today, my heroes are the one that last as long as they can and, in so doing retain most of their stamina. One of them is Emile Allais a French ski champion, ski industry pioneer and visionary. This man is scheduled to turn 100 next February. I do hope he'll make it! Another one is an unknown French skier whom I learned about in my hometown newspaper and that still skis in his 100th year. This guy not just impress me, I admire them and want to emulate them!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Will snow ever return?

Yesterday was the pits. With already very little snow, the temperature shot up and snow began to melt like it would on a sunny April day. I skied alone, went into natural snow covered runs, ruined the ski I had been so diligently working on the day before, but still had a wonderful time.

My question today is how low do we have to wait until some decent snow will come to us? The answer is “we don't know.” Unsettling as it can be that is the reality of life and we should better accept it and get used to it. Even though I say that I set my expectations down to the lowest possible level, this discipline is hard to practice indeed...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bring your daughter to the slopes

Yesterday was a special father-daughter ski day. We went to Canyons and boy, did we have some fun! In spite of meager snow conditions this early season, we managed to ski over 30,000 vertical and didn't have to ski among too big a crowd.

The only line we had on the rope tow going back home at night and even that experience was fun. I find that my daughter is both a smooth and fast skier and think she should spend more time on the slopes, but that's an old ski-fanatic's opinion...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Riding the waves of life...

We begin life with very little in terms of physical force, skills, intellect and wisdom. As time goes on, each one of these elements grows, peaks and decline. I think I'm done with growing my physical force and it's slowly but surely declining. I hope I'm still okay with my skills in general and still hope to still grow more than a few, but I maybe running out of time for spectacular results.
I still hold hope for expending my intellect and feels that I'm still a long way away from reaching my peak in terms of human wisdom. Since I couldn't find any table that would illustrate these different evolving trends, I've made up my own. Being an optimist by nature and one who loves round numbers, I've made it covering a 100 year span. At least, I hope this works for me. Now I'd like to hear about your reaction to this graphic representation!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The air we breathe...

Have you ever tried to understand what goes into air pollution and how governments are attempting to regulate the air we're supposed to breathe? It ain't simple. In my feeble attempts to understand, I've tried to concentrate in one specific area, that of particulates – also known as particulate matter (PM), the tiny little buggers that are tiny subdivisions of solid matter floating around.
While some of these particulates occur naturally (volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grass fires among others,) they're also the by-product of human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels in cars and trucks, wood fireplaces, power plants and various industrial emissions that can generate significant amounts of particulates. These are supposed to be measured in micrograms per cubic meter and it seems to be quite difficult to find good tables that help folks like us compare where they stand. Has anyone any good suggestions on that topic?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Doing more... with less!

It's been quite a few years since we began our ski season with so little snow and as we were skiing yesterday I was amazed at how well we were able to adjust our expectations to less-than-optimal conditions. So far, skiing around Park City has mostly been possible on man-made snow and as we were skiing on a few runs only covered with thin, rare and precious “natural” stuff, I was reminiscing the “good old days,” during early seasons, long, long ago, when “roughing it” was the sole option.
When hope that one-of-these-days snow would finally fall was part of everyone's expectations, period. Even as we all threaded yesterday on that thin, natural cover, we all had a great time and were quite pleased with what we could get. Following a year of “feast” with above-normal snowfalls, the period of “famine” that befalls us at the moment may constitute that healthy dose of reality that we require, from time to time!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The meaning of Christmas...

I'm not that religious a person, but the celebration of Christmas gives me a chance to realize how lucky I am to be alive and to participate in this wonderful world that surrounds us. Life is a wonderful gift indeed. To me, it's sacred, never ceases to amaze me and it's irreplaceable. We need sometime to pinch ourselves in order to fully appreciate the luck we have!

Spreading it...

The French have a saying that I love: “La culture, c'est comme la confiture, le moins on en a, le plus on l’étend.” This means that “culture is like jam; the less you've got, the more you spread it.” Okay, we can extend that comparison to snow making. There are three ski mountains in Park City. The best one, every one will agree, including the readers of Ski Magazine, is Deer Valley. The number one ski resort in North America makes lots of snow and doesn't spread it around too much. It lays it very thick and that makes all the difference.

Its next door neighbor, Park City, does a real good job too. Huge snow production and thick cover. Then, there's Canyons that doesn't have the chance of having access to much water and lacks the impressive infrastructure of its neighboring competitors. Whatever snow is made there is spread as much as possible and since snow cats do the best they can, it's hard for them not to churn the ground below and imbed all these pebbles that are trademark of skiing Canyons. That's right, when you don't that much snow to work with, you've got to spread it!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Spreading it...

The French have a saying that I love: “La culture, c'est comme la confiture, le moins on en a, le plus on l’étend.” This means that “culture is like jam; the less you've got, the more you spread it.” Okay, we can extend that comparison to snow making. There are three ski mountains in Park City. The best one, every one will agree, including the readers of Ski Magazine, is Deer Valley. The number one ski resort in North America makes lots of snow and doesn't spread it around too much. It lays it very thick and that makes all the difference.

Its next door neighbor, Park City, does a real good job too. Huge snow production and thick cover. Then, there's Canyons that doesn't have the chance of having access to much water and lacks the impressive infrastructure of its neighboring competitors. Whatever snow is made there is spread as much as possible and since snow cats do the best they can, it's hard for them not to churn the ground below and imbed all these pebbles that are trademark of skiing Canyons. That's right, when you don't that much snow to work with, you've got to spread it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Politicians, not Government!

The Republican Party always complain that there's too much government. I don't think that's where the problem lies. We need good government and our cities, counties and even states are for the most part able to achieve it.
What screws things up at the Federal lever are these incompetent and corrupt congressmen running our government, that, as politicians, are part of the problem. As a pro-active New Year resolution, let them all go and replace them with non-affiliated representatives!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's left to travel

Each day brings us a brand new beginning. What doesn't change is the end-zone and while we (thankfully) don't know when it is, we can be carefree about it. Yet, we have one of two choices. Cruise through that time-span by letting events pummel us around and shape us as they please - quite a passive way of managing our future - or chart a road, set goals, make plans and take daily corrective action.
Of course, to make the later possible there has to be some form of motivation or desire. It's up to us to identify what that motoring fuel can be. Often time, we don't about it or simply don't look for it, even though it's not really far from our grasp. So here we are! We just need to introspect a bit, find that little flickering flame and act on it between now and the “end-zone.” The secret is to begin today!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mental block...

It seem to happen more and more, at least as far as I'm concerned. Yesterday, while running, my wife was evoking that biography about the famous Las Vegas tennis player. Yeah, the one with a toupee, the one who married Steffi Graf, you see which one... Of course, I knew! My mind was churning up, looking for some easy answer and when we returned, even after we ate breakfast, I was still desperately looking, mentally running the alphabet of possible names, but all to no avail; I said that I wouldn't look up the internet for it.

It would have to come back naturally, one way or the other. Eventually, I forgot about that rather trivial search. In the afternoon, as we went for a walk, a car passed us by, the driver waved to us and I told my wife, this is Chris. She say no, that's not Chris, it's Ken. I said “you're right!” then I remembered our fruitless search in the morning and the words “Andre Agassi” flashed into my mind!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skiing with the “pack...”

For years now, we've been lucky. We've roamed empty slopes, skied where there was almost no one else. When I'd send a video illustrating our ski adventures to my good friend Francois Feuz in Switzerland, he would exclaim: “Where are the other skiers?” and it was true. For the past five years (ever since I've been retired) we had the whole mountain to ourselves. So far, this year isn't the same anymore as we can only ski on man-made snow and must mingle and share a crowded run with other users and it's hard.

You can call it collision-avoidance, I'll call it Russian roulette, because it's no longer a matter of “if” but just a matter of “when” someone will collide with you. I understand better while many of my European friends don't enjoy skiing anymore. While we wait for some abundant new snow, I'll keep my fingers crossed and my skis... parallel!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Providential break

Yesterday was my last day volunteering at the Park City junior races. Since the weather was beautiful and I had one free hour for lunch, I decided to go skiing. I took about three runs on a couple of lifts and since I still had time for some more, I proceeded to ride another chair when I pushed hard on my ski and my Look turntable heel unit pulled out of my left ski.

Two hundred ski-days later, that can be understood if not totally acceptable. I think the Scott Mission skis on which the bindings were mounted are of pretty bad quality, but what counts is that none of that incident took place when I was barreling down the slope at a high rate of speed. That's what I call a providential break and feel extremely fortunate!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bringing a kid to be ski champion

These four days of volunteering at the junior ski races gave me quite a bit of time to observe young racers. Many are pushed by their parents, and have acquiesced to get on with the program just with their head, not their heart.

For the first two days of my volunteering assignment this year, I was the Finish hand-timer and could observe attitudes, whether they were wining or not so high in the aggressive category. The ones that were half convinced about their purpose on skis crossed the finish line with very little energy and enthusiasm. It could very well be that a “finish line” location could be the best tell-tale place to assess skiers' motivation and future potential...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Iraq. The end of waste.

As we exit Iraq, my parting thoughts are that the idiotic idea to invade and occupy that country for no single good reason has cost between over 100,000 and 500,000 lives, and by the time the dust settles and we take care of our 32,000 wounded, the war end up costing us, taxpayers, 1.8 trillion dollar, all that with absurdly borrowed money from mostly – the Chinese.
Think of what that wasted treasure could have bought in terms of new and updated US infrastructure. Without one single doubt, we should fire all members of congress who authorized that pointless war and in a sane world George Bush and Dick Cheney belong in jail!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Last time I volunteer?

For the past several years, I've been a volunteer at one of the kids race that opens up the season of ski competition in Park City. For four day, we handle between 200 and 250 young skiers each day. I kind of like doing this because it provides me with a stash of free lift tickets that I can use when my children or friends want to ski with at Park City Mountain Resort.

Yet, it's a tough job; the weather is cold and for the first two days this year, I'm a hand timer at the finish which forces me to be standing for hours on end and this breaks my back. Between you and me, and just because of my now delicate back, this might be my very last season volunteering on behalf of our young racers. Just mark my words!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jesus revisited...

A few nights ago, I watched an interesting show on TV that debunked a lot of dogmatic ideas about the historical aspect of Jesus' life. It was the first show in a series, and being based on historical evidence, it did challenge familiar assumptions and conventional notions about the whole story of Christianity.

Twelve scholars -New Testament theologians, archaeologists, and historians – contributed to this fresh view on Christianity and gave the viewer full latitude in reconciling their Christian faith with their iconoclastic approach. I welcomed it and the entire show as it made me thinking that with so little hard evidence about the origin of the large and long-lasting religion, that there was plenty of fuel to blow the whole story of Jesus into a powerful myth.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Republican Sideshow...

There are events in life that are totally irrelevant for most, and the current circus displayed by the Republican Presidential Candidates is one of them. Currently, Newt Gingrich leads the pack because he's emerged as being (perhaps) the least incompetent of the entire field, not because he's any good.

When I observe this political situation unfolding, I wonder who are the people that even get interested in supporting, let alone following this grotesque contest. Are these people from another planet, from another era? Do I understand America yet? Probably not...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Keeping up with the internet

This could be a classical case of lopsided story between what we are physically able to absorb and what's available around us. Keeping up with news of all kind in this internet age is no small feat and can be impossible or downright overwhelming if we don't adhere to some form of strategic discipline and fine tune it day after day.

After fifteen internet years, I feel that I'm getting better at it all the time, but this process requires a permanent, deliberate effort. One of these days, I'll try to share my approach to that mind-boggling challenge!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Famous ski names

Yesterday was Stein Eriksen 84th birthday and this Norwegian ski champion has managed to make an incredible American career that is still going... He's especially famous in Deer Valley where a lodge bears his name and in Park City where he spends most of his time. My list of famous former ski champions has two more names, Toni Sailer (1935-2009) and Jean-Claude Killy.

If I had to list three of them still alive, I'd add Émile Allais, another Frenchman who participated in the development of a large number of ski resorts like Squaw-Valley, Portillo, Courchevel, La Plagne and Flaine. Mr. Allais who now lives in Megève, France will turn 100 on February 25, 2012!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Altitude, latitude, snow-line and tree-line

There is hardly ever a conversation with a European friend of mine that doesn't go without my party asking me about the elevation at Park City. I say, “7,000 feet” and they think “Uh, that's very high, must be a really harsh climate where you live...” and then I need to go into the important relationship between latitude and altitude, the snow-line and the tree-line. Most of them hear what I'm trying to say, but most of them don't fully grasp it. This is the reason why I thought it was time to tackle that "existential" subject...

Let's first talk about how that relationship affects the so-called “snow line.”  The climatic snow line is the point above which snow and ice cover the ground throughout the year. Of course, in winter, the actual snow line maybe significantly lower. At or near the equator, it is typically situated at approximately 15,000 feet above sea level. As one moves towards the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, the parameter at first increases: in the Himalayas the permanent snow line can be as high as 18,700 feet, while on the Tropic of Capricorn no permanent snow exists at all in the Andes because of their extreme aridity: Monte Pissis in Argentina is the highest mountain in the world to be free of glaciers to its summit.
Beyond the Tropics, the snow line becomes progressively lower as the latitude increases, to just below 10,000 feet in the Alps and falling all the way to sea level itself at the ice caps near the poles. In addition, the relative location to the nearest coastline can influence the altitude of the snow line. Areas near a coast, like for instance the Olympic Peninsula in the State of Washington might have a lower snow line than areas of the same altitude and latitude situated in a landmass interior due to more winter snowfall and because the average summer temperature of the surrounding lowlands would be warmer away from the sea.

This applies even in the tropics, since areas far from the sea will have larger diurnal temperature ranges and potentially less moisture, as observed with Kilimanjaro and presently glacier-free Mount Meru. A higher altitude is therefore necessary to lower the temperature further against the surroundings and keep the snow from melting.

The tree-line is also equally affected by this altitude-latitude relationship. Again, the “tree-line” is the edge of the habitat at which trees are capable of growing. Above that, they can't grow because of inappropriate environmental conditions (cold temperatures or lack of moisture). The tree-line generally appears well-defined from a distance, but closer-up, it's more of a gradual transition; trees generally grow shorter towards the inhospitable climate until they simply stop growing.  Just like the snow-line, the tree-line is affected by local variables, like the type of slope, rain shadow and proximity to either geographical pole. In addition, in some tropical or island localities, where species diversity is limited, lower tree-lines can be observed than one would normally expect.
Conversely, Kerguelen Island, Île Saint-Paul, South Georgia, South Orkney, and other Sub-Antarctic islands are all so windy and have such a cold summer climate that none have any indigenous tree species. The Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost point in Antarctica and also the one that offers the mildest weather. It is only located 670 mi from the Cape Horn, but no trees live on Antarctica.  Averaging over many locations and local micro-climates, the tree-line rises 246 ft when moving 1 degree south from 70 to 50°N, and 430 ft per degree from 50 to 30°N. Between 30°N and 20°S, the treeline is roughly constant, between 11,500 and 13,000 ft.

Now, you can realize that altitude and latitude are really inseparable in gauging what altitude truly represents in terms of vegetation, weather and... most liveable conditions!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My take on the Euro crisis

Now that a modicum of agreement has been found among the Euro-zone members and that heaps of stupid comments are been made on both sides of the Atlantic about it, today's blog is an attempt of mine to summarize the deal, including its shining aspects and all the dark clouds that still seem to be hanging over it. Generally speaking, each member nation will have to control its deficit and if doesn't, it will get slapped on the wrist.

Before the crisis they had to abide by the same rule, without the enforcement. Of course, if a country strays, will they be any kind of enforcement? I personally doubt it!  Another big question is to see that if, by tightening their wallets, each member of the Euro-zone isn't likely to bring too much austerity into their economy, which might tremendously slowdown business activity and generate a continent-wide recession.

Another big uncertainty is the role of the European Central Bank (ECB) that won't be allowed to print money like the US Federal Bank does to soften everyone's pain. Even though European bank will be able to borrow from the ECB for three years at 1%, yet who is to say that European banks will offer all the loans needed by businesses and individuals?

As for the Brits, I think the die is cast. These guys should revert 100% to their insularity, curl-up, survive and die alone on their island Nation. While they do that, they should quit adding their snotty two-cent to a world that no longer care about their past or present!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Piece of our mind...

Yesterday, as we stopped by the Library to drop a book, my wife noticed a tent sign indicating that our “Tea Party” Senator was holding office in Park City for a couple of hours. Without much hesitation, we went up the stairs to share what was on our mind with this elected official. We didn't find him in person, but his rep, Gary Beck, a retired attorney.

We began by thanking him for coming to us and proceeded on telling him how ticked-off we were at our government, which first and foremost is corrupt by design and asked that some meaningful step be taken to bring some true campaign finance reform. We then told him what we thought of the current GOP presidential candidates (all bad) and Obama (not nearly as dismal) and said that the quarreling that has become a fixture in Congress had to stop; we not paying these guys salaries for what we were getting...
We also told him the “tea party” didn't impress us at all and that independent-minded people like us who were fiscally responsive and socially liberal had no representation whatsoever. We told him we were wishing for an alternative to the current politicians we were offered and would gladly jump-ship if given that opportunity.

 We warned him that “Occupy Wall Street” would return with a vengeance in the spring and that the major political party better get their act together in responding to that tidal wave which in fact speaks to 99% of the disaffected Americans. We went on and told him that American people are like the children of quarreling, rambling parents, the couple at odds being both sides of the aisle in Congress, and we were ashamed of them and seriously questionning the affiliation we were supposed to have to them.

I even managed to share my idea about a truly "balanced" trade policy. We concluded by saying that “writing to your Senator” was in pure waste as the recipient never directly answered the question and that we were equally mad at that. I don't know what Mr. Beck will have retained of our short visit, but we have very low expectations about an outcome that is likely to “move the needle...”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Managing what worries us

As I have already discussed, we should never be worried by elements in our lives that we don't control. I was reminded of it by countless discussions about the lack of snow in the Alps. All my friends over there were already crying foul in the middle of November when snow is traditionally never there! Today it has arrived, plentifully...

As for us, in the Rocky Mountains, we could use more, much more; yet, we don't control the spigot so we can't worry about it. The only constructive thing that can be done, if for instance, one is a business person whose activity depends on plenty of snow, is start planning for a variety of outcomes. For example, Outcome One is if snow arrives on December 15, Outcome Two, if snow arrives on December 25, Outcome Three, if snow only arrives on January 10, etc.
These plans could include staffing, hour of operations, inventory management or anything that would optimize the foreseeable situation and lessen its consequences. This is a much more proactive way to manage something we don't control at all, in a manner that can have major consequences on our livelihood and comfort by drawing a specific plan for each foreseeable outcome! The rest, as we've seen before, is purely a waste of time.

How does my theories affect what I do? In practice, my alternative plans are much more limited than in the example I used, so I will reset my expectation to “no snow” through the entire Holidays, and perhaps receive a wonderful surprise!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The bliss of “not having...”

When we are in our twenties, thirties, forties and fifties, we always want more. More degrees, more career, more money, more car, more house, more toys. Then as we hit sixty, we start wanting less: Less taxes, less traffic, less pollution, less chronic pain, less noise, less superficial relationships, less stiffness, less cold, less heat.

I could go on and on with that list of items we want less of... Clearly, as we go through the sixties threshold, there's a reversal of desires and needs going on, and it's for the better. To these common trends I'd add that I feel fortunate not to own a second-home, an RV, a plane or a boat. Okay, there's just one thing I'd want more of, and it's time!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Piecing footage out

As a budding videographer, there are good and bad days. The good days are when I get lucky and land that wonderful shot without doing or thinking much. The bad ones are those when nothing seem to be going right. In fact, when these moments happen, there was generally no good plan laid out before hand. Haphazard planning does guarantee bad results, right?

I was in that situation this weekend, and as I am parsing through images today in an effort to create a decent clip, each one reminds me of the moment I shot them, some begin to inspire me, I save a good sequence here, another one there, and my original story board begins to shift based on the character of the data I decide to keep.

I find myself discovering that movie editing is a journey and things begin to gel as they are pieced together. A totally new story can suddenly take place! The footage that I thought was so bad may yield something good in the end, exceeding by far my low expectations. Right, good things do happen...

Monday, December 5, 2011

GS Magic...

Like many, I watched yesterday's suspenseful GS race in Beaver Creek. What a pleasure for the eyes! While the visibility could have been a tad better, the conditions were consistant and gave a fair chance to every participants. I was struck by the excellence of the field and by the zero-tolerance for the tiniest fault in this highly competitive event. The snow was super hard, the margin of error nil, and next to the perfect edge grip came... the “boot-grip,” not a good option at all, as Bennie Raich would attest.
What also made watching that event highly interesting is that the best guy, the 27 year old Ted Ligety, remains the key target, but as always, the field is evolving and making room for new and younger talents, like Fritz Dopfer 24, Marcel Hirscher 23, Giovanni Borsotti 21 and Alexis Pinturault only 20! These new, younger and quite talented racers are no doubt going to make a big dent into a group of already outstanding racers. Too bad there are so few GS events in the season. Time for the FIS to reconsider, deliver us from the drudgery of Super G and give us more Giant Slaloms instead!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Super G anyone?

I've never been a fan of Super G as I always felt it was an unnecessary alpine event. Yesterday's surprising win by Sandro Viletta was another “nail” in the coffin of that bizarre competition. I see it as a bastard child (not a hybrid) between GS and Downhill and it maybe spectacular to some, but highly fickle and unable to render and reward a skier's true abilities.

Skiing is unpredictable enough, between snow quality, weather and visibility, all in changing increments, that the more it can be manageable, the fairer the outcome is likely to be. In slalom, that I'm not a fan of, ever since the introduction of the break-away gates, the multitude of turns increases the chances to exit, straddle or miss a gate, times two runs. Almost same situation in GS (by far, my favorite event, because it's the one all skiers can relate to) where the lesser number and more open gate scheme improves somewhat the odds, but where the right trajectory introduces a tremendous nuance.

Downhill is all about the perfect line and courage, at least on the best courses. Yet, athletes have a couple of opportunities to try the course before the competition, in so doing, fine-tune their approaches and strategies. In contrast, Super G is a bastardized Downhill event with absolutely no chance for the athletes to inspect or test before hand. That's why I don't like it and strongly feel it's totally unnecessary!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fix it again Toni!

Today, as I was driving up to Deer Valley, a small car was standing, without anyone inside, by the by the side of the highway. We don't see too many cars broken down and left on the roadways these days and this sighting got my attention. It was in fact a new Fiat 500 that had been left by his or her driver and was waiting to be rescued.
I wasn't shocked, just a bit surprised. The last time I had seen cars in that situation was in Bulgaria and they  were Russian-made Volgas. It's not that I'm suggesting that Fiat is a bad automobile, but even now that it owns Chrysler, a Fiat is evidently still a Fiat...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Populist vs. Intellectual

One of Barack Obama's problem is his difficulty in connecting with people; if you prefer, in being warm and fuzzy. You see, unlike Bill Clinton, he isn't a populist and not the kind of man you'd share a beer with and feel totally at ease in his company. I can see a split between the Intellectual-types like him, that tend to look down to the politicians who kisses babies and slap you in the back, and precisely these populist types that have no shame in doing whatever it takes to earn and keep their constituents' esteem.
In that class, you also had Reagan and in France you'd find a Sarkozy or a Berlusconi in Italy, even though the later is more a caricature of the genre. If intellect can get you elected, populism is a better ingredient to stay on the job and get re-elected. This said, considering the lackluster qualities of this year's Republican candidates, it would take an incredible charismatic guy or girl to overcome Obama's intellect!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let's talk wooden shingles...

I've always loved wooden shingles as a roofing material. Most probably because they were part of my environment growing up in Les Lindarets, a tiny alpine hamlet. Later, the modernistic Avoriaz ski resort adopted them, not just as roofing, but also as siding material, and that time they went for the luxury item, picking cedar shake shingles from British Columbia!

When I moved to America, I rediscovered that material in the East, used mostly as siding material and it's only when I arrived in Park City in the mid 80s that the material was at its peak, mostly used on all rooftops. We've owned two homes with that material and didn't have good experience with them. Since that time, the use of that rustic material has gone down.
Part of it is fire danger, but another reason it seems, is that the material fares poorly in Utah's extremely dry weather. After a while, the shingles bend, warp and twist on the sides most exposed to the elements and need to be replaced. The lack of humidity substantially weakens the wood and makes it vulnerable to drastic change in temperatures so the individual shingle loses its geometric shape and loses its functionality.

Warping might also be associated with the difference that exists between true shake shingles (split) that should last longer, but is more expensive, and the milled shingles that have lost their directional integrity and are free to bend back to any direction they want. That's too bad, because a shingle roof looks so rustic, organic and natural...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

“Occupy...” takes a winter break!

As the “Occupy movements” here and there are getting dismantled, I bet they're only going to morph into hibernation until waking up next spring. It's in fact a good thing that the local police forces are taking the protesters out of their potential cold misery, allow them to regroup, really get their act together and begin a serious national dialogue at the same time our two political parties get ready for their big 2012 campaign.

For the politicians, this couldn't have happened at a worst time. The “Occupy movements” just planted the seed, established the new “1-99” paradigm, convinced 75% of the American public that it makes sense and that our main problem is the work of corrupt politics, combined with the greed of both Wall Street and Big Business. The movements will now have to articulate their demands, if and when they do it, how and the big question is how will it play?

How can the Republican Party defend its “no new taxes” pledge? How can the Democrats tap into that discontent or jump onto that bandwagon without smelling bad or will these traditional parties' unease lead the way to a viable third-party movement? Of course, one could always surmise that this populist movement will peter out, but I don't believe the odds are in favor of that outcome....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Winterizing before skiing

Getting back on skis is a very complex and tedious process. It's not just getting the skis ready and removing a toy from inside a ski boot; it's much more comprehensive than that... Following yesterday's “slip and fall” incident, my wife decided to accompany me skiing. That was a great idea. We had some sun, there was almost no a single soul on the ski runs, no errant plastic sheeting either, balmy temperatures and great snow.

All was just perfect, until my wife asked me to check the vents on her ski helmet. Hers were shut closed as they should have been in November. I asked her to reciprocate and tell me what the status of my helmet venting was. As expected, it was wide open, letting the cold winter air in, in spite of my recent haircut.

I must be close to brain-dead or in heat, because I didn't feel anything. Once this major failing was discovered, my spouse asked me to raise my arms enough for her to discover that both vents, under each arm, were fully unzipped. My climate control settings obviously demonstrated adjustments made back last spring when temperatures were vastly different than today. What would I do without my better half?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Plastic sheeting on snow!

As I was skiing yesterday, I went over a loose piece of clear plastic sheeting that must have been blown around and had landed on the ski run. Because it was clear, I wasn't able to see it and, as I was putting my ski on edge and leaning accordingly, I felt a sliding sensation, having both my skis slip laterally from under me.

It was as if the carpet of snow was pulled away by some malevolent elves, and I took a brutal fall, the harsher, as the terrain was fairly flat in that particular area. That weird incident had never happened to me before so I guess I had to live through it to be able to tell the world and (perhaps) learn something in the process. After I picked myself up, I realized to my dismay that I had sprained my left thumb. Another hard lesson that I will remember!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ah, that first time!

On Friday, I summoned my courage, loaded my skis into the back of my car, grabbed a pair of still cold boots (they stayed by accident inside our cold mud room,) got the rest of my gear and drove to Canyons for a few hours of skiing fun. It had been less than five month since my last outing in Snowbird, on July 4th and here I was again, hoping to make a few turns on some brand-new snow.

The weather was snowy, the crowds gone shopping, and I did an impressive number of laps on one of the five lifts that were opened to the public. I still remembered how to “turn' em,” even though my first descents were a bit tentative, but now I believe that I can begin my 58th ski season with reasonable confidence!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Floppy-joint running

A few days ago my wife was remarking that my running looks totally relaxed. I acknowledged that I follow the same precepts that help me so much when I ski, I try to stay as loose as possible in my joints, especially hips, knees and ankles. I'm also making a concerted mental effort in thinking I'm light and that I'm barely touching the ground, as if I were floating.

This of course is easy for me to say and put into practice when I'm running with my spouse who, by virtue of her gender alone, suffer the same handicap women do when dealing with men, a significant difference in performance due to weight and muscle mass. When I push myself, lightness yields to brute force and at that time, all these loosy-goosey benefits vaporize...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Checking-out Woody Allen's work

After seeing a great documentary on Woody Allen, we decided to return to his work and watch one of his movies. As we got into the quirky show and as we patiently watched it to its bitter end, we were reminded why we are not super fans of the artist.

While he's a wonderful observer of human behavior and can weave a few good jokes around his deep understanding of human nature, he is a very poor story teller and that's where he loses most of his public, except perhaps for the French who tend to like the inherent absurdity of some of Allen's films. This was another rich experience reminding us that without a good story, there's not much entertainment left!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tahrir square revisited...

The military government that has been ruling Egypt since Mubarak exit is not really ready to relinquish the power. As demonstrators are reminding the arm forces that it's now time for them to leave the scene, they get butchered. Yet, we're giving 1.5 billion in military aid and another 0.5 billion in civilian assistance to that country.

We should have plenty of leverage in telling the military that they need to control themselves and stop killing their civilians. Yet, our Department of State remains conspicuously silent on that topic. I might very well be that Israel prefers to see the Egyptian Army in power instead of the Muslim Brotherhood and is extremely effective in steering our foreign policy to its utmost convenience...

Deer Valley food update

Interview with Jodie Rogers Executive Chef of Snow Park and Empire Canyon Lodges

Go 11: First Jodie, remind us what’s your philosophy at Deer Valley Resort?
JR: The biggest thing we’ve done in the past two year was to turn to three fundamental principles: Local, sustainable and fresh ingredients. Fresh ingredients have always been a big concern for us. This year I was lucky enough to be invited on a couple ranch tours, in Bear Lake and in South Dakota. We work with Niman Ranch where traceability is available and easy to check. They work very closely with us and make the effort to understand our needs. For instance, all of our lamb, in all in our menus, comes from Bear Lake. Our beef comes from many of the Niman associate farms. We’re staying away from unnecessary antibiotic, steroids or things like that. Freshness is paramount with us.

Go 11: Do you treat seafood the same way?
JR: Absolutely! Heather, our seafood chef at the Seafood Buffet, has been leading that way for many years already. She follows the “Seafood Watch” at the Monterey Bay Aquarium daily and purchases accordingly. For instance, we can trace back all of our oysters to their origin and to the actual fishermen. Now, our guest have come to expect this kind of quality from us! Not only are we doing the right things, but our guest expect us to keep that lead.

Go 11: So tell me, what’s new this winter at Deer Valley?
JR: First at the Grocery~Café, we are working very closely with Copper Moose Farm for our field greens, beets, herbs and other vegetables that can be grown in our harsh environment. As far as the Seafood Buffet is concerned, Heather having her crew go back to the roots of some classic dishes. As an example, this season Heather had the idea of serving Pazole with the DV twist. Instead of buying ready-made cans of Hominy, she’s taking the dried corn and making it from scratch. The seafood Buffet chefs will continue to follow what’s sustainable and we’ll advise the chefs be creative within that parameter. The Day Lodges will continue with Niman burgers and homemade bratwursts. We’ll keep everyone focused on these goals so that our chefs understand our local sourcing, make sure it remains a priority and use it as creatively as possible.

Fireside Dining is opening an extra night, Saturday, and that will go from three to four nights. All the lamb will be sourced locally, from Bear Lake. We’ve also gone local with some of Salt Lake’s Creminelli cured meat instead of importing them; Creminelli is really good, they source Berkshire pork and other high quality ingredients as local as possible… The Mariposa is going to offer a great southwest sturgeon dish this winter to continue our quest in trying to stay sustainable. Royal Street Café is focusing on using lots of local cheeses, like Beehive, Rock Hill Creamery and Gold Creek. Our Day Restaurants will incorporate all of these into our other menus as well. Royal Street Café will also still serve their fabulous homemade meatballs, that by the way are also sold at the Deer Valley Grocery~Café…

Our big focus as far as management is to see even more consistency out of our three Days Lodges. Now that we’re Number One for the fifth year in a row, it behooves us to maintain our lead, ahead of the competition by continuing to strive for culinary perfection.

We’ve had a lot of construction going on this summer and some of it involved rebuilding the whole employee dining area at the Snow Park Lodge as we had outgrown it. Since it caters to our own staff, it also gave us the opportunity to offer an extended menu along with faster service, and this is not small stuff as, if we’re able to make our own people happy, we can be sure that they will make our guests even happier. That may sound like “back of the house” but it will have a huge impact on the “front of the house” and their interaction with our guests!

On the cocktail front, the Park City Area Restaurant Association had upped the ante by organizing a cocktail contest twice a year and we’re participating along with the other Main Street establishments. We’ll be featuring the winner of the last contest, the Easy Street Cocktail, that will be on all our menus. We will also feature more seasonal drinks and cocktail and we’ve also upgraded our wine and liquor list. Finally, we’ll be offering more live entertainment in the afternoon at the EBS Lounge, during weekends, with some of our best local musicians…

Go 11: Sounds wonderful! Where do you get all that inspiration?
JR: Our guests drive us to become better, especially when they do vote us continually Number One in Food and Beverage, on-mountain dining, specially. The good comments we get from our guests make us want to be better. Our chefs are also a very creative team that is always on the lookout for new things and are key in keeping our lead. I want to give them every opportunity to try something new and wow our guests.

Go 11: How do you gather that feedback?
JR: Our guests are pretty verbal, and we get lots of comments, phone calls and emails, helping us to steer our offerings in the right direction. We’re are labeling our menus to indicate all the gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian items as we get these questions all the time, and it’s sometimes hard for waiters to keep up with all these details even though we keep on educating them as well on all these issues.

We have an eight-day rotating menu for our kids ski school, and while we’ve always cater to Kosher, this year our menus will also display the gluten-free options. Further, our ski school menus are all nut-free and we take all the necessary care in the kitchens to avoid cross-contamination so kids can eat with total peace of mind. The bottom line is that if anyone has some special needs, we’ll take care of them!

Go 11: Is the improving level of the Park City, Main Street restaurant benefiting Deer Valley?
JR: We all help each other. The more demand we place on certain ingredients, the more choice we get from suppliers and the more that quality improves. That’s a huge help from all of us. When I first came to Deer Valley I couldn’t get coconut milk; you know, I come from Australia and I couldn’t get any of it and I got so frustrated! Because we have such a diverse and talented pool of chefs between Main Street and Deer Valley, there’s a friendly and highly productive emulation that elevates the quality of the food served and benefits everyone. Our guests too are very diverse and come to us with pretty sophisticated tastes and a fine palate that push us all to become better!

Go 11: You’ve wet my appetite; when can guest samples all that wonderful food?
JR: Very soon! While our Grocery~Café is always serving food, Royal Street Café will open the last weekend of November and then the weekend of December 3, all Day Lodges will welcome the skiing public. Then on Friday, December 9, our Seafood Buffet will be available to diners, followed by Fireside, the last one to open, on Wednesday, December 14. Mark your calendar and come sample our wonderful food!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Presidential Candidates

It's almost like the weather forecast; unpredictable and changing all the time... Among the eight remaining presidential republican candidates, the leader of the pack keeps on changing depending on the last stupidity uttered or the most blatant act of misconduct. The front-runner has gone from Sarah Palin to Donald Trump, then to Michelle Bachmann, Texas Governor Rick Perry and marketing guru Herman Cain.

At some point last week, it was Ron Paul's turn, and now Newt Gingrich gets the advantage. The truth is that they all share one common feature: They stink! Still left to take the lead are Rick Santorum and Jon Hunstman (the less mediocre of that dismal group!) So no wonder their right-wing electorate doesn't quite like what is offered to them and pray for a miracle when it's time for the winner to duel with Obama.

The candidates fielded by the Grand Old Party are in line with its ideology: Tired and passé. As they keep on making fools of themselves and showing out they are so out of touch with the world we live in, they are likely to cast a very negative shadow on the members of congress and senate that claim the same ideology and need to be re-elected. At least, I hope so!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top of the board

When I worked in a ski school, back in the late sixties to mid-seventies, in the French Alps, the pecking order was defined by seniority. The more senior a ski instructor would be, the better and more business he or she would receive. As time would go on, and through attrition, one would crawl up the board – yeah, there was such a thing as a board in full view of everyone who happened to walk into the booking office! - and as your name would climb up, business would improve significantly.

I didn't stay long enough to live through the glory of being at the top or the infamy of retirement, but that day would happen when a ski instructor reached 61 (at my former ski-school anyway.) By then, your name would be erased from the board, you would become a non-entity and could only work when former students requested you specifically, or during peak season when overflow demand would allow it.

Today, I was wondering were I would stand in the “planetary board,” if there were such a tool, to rank the earth population. Out of 7 billion, what would my rank be? After a long afternoon or research, I computed that out of a planetary average life expectancy of 67.2 year, I would rank as the 462,327,112th oldest person living on the planet. That's still quite a sizable group and I won't worry too much about my ranks getting overly thin, at least for the next couple of weeks...

How should I say it?

As an independent voter, I feel extremely frustrated at the failure of negotiating a debt reduction agreement by the bi-partisan “group of twelve.” This bleak outcome clearly is the fault of the Republican Party. I wrote to my congressman and my two senators to tell them the same and added that I simply hoped the GOP would get a bruising defeat at the 2012 election!

Their regressive party is costing investors money, hampering the economy, remains stuck in its dogma, backwards and out of touch with reality. Enough is enough and now, I need to make a video that is compelling enough to rally the troops!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Are we laughing enough?

The answer to that question is probably a resounding “no.” Last night, we saw a bizarre if not downright bad movie at the Park City Film Series (Beginners) and returned home to watch the first part a wonderful documentary on Woody Allen that made us laugh to the point that we forgot everything about the mediocre film we just saw. This went a long way to reminding us what our daily problem is: We just don't laugh enough.

Our politicians (Republicans, particularly) are spoiling our life with their leaders crying foul for nothing and their focus on the glass being half-empty. These people are rotting the country and should all be deported! What we need is balance the budget, get rid of all American religious and tax-adverse right-wingers by sending them to Afghanistan, and start laughing while we watch them put on the funny clothes folks wear over there, including burkas for the ladies, and while finally John Boehner crying for a good reason. Only then, will we be liberated from the scum of the earth and able to laugh more!

Gear Mania

As I was wondering if I should get some new skis this season, I saw a full ski rack inside my garage and the first order of business would be to make some room for a new pair. Since I can’t decide which pair I should get rid of, this becomes an easy decision to make. For a while, I had considered embarking on the rocker-ski adventure, but as I have shared before on this blog, I’m still hesitating about that design and while I can appreciate these skis might help me greatly in bottomless powder, I still have a few unresolved issues with them.

First, and as I’ve also said before, the longer rocker design won’t fit my car ski-box! The other part of my dilemma is that I have fallen in love with Deer Valley’s tree skiing and not just its nicely gladed runs, but the more challenging, tight turning skiing like the one found in Centennial trees. Rocker skis are a bit longer than regular boards, and when the turning radius gets tighter, every extra inch that stick in the front or in the back might be just enough to grab the next spruce or aspen that happens to be in the way.

To top it off, I still can’t picture myself riding these curvaceous boards on corduroy, moguls and hard-pack as I get to, or return from my powder stashes. All these good reasons mean that I’ll continue to use my semi-fat skis (90 mm under the foot) for another season. Hopefully, I’ll be able to eventually get used to the feeling and move to a shorter length as I also get a bit older, but frankly, I’m not ready yet and may have to labor at tiny bit more while in deep powder!

I hope you’ll fully understand my position with regard to double-ski-camber designs: I’m intellectually and practically not ready for them yet! Since I am all set and very happy with my current poles, the only area that is left for me to worry about is that other, all-important piece of equipment, the ski boots. Mine are still okay and I can see another full season in their sort-term future. This year, I will just add to my closet a pair of specialized boots that I’ll use for accomplishing other tasks. That’s right, I want to seriously get into alpine touring this season…

I already own a pair of skis dedicated to that pursuit, complete with skins and special bindings, and the only missing component is the pair of touring boots that I just purchased today. Will I use that “AT gear” – as it’s called – in the middle of winter? Probably not very often, but as April rolls around and Deer Valley Resort closes for the season, I intend to be all over the back-country, exploring ridges, bowls and glades where snow will continue to linger during the following weeks and even months. This will keep me fit and prolong a season that never begins early enough and always ends far too soon!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Yeah, just a break

As we were strolling around the block yesterday, we literally “fell” on that flock of Canadian geese (Branta canadensis) that had landed during the snow storm and were taking a well deserved break before taking up in the air again in V-shaped formation. Like most geese, these ones are naturally migratory with the wintering range being most of the United States (I thought they went to Mexico, but these evidently didn't have the right visas for that!)
Perhaps they had heard of the local Wasatch Brew Pub and just wanted to sip a cold beer before resuming their trip. Apparently the early migrations in the seasons are quick and don't cause these long stop-overs. The one we saw were the usual stragglers, the ones never seem to get going and get their act together fast enough. We'll check today if they're still on the ground!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Travel safely!

This morning as I was driving to Old Town, Park City, I was passed by a small Honda that sported a bumper sticker proclaiming: “Jesus is my car insurance.” It's not that I have anything against "Jesus" as insurance coverage, but it makes me a bit nervous to drive amidst folks that could trust the brand so much that it ends up being their only coverage, especially following a recent snowfall!
I love to drive on snow, but not around people like that. Makes me want to slow down a bit, let them get far away from me and even perhaps, instead of driving myself, ride the town free bus. I know, I can always cancel my current coverage and try this “other brand”

Friday, November 18, 2011

The inexorable passage of time...

Recently, our son turned 33 and that other marker gave us a chance to get together with his family and friends and together, celebrate the passage of time. The evening was fun and festive and was another subtle reminder that time takes no break at all. Just like a formidable glacier, it keeps on pushing forward no matter what happens on the outside.
When we're young that crawling motion seems interminable and just feels like watching grass grow. As time goes on, the pace picks up and today, an entire day seems to be discarded before it can even be contemplated prior to putting it to good use.

It's true that we fill every possible opening in our day with some type of activity and we wedge even more stuff into it with our new penetrating technology that sucks even more time-space out of the equation.

Perhaps we should stop doing anything, go crazy for sure, but appreciate the silence, the time that goes nowhere and – again – would seem to last forever...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Learning a new skill

Getting to learn a new craft takes time and this is precisely what I'm still doing with my video productions. Over the course of one year, I have produced more than 200 short clips and keep on learning daily about shooting them right, getting better organized, editing them faster, adding some creativity in the process and most importantly learning from my mistakes, errors, omissions and mediocre results.

My progress are not instantly translated into a spectacular learning curve and instead, I'm crawling along and it will take time for me to get better – which by the way is totally acceptable – and this is something I'm looking forward to on a daily basis. Knowing that I'll never reach that elusive “top,” that there will also be ample room for learning and improving my skills is incredibly stimulating and keeps me going. I'm really glad a came across that new hobby!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A complicated first step...

Last evening, I attended a meeting about the newly proposed connection between Canyons Resort and Solitude, another Utah mountain resort located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, the adjoining valley to Park City. Talisker, the recent new owner of Canyons announced the plan sometime this summer. Since Park City Mountain Resort seems to be against the idea of connecting with their neighbor to the West as it (wrongly) fears a hemorrhage of skiers and riders to their struggling competitor, Canyons decided to jump over to the next canyon by just proposing a “people mover” under the form of a 8-passenger gondola that would go from the middle of their resort (around where the Dreamscape lift is located) up to the ridge and down into Solitude's base area.
The ride would take about 11 minutes. There would be no unloading at the top; this would strictly be a “people-mover” to deflect criticism from environmental activist groups like “Save our Canyons.” At first, the lift would be used for winter operations only. A combined day lift ticket (Canyons-Solitude and perhaps Canyons-Solbright) would be offered and a surcharge would apply to season pass owners who wish to ski the “other side.” If successful, the plan would be implemented for the 2013-2014 ski season, if Canyons is able to jump through the environmental hoops and other hearings that promise to be be quite formidable.

For that, Ted Wilson who for decades has been a leading champion of environmental causes in the Wasatch, served twice as the Mayor of Salt Lake City, and more recently was Utah Gov. Gary Herbert's senior environmental advisor, has just been hired as the environmental point-man for Talisker so he can better deflect the environmentalist pressures against the idea.

To me, this is a step in the right direction, albeit a very complicated one, that may serve as a catalyst to get Park City Mountain Resort out of its apparent lethargy, but true inertia and obstructionism, on that entire issue. If and when that first “connection” is achieved, the dominoes will start falling and the Utah Interconnect may slowly become a reality. Wouldn't that be nice in the country that put a man on the moon, invented the GPS, the Internet and the iPhone, to see that we're finally able to catch up – 45 years later – with the French Alps!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Senna, Prost and the rest...

Last Sunday, we finally saw a great documentary that we missed during the last Sundance film festival and that ended up winning the Audience Award. This documentary made of actual footage pieced together retraces Ayrton Senna career, his rivalry with Alain Prost, and his political struggles with the then head of FISA Jean-Marie Balestre.

All protagonists come out – at least in my eyes - as pretty bad guys, rotten by money and ambition and paints a rather dismal picture of the world of Formula One. This said, a definite, must-see movie.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Steve Jobs: One last thing!

As I was extolling the greatness of the latest and official biography of Steve Jobs, I omitted to link his professional life story with whatever is being teach in schools and particularly business schools, where the end – namely making money – still remains the name of the game. This means that every action a successful leader should take must be correlated with profits.

This stands in stark contrast with the best way to create a durable and successful enterprise by sheer forces of passion, commitment and focus on quality or any other unique characteristic an organization can generate. Companies that began and lasted by staying true to that approach have always been the most successful financially despite the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the their leaders that might not have been a textbook example of corporate behavior.
That passionate leader is the hot wire that let the current of success pass into the organization. Remove that leader through demotion, sale of the company or any other reason and the “magic” too often disappears. This elusive and potent life form is unfortunately a dimension that business schools and case studies haven't been able to put their fingers on...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Steve Jobs' biography

I just finished reading that wonderful book yesterday. Right, I think this is a wonderful compilation of the life of someone that will stand tall for a very long time in the pantheon of modern economic history. It had other personal meaning for me, as Jobs' career coincided with my times in America. I witnessed that incredible story from the sidelines without fully understanding its impact on our society and our economy.

The book provides a balanced view of a man that was far from perfect but was relentless in his pursuits and who made a deliberate choice from the get-got, between changing himself and changing the world around him. He chose the later and it worked for Apple. During my entire professional life, I've never had the chance to encounter people of his caliber. I've worked with people that emulated Steve's brash approach but lacked his backbone or were more likely to take shortcuts; people like him were indeed not visible in my professional surroundings.

Would such a success story be possible outside of America? I doubt it very much... Reading that book re-enforced my belief that America is indeed the ideal place to get spectacular things done and go places. Thanks for showing the way, Steve!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


There was a moment yesterday – at 11:11:11 am to be precise, when all numbers of my prestigious Casio digital watch were all the same. Six pairs of number “1” across its LCD screen and I missed that! Later during the day, Claire Christensen Kippola, my former work colleague reminded me that if there were a “Go 11 Day,” that was it, and she proceeded with sending all her best wishes.
I had totally forgotten about the “Go 11” moniker, it's special meaning, like skiing with tips pointing down and going straight and braving fear, etc. Go 11 has become my guiding principle, something I practice everyday, whether there's snow on the ground or not. It's been now more than four years that I write this blog every day, both in English and French and it still goes strong; at least in my biased and so distracted mind!