Monday, February 28, 2011

I love my Scott Mission skis!

This is already my second pair of Scott Mission in 183 cm and this one is brand new this season. I just got it out a few days a ago to enjoy all that great snow Heaven sent us. Like the first pair, they're so easy, forgiving, light and yet totally unpretentious. They do the job and I love them for it. They let me get away with reckless behavior and safely get me down places demented like this one. Just watch the video! If you want the HD, Youtube version, just click here...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Always follow your bliss

If there is one advice I've never fail to give my kids it's to follow their passions. I guess I've done the same too, and most of the time, often at great material and emotional costs, but as Cat Stevens puts it in his beautiful song “Father and Son,” I can now say that “...I'm old, but I'm happy...” And the situation continues for me.

I'm still devoting most of my energy into pursuits that keep me excited at night and consume me totally during the day. As I was saying this morning at breakfast to my spouse, “doing things we love never feels like work” and it is so true. So, as we are about to finish a short month, my advice to anyone willing to listen to me still holds: Listen to your heart, no matter what!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

When lack of visibility is bliss...

All skiers will agree that visibility is key to good, safe and effective skiing, and that flat light, just as thick fog, are major impediment to moving forward and having fun. Yet, there are instances in which, if you're an excellent skier, ignoring what's going on under your feet can be pure joy.
I'm talking about new, deep snow conditions where the fluffy stuff plays the role of a forgiving shock absorber that almost let you get away with pure recklessness. Yesterday was one of these days when I skied at Canyons. The only caveat is that you must know the terrain before hand and then let yourself go. You won't see much, but you'll feel pure bliss!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hiding Deep into the X-Files

If you really don’t want other skiers to see you, if must absolutely avoid your boss or your ex-significant other, or just ski in total privacy, Deer Valley Resort has the perfect shelter for you. It’s called the “X-Files” and while I discussed the geography of that very special place in great details on this blog, early January, I wanted today to focus on the tactical aspect of this location.

That’s right, this area at the corner of Empire Canyon is a perfect hiding place, just under the canopy of huge pine trees. If, like me, you are a private person or have to remain anonymous for whatever reason, you’ll want to run laps your entire ski day inside the “X-Files!” The added benefit is that skiing in its trees is more fun than you can imagine and the powder stashed there remains fresh forever.

Short of making yourself even stealthier by dressing in white and being totally invisible from spy-satellites, you can be assured that your skiing will remain totally “under cover” for as long as you don’t show up again on Orion run. Oh, I almost forgot, make sure to turn off any GPS tracking feature that you might have inside your cell phone… Now enjoy this “how-to” video!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oil, Israel and Arab States uprising

For a very long time, the West has tolerated despots to run Arab governments in order to control two key elements: Reliable oil supply and protection of the Hebrew State.
As the events unfolding have shown, the party might soon be over, and if the new entities are closer to their roots and their people, as they certainly might be, we could see a truer reflection of these countries attitudes towards the realities we wish would prevail.

While it's extremely difficult to predict the future, it's pretty obvious that, as the toothpaste is getting out of of the tube, it will be awfully hard to push it back inside, and we might expect some drastic changes in what have been our own long-held paradigms like cheap oil and a “two-state solution” in Palestine. So please stay tuned, and while we do, I'd be curious to hear about your own predictions!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Measuring vertical drop

The recent 12 hours of Snowbird gave me a good opportunity to reflect upon the accuracy of measurements used for computing a skier's total vertical. Until now, I had only relied upon a resort's official figures stating the vertical rise of each one of its lift, as opposed to checking an altimeter or GPS device reading.

Reality, however has showed me that what's stated by some mountain resorts is often inaccurate, inflated or rounded up; as an example, Snowbird claims 2,900 vertical for its tram when it's in fact 2,840. It would therefore seem logical to verify that public data. This makes a lot of sense, but it might be that the best way to check which altitude could be via static GPS reading or, more practically, by consulting Google Earth. Using a mobile GPS, especially when unloading a lift quite rapidly, might miss the top way point and induce false readings. A seemingly minute, but significant point...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Measuring “food on the table”

Without a good, reliable natural snow cover, ski towns as we know them would be dead. They'd never survive. Sure, there are twelve month in a year, but the four winter month account, on average, for 85% of the income a mountain community sees in 365 days. Park City is perhaps different in the fact that about half of its population telecommutes or hold jobs in the Salt Lake Valley that is within commuting distance, but all the community services and wonderful amenities that benefit the entire population are only available because of the tourist trade. Without it, and the super-profitable winter sport activities, there wouldn't be a Park City, a Vail or a Whistler as we know them. Always be very kind to tourists!

Our economic gauge is directly tied to the snow dipstick that stands as a centerpiece in my backyard as a way to honor this basic financial truth. This morning, it indicated 32 inch, which is a good figure for late February and is our number-one type of economic indicator. If your eyesight is as sharp as it should be, you might even be able to read that this gauge is the by-product of my expansive optimism as it goes to... 72. Now, I know you'll ask how much snow on top of our local mountain? Easy, up to 107 inches!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Musing about divine skiing

For more than six weeks, snow falls have been quiet, just adding up in modest quantities, one measured precipitation at a time. This past weekend however, someone upstairs hit a switch or opened up some valve and let all that magic powder out. As we went skiing yesterday afternoon, my wife and I rediscovered the buttery ease, the forgiveness and the sheer pleasure that a generous dump of snow never fails to bring.

Should I add that more than any other parts of snow world, skiing in Park City or anywhere else in Utah, is something pretty special; aren't we after all home to “the greatest snow on earth?” It's amazing how soon we forget that magic when we ski under average conditions and how quickly we get entranced again when some great snow returns!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

You snooze, you lose!

This past Friday, the first ever “12 Hours of Snowbird,” an endurance ski/snowboarding event, began at 7 pm and ended at 7 am the following morning. That's right, an all-nighter, and while I wanted to participate badly, my spouse used all of her influence talking me out of doing it, saying that it was not something an old guy like me should do. I even tried to convince my good friend Dirk to join me, but for once in my lifetime, I didn't get the support I needed and had to pass on this great opportunity to ski the night away.

When the powder settled and as a new day dawned on the exhausted and sleep-deprived participants, Matt Mullin was declared the winner with 125,643 vertical feet skied, followed by Ski Utah's boss, Nathan Rafferty at a very close 125,532 feet. The Utah record, Dirk Beal and I established last year at 112,750 was obviously shattered, but with it, we'd still would have ended up in 11th position. So considering the good night sleep we got, it wasn't a total loss and, as I never fail to say, there's always next year!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Morzine and Park City: Another connection

Between these two mountain resorts that stand more than 5,300 miles away, there's an ocean and there is roughly half of my lifetime split almost to perfection by eight years of residence in New York. That's why yesterday was quite special to me, as two young ski champions from these ski towns stepped up on the same podium at the World Ski Championships in Garmish, Germany. I happen to know both their parents and can understand these two athlete's joy in reaching the season's pinnacle of excellence.
You might talk about split loyalty, but I really wanted each one of them - Ted Ligety and Cyprien Richard - to win. Since they didn't quite tie that day, there had to be a winner and a second, but that's not the point! They made it together to the top spots and this made my day!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dropping by Daly Chute #4

Yesterday, as the gray skies were charged with snow ready to fall and as I was skiing Empire Express, at Deer Valley Resort, I chose to play around the X-Files. As I was ready for a second lap, I stopped on my way by Daly Chute #4 to get a closer look and had the following conversation with the intimidating Chute:

Chute #4: Hi, I haven’t seen you around in a while!
Go11: Sorry, I was just skiing by, going to the X-Files…
Chute #4: I can’t understand what makes these trees such a big deal…
Go11: You’d be surprised how fun they are today with six inches of new snow!
Chute #4: Hey, that’s just a temporary condition; why don’t you come a little bit closer…
Go11: I’m not sure, I just wanted to say hello.
Chute #4: Are you telling me that you’ve become a big chicken? Get a bit nearer to the edge, take a look down!
Go11: I’m impressed with what I see…
Chute #4: That’s what most people who come up here tell me before they turn around and ski elsewhere; what happened to courage? They say they’re “just dropping by,” but in truth they won’t!
Go11: I’m not like that…
Chute #4: Okay, show me!
Go11: I won’t jump the cornice though; I’ll catch it from skier’s left.
Chute #4: Good boy…

Now, enjoy the video!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Post-repression, job creation...

Now that Tunisia and Egypt might be on the “right track,” how can a new government translate the hopes of millions into tangible economic improvements? Job don't grow on trees and it takes long term plans (something governments are woefully ill-equipped to do) and smart thinking to set the stage for employment, especially in countries that, aside from extractive energies and tourism, have very little to offer and are not particularly well endowed by mother nature to compete with northern economies. Already, thousands of Tunisians are fleeing towards Europe in hope of a better economic life and it might behoove the continent to do something that might help north Africans stay home instead of swelling the ranks of the unemployed on the opposite side of the Mediterranean.

That something might be job and cultural training, entrepreneurial development, infrastructure improvements, among other initiatives, but even in the bleakest scenario, there must be something these countries can do to sustain their people. Are foreign governments able to invent an economic model for these countries? I doubt it as well. The same can be said of most established NGO. So that leaves us with some independent bright minds with ideas that can be put to good work. Is there someone, out there that can come with a plan that could work to stabilizing and satisfying these nascent democracies?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Returning to the Grammy's

We think it's a good thing for us to spend the evening of the Grammy Awards keeping up with pop music and watching who is in and out. This way we can have an informed and intelligent conversation about Eminem or Lady Gaga. Don't get me wrong, we like them all and particularly this young lady, Stefani Germanotta, that it taking Madonna's act one long step farther and appears like a well-intentioned young person. We don't happen to care too much for her music, but this is just a matter of personal taste.

So in addition to keeping up with the Top 40 performers, we wanted to see how three “seniors” invited to highlight the evening were holding up. We were fortunate to watch Mick Jagger (67), Barbra Streisand (68) and Bob Dylan (69). The last time we were privileged to see Mr. Dylan was at a live concert in Park West in 1989 and he was already past his prime, so when he attempted to sing “Maggie's Farm” and, even with a strong group of back-up singers, we were in total agreement that he shouldn't be working there "no more" (or anywhere, for that matter). Ms. Streisand sure still looked good, but her singing also seemed to be taking a back seat and she should soon avoid stepping on any stage.

As for our favorite, the energizer-bunny-Jagger, he still displayed an incredible amount of energy. For a long time I thought he must have been on speed or under the effect some performance-enhancing drug, but the more I think about it, the more I'm convincing myself that he's powered by nuclear fuel rods. I'm concerned that his seemingly limitless energy might do one day on his body which mechanical resistance appears frailer all the time; a bit like installing a Ferrari engine under the hood of a Citroën 2cv, I'd really be more careful and would prescribe – if I were his physician – some serious time off!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Below-par lunch at the Montage's Apex

Our first stay at the Laguna Beach Montage impressed us and we were also under the charm when we got invited to the open house at the new Deer Valley Montage. So, as a way to reciprocate, we decided to have our Valentine day lunch at the Apex restaurant of the hotel, that we thought would be easily accessible from the Deer Valley slopes. After skiing over an hour, we decided to grab an early lunch, skied by the hotel, spotted the outdoor dining deck, dropped our equipment on the ski rack and walked in. We couldn't quite find the entrance, but a young lady asked us to follow her down to were the hostess desk was located, deep into the bowels of the establishment, on a highly slippery hardwood floor evidently not planned to be used with ski boots on. At that point, we follow another hostess and retraced our steps back into the dining room where we were finally seated. After spending the morning outside and on the snow, the restaurant interior appeared strikingly somber and we had to patiently let our eyes adjust to the dark-chocolate tone of the wood coverings.

While this was before the lunch crowd - mostly all skiers like us - would arrive, we were struck with the number of employees buzzing in all directions and were anticipating an unforgettable luncheon. The menu looked okay and we ordered and looked around while our meals were prepared. Evelyne had the House Smoked Turkey Club and I had the Tuna Niçoise Salad. While Evelyne's sandwich was okay, my salad wasn't measuring up with its description. The “Niçoise Olive Vinagrette” didn't make it as it apparently was embargoed on the French Riviera, and the flattering description of the rest of the ingredients was a shadow of what it should have been. For dessert, we had the Montage Apple Strudel which was good and by a long shot the best item we sampled that day. In spite of the high number of employees, the service was so-so and not very efficient, the bus-boy attempting to take my wife's plate away while she was still working on her meal, and when she had to use the ladies room, aside from the light that wouldn't work, they were also other malfunctions that were not part of the customers normal expectations.

All in all the Montage restaurant wasn't the “apex” its name portrayed and still will have a very long way to go before it can dream to match the food offered at the nearby Empire Lodge operated by Deer Valley Resort...

Monday, February 14, 2011

The importance of St. Valentin

I don't care much for the commercial side of today's Holiday and what it may means in terms of fresh cut flowers purchased or chocolate to die for, but I think it's important to be reminded that we all have someone very significant in our lives and we should always pay more attention to her or him. That's it, a timely and wholesome reminder if we ever needed one.

A reminder about someone we share so much with, the good, the bad and the in-between, someone who – more than any other person – will listen to what we have to say, make the drudgery of daily life look a bit more bearable, tell us what to do when we are hesitant, smile to our jokes - even those that aren't so good, and keep us going through the hurdles life is placing on our daily path. It's wonderful to know that we're not alone and be re-assured that we have at least one fan left who can root for us!

This mid-February celebration is for all of us, good people, who don't ever need to be told anything, but simply reminded about what really counts...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

America's greatest puppeteer

If you think Jim Hanson of Sesame Street's fame was the most talented puppeteer the United States had to offer, think again. Early last week we watched “American Experience” one of our favorite show on PBS, and that time it featured Nancy Reagan, wife of the late President Reagan, who has over the past 20 years been elevated to the status of political god.

I personally don't think so, I think he was all smokes and mirrors and has been worked into a mythic figure for the convenience of the conservative establishment. If you'd asked me, I'd say he's always been fake, but the most remarkable feat in all this is that it probably is his wife, Nancy, who manufactured this ersatz of a hero. By shear power of manipulation, not much different than that of a talented, lowly puppeteer, she was able to make him into a folk hero. I already believed she was a mean lady, but never suspected she was so talented at pulling strings!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Morning coffee with Hosni

This morning I had a cup of coffee in Dubai with Hosni Mubarak. I thought he still was in Sharm el-Sheik, but he had in fact made it to safety the UAE and that's were we finally get together and chatted for a while.
Go11: How does it feel now that all the pressure is over?
Hosni: Much better, we'll be able to relax, plus the weather is a bit nicer than what we had earlier in Cairo.
Go11: So, what are your plans, as you're now free to do as you please?
Hosni: You're really not paying close attention my friend; I always did what I wanted. Now, it's going to be much harder; we'll need to pay for our own food, our flat, our helicopter and plane rides; I may have to taken hang-gliding  - chuckling... It sure will be vastly different...
Go11: Are they things you'll miss in Dubai?
Hosni: Sure, and they're too many to mention; all the stuff that we didn't have time to grab at the presidential palace; my iPod with all the Frank Sinatra tunes on it, the presidential limo, the household help, our Austrian chef and a wonderful collection of Bordeaux wines!
Go11: What are you planning to do now as you're beginning a brand new phase in your life?
Hosni: I intend to hit the lecture-circuit and have already lined up speaking engagements not just all around the Persian Golf, but also in Libya, Morocco, Iran and France - yeah, Sarkozy wants to stay in power and would like to avoid some of the blunders I've made!
Go11: That sounds like a lot of work; what will you do for fun?
Hosni: When I'm done with the French president, I plan to stay two more weeks in Courchevel and learn how to snowboard. I had originally planned to do it in St. Moritz, but those paranoid Swiss regulators froze our bank accounts; they'll lose a good customer!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Which religion has the best God?

James White, one of my Facebook active friends, launched an interesting conversation yesterday by asking: “In your opinion, which religion has the best God?” In a knee-jerk reaction, I misread the topic and responded, thinking “which [God] has the best religion,” and then formulating a would-be humorous answer that I posted on line. I have since re-read the question and today, I will attempt to address it more thoughtfully. First of all, the question itself creates a premise that different religions call for different Gods. That's alright with me, Allah is different than the Christian God, and is probably different than Yahweh, Zeus or Ahura Mazda (Zoroastrianism.) This is an important point that must be established before we go any further; we're quite fortunate to having a whole bunch of Gods and Goddesses available to us for spiritual needs.

Without getting into the minute details today, I would like to offer a simple overview. First, I think the Gods of the Talmud and Islam are not fun guys at all. They are old, stubborn, vengeful and violent. Satan, the God of satanism is not better either, plus he is extremely negative, so that puts him off my top list. Then there's the modern Christian God, that is a team deal between the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit (some sort of Intellectual Property Attorney) that is obviously breaking ranks with monotheism and creating more confusion than what's needed.

Even though they add a woman (Mary) to the top team, the Catholic Gods become more confusing, plus they condone guilt and pedophilia, which disqualify them by my book. We have the Mormon God and its plethora of prophets (including Jesus, who's been demoted) but that's not cost effective (10% of one's gross income.) Beside compassion, I don't think Buddha offers much since I don't believe in re-incarnation, for the simple reason that I can't remember what I was doing before I was born.

That brings me next to Hinduism which offer a bunch of colorful Gods that I find likeable but don't understand, and since we are now into polytheism, I'd say that my favorite are the thirty-three Greek gods and their Roman counterparts. First they are very diverse, they're specialized and they are acting as human with special powers which makes them very accessible to me, but unfortunately, just like the mini-cassette, they're no longer available. As in the song “American Pie”, they probably caught the “last train for the Coast...”

My definition of a “perfect storm”

I'm not talking about the situation that describes an event in which a rare combination of circumstances will drastically tip the natural order over, nor do I want to allude to the book and the movie covering the phenomenon and that is the source of the expression. What I want to talk about is what happened this past Monday, late afternoon, when the skies suddenly became dark and snow began to fall like it would never stop. It kept on storming into the evening and the following morning, we woke up to a picture-perfect weather and to over 10 inches of fluffy new snow.

Now, this is what I call a “perfect storm,” when the precipitation arrives after a full workday for some, or a fun-filled vacation afternoon, when the heavy snowfall doesn't impede traffic too much or create unnecessary stress on skiers and other mountain folks that have to work their way around it. That's right: Regular night snowstorm followed by blue-bird skies and super light powder in the morning; that's the only circumstance in my book that deserves to be called a perfect storm, and we have many of those in Deer Valley: A timely, convenient and generous precipitation that supplies days of fun for mountain lovers!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt: Bring in the tourists!

With tourism counting for about $12 to 15 billion in revenue and employing about 12% of the country's work force, tour operators and their clients weight really heavily on the economy of Egypt and might, if they were to present a united front, heavily influence the outcome of the current stalemate between the demonstrators and president Mubarak. It would seem to me that visitors to the land of the Pharaohs are generally well educated and less likely to give a blank check to old-fashion tyranny.

This means that if all of them (tour operators, groups and individual travelers) could find a common voice, they might bring their influence to bear and tip the entire conflict in favor of openness and democratic rule. It's clear that if Mr. Mubarak is tempted to follow the course followed by the Chinese in Tienanmen, he would do irreparable damage to his country. If that were the case, tourists would have a moral obligation to voting with their feet, especially if other world governments were to turn a blind eye to repression, whether it'd be under the form of a forceful response by the army on the ground or through a military Coup. Sure, I don't have a ready-to-use recipe on how to mobilize that vital part of Egypt's economy and leverage it in favor of its people, but the idea has huge potential...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More on growth...

Yesterday, one of my loyal reader and friend (William Bocq) voiced his disagreement with my daily blog. One of my avatars responded to him briefly but quite ineffectively. Today, I'll attempt to straighten things out. What my blog was about wasn't so much about the laws of economics (even though I foolishly mentioned capitalism,) but was more about the fallacy of never-ending growth and universal enrichment which has been one of the pillar of the capitalist doctrine.

During Adam Smith's life, the world population was estimated to be at 800,000 people, so overpopulation was a non-issue. While it's agreed that population grow may slow down, no one knows for sure, as the UN estimates for the 22nd century fall inside a bracket comprised between 5 and 14 billion.

I also agree that the law of supply and demand would quickly force some drastic adjustment on the way humans have to deal with dire situations, but my point was to state that, in an overcrowded world, it might be time to switch “currency” and let go of the sacrosanct “growth standard” for something that is more sustainable in the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

That magic stuff called growth...

John Mauldin writes a weekly newsletter that I read regularly. He believes in traditional (read “frozen”) capitalism. He recently wrote: “We’re optimists by nature. The natural order of the world is growth. Trees tend to grow, and economies do, too. “ What he failed to mention is that “natural growth” is followed by maturation and death, but let me try to explain the way I see that traditional view of growth.

Basically, growth is based on population explosion or on a fast-growing segment of the planetary population that can consume. Up to this new millennium, there were about one-quarter of the world population that was producing “stuff” for the rest to consume. Today, it's about half the world that is producing. So while our producing tool has been booming, the client base is shrinking in percentage. This means that even with an exponential population growth that will soon reach the 10 billion mark, we will not only cause irreparable damage to the planet, but we'll still run out of people to sell “stuff” to.

The quantitative growth model that has begun by fueling the industrial revolution, is not only dangerous and threatening us like a house of card, but it's well passed its prime. It's now time for us to find a qualitative growth model that should allow humanity to keep making a living without having to bloat and kill the planet.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The truth comes from children mouth

Yesterday, we were fortunate to watch Finn our soon-to-be three year grandson while his parents came to ski in Park City. An insatiable explorer, our little guy sees everything and nothing escapes his peering glance. He knows our home inside-out and was commenting on his portrait that is framed high, up inside the kitchen, proudly saying “that's me!” Then a few minute later, his attention turned to an older, sepia photograph that also adorns a living room wall and declared “...and that's grandpa!”

In truth, the man on the photo isn't quite me; I had discussed that picture in a late December blog and it depicts a rugged-looking fellow that wears a beret as I sometime do, and shares some facial features with me, but is definitely 15 to 20 years older than I am. However, since that character is someone everyone appears to like, I wouldn't argue with my grandson identification; I'll even use it as my Facebook profile picture...

A Marriage Made in Ski Heaven!

Deer Valley Resort and Freestyle Skiing share a very special kinship. Besides being a central venue during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Deer Valley has – with only two exceptions – hosted yearly Freestyle World Cup events since the beginning of the new millennium. Already in 2003, the resort hosted the World Freestyle Ski Championships and this early February, Deer Valley saw the culmination of this special relation crowned, as it hosted this world event for the second time, an assignment at the measure of Deer Valley’s excellence.

This year, Ski Cross (premiered here in 2008,) was added to the series of events and was contained into an ideal, contiguous and complete freestyle stadium, including both Moguls and Aerials. This unique site configuration for viewing the entire show, combined with the perfectionism that has always been Deer Valley Resort’s hallmark, has made it the freestyle skiing capital of the world and this might be another excellent reason for timing, if you can, your next ski vacation with an upcoming Deer Valley Freestyle World Cup, as competition schedules always allow to combine day skiing with afternoon or evening events watching.
Like many, I love freestyle skiing because it embodies a skier’s expression of his or her on-snow dreams and fantasies; unlike the regimented and sometimes ossified sides of its alpine cousin, freestyle skiing still has a wide open potential for creativity on snow and for pushing even further the envelope of what’s possible. This remains true, even though the athletes’ technical level keeps on growing by leaps and bounds, in all the events that I have watched during these recent championships.

What’s amazing though, is that unlike alpine skiing, in which differences between athletes are often hard to pinpoint, the vast and limitless register of options given to each participant remains wide open and lets the spectator see and appreciate the various styles between competitors and this bodes well for the sport future. Ski Cross is also maturing and showing that it can hold its own as a permanent fixture into the world of freestyle skiing while offering a more diverse and thrilling vision of what’s possible on the snow. Halfpipe continues shooting skiers back and forth, higher up in the air, giving them more time and tricks to impress all of us…

I wasn’t able to see the Slopestyle event, but heard it was one of a kind (another one!) and can only hope that it will earn a lasting spot in the family. This said, I do have a favorite, and it’s moguls. Why? Perhaps I can do it without too many restrictions and can still adapt it to my dwindling technical abilities, slowing reflexes, and practice it on the many runs Deer Valley Resort offers in permanence to its guests. The event that in my view captures the best of freestyle remains the Dual Moguls and was the crowning conclusion of this year’s World Championships. It combines skills and mental pressure, repeated and amplified four times in the space of a short evening, and takes the very best out of the greatest champions. I must say that even though I thought I was cheering the whole evening, the performances I saw left me mentally speechless!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Too lazy to go skiing!

Yesterday was a “blah” day; gray, cold and windy and for a while, I mentally debated if I should or shouldn't go skiing. It's funny what can go inside one's head when one is fortunate to live in a ski resort and is older than 30. For millions of people who claim to love skiing, that should never be a question. For the fewer fortunate ones who can afford to invest in an $8,000 family ski vacation, this is not even an option.
Everyone of the five days in Park City will be a skiing day, period. For me it's different, because I'm a spoiled, lucky one and should be penalized for thinking so lazily. They ought to take my pass away from me for two full weeks! At last, by noon I had decided that I would go skiing after all. I went, braved the apparent dreary weather and had a fantastic time, so much in fact, that while I had promised my wife I'd be home by 4 pm, I had to call her that I was staying for “a little more...”

Saturday, February 5, 2011

On-line freedom power

On the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth, we'll hear over and over that he's the man who managed to break up communism, when in reality, I think it it's more the blossoming of satellite dishes and the reach of CNN into the eastern block that should be credited for the fall of the soviet regime and it's affiliates. The same is happening today with Tunisia, Egypt, and a host of other nations that are still under the grip of some left-over tyrant.

What is triggering all this is the explosion of on-line access and the free circulation of images and thoughts that come from all parts of the world. It's not just social media like Facebook, Youtube or Twitter. It's the availability of news in real-time, 24/7, it's also and essentially the millions of self-declared “journalists” taking pictures and shooting videos from their small cell phones that are popping off the lids of censorship and are allowing direct and unbearable comparisons between what some of us have or enjoy and others don't have access to.

Sure, like Reagan earlier, some politicians will take credit for that, but the reality is that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, among others, are the true reasons for breaking the shackles of tyranny, not our official leaders who can at best react, but seldom anticipate...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ski-in gastronomy

My niece Christel is a chef. With her husband Gilles, they run “Les Rhodos,” the family restaurant in which I worked as a young waiter, in the picturesque mountain village of Les Lindarets, France, nestled in the heart of the Portes du Soleil, ski interconnect. That's right, in winter their eatery is ski-in, ski-out, so it's no wonder that when she had to officiate as one of French and Swiss chefs representing the dozen Franco-Swiss ski resorts tethered together, and compete in the “Star-studded Snow Culinary Contest” held in nearby Châtel, she had little choice but ski to where the competition was held, just after serving lunch, while her father in law was bringing her utensils and other implements by road to that little mountain town.

This happened this past Saturday, January 29. The rare, thin and bullet-proof snow made her trek over the mountains her biggest challenge of the day as my niece had to tread very, very carefully on the icy slopes. In spite of the dreary conditions, she made it safely to her stove and had barely the time to take off her skis before starting to cook.

All chefs were asked to prepare a dish using the true fera (coregonus fera), a fish from nearby Lake Geneva and the even more local Abondance cheese. Well, lo and behold, Christel, her ski-propelled appearance and delectable dish won the entire Jury (made of some famous French Chefs and food critics) and went on, as the sole female in the competition, to win the contest. Bravo Christel, now email me a portion of your true fera on a bed of risotto!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Freestyle, alpine and the rest of skiing...

For years, freestyle skiing has struggled to gain a respectable spot in the competitive world, but for some strange reasons, it can't appear to gain ground on its alpine sibling in earning the respect and the support it seems it would deserve. This week, the world skiing freestyle championships are taking place right here, in Deer Valley and Park City and the first events have begun amidst arctic temperatures. Yesterday, a French boy and a Canadian girl won the moguls competition, but I haven't heard much about it, even coming from the French or Canadian media. The sport remains underground in spite of its telegenic appeal.

Already offering aerials, moguls, dual moguls, halfpipe and ski-cross, Freestyle skiing just added slopestyle in an effort to “beef-up” its offering. Yet, will adding more events confer Freestyle the recognition and the support it's been fighting to gain over the past four decades? Worldwide, skiing is a tiny industry, both in size and from a participation standpoint, with seemingly far too many families (alpine, cross-country, ski jumping, freestyle and snowboard) and adding more event in one single family seems to me a sure recipe to dilute even more the impact of the sport on would-be watchers, who a sure to get confused and lose interest. That's my two-cent; what's yours?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Too little, too late

Not to belabor the points I've made during my last blogs about Egypt, that evolving situation shows the danger of incremental decisions that are a day late and a dollar short. Mubarak has been a bad boy for quite sometime and America never really sanctioned his stinky behavior. We may have told him we didn't like the way he held elections or put people away, but have never done anything about it.

We were therefore his silent accomplice and when the situation finally deteriorated last week, we should have caught up with it and taken steps that were “over and beyond” the normal call of duty. Our State Department should have made arrangement for a safe passage to some friendly emirate and forced him to board the plane and have him say that he was doing it on his own volition. Instead we've been siting on our hands, hoping for the best or some miracle to happen and soon, we may very well get the worst, just because we didn't want to cut our losses and finally do what would have been the right thing to do. Will we ever learn?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Republicans' silence

While American foreign policy has treated us with a full display of hesitation and incompetence over the past few days in the midst of the Egyptian revolution, the GOP's big mouth, that only seems to know how to criticize the Obama Administration has remained incredibly silent.
That party hasn't had much to say, because it's even less capable than its Democrat counterparts in understanding foreign affairs and far less liberal when it comes to individual freedom or progressive ideas.It's still stuck in the eighteenth century when it comes to having any kind of timely vision.

While Bush and Rice made declarations that never were in synch with their thoughts, their party remains the unjustified invader of Iraq and the fear-monger of the post 9-11 era. The Republicans have also been the unconditional allies of Israel and those that have most turned their back on the Palestinians when settlements have exploded in numbers, so no wonder that they feel totally helpless and out of constructive or useful ideas. It's the US political party with its head turned towards the past and stuck deep into the sand...