Thursday, March 31, 2011

When the lesson begins to sink in...

My favorite quote from Warren Buffet (and there are tons of them attributed to the legendary investor) goes like this: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful,” and for the first time in years, it's beginning to sink inside my hard little head. Today, when I see the stock market reaching exuberant heights, I feel good – that is, as long as I'm in it – but there's a little voice inside me reminding me that "what goes up must go down..."

Right, this same Taoist philosophy about the cyclical nature of life. Conversely, when everything around us reminds us that “the end is near” I begin to relax. Does that new understanding mean that I'm on the cusp of becoming a wise and successful investor? Not so fast! I'm simply reaching stage one of the process, just becoming fearful when others are greedy. I still have to work on the other side of the equation...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring weather? A roller-coaster!

Days aren't created equal during springtime and the resulting skiing will always vary in huge proportions. For instance, yesterday was sublime and today is dreary. It's then becomes easy to believe that the entire season is over. Quite often, when the weather looks bad at the base of the resort, conditions in higher elevation can be just fantastic. Hard to believe, but true, and to top it all off, a persistent cloud cover at this time
of the year keeps the snow pristine and renders the experience one-of-a-kind. So, the morale of that story is that a skier should never despair. It the weather doesn't look good right now, just wait fifteen minutes!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Last night's speech

I am of the opinion that the President's speech about the US intervention along with the coalition forces was clear, reasonable and something I could support. What Obama failed to articulate however was the dissuasive power such an intervention might have in the eyes of other dictators in the Middle-East like the one in Syria and those elsewhere in the region that are sitting on substantial fossil fuel reserves.

Not doing anything in Libya would have embolden these bad guys and I wish that, to some degree, it might also disquiet dictators like Gbagbo and Mugabe, both of whom, unfortunately don't float on oil. It's clear that keeping our SUV tanks full at a reasonable price will always trump the need for defending human rights, but this we have known for a long time...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meet Santiago...

Yesterday, as I was skiing under the Lady Morgan chairlift in Deer Valley, Utah, I noticed a ski instructor who was taking advantage of the new foot of powder snow received overnight. I don't see many of them skiing solo these days; it seems that the vast majority are in the business only for the money. I rode the chair up with him, we chatted a bit and asked if I could follow him to make a video. He agreed, and soon he launched into the Centennial Trees at full speed.

The young Argentinian from Bariloche, probably noticed that I was an old geezer and that he could smoke me in no time into that steep maze of huge pine trees and aspens. Ten turns into the downhill however, and a bit to my surprise, he took a big spill. I helped him getting back up on his skis, dusted him off and we resumed our hi-tempo forest descent. He stopped soon thereafter to catch his breath and we finally made it safely to the bottom of the lift. A bit shocked, he said “you're a very good skier.” I answered “This happens to me sometimes...” Santiago who was half my age made my day!

Sunday, March 27, 2011


About one year ago, I took part into the “NatoConnect” a turbo-charged version of the Utah Interconnect and thought that I would die as I climbed a succession of nasty, steep hills. Even though I had initially promised to stay away from that self-destructive even, I couldn't resist and signed-up when I was offered to participate once more, this season. This year's edition would be packed with unforeseen events; the first took place on a chairlift; as we loaded it, my ski tip caught the snow, I fell over and took my friend and fellow passenger down with me, breaking his two poles and twisting his knee...
If the poles were a total loss, his knee was only bruised, but we could only accomplish a fraction of our voyage as the avalanche danger was such that the mountain passes we were supposed to cross were closed to skiers. We returned to Park City through hurricane strength winds that almost took us all away. It sure managed to tear a third pole away from my hapless friend but all we made it okay and survived. Since the there were only two severe climbs this year, I took my time and managed to reach the top without stressing to much. Will there a “to be continued” to this story? We'll see next year...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Pushing a bit faster...

As you may know, I've been running for most than thirty years and it might be fair to say that over that long period of time, my performance has steadily been on the decline. Its peak might have been reached when I was participating in 10k races in the early eighties and I remember that I had been clocked around 39 minutes. That was about 6 minutes and 18 second per mile. About 15 to 20 year ago, our next door neighbor was telling us that we were running very slow and that he wasn't impressed. We understood, but did nothing about it; the man wasn't a runner, so how could he make any comments about us?

This week I ran several days alone as my spouse was nursing a bronchitis; that's when I began to put “the pedal to the metal” and realized over a two or three days that I could significantly improve my speed if I applied myself to it. As we still have snow on parts of our running route, we'll wait till the white stuff is totally gone to undertake some serious improvement on our running performance; for sure not to break any record, but at least to stave off our constant and insidious physical decline!

Friday, March 25, 2011

When quality demands more time

I'm currently in the midst of a small project that is complicated, has many moving parts and that I would like to bring to a point that satisfies me. I find the whole process incredibly time consuming, but at the same time, I appreciate the learning experience that it brings and without all that time spent, I feels that it couldn't be nearly as good. A perfect illustration of the law of diminishing returns and of the maturing process that can only take place if we leave enough time for these principles to work.

Even though that work is not going to change the world in the smallest extent, I want it to be right. It's a reflection of what I'm capable of doing and I also want to see how much better it will get with some more maturation. I particularly like a concept of qualitative versus quantitative growth as a new paradigm for humanity and really feel that it's not a utopia. To me, it's something that we all have at our fingertips, but often are too lazy to making it happen...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Multiple generations living together?

I never knew my grand parents; they were all gone when I was old enough to remember anything, but they were part of a generation in which grand-parents, parents and kids were able to live and coexist under a same roof, inside a same dwelling. All of my grand-parents and parents came from an agrarian culture and they didn't worry too much about what would come next. People just didn't think that way. It was the glorious time of “one size fits all” and if you didn't like it, you could try your luck elsewhere. Because of their inherent homogenous culture, these people could pile up together inside the same home and put up with each others.

Sure, it wasn't always happy living, but beside the age differences, the group values where pretty much the same. At the same time, you could have transposed my peculiar family situation into some more advanced French communities and would have seen the following structure: The grand-parents could have originally been farmers, the parents part of the industrial revolution and the kids a representation of the information age. Children checking their mobile phone messages under the diner table wouldn't have been too popular with parents and grand-parents, and so would the parent propensity for all-out consumption not seen kindly by the oldest folks...

The more time seems to pass, the more we seemed to be marked by it and become in many instances permanently set in our ways. This observation leads me to affirm that different generations will find it increasingly difficult not just to live in harmony together, but more simply to stand one another!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My lost ski seasons...

It is said that "absence makes the heart grow fonder," and I know that to be very true as far as skiing is concerned. For me, all begun when I served in the French Air Force in the sixties, and being stationed in Provence and Corsica, I lost one and a half ski season, only skiing during short leaves and making the whole process a grueling teaser.

Later, and because I had decided to enter the ski industry and had moved to America, I spent another eight winters in New York, where each season, skiing was limited a first to a few outings in nearby New England or even at some local resorts that I found to be awful and not worth the experience. The only good skiing I was able to spare was during certain industry events, like Ski Business Week, and at sales meetings or product testing sessions that took place in the West, were I had a chance to hit the snow, and that were short and almost torturing experiences.

All along, I felt terrible and was longing for living again in the mountains where good skiing was possible. This long period without being on the slopes for endless periods is why, one day, more than a quarter of a century ago, I was foolhardy and took the chance to moving my whole family for good to Utah and never regretted what to some looked like a foolish move. I also suspect that this forced separation made my love for the sport much more acute and made skiing a vital experience for me, which is likely to last until I can no longer stand on a pair of boards...

Lose yourself in Ontario Bowl and Woods!

Every time my skiing takes me around Flagstaff and Empire Canyon, I always make a point, on my way back to Silver Lake and Snow Park, to ski Ontario Bowl or the adjacent woods. I find it a great alternative to the Ontario or Hidden Treasure runs that are widely used by all the other skiers. If I decide to ski the Bowl, I will rarely hike to its very top from the entrance gate located off the Ontario run, but rather catch the traverse found on skier’s right, at the top of Hidden Treasure. This access gives me all the choices I want while saving me both time and effort.

Like most skiers, I often traverse all the way to the main bowl that offers the most open terrain and then ski down to the bottom of the Ontario run before catching the Judge lift, or why not, riding again Quincy for some additional laps. There are however two notable alternatives to the main bowl and one of them is the expansive wooded area, called “DT’s trees”, that stands to the skier’s left and can be accessed from the beginning of the access traverse. This section, where the trees are gladed well enough to allow turns in most directions, is quite sheltered, keeps the snow fresh longer and offers an infinite array of runs that are never the same. The only trick is to maintain a diagonal direction so as not to “run of out trees,” something that can be easily mastered after just a few descents.

My favorite line however is located on the edge of the trees and on the ridge portion that separates the trees from the bowl. While this run may get bumpy at times (a price to pay for its popularity) it’s always fun and varied as its grade changes all along the way, keeping the itinerary interesting. It ends up by funneling into the trees and lands somewhere above the Quincy chair. So if you didn’t know the Ontario Bowl and its multiple options, make sure to keep them in mind on your way back from Flagstaff and Empire; soon you’ll consider it your “dessert” too, after a long and fun-packed ski day!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Patience always pays off...

This is probably another truism that we discover as we get older. It almost always pays to be a little bit more patient. Sustained efforts into one direction or one particular area end up getting that expected effect, in the same way glaciers create box canyons and rivers build their own impressive bed.
Yet, it's not something that can be easily observed. Many liken this to watching grass grow or paint dry. That's probably true, and at the end of the day, of a year or a decade, that's what ultimately counts...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Not getting any better!

Yesterday, was the annual "Natoconnect," a very private and grueling ski odyssey that I'm privileged to participate into with a bunch of young guys, mostly in their forties. This year's event was fraught with memorable incidents that I will eventually report on this blog, when I get all the pieces together. Today, however, I'd like to focus upon the formidable challenge that I find in climbing hills with young folks that are – on average - 20 years younger than me and extremely fit to boot.

As we all suspect or already know, our fitness levels decline dramatically as we grow older. It's also true that exercise is key to maintaining a semblance of stamina. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, has investigated changes in aerobic capacity in healthy people across a broad age group. They analyzed data on 375 women and 435 men, ages 21 to 87, by putting participants through some tough treadmill exercise, testing them about every four years for a median 8 years, to get some long-term perspective.

The participants' aerobic capacity, the amount of oxygen the body consumes during exercise, which is known as VO2, was calculated during treadmill tests. As logic would suggest, as aerobic capacity diminishes, a person commonly does less physical activity, walks slower and more easily becomes exhausted with physical exertion, just like I was yesterday when I had to climb those pesky hills at 10,000 feet. Using the treadmill results, researchers calculated the change in aerobic capacity for each decade of age. It declined in each decade in men and women, but at a far greater rate in older age groups.

The rate of decline was 3 percent to 6 percent per decade in the 20s and 30s but more than 20 percent per decade in people in their 70s and beyond. Beginning in the 40s, guys decline in aerobic capacity was greater than girls, regardless of their reported physical activity. For example, men lost an average of 8.3 percent of exercise capacity per decade in their 40s, and 23.2 percent per decade in their 70s.

To counter this age-related decline we ought to maximize our aerobic capacity through exercise. Participating in a training program, can raise your aerobic capacity 15 percent to 25 percent, which according to the researchers is the equivalent to being 10-20 years younger. Sure, our aerobic capacity will decline over time, but at any given age someone who exercises will have a higher capacity than a couch potato. Declining muscle strength, another factor that contributes to frailty as people age, can also be countered through strengthening exercises. So you have it, we're stuck and have no other choice but keeping on working out!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What's in a name?

Canyons, a nearby ski area has a black run called “Yard Sale.” In ski parlance, this means a major fall in which skiers get separated from their skis, poles, headgear, goggles and major credit cards, the whole scattered or spread out across a large area, resembling a traditional yard sale.
This particular run, while challenging, is not as bad as its name may suggest, and because of its south-eastern orientation is best skied right after a snowfall or while the skies are overcast. One of my favorite run at Canyons and one in which I certainly do everything in my power to prevent a personal “yard sale!”

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Power and Duration

While I call myself Go11 and pretend to always go schuss, the truth of the matter is that the art of skiing revolves around turns. Everything that counts most in every turn is what happens after it's been launched. Inside that steering phase, as we call it, go two key elements: Power and duration. The way these two components are applied is critical.

Great skiers will do it with minimal power, but with permanent application, whereas lesser ones will give bursts of power that don't last long, and the as the turn goes haywire, more power maybe needed to partially fix the situation. Duration of course implies concentration. The ideal is when concentration is no longer a conscious effort but becomes second-nature. Only, at this level can the permanent application of the most minute effort become possible. Call this the holy grail of skiing. That's all I had to say and it will suffice for today...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Are mountains in my DNA?

Recently, I've been chatting with my countryman Alain Lazard, who lives in Northern California, and who got me thinking about Mountain vs. City folks, a tale that began to become a highly charged issue, in the French Alps, back in the sixties and seventies. This subject is likely to feed more than just this blog as I promise to further explore it. To start, let's look at the premises. I was born and raised in small mountain village of the French Alps by parents who had live there “forever.”

I can therefore claim a genuine and deeply rooted “mountain origin.” What is true is that I would have a hard time living anywhere but in the mountains. It could be the Alps, the Rockies or the Himalayas, but I need to see some serious relief in the landscape to feel “grounded” and secure. For reasons I can't fully explain, I look at the mountain differently than anyone who has been born elsewhere and see elements they would never suspect existed. It's not just the mountains, but the skies, the clouds, the shadows, the snow.

My relationship with my environment is instinctive. I can sense avalanche and other dangers before I ever venture in places that are exposed to some kind of risk; my behavior alters itself without any conscious effort on my part. I haven't learn it at school, that sensation somehow resides deep in me. It's just psychic and this can't be a learned response. So, with these observations in mind, I clearly tend to feel more “entitled” to claim the mountains as my own, as my domain, to the exclusion of the newcomer that can't be as much in communion with the elements I know so intimately.

If you read this and were from the plains, the big city or some seaboard location, you might take exception to what I'm trying to say, but I must warn you that I will be hard to be convinced otherwise. This said, the more I think about it, this story is in fact all about human resistance to diversity and if, back in the days, there had been more efforts placed into meshing the various cultures, we all would have won, but we'll leave this part of the discussion for some future blogs, so once more, please stay tuned!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

If I had a second career...

Last night, one of my many dreams that I could remember was that I was offered a bottom-of-the-heap job with my last employer, with the promise that I would climb back the ladder as soon as better gigs would open and of course that I could perform at least as I well as I used to do. I accepted the offer.

This of course, was traumatic enough to wake me up and started me thinking on how I would accomplish my last job if I were indeed able to get it back. I began to self-examine my former approach and my past performance. In view of what I concluded was a rather poor execution on my part, I decided that I would take a zero-base approach to what was required to grow the business, get much more conversations going with the people that worked with me and for me, be much better at getting their input and their ideas and also adapt their actions based on their abilities instead of using a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

What was also revealing was that I would do less programs because I thought they were cool and I liked them, but instead pursue specific plans that would “move the needle.” So you've got it: More feedback and less ego. Boy, am I ready for that position!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Second-guessing the Japanese

Over the past days, a large number of so-called nuclear experts have professed their views on how the Japanese should have handled the difficult crisis they're faced with, in addition to dealing with the aftermath of an extremely severe earthquake and devastating tsunami. There is not a day that goes by that I read about, watch or listen to some advice from folks that seem to know better than anyone what the Japanese ought to do.

This seems to me a little bit too much and I think that these self-proclaimed experts should first volunteer their seemingly free advice to the Japanese authorities before speaking from all side of their mouths about events that they probably don't fully grasp given their fleeting nature and their utter complexity. I for one, trust the Japanese people to know what they're doing and to act in the best interest of their people, their country and their culture.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Keeping everything into perspective

Japan, Libya, the stock markets and what's next? Today, we're right in the midst of another “down” moment and it's up to each one of us to keep a decent level of sanity and good morale. Let's not dwell too deep into depressing news. What we're hearing today are the typical news humanity has been hearing since it began to roam this planet some 250,000 years ago and fully began to realize they were indeed bad news.

As awful as the dispatches we hear can be, from invasions, to wars, plagues, Chernobyl, or September 11, the skies eventually clear and in the meantime, we ended up plugging away at something, sure there was some unnerving tension, insecurity, but nonetheless billions of people have managed to carry on through all these crises. When we keep these realities in mind, we realize that as long as we're fortunate enough to remain alive amidst all the chaos and confusion, and somehow continue to manage, hope remains.

This is why any optimism we can muster must be nurtured and amplified to carry us through the day. Granted, people suffer, our planet takes a hit, but our energies are better spend laboring towards a constructive set of solutions than by pulling back our horns and playing dead.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Breaking up apathy

This year will be the opportunity to celebrate my 45th High School Reunion, but it seems that there is not much energy or enthusiasm left for that. It could be that some of my former classmates think that waiting another five year for the big 5-0 might constitutes somehow a worthwhile delay. For my part, I remain quite pragmatic and fear that many of my old buddies may no longer be with us or may be so physically impaired or psychologically demotivated that sooner would be preferable to later. Since I live a continent away, I would like to plan, get my airline ticket in advance and prepare my trip so it doesn't become a last minute dash to the airport. I need some lead time and want to prepare, but it seems to me that the rest of the group doesn't need nor want anything anymore.

Call this apathy, terminal comfort or anything nicer if you want. Many of them would like to get together very close to home, so the whole production is much more convenient. I was thinking of a different region of France, like Brittany, Alsace or Corsica. I was told that if we were to meet too far away from Cluses, France, no one would come, but my sense is that out of a group of seventy, the same “usual suspects” will end up showing up, no matter where the reunion takes place. Today, I'm asking all of these people if they really want to do it; that seems to be question number one. Then, we'll decide where we might want to get together and for how long. That will be step number two. Finally, if and when we reach a consensus, it will be up to me to decide if the whole affair justifies the 15 hours of air travel that come with it...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When skiing doesn't look the part

Spring skiing is a good mirror of human ups and downs. One day, the skies are blue, the snow perfect, and the next morning, nature looks the exact opposite. Currently, after a wonderful season on all counts, we're in the March doldrums, with rain down in Park City, snow at the top and drenched ski suit and gloves when we return home. Yet, we know that between now and mid-April, or sometime in May depending on when we'll put the boards away, there will be more glorious days, but it takes a positive imagination, a reliable memory and some good creative skills to visualize a return to these beautiful conditions, and this is exactly the way human nature works: When we flip the switch to “down” we are dropping fast and are much below the point where we should stop in reality.

I don't think elation works quite the same way, we reach and apex, but don't ever get to the stratosphere. Negative thoughts, just like the law of gravity, just don't pull us down, they generally find the way to digging a big crater for our misery to take roots. The rotten nature of the process get me too and that is when I need to pull from my lifetime memory to see that there always is sun after the rain. Well, to prove this “cycle theory” right, today is just splendid, so we're back to normal. Let's go skiing!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Once a ski instructor, always an instructor

My last season teaching skiing was in 1974 and I also taught sporadically in Avoriaz, France, during the winter of 76-77 while I was preparing our move to North America. Since that time, I haven't been officially active ski instructing, but have spent hours skiing with my wife and children and in the process, done with them pretty much as I would have done, had they been paying customers.

That's right, you can take the skier out of the ski-school but you can't take the ski-instructor out of the individual. Turning my head back, every now and again when I ski with someone else, is engrained behavior and there's nothing I can do about it. Also, turns don't ever happen by chance with me (when I make some,) they're planned and as finely executed as I possibly can.

The offshoot of that ingrained behavior is that I take my skiing extremely seriously; more so in fact than I should perhaps, and this indeed is what keeps my passion for the sport seemingly intact. I see the mountain, other skiers and the perfect ski gesture differently than others and, in the process, never fail to discover something new that I had never been able heretofore to put my fingers on. Skiing is an addiction I want to suffer from for as long as I can...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Switching to Spring Skiing

As we were skiing in Deer Valley yesterday, it was finally clear that the season had changed. Winter was on its way out and Spring had finally come. The abundant powder we had received in the past day was hanging on in the higher, northerly exposed slopes, but flatter and exposed areas where starting to turn to mush.

A new season brings a set of new tactics, in which groomers become more fun and tricky run tend to be lest hospitable to the unprepared skier. Suntan lotion suddenly is an absolute must and afternoon-only skiing cease to be a valid option. With four to five skiing weeks left around Park City, we'll make the adjustment, but we'll sure will be treated to more deep powder days in the meantime as winter never really quits the Rockies until May...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In Oil we Trust...

US Foreign policy isn't driven by some God in whom we pretend to trust, but by oil. Yeah the black, gooey stuff that comes out of the earth crust. Suffice to look at what we've done in Iraq, a country with some of the largest proven oil reserves and what we're not doing (yet) in Libya that only account for 2% of the planet's current supply of liquid fossil fuel. Also look at the crisis in Ivory Coast that mostly produces cocoa; the stand-off between Gbagbo and Ouattara is largely ignored by America and we could care less about what's happening in Haiti that only offers heartaches.

We're talking about new, alternative and renewable energies, but just only when it's convenient to us and never seem to seriously act on it. Now if gasoline gets to be around $4 a gallon, we get all worked up; it amounts to a true declaration of war. How are we going to quench the thirst of our massive SUVs? I now understand better that our former acting President Dick Cheney was really fueled by oil and not by some republican, conservative ideology. Today my question has become, “is oil addiction treatable?”

Field Trip to Daly Chute #2

Another day, another Chute!
In fact, that time, I wanted to check the Cataract side at Daly and particularly Chute #7, but its access was closed for avalanche control; instead, I set my sight on Chute #2 that grabbed my attention with its impressive, overgrown cornice. As usual, we had our little chit-chat:

Chute #2: I saw you flying by, probably intent on skiing the “X-Files...”
Go11: Not really; I wanted to descent Chute #7, but it's closed!
Chute #2: Have you seen that big, new cornice of mine?
Go11: I'm impressed, can I jump it; what do you think?
Chute #2: If I were you, I'd practice a bit, before making a fool of myself...
Go11: Nay; I think I can do it, I'll launch, we'll see!
Chute #2: Good luck, big shot!

The video is here to tell the rest of the story...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Decision-making and politics...

Usually, good decision are made pretty fast and always involve some amount of courage or risk taking. Decision-making is like sushi; you can't wait forever before you eat it. It also doesn't work well when too many opinions are available or too many options are lined up. I'm talking essentially about politics and Libya today, but this is pretty universal. Experience plays a huge role too. The more decisions have been made in a person's lifetime, the easier it will be to make new ones.

Rare decisions are always agonizing. The quality and type of decisions made can also have a huge influence. A “half-baked” or questionable decision can often be better than no decision at all. The latter is almost always the worst, although it may work at times. Decisions have consequences, don't always work and require that we can live with their consequences, good or bad. That's right, timely decision-making isn't for the weak, those who must always please others and the perfectionists; it's a hard exercise that simply needs to be engaged into more often than we wished we had to...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why I ski as much I do...

Sometime, I need to push myself a bit to go skiing. A rainy, stormy and snowy day like yesterday was no exception. Then I begin thinking; how many more times will I get another chance to enjoy one of my favorite sports? I don't know for sure, but these special occasions are beginning to dwindle; if I'm in my sixties today, I may ski less in the next decades, if I'm fortunate to ski that long.
So when I look at things this way, my choice becomes compelling; a missed opportunity of being on my boards is a lost chance of having fun and picking a very unique moment, because each time I'm on my skis turns into a situation that always is distinctly different and very special; besides - as I like to say - there's almost no such thing as a “bad” skiing day. This is why I try not to squander these windows of opportunity each time they present themselves. So, once again, I went yesterday and the experience was superb!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Will we ever learn?

When we go shopping or skiing, we never fail having difficulties finding our vehicles on the parking lot when we're done, especially if we haven't been very attentive as to the place we've parked them in the first place.
I'm not even talking about my spouse's car that's minuscule, but I'm writing this about my mid-size station-wagon. It's dwarfed in a sea of SUV that is hiding it. I would say that recently, this trend has been getting worse and it's true that the trend is exacerbated by car rental companies skilled at “selling up” wary visitors by scarring them into upgrading to even larger sport-utility vehicles.

At the same time, and as the Libyan crises keeps on lingering, gasoline prices keep on going up, more like what happened a few years ago. Yet, most people moving around Park City are all sitting in monstrous car guzzlers and complaining about the close-to-be $100 fill-up. As you might expect, I don't feel the least sorry for them and wish that our government would have the good sense to tax gasoline much more heavily as soon as the price at the pump begins to drop - if it ever does - when the current crisis is over. This might bring some reason to the size of the trucks that are driven around us and to gasoline consumption in general...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Frequency, quality and quantity

When it comes to skiing, what might count most is the quality of the experience, at least this is the conclusion I'm beginning to draw (you might say, it's about time!) After pursuing quantitative records for the past seasons like total vertical skied and adding all the numbers up, I have taken this season a more laid-back attitude towards my skiing. There might be several reasons for that. First, I'm not getting any younger, and I also found out last season that a guy even older than me had managed to rack up three times more skiing than what I accounted for the entire winter.

I could have done the same or probably more, but in doing it, I would have became a ski slave of sort. That's when it clicked and I began to wonder: What's the point of all this? This soul-searching certainly had a most calming effect on my quest for numbers and forced me to re-assess what my skiing should be. So far, this change in attitude has had a positive impact on my skiing, making vastly more interesting than it has been in the past. In addition, I don't have to stress anymore when I decide to go skiing; in particular, I don't have to keep on doing it until my legs hurt and my physical abilities are beginning to fade.

I ski more fun terrain, ski more frequently in smaller increments and add more creativity into what I do. A much more wholesome and safer approach to my second-favorite sport. An activity that ought to be the way most people envision it: Fun, period!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Threshold of fear

Just picture this; you're stopped on a cornice and are standing ready to launch into the steep slope or the chute below. No matter what kind of a skier you are, several issues are being considered in your mind for self-preservation sake: The sheer size and the overhang of the cornice, the grade of the slope below and the space left available to first absorb your landing and then make the necessary turns.

So whether you are a bona fide “extreme skier” or just a recreational, all-around athlete, each extra inch of overhang, each additional degree of inclination and each foot taken away in the breath of slope below, add to the anxiety that is felt by the skier ready to let go. Based on the dosage of these components, the extent of the fear that can be felt may be exactly the same for a wide number of folks with vastly different abilities; only the threshold may change. Same fear level under different circumstances, what a uniting concept!

A valid reason for wearing a helmet

It took me a long time before shedding my woolen ski hat and making a move to wearing a ski helmet. The reason for not wearing one earlier is a complicated personal story, woven in tradition, nostalgia and frankly, in not seeing a need for it. That's right, in spite of skiing some 2,300 days so far in my existence, I never hit anything hard with my head, except for a tiny branch or the slope during an occasional, spontaneous and involuntary flip that had me landing on my head; all my other contact with hard stuff always took place elsewhere on the body... While I thought that wearing a ski-helmet might be a wise move, I was concerned about my peripheral vision, my ears being covered, not being able to hear my fellow chairlift passengers and also about some sense of claustrophobia or imprisonment, having my head in a “bucket.”

That was until wearable video-cams came along. Last season, I begun shooting ski videos in earnest and had no other mean at my disposal, but holding the camcorder in one hand while trying to ski. On easy “groomers” that was easy. On steeper slopes, it became more of a challenge and in bumps, well, I might as well have not done it. So, torn between my desire to shoot video while skiing and finding a steadier platform for attaching the camera, I had no other choice but contemplating the use of a helmet.

Sure, I had considered by-passing that protective headgear in using the straps that came packaged with my new video cam, but the attachment quality seemed somewhat flimsy, so I had no choice but settle on the steadier platform offered by a hard-shell. I purchased my helmet this early January, tried it on while skiing several times before installing my video-cam mounts and discovered several positive aspects about wearing it that I didn't even thought even existed.

First and foremost, my new headgear is warm, especially if you are bold like me. If it's too hot during spring skiing, it also offers an “air-conditioning” option that can be actuated by opening some vents on the top. Another nice advantage is that I'll never have to look for my goggles again. They reside on the helmet, no matter what, even if on a sunny spring day I decide to wear my sunglasses instead. Then, there is the end of day bonus, when I'm done skiing, I grab the helmet, throw head-liner and gloves inside and there's only one single item to be worry about, and oh yes, I almost forgot; my head is now much safer!

Friday, March 4, 2011

"Manufacturing" stats...

I just read that Bing, the “other search engine,” came up with a ski resorts visual search tool to help U.K. vacationers find their way through 486 different world ski destinations and that based on web inquiries, the most searched-for resorts on Bing are: 1. Chamonix, 2. Morzine, 3. Tignes (all in France), 4. Banff, Canada, 5. Meribel, 6. Val Thorens (both in France) and 7. Aspen, USA. Like most stats relayed through press releases, these must be taken with a huge grain of salt. I took a peek at the Bing site, which I found to be a huge tile work of thumbnails that appears more confusing than practical in the way the resorts are presented. I also randomly checked some of the information contained in the site and found it very approximate, if not at times completely inaccurate.
Of course, popularity trumps everything with Chamonix being number one. Morzine, my hometown stands in second place with probably some good reasons, having been invaded by the Brits some 20 years ago and being so conveniently located to Geneva and its cheap Easyjet service. As far as Banff's number four, it's always nice to dream and the Canadian location shares some of the scenic qualities of Chamonix, is pretty well known amongst the well-heeled Britons who don't mind jet-lag. As far as Aspen's number 7th place is concerned, I think it has more to do with pure search for exotic dreams and famous people sighting than anything else. A flimsy ranking indeed!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My driver's license

This third day of March stands very high in my memories. It's the very day when I received my driver's license and arguably, I consider it as my most important scholastic achievement which says a lot about my personal relationship with studying in general. I will never forget that day; I took the test in Cluses, France, with Michel Vittoz one of my classmates, on a white Simca 1000 owner by Alliot driving school.

To me, like so many other male teenagers, driving stood at the pinnacle of life. We all seemed to love cars, wanted to drive like Fangio and couldn't wait to put our hand behind some fancy wheel. In my case, the only car I could drive at the time, was the family Citroën 2 CV that would eventually be passed on to me and become my own set of wheels until about 1972.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The relationship between curiosity and conviction.

Political convictions often are dogmatic and seldom subject to review. Folks who are liberal or conservative stay that way; only very few mollify their positions over time. Why? Perhaps because most people don't want to admit they're ever wrong. There's however a handful of more open-minded individuals who will turn arguments on their heads, examine issues and, simply put, be more curious than the masses.

As a result they'll be capable to changing their views on certain topics. Is this a greater form of youth, flexibility or adaptability? That's quite possible. A healthy curiosity is the fuel needed to breaking the most entrenched paradigm and making us evolve and stay smart. I wish many more of our political leaders could be smart enough to be a tiny bit more curious!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Skiing “au naturel”

No I'm not talking about skiing in the nude as the expression most often implies; that would be far too cold and I absolutely couldn't take a chance to fall or have a “brush” with a small tree in that minimal attire. I'm talking instead about the expression's other meanings, like “naturally, or “ the plainest or simplest manner.” Under these circumstances, I love to ski “au naturel,” that is on a natural ski terrain, one that has not – or only marginally – been modified or enhanced by man.
For instance, I rediscovered last week that skiing on “schizophrenic” wooded chutes, like Condor Woods or Deshutes at Canyons is something I still love to do. I also crave on skiing 9990 there or Deer Valley's Daly Chutes. Don't get me wrong, I will ski on corduroy and groomed run now and again, but that's far from being my cup of tea. I'd rather ski crud on natural terrain or even some bumps, but I don't think you'll ever see me inside a half-pipe or riding on rails. That's far too “man-made” for me, and beside I could really hurt myself on one of these!