Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cultivating... Creativity!

Last night we went to a lecture given by Sir Ken Robinson at the Park City Performing Art Center. Sir Robinson is an author, speaker, and advisor on education in the arts to government, non-profits, and education among many others. At first we had very low expectation and as the evening went on, we were quite impressed by the man and his thoughts. He spoke to us about education and creativity and how many elements such as society, parent and teachers manage to kill the best in us.

What's certain is that he managed to keep us interested by talking to us for nearly two hours. While he didn't provide us with a step-by-step itinerary to creativity, he set the stage for our own self-exploration and inspire us to get out of the beaten path in order to better ourselves. I suggest you visit his website and preview the video that follow to grasp the essence of what his interesting Englishman who now lives in Los Angeles had to say...

Friday, April 29, 2011

So close... Snowbird!

Living in Park City is wonderful; not only do we have a vibrant community at our fingertips, great outdoors and wonderful skiing from November to mid-April, but also have the chance to have Snowbird almost in our own backyard. Yeah, I know, it takes 45 good minutes to drive there when the roads are dry, even though it's only 9.5 miles away as the crow flies, but it provides us with wonderful late spring and early summer skiing that few places on earth can afford.

It reminds me of Les Grands Montets, near Chamonix, during the good old days, when the place would stay open long after the local ski areas had shut down for the season. Snowbird is that kind of locale, frequented by the die-hard skiers, who only seem to care just about how wide their skis are, how fast they can ride them into gnarly spots and how late they'll be able to extend the thrill in the summer. A different race of people, but probably the quintessential skiers...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

In defense of snowplow

I recently circulated a ski video that I shot this spring in “Son of Rattler,” a gnarly tree run, at Deer Valley Resort. The person I intended it to (to mark his birthday) is Austrian-born, Gerhard Zimmermann, a buddy of mine. He told me that he loved the ride showed on the video but said he had some reservation about a snowplow of mine just before a tight spot. I'll let you preview the video so you can judge for yourself but it's true that I never renege on hitting the brakes when I have to, by using this instant, convenient and efficient wedge! Short of the asymmetric “hockey stop” that is also impossible to fine tune, a quick wedge is powerful, symmetrical and precisely adjustable.

As a matter of fact, since I've been editing my own videos, I've noticed that anytime I'm tree skiing, I use stem christies quite liberally and, frankly this beats hitting a tree! I also noticed, this winter, while watching downhill world cups, that certain racers were not bashful in using snowplow in negotiating some tight spots. Since I didn't remember who and where, I had to contact Doug Lewis, the excellent sports commentator at Universal Sports, a former U.S. ski team downhill racer from the mid 80s who regularly placed in the world's top ten, including on the terrifying “Streif.”

Doug not only confirmed that it indeed happened this winter, but at the Wengen Lauberhorn race, no less. According to what he recalled, about one minute into that downhill, right after the Mitch-Kante, a few racers headed into the Kernen-S turn that consists of two 90 degree turns they enter going about 50 mph, had to drastically cut their speed down to around 25 mph before hammering the left foot turn into the S, and did so by “pulling” a powerful snowplow! Since they had to cut their speed anyway, that age-old technique was the most appropriate to prepare for that tough right turn. While nowadays snowplow seems discredited as being a “girly” thing to do on skis, I use it everyday when I'm on the snow. It's part of my tool-box!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Extending the fun...

That's it! We've made the move to Snowbird and into spring and summer skiing. We've got our passes are ready to add a few more days to an already incredible season...
Today has been another fantastic power day with one foot of new snow and great skiing in that beautiful place that the “Bird” can be. With 689 inches of accumulated snow fall so far, this looks like a record breaking year!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The never ending real estate free-fall

Today's statistics indicated that home prices in 20 American cities decreased by 3.3% from a year ago. As the market continues its free-fall, investors and would-be home buyer are standing by the sidelines watching and knowing that this might not be over yet. At the same time though, cost of new construction remains very high, creating a huge gap between new and existing dwellings.

This would suggest that older homes are already at bargain-basement prices, but conventional wisdom indicates that the market is waiting to reach an even lower “bottom” before it decides to jump and grab some great deals. The obvious question is, how further down can that bottom be? Of course, like for the stock market, no one knows for sure and wants to catch a falling knife. My sense tells me that it's still one full year away, namely in the spring-summer of 2012. We'll see...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stimulating videos...

Over the winter, I have shot lots of ski videos, thus making extensive use of my GoPro helmet-cam. Most of them have been edited, posted on Youtube and saved on DVD, but there's still some raw footage lingering inside my computer, waiting to processed. I did some of that fun work yesterday, and while I was previewing, cutting, transitioning, writing titles and searching soundtracks for my work, I was all over again engrossed by skiing.

I wanted to go and make some turns, especially as the temperature was staying frigid and conducive for being standing on a pair of board instead of sitting at my computer. Call this the suggestive power of videos or some sort of pathological withdrawal from skiing. With snow in the forecast tonight and the next day, I might still head towards Snowbird for an extra seance of “face-shots...”

Sunday, April 24, 2011

One-way phone conversations

It's amazing how some phone conversations are just one-way, namely how folks on the other side of the line can talk, talk, and never give you a breather to say anything. This happens more than I would think and when it does, I can only listen, nod in approval, roll my eyes and desperately try to intervene, attempting to utter what I think is my legitimate part, with often no success. It's not that I'm bashful or not talkative, quite on the contrary, but there are people who have pushed monopolizing the conversation into a skill that is second to none.

Can I change these people? Probably not. Do I have a way to fight that audio domination? Not really, I've never apprehended the subject matter in these terms, but
I might eventually conduct some personal brain-storming and do some research to come with a step-by-step “how-to” method so I can finally say my “piece” instead of rolling over and playing dead! Once more, just stay tuned...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Give, but don't look!

By now, we've all heard about the mess in which Greg Mortenson, this American humanitarian, writer and former mountaineer, has placed himself into. The co-founder and director of the non-profit Central Asia Institute as well as the founder of the educational charity Pennies for Peace, is said to have mixed fiction with the alleged reality in his books, but what's more, he's been “confused” between the finances of his charities and his own pocketbook, helping himself in the former to finance his own publishing and speaking career.

I don't care about some creative “inaccuracies” in his books, I am simply more worried about the ways he might have used other people's money for his own benefit. Today, the man claims that “managing” wasn't his cup of tea, but the key issue remains that he conveniently commingled a $20 million yearly budget with his personal expense requirements and couldn't obviously “see” this as something fishy.

I have a strong feeling that this is not just Mortenson's problem, but this might be more symptomatic of the temptations that lurk when running huge non-profit organization with no government or tax authority oversight. The could be many more of these stories going on than we've never heard about or will never know...

Friday, April 22, 2011

The US medical mess

Early this month, I did what any responsible human should do once a year: Get checked by a doctor. This is no luxury, it's simply supposed to let me know what's wrong with me. Of course, just what's not working well on the physical side; I'm not talking about the mind, that might take us quite a while. So I get to the office, go through the routine and return the next day for giving some blood. So far so good. When all is said and done and the lab results are in, except for my extra year, not much has changed in me. That's even better. Now I get the bill for all that preventive, routine stuff. It's supposed to be all paid for by my insurance, as agreed, since it's preventive procedure, right? Nope. I get a hefty bill simply because the blood analysis was improperly coded.

In fact, that wasn't not the only element that was messed-up; the nurse first got the wrong weight and wrong height when she checked me out, a few days later, when it was her turn, my wife was found to have twice the (slow) heartbeat she has and not enough oxygen in her blood when she's got plenty. Lousy service, but we're expected pay full price and then we hear some politicians saying that we've got the best healthcare in the world; give me a break!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Convincing old guys to take action

I'm in the middle of two initiatives. One consists of getting some consensus on a date and place for my high school reunion and the other of having a few friends produce a short memorial video for a buddy of mine who recently passed away. I've been asking, but the responses have been dismal. Why? I can't explain, but I assume that moving folks out of their comfort zone or their apathy is a major challenge. The majority don't want to venture out of the proven, comfortable path and may believe they are far too old for learning new tricks. This situation might look like a “stalemate” but I've decided to get it unstuck.
How will I handle this? By showing examples of what could be done, how it could be achieved and how easy it may be accomplished, by helping some visualize what will be missing if they don't participate - call that “shaming” them into action if you like - but I'm determined to engender some movement. For me it's a challenge, a mind game and I would feel very bad it I failed producing the desired results. So I guess, I have my work cut out for me. I'll let you know how effective my methods are...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Inspiration I can use

Our french friends love to email Power Point presentations that are meant to work like chain-letters. Most are forgettable and corny and never amount to much. I generally delete them and move on. One exception was perhaps that one, titled: “Secret for aging beautifully.” I liked it, felt I could use its precepts and decided to share it with you. I goes like this:

  • Happiness can be summed up in these words: Before middle-age, be fearless! Past middle-age, have no regret!
  • Enjoy life while you can: Don't wait till you can no longer walk for feeling sad and regretful. While it's still possible, visit the places you wish to see.
  • Take advantage of the time that's left for getting together with old school mates, work colleagues, buddies and friends.
  • Whatever food you crave for, eat it! Feeling good is what's important!
  • Face sickness with optimism. Rich or poor, everyone comes to the world, ages, falls ill and dies. Address your concerns beforehand and you'll live regret-free!
  • If worrying is therapeutic, do it. I worrying might extend your life, do it. I you'd rather trade your worries for happiness, do it!
  • Protect your treasures
    Your body: Pay attention to your health, you're the only one who can.
    Your mate: Treasure the moments spent with your sweetheart, one of you will go first.
    Your savings: Keep the money you earned for yourself.
    Your friends: Take every opportunity to meet and talk to them as these will become increasingly rare over time.
  •  Never forget to smile and laugh every single day.
Like water under the bridge, time never returns. So is life; go happily with the flow.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Always working on my “Portuguese...”

    Since I have “defected” Park City for other nearby ski areas, the only pair of runs that I truly miss are, the one that's under the Thaynes Chair, and "Portuguese Gap," a steep, gnarly gully that sits between “Land of the Giants” and “Rhino Bowl” in Jupiter.

    I skied it once more on a wet, rainy, snowy and closing day, this past Sunday, after having skied it several times last November at the opening of the ski season. Portuguese Gap is a narrow chute offering a steep 613 feet (187 m) vertical that comes out out of the wood with a drastically flat section, meeting the Scott's Bowl run off and that is best skied in powder snow and mid-season, when the cover is sufficient on a terrain that is quite rocky at the top and is peppered with all kinds of stumps and small trees down below.

    Also, the bottom of that run gets a really bad rap because it's generally populated with with huge, destabilizing "Volkswagen” bumps. Even though snow conditions were just awful this past Sunday, there's almost no run that gets me as excited at “Portuguese!”

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Ski season in review

    This ski season isn't over yet, as we might still “escape” on a few occasions to nearby Snowbird and Alta, while they stay open. The former plans to run its lifts well through May, and perhaps even as late as July, while the later is slated to close on May 2. While I haven't ski as much as I did last season, I did more “interesting skiing” in the trees and in odd places, so let's say that “quality” went up.

    For the rest, I really got serious with developing my video cam skills and had a ball with my helmet-mounted Go-Pro camera. I also immersed myself into production work and all these efforts landed me an assignment with one of our nearby ski resort through the year.

    So here I am, back again, working in a hobby that I like and am still in the process of discovering and learning about!

    Sunday, April 17, 2011

    Skiin' in the rain

    Deer Valley Resort closed last weekend, today was Canyons and Park City's turn. We decided to ski Park City as we were invited to an end of season party there, around lunch. The bad news was that when we left home at about 9:45 am, it was pouring rain and kept on drizzling and dumping wet snow the whole time we were there. The snow was dreadful and while I never miss an opportunity to laud Utah's unparalleled snow quality I didn't have to do it today. It was simply “spring bad;” period.

    My only pleasure was to reminisce Fred Astaire and mentally place him on a pair of skis and picturing him stuck in place while trying his fancy foot work; that was about a realistic rendition of the whole situation. While Evelyne made a stop at the lodge, I escaped to Jupiter to video-tape my favorite run there, Portuguese Gap. We then returned home, got some dry clothes and went to the party at the base of the resort.

    The sun had then came back and when we returned home, I managed to pick our first dandelion salad of the year, right in our backyard. Closing ski day was indeed filled with unique events!

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    Receding glacier?

    I have read that between 1550 and 1850, the glaciers around the world were growing. Now, it seems that the situation has turned around as they're retreating, and most of the blame is placed on excessive human activity.
    It's the same in our backyard where the annual glacier is showing signs of weakness and might disappear as early as the beginning of May. It's too bad, because over the months, I had become attached to that white mass hugging our home. This negative trend is in spite of us walking instead of driving, composting, religiously sorting our refuse and wearing green most of the time.

    I have thought of becoming totally inactive and sleep in a hammock all day gazing at the sky; this would reduce my already slowing down, human activity. A even less tiring alternative would consist of placing a white tarp over, to keep some snow for next November, but my wife disagrees, she thinks it's another dumb idea of mine, so I guess, we'll do nothing and kiss this big mound of snow goodbye pretty soon. We might even pickup a few dandelions from underneath it and eat them in salad!

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    Dave Sabey, my ski buddy

    For many of the 23 winter seasons I have been skiing Park City Mountain Resort, I'd ski with Dave. Today, we're separated since I choose to ski Deer Valley and Canyons over my former stumping grounds, and lost a great ski buddy in the process. Two days ago, we skied together at Canyons and we both had a ball. While he is just five years younger than me, my friend Dave can ski!
    When I ski with him I feel like a crazy little kid, once more, and this could be dangerous; it's much safer for both of us that we remain separated, most of the time. His recipe for exhibiting a superb class on ski is simple: He is consumed by his passion for the sport and does what it takes to ski 120 to 130 days in a season. I'm much more measured and get on the snow between 85 and 100 days if I'm lucky. The reason? Unlike me, he had his “guilt gland” removed 15 years ago...

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Landing on his four?

    After being seemingly ignored by both parties, the conclusions of the Simpson and Bowles commission have been partially recycled in our President's latest long-term financial proposal. My guess is that between Barack Obama's more liberal approach and Paul Ryan's delusional proposal, we might end up right
    where the The White House's fiscal commission concluded a sensible plan should be. This would be amazing and would show, that like a cat, our President can land on his four legs after seemingly dropping from 50 stories. We'll see what comes up in June...

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    A (good) attitude training program

    I happen to believe that we have the keys to controlling our attitudes and thus being able to bring more positive than negative situations into our lives. If attitudes were a white (positive) or a black (negative) t-shirt, the principle would be like putting on the right color garment when we dress, in the morning. That part is relatively easy; it's just an initial choice at the dawn of the day. The difficulty and the stark reality are that during the rest of our daily existence, we are faced with endless bifurcations and choices. Just visualize an endless succession of “fork in the roads...”

    The hurdle for us is being able to make the right attitudinal choice each time one of these options rear its head and pick the one that always keeps us on the positive side. It becomes then a question of building a strong habit in taking these positive turns all day long. Every time I'll sense a shift toward the worst in my attitude, I'll try to keep that “fork in the road” in my mind's eye. Eventually, the response will become stronger and hopefully a life-lasting habit. Any better idea? Please, share it!

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    The 1974 French ski team crisis

    Alain Lazard has done a remarkable job in chronicling a major “speed-bump” (the article is written in French) in the history of French skiing. Reading the piece brought back memories, re-ignited some past passions but reset everything in a much dispassionate context, almost forty years later. Alain's painstaking analysis goes into some fascinating and minute details that I didn't even know about. When I was done reading, I saw three general reasons behind all the upheaval...

    1. Skiing may be more subtle than Joubert saw it
    This sport takes a lifetime to understand, is not assimilated by just looking at photos and analyzing their nuts and bolts. Well into my sixties, I still ski a lot and learn something new all the time. The holy grail of skiing is invisible and happens as far from the skier's head as possible; it's felt under the plant of the foot, hence Killy's definition: “Feet Intelligence.” That's where the ENSA held the truth with its obsessive view of edge control. Perhaps the institution was a bit dogmatic, but when I experimented some of Joubert's teaching on students, they never worked too well, particularly on entry-level skiers.

    Joubert was probably 30 years before his times; he his the one who brought the concept of carving out of the dark ages; carving skis give participants a particularly steep learning curve on groomed runs but these new skiers are perfectly unable to ski on crud and other difficult snow. Yes, in addition to being the one who put carving on a map before its time, he also rechristened the ENSA's “jet-virage” into “avalement”, made Patrick Russel his poster-boy and soon thereafter the masses thought that sitting back while skiing was super cool. He also had the merit of making the skiing narrative available to the masses by publishing liberally illustrated “how-to” books and other magazine articles.

    The other element, is that one needs to really love skiing, not just be merely obsessed in its biophysics. If Joubert had truly loved the sport he wouldn't have just reduced it to some black and white, measurable issues; the essence of skiing is found in its unfathomable gray areas.

    2. It always takes two to tango
    The Portillo, Grenoble and the Killy's legacies weighted heavily on a mostly new French ski team from 1969 through 1973. Expectations were astronomically high and success couldn't be produced consistently on a daily basis, like a batch of fresh baked baguettes. Did the racers behaved sometimes like prima-donna? That might have happened. Further, a team spirit can only be the result of a collaborative, not adversarial atmosphere, and if the coaching staff can't inspire, lead and drive good athletes, it probably isn't as good as it should.

    The coach should serve the athletes, not the other way around, at least that's my view. Suffice to look at today's politics in Belgium or in the U.S. to see how coaches and athletes can be separated by a wall of incomprehension when a situation is allowed to fester and when opposing parties get polarized. On that single account there's a lot of blame to go around in both camps, but the coaches should have played their “adult” role.

    3. The rift between urban an mountain dwellers in France
    This might have been the biggest issue. Mountain and City folks didn't always see eye-to-eye in the French Alps, back in the sixties and seventies. Born and raised in small mountain village of the French Alps by parents who had lived there “forever,” I could understand the views of those with genuine and deeply rooted “mountain origins.” It's 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 in my DNA 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 – I feel - can't be as much in communion with the elements I know so intimately. If you read this and are from the plains, the big city or some seaboard location, you might take exception to what I'm trying to say, but 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 been better for it. Fortunately, since then, mentalities have evolved and differences are fading away...

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    Deer Valley closes on a super-high note!

    This past Sunday (yes, yesterday!) was a ski day to be remembered. After picking up and extra 4” early in the morning to bring the 72 hours total to 16” and the snow cover on top to 134”, the skies cleared just when it was time for the resort to open and we skied all day in mid winter conditions, but under April floodlights! We did the Triangle Trees three times, moved on to Mayflower, did the Bowl and Orient Express, at times in 16 inches of new snow, and by the moment we got to Centennial Trees, on Lady Morgan's side, we had to stay on skier's right to find some fresh “pow” ignored by the “army” that roamed through the sector.
    A good, yummy lunch, with a nice young couple, that made room for us at their empire Empire Lodge table, was yet a great moment, and to top it all, when we were done, we ran into our friend Matt Alvarez who wanted to keep on skiing for the rest of the afternoon, and could not escape following us into Ontario Bowl that, by that time, had been ran over as if it were an autobahn! We still managed to get some great packed powder under the Wasatch Lift and all the way down on “Big Stick” and when we took off our skis, we could still not believe it was April 10!

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Road vapors

    On my second visit to Utah's ski areas, in April of 1984, I was struck to see the roadways literally “smoking” just after one of these late spring snow showers. It was incredible and something that I had never seen before, particularly in the Alps, where I had spent most of my life. A few days ago, my wife noticed the same phenomenon as we were in the middle of some raging flurries and the black, warm asphalt was erupting with water vapors.

    I didn't have the sense of taking a picture then, but wanted to better understand what was causing this sudden eruption. As usual, I try to research what I had just seen but couldn't find any explanation anywhere I had looked. I would think that it is cause by a “perfect storm” of conditions involving the right mix of air moisture, salt on the road, ambient temperature and asphalt heat. Is there someone out there who could explain the real reason behind this uncanny observation?

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Reminiscing Denys Liboz

    Today, skiing was stormy, just like when I used to ski with Denys, whether it was in the Swiss Alps, Aspen, Park City or Lake Tahoe. I don't remember skiing with him under “blue-bird” skies. So this morning I went, taking advantage of ten new inches of powder and thinking that I would dedicate all of my turns to this man whom I considered to be my friend. He liked to ski fast in that type of snow, when the visibility wasn't not quite clear and where the risk was looming from every corner. That was him; always looking to pushing the envelope a bit farther.

    You see, Denys was striving on difficulties. Getting ahead for first time immigrants like him wasn't easy and I know what I'm talking about. If you'd come to America as an adult, you'd drag a thick accent that is almost impossible to lose and that identifies you as someone who can only reach a certain height. For French folks like us, it seems okay to be a hair stylist or a chef, but doing something else stretches the paradigm that most American have about us.

    Yet, against all odds, Denys built an enviable career for himself as a sporting goods sales representative. To get there, he simply had to work much harder, call on his clients more, train their personnel better, in one simple word, make himself indispensable, so his book of business could grow and be sustained. All that without the stereotypical B.S. that too often is associated with people from French extraction. Like when he skied on a powder day, and in spite of an uncertain visibility, Denys saw an opening, an opportunity and zeroed-in on it, with all his might and all his heart. Always the full measure, never half-way.

    Denys had a single-track mind and was naturally driven. So today, as I skied on his behalf, I could feel his spirit and hear his voice telling me: “Go for it!”
    Denys, I sincerely hope that wherever your spirit is today, there will be white slopes, wide open meadows and plenty of blank space for you to go on and explore...

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Denys Liboz, 1943-2011

    My good friend Denys passed away this morning at 9 am in Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by his daughter, son and brother. I met him for the first time in 1974 when I began working for Look bindings. He already lived in Lake Tahoe and was the brand's racer chaser in the United States. I think we “clicked” right away. He was a no-nonsense man, a doer and never hid behind false appearances. A tough guy to some, he was genuine, a rare quality, already back then and even more today. I'll always remember the days we occasionally skied together in the Alps, during the US ski team fall training and at some of the World Cup venues. I've always admired – and also envied – his brute strength and bottomless stamina.

    My wife and I stayed once at his home in Lake Tahoe and this might have been the beginning of our infatuation with the American West. A bit later, at a 1978 sales meeting, we skied again together in new powder snow on Aspen Mountain; We were ripping down the hill like crazy along with Tom Leroy; an unforgettable ride! I perfectly remember the many occasions we'd enjoy a morning run together along the San Francisco Bay; Denys always set the pace and led the way... Later, our relationship focused more on business and less on fun-oriented activities, but Denys had already made his mark on me and I continued to admire his independent spirit, his ruggedness and his inner strength.

    About a decade ago Denys was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a terrible ailment that he fought teeth and nails and seemed to have overcome in spite of having to deal with some severe chronic consequences. We would stop at Lake Tahoe every time we'd drive to California and get together. We had lunch for the last time this past August in Tahoe City. Late 2010, his illness returned with a vengeance and by that time, Denys no longer had any strength left to keep on fighting. All along, Denys had been an inspiration to me and I've grown to appreciate him even more as he struggled with his ordeal; his fighting spirit made a strong, positive and everlasting impression on me.

    Why is the shade so fast?

    Utah's snow is the best in the world; both lighter and dryer; at least, during winter. Under a warm spring sun, it becomes a far different animal. Could it be its low humidity contents, or our location under the 40th parallel under which the sun rays hit flatter portions of the slope more vertically, those, by the way, where the problems lies? With this in mind, what I wanted to talk about is what seems to me the huge speed difference that can be observed between the shady and sunny areas on these gentle slopes on a sunny, spring ski day. Sticking to them makes huge difference between moving reasonably and standing still, and I must say that this is a powerful phenom that I had never observed in the northern Alps where that “in-between” stage between decent snow and slush doesn't seem to happen as much as it does under our latitude.

    Suffice to say that spring snow has little in common with the real “corn” found in Europe. Here, it seems to be that the old snow granulation is significantly thinner than in the alps and doesn't glide as well; the bottom line is that it's not nearly as good or fun as what's found in the old country (you can't always win, right?) There's also that “scratchy” feeling that one can sense on snow that is about to reach that critical stage and turn “bad” as it keeps on slowing a skier down in quite an unpleasant way.

    I've tried to research the subject, but have found no answers to my questions. Until I do, I'll keep to the shady side of the slope...

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    End of ski season?

    Yesterday was another wonderful ski day, not just because we had received another 2 inches in the morning, but also because the weather stayed cold all day, barely reaching the 42 degree mark at our house by the end of the afternoon; we skied Deer Valley and had a genuine blast, particularly in the “Triangle Trees!” The day before stood in stark contrast as the temperature was much warmer and the snow just awful after 11 am. Today, and for the following two days, we're bracing for more snow; so what is a skier to make of all this confusing weather as it relate to snow conditions? For one thing there still can be great skiing to be had in April and sometimes incredible deep powder too, but turn on the heat and the conditions can become dreary in a very short time.
    So the bottom line is that spring skiing is fundamentally moody and its quality jumps all the time between despair and elation. Most of our local resorts stay open through April 17th and after that I had considered getting a pass and skiing Snowbird through the end of May. Will I do it? I don't know yet; I will see as we get to that point. I haven't been skiing a lot this season, but certainly have enhanced the type of skiing I've been doing, skiing in odd places and having wonderful experiences, discovering places that I ignored until now. Let's say more quality and a bit less quantity, so when the season comes to a screeching halt, I'll be satisfied and perhaps looking forward to doing something quite different for a while...

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    The big economic debate

    Kudos to Senator Ryan for launching the discussion on the American long-term budget reform. I'm not a fan of Paul Ryan who is a big mouth and self-promoter and while I mostly disagree with his proposal I salute the effort which stand in stark contrast with the Democrats' side and of course, our President's.

    Sure, once again, the “elephant in the room” are the conclusions by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that neither Democrats nor Republicans want to embrace, because it might just happen to be a half-way meeting point for both ideologies; why, in the world no one talks about it, as if it had been buried long, long ago? I have, for a long time, said that we prosecuting wars is the kind of sorry “activities” we no longer can afford, so why isn't Defense on the top of the list of expenses to ax?

    While we need to cut spending, we also need to raise revenue and of course, this is anathema to the the Republican ideology. Well the good news is that it might get a conversation going between the American people and their government about long term budget along with economic survival and that it could yield some positive result, or at the very least inform the public that we're indeed standing precariously on the edge of an horrendous cliff. The alternative is that I'm kidding myself. I might...

    Shh, Shh, Shh, three more Chutes!

    As winter is drawing to a close with even more new snow in the forecast, I wanted to take you on a whirlwind tour of some of the Daly Chutes we didn't explore this season. Today, we'll ski Chutes #7, #8 and #10. The first two are located in the “Cataract” area of Daly Chutes, while the later is also the farthest of all, tucked in the corner of the section called “Niagra.”

    We'll begin our tour at Cataract, with Chute #7, the most challenging of the three. Most of its difficulty comes from an impressive cornice, followed by a rather steep initial section, so the question is always, “should I jump it?” and the alternative is to look for some more inviting and less intimidating entryway. If in doubt, I suggest you opt for the later, but no matter what your choice is, you'll be guaranteed a smooth, consistent and almost always powdery descent, wide enough to allow creativity in your turns and long enough to bring a huge smile to your face. While sharing the same intimidating cornice, Chute #8 is not as steep and not as direct, but its snow is every bit as good as #7's. Further, both share a nice, flat and treed bottom section that offers a much needed relief to the hard work and unflinching courage required at the top.

    After sampling these two Cataract narrow lines, it's now time for Niagra and Chute #10 with its half-moon shaped cornice that never fails to impress first time visitors; this one however, is in fact quite tame and forgiving. It stands just before the entrance to the “X-Files.” Simply make sure you stop before jumping off the cornice as it might hide skiers moving slowly or stopped inside its wide, top section. You'll enjoy its funnel-shaped upper that evolves into a natural half pipe ending at the same spot where Chutes #7 and #8 meet! In spite of its peculiar shape, this chute is by far the easiest of all, and even less technical than the main Daly Bowl. A good reason perhaps for starting your exploration with Chute #10, especially if this is your first foray into that part of Empire Canyon.
    So, if there are still some Daly Chutes in your near-term future, don't delay; you only have until this weekend to sample them!

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    Assembling the compost tumbler

    Yesterday, we finally purchased that compost tumbler that we had seen at Costco for a while. I had indeed researched rotating composters for more than a year, as an addition to our overly static compost bin that takes forever to decompose anything, particularly in our extremely dry climate. That one was a great value, yeah, $99.99, although it was packed into a seemingly small cardboard box. When we returned from the store, as the kid I always am, I couldn't wait to unpack my new toy, put it together and show it off to my spouse.
    While the cost is great, the assembly took me a good three hours, some extensive help of my dear wife, without screwing up a thing; you see, I can follow instructions when I apply myself to doing it! All along, I marveled at the engineering design and the great thoughts that went into it. Our new tumbler was completed and ready by dinner time. It will be able to hold 80 gallons of compost and is made of of UV-protected high-density polyethylene panels, standing on a galvanized steel base and our model came with a lame “how to compost DVD” but we'll do a better job figuring it our ourselves; I can't wait to fill-it up!

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Am I just a bit “country?”

    As we very rarely do, last night we almost watched the entire 46th Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS, from nearby Las Vegas, and that way, kept up with what was going on in that very special music genre.

    For me country music conjures lonely drinking sessions at some bar, rusty pick up trucks, hay balls all over, broken hearts, cheating partners, fear of God or Jesus, cigarette smoking, and a host of other vignettes that are generally seen as low class, white trash and the like. I must confess that I like some of the sounds but can't tell which ones in particulars. As for artists, I'm at a loss and wouldn't know where to begin...

    Country music also evokes in me some powerful personal memories about the American West, my first visits there and almost was always the backdrop sound of mountain living and skiing in the Rockies (thank you, John Denver, but you weren't a true “country” musician, right?) At any rate, last night was a good refresher course, and as of today I kind of remember who Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Lady Antebellum and The Band Perry look like and sound like. Yeehaw!

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Where else would I live?

    Great question asked by my spouse last night as we were talking about anything and nothing. I absorbed her question, pondered for a short while and said: “Somewhere inside British Columbia; in a ski town of course...” So here I am, stuck with ski town living until I died. I was surprising myself by not uttering “San Diego” or something along these lines. Perhaps the recent earthquake in Japan is making me thinking twice about coastal living on the Pacific Ocean, but I was equally surprised that my reflex response wouldn't be “The French Alps or Corsica.” 
    Well I guess I'm done with the old continent and the cultural adjustment required with moving back would be too much to ask and might end up killing me. So what would I miss if I were to move North to B.C.? The dryer climate and the supernatural convenience of having Salt Lake City, its merchants, its airport and its amenities only 35 minutes away. Well, all that dreaming might be in vain; for the time being, I'm stuck in Utah!

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Hard to believe!

    I choose not to show that image on April Fool's Day, because no one would have believed it. This one's from today and it shows Avoriaz, my old stumping ground in France. Usually, on April 2nd, it was the time when the snow cover was at its near maximum for the season. Like in northern hemisphere mountains the world over, March is a wet month, with lots of precipitations and of course, tons of snow falling in higher elevations. I remember that 41 years ago, there were close to 15 feet of snow in the same – not quite as developed – area of that resort.

    So, what's going on? Is it just a fluke or some serious global warming affecting the Alps this year? This of course isn't the case in the Rocky Mountains. We've been having a warm spell these past couple of days, but are still measuring some 10 feet of snow at the Park City resorts' tops and yesterday, there were still 18 inches of accumulated snow left in my backyard (going fast though); however to settle the score, we're bracing for yet another major snowstorm this weekend. Going back to the Alps, this could indeed be a fluke and Mr. Winter might rear its unseasonal ugly head in May, over some already emerald-green mountains...

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    In search of good news...

    I don't know if you feel the same way I do, but between Libya, Japan, the political bickering and the Irish crisis, I don't seem able to gather any positive news. My only refuge – for the moment – is to jump into Facebook and check out what my “friends” are doing. It's never negative and almost always heartwarming.

    Are we going to see, one day, some balance between dreary and upbeat news placed into our daily ration of information? This negative focus isn't good for us and our world. We should protest or create something more serious than Facebook, but less downbeat than our current media options. What do you think?