Saturday, December 31, 2011

My (updated) inspiration...

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

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

Friday, December 30, 2011

Will snow ever return?

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

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

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bring your daughter to the slopes

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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Riding the waves of life...

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

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The air we breathe...

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

Monday, December 26, 2011

Doing more... with less!

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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The meaning of Christmas...

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

Spreading it...

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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Spreading it...

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

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

Friday, December 23, 2011

Politicians, not Government!

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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What's left to travel

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mental block...

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

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skiing with the “pack...”

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

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

Monday, December 19, 2011

Providential break

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

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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bringing a kid to be ski champion

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

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

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Iraq. The end of waste.

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

Friday, December 16, 2011

Last time I volunteer?

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

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jesus revisited...

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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Republican Sideshow...

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Keeping up with the internet

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

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

Famous ski names

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

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Altitude, latitude, snow-line and tree-line

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My take on the Euro crisis

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

Piece of our mind...

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Managing what worries us

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The bliss of “not having...”

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

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Piecing footage out

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

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

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

Monday, December 5, 2011

GS Magic...

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

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Super G anyone?

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

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

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

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fix it again Toni!

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

Friday, December 2, 2011

Populist vs. Intellectual

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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let's talk wooden shingles...

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

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

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