Saturday, March 31, 2012

The art of spring skiing

There are few rules about skiing in general, but there is a capital one for spring skiing: Do it early in the day! Get out of bed early, do all you have to do and then get to the ski area by opening time. With a tiny bit of experience, observation and orientation, you'll be able to find yourself at the right place and the right time. That's right, in no time, you'll be able to begin by “following the sun” and visiting the runs that are oriented in the early morning sun and then work you way to the next ones and so on.

You'll be able to dash through corduroy and do “first tracks” on that heavenly material that will give you a subtle, but out-of-this world “foot massage.” You'll also be spot on to find yourself at the right place when the snow slowly begin to melt and become just creamy, well before it turns to slush. Lastly, don't overstay your welcome, know when to fold, and that's generally much earlier than you usually do and end up doing in most case. If you get caught muddling through slush at 1 pm, you should probably have quit at noon! Now, let's put all that good planning to work...

Friday, March 30, 2012

GoPro frustrations

Using a GoPro video camera is subject to both elation and frustration. When it works, the results are pretty cool. When it doesn't, for some arcane reason, it's immensely frustrating. When it functions properly, this wonderful video camera deliver the goods, but setting it right and getting feedback that it is in fact recording, are the downside of the device.

First, the instructions for using the device were made by engineers for engineers, not for normal folks like you and me who look at them, but won't read them from A to Z. Last night after missing two great shots while skiing with my daughter yesterday, I brought the printed directions to my bedroom, but when I started to unfold the piece of paper (it spreads out like a huge map, not even a little booklet) I fell asleep.

I need to remember to take them with me, next time I catch a “red-eye” flight to Europe; it beats “Ambiant.” Early this morning I found a ton of tutorials on Youtube. That says a lot about the user-friendliness – or lack thereof – of any product. Perhaps that 16 month after owning the helmet cam, I'll finally learn how to use it!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Counting cars...

As I woke up at 4 this morning, and instead of counting sheep, I undertook to count the cars I had driven personally for a significant amount of time, excluding of course rental cars and other “loaners.” I came up with 18, if I include my newest acquisition, the whole number spread over some 46 years.

The average driving experience amounts to 32 month per vehicle which seems stunningly low, but I need to recognize that my last car stayed with me for the last 9 years, which explain why, my heart was a bit heavy when I gave it up this week.

That car had been good to me and I feel much better thinking that it will benefit someone whom I know and love and who may get many more years of driving pleasure out of it. Which other car stands out in that “stable?”

Probably the Citroën 2cv that I drove for some 7 years, as it was my very first car during my early driving years!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Patience, fuel for success?

It's hard to be patient when we're young because we don't have gained enough perspective yet to understand its potency and left on its own, patience is pretty much meaningless. Like a catalyst, patience needs to be paired with something to work with and what a better matching element than a plan and a long-term one at that?

That's right, if we're able to manage a “pipeline” of projects, keep it filled up, patience acts like the sun on vegetation and bring these goals and plans of ours to fruition with little hard work and direct intervention. Only then, is patience bearable, practical and productive.

Without an associated project or goal, patience is just... a waste of time!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A One-Member Supreme Court

No matter what kind of arguments will be heard for and against the new healthcare law, and no matter how long the legal joust will last, there is only one Justice who needs to be convinced one way or the other and it's Anthony Kennedy. I can already predict the eight other votes .
The critical “swing vote” in the nine member court, the 75 year old Kennedy the one that will need to be convinced. I hope he's reasonable and won't strike down Obamacare; that's just my wish and we'll see...

Monday, March 26, 2012

“Oil slick” on snow

On Sunday as we were about done skiing, I suddenly sensed that my right ski wasn't sliding right. In fact it was dragging me back and when I lifted it, I instantly picked up speed from my still performing left board.

It was such an abominable drag that I thought I might have run over a very aggressive piece of rock that had torn apart my entire base, then when I looked up more closely, I saw some grease smudging the entire yellow sidewall of my ski.

I instantly understood that I must have skied over a huge “oil slick” left behind by the snow cat while grooming the run. I still rode up the chairlift and stopped at the top to discover that one-third of the base of my ski was covered with grease. I undertook to empty my pockets and fortunately found a good supply of paper tissues that I rubbed against the base to absorb all that gooey stuff.
Now tell me, should I sue BP or accept their settlement?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jesus' political views...

Yesterday was my lucky day. When I returned from skiing, Jesus was on Skype and we talked for a few moments:
 Go 11: Hi Jesus,
Jesus: How was skiing today?
Go 11: Pretty good, we only stayed till noon thought. It's spring skiing now.
Jesus: I wouldn't have the slightest idea what spring skiing is. Remember, I wasn't on the Nazareth ski team! What's on you mind today?
Go 11: Just wanted to know you opinion about the Republican Candidates in the U.S. Primaries; have you followed that contest?
Jesus: Actually a little, because three on these guys are continually dropping my name for no good reasons. At first, I kind of liked Tim Pawlenty, but I guess he didn't make it. The four guys left look pretty bad in comparison...
Go 11: What do you think of Romney?
Jesus: He acts like a robot and sounds like a... Mormon missionary – Just kidding!
Go 11: Santorum?
Jesus: Dumb and useless.
Go 11: The two other fellows?
Jesus: Well I kind of like Gingrich, he sounds like an old car salesman and he's fat like Santa Claus, but I can't stand his new wife, what's her name, Calistoga?
Go 11: No, Callista, but that's alright...
Jesus: As for Ron Paul, I think he's getting delusional. That might be the age... Who did you vote for ?
Go 11: I thought I told you Jesus, I am an independent...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Famous actor, mediocre movie

Last night we anxiously went out to see the “Iron Lady” featuring Meryl Streep. Sure, the acting was excellent, but the movie didn't do much to us and we couldn't even begin to explain why.

 I'd say that the story was poorly pieced together and wasn't much of a story to start with, but a banal overview of Mrs. Thatcher's career and pissy moods. This goes to say that in movies, before a famous actor or a great director, it's all about the quality of the story. Enough said.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Skiing with my significant other

My wife and I ski a lot and each one benefits greatly from the experience.

If I can speak for her, she gets a bona-fide ski instructor at her service to show her the way no matter where she happens to be on snow and she never has to make the decision “where should I go next?” She also benefits from what I believe is the perfect image of what skiing should be, so she only has to copy what she sees.

From time to time, she also get free advice and which woman doesn't love getting recommendations from her husband (ha, ha, ha!)? Of course, unlike a paying client would, she takes the liberty of dissent or second-guessing her guide, sometimes making stark remarks, but who could take that against her?

From my standpoint, I have a great ski companion always willing to accompany me on my sliding adventures. She also forces me to behave when I'm on ski; like take as little risk as possible, remind me that I'm light-years from my 20s, 30s, or even 40s, make me think a lot about technique and allow me to discover new angles in the sport of skiing that I never suspected existed and that can enhance the whole experience.

Bottom line: A true win-win proposition. I only only hope that she will reciprocate when I'm a centenarian. She'll only be 96 then!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Loving to be right...

Who doesn't love to be right. I guess that practice begins when we're very young and are encouraged (as we should) for every success we experience, even the most minute one. Later, we develop a craving for righteousness and it becomes a dependance that could last a lifetime, or almost!

It's true that as we enter maturity (which age point, I'll let you decide) we're under less pressure to be completely right, on every subject, all the time. We become more relaxed about our potency or lack thereof.

We simply don't need it as much and suddenly an extra weight is removed from our shoulders; life become less stringent, less demanding, more relaxed and we're allowed ourselves to screw up a lot... Finally.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When the terrain takes the lead

This applies to running as well as skiing. I mean running on snow or uneven terrain, when the foot lands in such way that it forces a response to adapt to a situation that is neither desired not necessarily safe. It probably applies to many other sports that involve running and intimate foot-to-ground contact.

The same, to an even larger extent, is true of alpine skiing. The ever changing terrain dictates some response from the skier and that signal changes all the time. With today's extensive grooming, there is not much need for that precise response, but as soon as a skier leaves the “corduroy” to ski the rest of the mountain, the feet need to return to a state of nimbleness and must be just like the most effective car suspension ever devised.

This is a learned skill through miles and hours of practice and it often stands as the difference between the casual and the real, skilled athlete.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Searching for the ultimate ski video

Great snow always offer the opportunity to create wonderful, magical and all-telling ski videos and this is a quest I've been after for quite sometime and still searching for... I'm confident it will come some day and that's why I'm still trying and learning in the process.

Yes, good video producing is taking a toll on my personal skiing!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Learning to ski deep powder

As yesterday wrapped up yet another glorious day of powder skiing in one solid foot of new snow, I ran into a big guy who told me that his entire body was badly hurting after just attempting to venture into that deep stuff. I naturally shared some of my thoughts about a skill that normally brings practitioners to the holly grail of skiing.

Unless adult individuals are incredibly determined, athletic and fearless to want to learn powder skiing on their own, they should take lesson from a very competent ski instructor. The reason is that powder skiing embodies what's most paradoxical about skiing. The skier must go very fast in order to stay up in powder, make turns and link them well.

Yet, fear pushes everyone to slow down, think twice and hesitate. Then how can a capable instructor successfully take someone into that new frontier? For one thing, skis have come an incredibly long way and have been making it easier for most people to handle deep, untracked snow. The reality is that adults who are burdened with responsibilities, have long lost the fearlessness of their teenage years and early twenties need to dip their ski tips very gradually in that fleeting matter.

What I have found works best is to begin with training students by doing partial turns without even going over the fall line and increasing gradually the departure angle until it reaches that fall line and then goes beyond it. At the same time, I advocate a very gentle contact of the skis onto the snow and a minimum edge bite. Riding a super flat ski in deep snow promotes control and helps the ski turn instead of shooting straight and spooking the skier.

A heightened sense of foot-to-ground feeling is paramount and precedes any advices about stance, lower joints and upper body positions that are generally served first to apprentice powder-hounds. If the skier can't truly sense and experience that ground feeling, there's no way confidence can be established and trusting learning begin.

Once again, the road to deep snow mastery begins with sound instruction!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Smooth and hard in sports...

There are two ways to achieve high results in sports and in my view they are found in the quest of smoothness or harshness; sometimes by using one strategy over the other, and by opting for a blend of these two opposite values.

Yet, from my past experiences, I am most of the time leaning more and more towards the smooth approach. This approach is very Taoist in nature; do as little as you can to achieve greatness. Try too hard, you falter. This I believe is true for training and when a good technique is present, it serves an athlete very well during competition or more simply during the practice of most sports.

Brute force can displace huge masses but always remains dangerous and is especially hard to control. In fact there's very little adjustments available when over-reaching. The opposite is true with smoothness. The downside of the latter is that it requires faith, patience and a healthy dose of confidence.

Young people tend to choose the impulsive, sheer force and understandably, older folks prefer the softer approach...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

An end for Afghanistan and other nation building?

The recent killings of civilians, Koran burning and other incidents show that America – Just like the Soviet Union before - isn't in tune with backwards, tribal and fanatical religious cultures like what is found in Afghanistan. We don't understand these people and worse yet, it will take decades, with a supercharged dose of Hollywood movies, satellite TV and internet, to hoist them from the Middle-Ages into the 21st Century.

We simply don't belong there and need to have them sort out their own cultural mess by themselves through grass root movements, and only then, make a serious attempt to rejoin the modern world like the Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans have recently initiated their own societal reform movement. The West alone can't do it and besides, we can't no longer afford forcing change in a society that is too happy to reject it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bark City!

Last night, we attended a meeting initiated by a lady runner who recently got attacked by an out-of-control dog. Park City and its surrounding county has a leash law that is obviously hard to enforce, but that nonetheless is a law. Representatives from law enforcement, animal control, friends of animals, wildlife protection and trail system management, along with trail users and a very small number of dog owners attended the event.

What was clear is that a large number of people are scared by dogs on the loose and that some dog owners are jerks who think their animals is above the law. The problem of course is with owners, not animals that can't vote or can't drive vehicles, for example, they're just dogs. A few solutions were suggested, like creating specific trails where dogs could roam free, or set one-way trails that might mitigate the problem; there's also the fear of fine including those set up for harassing wild life.

In my opinion however, and more practically, users that don't like to be harassed by stray dogs ought to protect themselves (sticks, poles, mace) and most importantly take pictures of the offending pet, their owners and their vehicles license plates, so they can be reported to law enforcement and be identified as perpetrators. Education might also work, but most importantly attitudes have to change.

The bottom line is that we, the users, that don't want to be bitten by out-of-control animals, should act to bring a lasting change in attitude and shame these righteous bad dog owners into being better citizens.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

French (?) world-class athletes

It's a well known fact that highly-paid French top athletes as well as show business stars don't reside in their home country. They prefer the French speaking region of Switzerland because of far less taxing fiscal policies in the land of fine chocolate and luxury watches. Yet, they have no problem competing on behalf of France when duty calls. Recently, I saw the video of a TV show making fun of that situation by using the recent Tennis Davis Cup as an example, in which all the players and even their coaches are all Swiss residents and yet compete for France.

Without bringing too much weight into that discussion, I'd say that by evading the French taxman, these athletes are shifting more tax burden onto their fans and are just a bunch of sleazy cheats. As a result, there should be a rule in which French sport federations disallow non-residents to represent France in sport events, unless they reside in the country in which the play for a club, in the case of team sports. Simple, fair and a just end of hypocrisy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Little snow, decent season

In about one month, the ski season will be over in Park City. This week is a very warm one that should conclude with a rare snowstorm and (perhaps) a reset to winter conditions. The cover is thin and going fast, but skiing remains wonderful and in my optimistic view, should be able to last until mid-April. The past days have been remarkably rewarding and proved that we could go through a season with a very thin cover and still enjoy some wonderful ski days.

As much as last season was feast, this one might looks like famine but in reality has been quite decent and I don't feel deprived at all. For one thing, this year's conditions will make us appreciate great snow years in the future and will also help us in taking absolutely nothing for granted!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Does Facebook promote envy?

If you observe social websites in general and Facebook in particular, there's clear evidence that boasting is going strong all of the time and that depressed or unfortunate viewers might feel slighted and get envious in view of all this overflow of on-line exuberance, make-pretend success as well as staged happiness.

There seems to be no room for modesty and humility in that space and if you don't observe it with a great deal of cynicism, that “me-me-me” market place could end up hurting your feelings and make you hopelessly wonder “why not me?” Now, how can you deal with that? Just peruse it with a good, healthy filter of common-sense and detachment!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Living the dream

Yesterday, as I was riding the 6 pack Tombstone at Canyons with 3 other passangers, the pair in the middle was boasting about their achievements and the excitement was high; they were talking about going down this run, then that run, and then this other one. "Oh Dude, what a fun day!" they were saying. Suddenly, one of them said: "I wonder if there's a cheaper way to fly here?" The other went: "What did we pay? $280, $300? That's not bad!" Wisely, his buddy responded: "I guess, we'll have to make more money!"
 Then the fourth passenger, who was a ski patrol, jumped in and said "...and you've seen that place when there's powder!" He went on to say that like his 2 other fellow passengers he was from Chicago and (unlike them) was "living the dream" and proceeded to tell them once more how great Park City was. Then one of the two visitors said: "We've got to come back and ski Deer Valley and Canyons..." Yeah, one step closer to "living the dream!"

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tale of two ski resorts

We are a ski town with three resorts; Deer Valley, Park City and Canyons. Canyons is both the competitor and the landlord of Park City and that makes for a rather tense and explosive relationship. In the past, Park City Mountain Resort could have purchased the land, but choose not too, since its land lease was so cheap at some $150,000 a year.

Today, the lease is up for renewal and Park City may not like its terms and tries to get the town's population on its side, but based on early responses, is not getting the expected support. For years, Park City Mountain Resort has been arrogant, has milked its purchase made back in 1994 to the last cent, having spent very little on new lifts, and keeping most of its older, slower ones in service.
 Further, what used to be Utah's largest resort has gotten seriously sidetracked by its terrain park and is falling significantly behind its two next door competitors that have led in terms of service and infrastructure. In spite of taking its plight to the court of public opinion, Park City Mountain Resort might be in a tough legal bind, and short of abandoning its initial investment, may have to abide to its landlord's new conditions.

That's what happens when some business folks believe they're so good that they're above doing any huge strategic mistake!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dreams and sleep quality

In recent years, my quality of sleep has taken a turn for the worst, thanks in part to recurring nightmares that often wake me up and work me out as if I needed the extra exercise. These dreams often pit me in totally precarious situations where I have to climb down, jump, or take risks that I would never consider during the course of a normal day.

They are mixing everything. Activities, protagonists, locations, resulting in some incongruous situations. I sure can live with some dreams in my life, but please, whoever is in charge of my subconscious mind, make them a bit more tame!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Are you a “lone skier?”

Most folks think skiing is a social sport, or at the very least, that it's never fun to just ski alone. I probably am in the minority that thinks otherwise and can be totally happy, by myself on the hill. That's true, I don't need a bunch of friends or family members to motivate me to ski, yet I totally enjoy skiing in the company of people I like to be with. Likewise, I can go on my own and have a wonderful experience.

Next time you're on the slopes, take the time to observe who skis in group and who appears to be a “loner.” You might be surprised to count quite a few of these single adepts. From there, would I jump to the conclusion that these individuals who ski alone are the most passionate about the sport? I'd say yes; would you disagree with me?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chairlift with heated seats?

Last year, Canyons, one of our Park City ski resorts came up with a new chairlift offering heated seats. The innovation was premiered in 2004 and has since been installed on a dozen Doppelmayr chairlifts. The system is offered on new lifts, but is also available as a retrofit package.

The heating element is integrated into the horizontal seating area of the chair and works similarly as heated car seat. As the chair reaches the lower station, electric current flows from the power rail to collectors on the grip before reaching the seat where it activates the heating mats in the seat padding.

An energy of 520 W is required for heating each seat through a 48 V power supply. Heating lasts for about 16 second, ends when the chair leaves the station and is enough to keep it warm all the way up to the top. The heating system is deactivated when the outside temperature rises above 50 F10 °C.

So the question is, is the extra expense worth the added benefit? Probably not in my opinion, especially if the convenience is only available on one single lift. A complete fleet would make more marketing sense to a resort that wants to literally pamper its clientele. The feeling is pleasing, but if I need to stay warm at all cost, I won't go skiing, I'll stay indoors instead!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I like this idea!

A few days ago a friend passed along to me a wonderful suggestion aimed at making the US Congress “eats its own cooking.” This could be called the Congressional Reform Act of 2012 and we should not just pass it on 20 of our friends, as my buddy suggested, but I thought also share it with our own Senators and Representative.

In doing so, I will ask the three of them to let me know if they agree with the measures and are ready to support them. I will not accept any “canned” and off-subject answers as our politicians seem to be only able to give us, but will insist until I receive a yes or no answer. In other words, a pledge to do what they say. I suggest we all do the same and perhaps will be see the beginning of some change in Washington, DC!

Dear Senator, Congressman,

I am proposing the following Congressional Reform Act of 2012.
Please read the following very carefully and let me know if you agree or not with its provision. A simple “Yes” or “No” answer will be sufficient. Please, do not try to beat around the bush and send me a “canned” answer.

1. No Tenure / No Pension.
A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women. Congress made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

Dear Senator, Congressman, do you agree or not with the above?

I am awaiting your response. Remember, just answer yes or no. You may of course add your reasons for answering by the positive or the negative. Thank you.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Moon Boots forever?

This morning as we were running, I notice a kid waiting for the school bus and wearing a brand-new pair of Moon Boots. This footwear was first created in the early 1970s by the manufacturer Tecnica, in Italy. Ever since, over 25 million pairs have been sold and that wonderful business still goes on.

After fading away for a while, like most fashion items do, the boots regained popularity in the early 21st century. Of course, today, these boots are no longer made in Italy, they're manufactured in Ukraine, at the rate of some 700,000 pairs per year. A great marketing idea and a financial jackpot!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tornado-proof homes?

In the past few days, a bunch of tornadoes have done their usual damage somewhere in the mid-section of the United States, both in terms of human casualties and devastating property damage. This happens every year and yet, I don't hear much in terms of positive steps that are taken to affect new construction through architectural designs that would greatly prevent, or at the very least minimize, the impact of these terrible storms.

N.O.A.A. says that tornadoes cause an average of 70 fatalities and 1,500 injuries in the U.S. each year. So tell me, why are the communities, states and insurance companies that have so much at stake in these tornado-prone regions seem to do nothing to address both the commercial and housing construction? We seem to be much more responsive when it comes to safety in the airs and on the roads, but appear to see tornado with a fatalistic view...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Making the effort to go skiing...

Yesterday was a so-so day; overcast skies, pretty cold and I had just a few hours to go skiing. My wife encouraged me to get out. I didn't want to, but pushed myself anyway. Between the time I get dressed, take my gear, load the car, drive to the resort parking lot, put on my boots and hit the slopes, it takes about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on my speed and motivation.
I got there, skied for two hours, over 13,000 vertical feet, and – as always - had a wonderful time, experienced unique circumstances and these will never been taken away from me (true, each ski day is always unique.) Please, don't just stay home; even if there's only one hour available, your life is getting shorter everyday, so always get out and ski!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Selling automobiles...

I've always been appalled by the way cars are sold in America. Consider this, I own a car, brand ABC, and I regularly, take it for service to the dealership. Yet after 9 years that I've owned this automobile, today is the first time that I have received an email from the dealer offering a $5,000 credit if I considered one of their new models.

In the meantime, no one has ever approached me when I brought the vehicle for service for a tour or a test drive of one of their new models. One should think that the service department at this dealership should talk to the sales department and as a car ages, there should be someone from the sales department approach the owner to offer a trade-in for a newer model, etc. Am I missing something or are these people still with their head stuck in the sand?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wonderful skiing is back!

It all begun mid-February and it's been snowing ever since then. Winter is back while I was expecting nothing and what a great surprise; the season may end up well over average, but for the moment, with new fresh powder at my doorstep, the word of the day is to go out and enjoy it...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Four years already...

Seems hard to believe, but we've been grand-parents for four years already.

That's right, four years ago today little Finn was born, just missing by one day being born on a leap year.

Talking about leap, what a big one since then.

Finn, we can't wait for your official birthday this coming Saturday!