Monday, December 31, 2012

The best year of my life

As the year comes to an end, it makes some sense to go back into our memories and attempt to select the year that seemed to be the very best in our entire existence. The exercise is worth the effort and like any matter of choice, is never quite easy.

Lives are all different and depending on the intensity of some events (or lack thereof) and the amplitude of ups-and-downs between years, the final selection can be daunting and may leave us totally puzzled and unable of choosing one year over so many.

For me, and without getting into excessive “soul-searching,” the year that ends today - that's right, 2012 - seems to stand right at the top of the heap and I feel good, grateful and happy about it.

Happy New Year to all!

Holiday Family Traditions

As we're originally from France, our Family Holiday Celebrations differ in some subtle ways with mainstream American traditions. Yet over the years, we have weaved them into the local practice and today we have something quite unique, very healthy and fun at the same time.

Typically, French folks are more New-Year-centric than Christmas-oriented and New-Year celebrations are a much bigger deal; as an example Happy New Year Wishes can last the whole month of January. With these observations in mind, I will attempt to explain how the Holiday Season typically unfold for us. Because of my upbringing, my entire career and my playful retirement years, skiing occupies the centerpiece of our Holiday Season.

Even though we can ski all winter long, we make sure to come out and mark this celebratory period by leaving our own ski imprints on the local slopes; some might call them “garlands” but they are tracks nonetheless! Until this year, our daughter Charlotte who lived in California for many years and a ninety minute flight away, was in the midst of this joyful period; this year however, after accepting a new position in our Nation's Capital only a few weeks ago, she had not accrued enough vacation time to make a visit all the way to Utah worth her while. This will have to wait until next year.

Our son Thomas, his wife Juliette and our grandson Finn were present the Sunday before Christmas to mark their returns on the skis and to the slopes. The day, as it often does, was marked by a wonderful Raclette meal. We do Raclette, because it is an hearty meal that is perfect in winter and our son as well as his wife are vegetarians. There, I will have to digress, however and explain once and for all what that delicious food is all about...

In fact, that alpine dish was already mentioned in some medieval writings as a particularly nutritious food consumed by peasants in the mountains of the French-speaking area of Switzerland's Valais canton and of on the other side of the Alpine divide, the Savoy region where I hail from. The name itself comes from the French verb “racler” which mean “to scrape.” In that case, it is cheese that is been scraped from the open surface of an eighteen-inch half-wheel of Raclette cheese, which open surface is heated until it melts into some divine taste.

You can now understand why most of our family entertainment revolves around a wheel of Raclette cheese. This of course leads us to Christmas Eve, that takes us to the Salt Lake Valley were a wonderful dinner and present unwrapping takes place and all the event revolves around our four-year old grandson Finn. The excitement is palpable and the spurs of joy endless as the many presents get unwrapped... This year, a perfectly timed snow storm made for driving down to the Valley a bit more interesting and kept me well-focused on the road.

I must confess that my wife and I didn't have the fortitude to wait until Christmas Eve for opening our own presents. We were a bit concerned about the upcoming roll over of the ancient Maya calendar on December 21 and didn't want to take any chance, so our own presents have been put to good use since the beginning of that month.

This said, I received a special present from my son that has to do with DNA and will finally tell me where I come from After December 25th, we get a short reprieve during which there is always more skiing, additional great snow (another Deer Valley Holiday tradition) and there is barely any room for celebrating my birthday sandwiched somewhere between Christmas and New Year, just before we tip into a brand new year.

By the time 2013 rolls over, we have long been “Party Exhausted” and don't have much energy left for celebrating and going all-out. Granted, there's always room for a fine meal, for a delightful sip of Champagne and then it's time for some serious work; our winter ski season finally begins in earnest!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

When new projects give wings

We should always stage some new project along the way, whether we are very young or even getting quite old. At any time in our existence, there's always a project that is adapted to our appetite. It may not look like much, but it's there and its sparks keep us interesting, going and growing.

I am so grateful, that all my life long, there have been projects that have showed up just in the nick of time to force me to stretch a little bit farther, provide with new experiences and keep me growing. I hope new adventures never cease to show up into my life!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Is computer design simpler?

Most of the day, I've been trying to work with an Autodesk, design program and I have learned that it takes patience, repetition, trial and error, plus willingness to start from scratch over and over, as I begin to grasp the fundamental of that particular technique.
Have I felt like I was no good and that I was treading water? You bet! Have I wasted my time? Not at all! This is what learning is all about and with the joys it procures, there's always a little bit of pain inside the experience...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Why has Utah the greatest snow on earth ?

Well, it's more than a commercial slogan, it's a cold, white, technical fact. Utah has the best snow on earth, and any of you over this great nation and that wonderful planet, who still doubt it, please listen up !

Most winters, Utah averages 250 days of winter, 40 snowfalls, and 18 monster “dumps” that give us that magic, fluffy snow, but most importantly this how how this stuff of legend gets created. Storms develop over the Pacific Ocean and hit the Sierra and Cascade Mountains. When the storm hits these coastal mountain ranges, moisture density is generally quite high and and the snow is dubbed “Sierra Cement.”

Then, as they cross the huge Nevada desert, clouds dry out and continue their voyage towards Utah where the average snow density is just 8.5 percent. As it crosses the Great Salt Lake, the clouds get colder and dryer as they're ready to hit the mountains. This causes the snowfall to be fluffier, light and magical.
Overall, our snow water content always stands between 4 and 14 percent, eliminating all icy formation and making it, you now know it, “the Greatest Snow on Earth!”

Thursday, December 27, 2012

How far is skiing?

I'm not joking, the distance between where one lives and a ski resort parking lot, plays a key role in how often folks go skiing and how late in life they'll stick to the sport. For instance, here in Park City, I am no more than 7 minute drive from two of our three resorts. Deer Valley is a tiny bit further, but only 12 minute total.

Where I used to live in France, skiing was no closer than 10 minute and in those days with very light traffic, it would take me at least one quarter of an hour to get to the Avoriaz lower-tram station parking lot, and only when the roads were dry. I am saying this, because the longer the distance between home and the slopes, the less likely and less frequent skiing is going to be.

My brother in law lives one hour away from Avoriaz base station and while he still occasionally teaches skiing, he must find the drive a bear. Same thing for me when I want to ski Snowbird or Alta; both are about one hour drive, provided the roads are excellent. The morale of that story, is that the key to a long and frequent skiing life can be found not farther than how close the ski-lifts are from your own home...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My view on immigration...

For years, we've heard politicians talking about immigration reform and nothing has happened except for some extreme and ineffective legislation in certain states like Arizona or Alabama.

If I were asked what I think about the whole issue, I would fist say that we should encourage immigration of people who offer skills the United States need. Whether they are engineers, artists, health professionals, researchers or... job creators! These folks should be fast-tracked into getting permanent residence.

Next, we should offer permanent residency (read “green cards”) for the 11 or more million illegal, but at a cost. These people would have to pay, say $10,000 per person. Illegals might have to take loans, work extra, but they would have to “earn their way” into legal status. This would apply to family members too that wish to rejoin them in America.

Finally, illegals who get caught once the new law is enacted would be kicked out. They would be also be fined and their home country would have to pay it to the US, and then, might collect it back from the perpetrators, plus fine and interest. Of course if they ever attempt to get back into the country again, the fine would become enormous.

That's it: Simple, revenue-oriented and effective.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A special present...

For Christmas, I received a very special present that intrigues me a whole lot. It consist of a DNA analysis service subscription, called “23andMe”, a personal genomics and biotechnology company based in Mountain View, California that provides rapid genetic testing.

The company is named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes in a normal human cell. Their personal genome test kit was named "Invention of the Year" by Time magazine in 2008 . This morning, I spat provide a 2.5 milliliter sample that will be mailed on Wednesday for analysis by the Silicon Valley lab.
The offshoot of this experiment should should provide me with an assessment of my inherited traits (I hope they'll determine that I'm a great guy), my genealogy (that I originate from some distant ape) and possibly tell me what my congenital risk factors might be (such as mortality, for example).

I can't wait to know all this and I'm really grateful for that original Christmas present!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Lucky break!

Those who have taken their 4 year-old skiing know the logistical undertaking this represent; between taking care of yourself, your gear and a little person equipment and whereabouts, there isn't one spare moment! Yesterday afternoon, I was with my son and grandson at the Park City Mountain Resort.

We skied for a good hour and, passed that time, Finn has had his fun on the snow and wanted to go home. We called the ladies of the house and they immediately came to pick up their little skier while the two older guys kept on skiing until closing time.

After a few good runs, we too drove home, had a wonderful meal together, a good conversation and as the weather was turning to snow, it was time for the younger members of the party to head down towards the valley. Forty-five minute later and well into the evening, our son called asking where Finn's skis were; he assumed they had been left in our car as he couldn't find them in his.

We went to the garage, looked but found nothing. We then assumed that we had left them behind, at the ski area. We immediately drove there, and lo and behold we saw them, sitting in the snow, untouched, on the edge of the run along with Finn's ski harness and leash. We were so fortunate that they were still there that it became our little Christmas Miracle for the day!

Looking into my Ski Crystal Ball

When I contemplate this brand new ski season, I often have a hard time seeing clearly into my "Ski Crystal Ball." Skiing is for me something that happens, not an event or a succession of situations that can be planned, guessed or predicted like you would plan an outing, a family celebration or of course, a career. I guess there's not much planning that goes into my skiing. That's right, I've never looked at one single season thinking that I will be accomplishing this, that or achieve some other things.

Even though I'm extremely goal-oriented for all the other areas of my life, this approach has never permeated into my skiing outlook. I probably am a fatalistic skier who wait for the snow crystals to randomly and gracefully align themselves and provide me with some heavenly snow experiences. It is true though that when I'm skiing, my competitive spirit – not my planning mind - eventually comes alive and takes hold of me.

For example if its already 2 pm and I am enjoying the runs that crisscross the Lady Morgan Chairlift in Deer Valley, I will think, "...let's do six more of them!" This mere thought pushes me and I end up having ridden Lady Morgan seven more times in that sixty minute time span! The performance wasn't planned, it simply happened... I have never promised myself to ski 100 days per season, but I generally end up close to that round number, so while it's hard to say that I'm not planning these kinds of minute details, they just seem to happen...

As a perennial late-bloomer, I must have reached my peak performance on skis in my early sixties (yes, dear reader, there is plenty of hope!) and one day, as I happened to boast a bit too much about some of my ski exploits, a slightly older and wiser friend of mine told me in no uncertain terms: “Silly you, at your age, what do you have to prove?” These words of wisdom were not lost on me, the skier, that always looked at performing better and faster, whenever possible.

This competitive approach of mine was colliding with certain issues that develop as one gets further into the years and as physical strength begins plateauing, if not declining, but is certainly no longer improving. Over the past couple of seasons, I have found that I was getting a bit less nimble, less powerful and considerably slower. You might say that I was finally growing up as I had implicitly understood that speeding and risk-taking might finally prove to be harmful to me.

This, in part, is the reason why, from that point forward, my goals on skis won't be measured so much in speed, quickness or slaloming through a tight grove of aspen trees. Instead, they will be qualitative in nature and are likely to consist of skiing much more often, but when I will do it, I will also concentrate on being that much smoother and my focus will be on saving all of my resources to enjoy a longer, fun-filled day on the slopes.

Another new measuring stick for me would be the amount of time there's a grin on my face and this should at least be in the 90% range, to make each day of winter another great moment on skis. Sure, I'll still go fast when I can and when it can make me more efficient, but never again at the expense of my own safety. I'll think more about being lighter on my skis, on better using the terrain to check my speed and to my mechanical advantage, to make my turns effortlessly and remain "one" with the terrain.

That's about right, less brute force and more “caresses” on the snow, this is how my skiing will be looking like, this season and beyond! With this in mind, when I review what's inside my Snow Crystal Bowl, I seen more slow fun, more perfect turns, more time to enjoy the whole experience, more seizing of the moment and with all that, always the surprise that comes with the never-ending adventure that skiing really is!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Quantity vs. Frequency

If you are an expert skier, would you rather get 3 feet of snow every three week or 1 foot of snow every week? You'd probably think for a few second and I bet that you'd chose the latter.

That's right, when it comes to fun ski conditions, frequency of snow fall always trump quantity. Even 8 inches of new snow can make a world of difference, refresh the old layer and make powder skiing possible.

From a practical point of view and with today's wide skis, you won't sink much deeper into four feet of snow than you would in 10 inches! So if you are a ski connoisseur, always look for repeated “refills” and forgo that rare snow “dump”!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another false alert!

Finally, the end of the world didn't happen; at least for the moment. I had prepared for it and was understandably a bit disappointed, but in turn, I was also able to spend a wonderful morning today, skiing deep powder snow at the Deer Valley Resort, so that wasn't so bad...

I don't think most people are like me and are paying much attention to these predictions; they'd rather spend their time on Facebook, Twitter or hoping to get some big lottery grand prize.

 These beliefs about Armageddon seem clearly out of fashion, but if you're still interested in the second coming of Christ, it's been re-scheduled for less than five month from now. Remember Ronald Weinland the head of the The Church of God, Preparing for the Kingdom of God (COG-PKG), this small American splinter sect of the Worldwide Church of God?
Well, his 2011 and 2012 predictions encountered some snags, but today, he is assuring us that the big event will now take place on May 19, 2013. Mark your calendars!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The curse of consumer products

As I was ready to shoot a ski video on a freezing early morning in Deer Valley this past Wednesday, the tiny button that I use to start or stop recording was no longer on my camcorder. Right, an itsy-bitsy button was rendering my camera totally inoperable!

By chance a little voice in the back of my head told me to go the lodge and get a toothpick to make it work and it did, but how impractical this was! Back home, I got on the phone with Sony. I explained the situation. They told me the product has just passed its one-year warranty and is no longer covered. I will have to fork out $192 to get it fixed!

To put things into perspective, I only paid $450 for the camcorder, so the Handycam maker is asking for almost half of the cost of the entire product to replace a basic and minuscule part that came off because it probably was poorly designed and assembled in the first place.

All this to say, that at this point, we can't justify paying the hefty penalty for making a minute repair on a product. We through away the one that's technically still perfectly functional and purchase a new one!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ready for the end of the world?

Since we're all supposed to vanish tomorrow, I'm going to clean up my desk, pay a few bills and back-up my computer during the few hours that we have left. This way I won't die feeling guilty.

I feel pretty good with the few things I accomplished during my short presence on this planet. I have one brand new pair of skis and boots (my Christmas present) that I won't be able to enjoy, but like the French say: “C'est la vie!”

I also plan to have a beer at 5 pm and watch the local television news for the last time. I hope you enjoyed my ultimate blog and, in parting, let me wish you a pleasant apocalypse!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

May I invite myself?

It begins like this: You get a phone call from a person you barely know, who says: “I'm stopping by Park City and would like to ski with you.” You move a few things around to block the day and you answer “why not?”

Then the fellow asks, “any good hotel around?” which translates into “can I sleep in your home?” Over the years and many mistakes later, we have become much smarter and respond “try the Peaks Hotel, next door.”

Relentlessly comes the next question from that semi-stranger: “What about dinner together?” which means “can I have dinner with you?” Once more, I respond perfectly: “impossible on that night, we have other engagements!”

The day arrives, I pick up the impromptu guest at his hotel, drive him to the resort, watch him get shell-shocked when he has to lay down $102 for a one-day lift-ticket. From that point on and until the lift closes at 4:15pm, it's skiing, skiing non-stop; the man wants to get his money worth!

Out, the conditions are great but the weather is cold, I ask: “Do we break for lunch?” My guest responds “No, I have prepared a sandwich, and I always eat on the chairlift!” I oblige, and feel very fortunate that my companion shares his cold sandwich with me. I certainly can appreciate the fact that he didn't want to put himself in a situation in which he would have felt obligated to buy me lunch!
He's a very good skier and I show him the best spots on the mountain, plus even shoot him skiing powder on my GoPro helmet-cam. At the end of day, I take pity on him (huge mistake!) and as my wife had previously suggested, invite the free-loader to dinner at home.

Of course, he shows up empty-handed, talks a lot about himself, drop lots of names, mentions his trips to Europe and St. Moritz, his impressive education, his kids, but shows little, if any interest for us. At 9 pm when we wish he would go, the man pulls up his laptop to bore us with pictures of him with some irrelevant folks. We signify to him that it's late and when he finally leaves us, he forgets to say thanks for the day and the delicious meal he just devoured...

Guess what, we've learned another invaluable lesson: The human specie never ceases to amaze us, we learn something new everyday and in the process are becoming much smarter. These enhanced social skills can always come in handy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Deer Valley, Canyons, 50% more skiing...

Yesterday, I did a pilgrimage of sort by skiing Park City Mountain Resort. If you know me or read my blog, my two favorite lifts on that mountain are Jupiter and Thaynes. Ask any good skier and their response is likely to be the same.

Yet, this two lifts are from the early 70s. They are desperately slow and by the end of a day, you don't get much ski done. I took the time to measure it and my conclusions are pretty staggering. If you are an extremely good skier and spend your time at Canyons or Deer Valley you'll get an extra 50% more skiing than you would at Park City Mountain Resort.
Or, if you did it in the reverse, that is, if you skied Canyons or Deer Valley and decided to switch to Park City, you'd lose 33% of your total skiing (that's how percentages work...) With this in mind, there is no contest; until Park City speeds up its two best lifts, they won't see much of me on the mountain; my time as a skier is counted and therefore very, very precious!

Monday, December 17, 2012

France, Taxes and Gérard Depardieu...

Okay, I'll make that story short. The famous French movie actor who urinate in commercial airplane main cabin, doesn't want to pay the astronomic tax rate (75%) President Hollande want to extract from his super-rich constituents, so he says that he'll move to Belgium to avoid being fleeced by his country of origin.

Enters Jean-Marc Ayrault, the socialist prime minister into the debate, who qualifies Depardieu's flight for tax shelter as being “pathetic,” and we have a French revolution.

Here's my take on this:

First Hollande and his government are a bunch of idiots; you don't scare off people who have money and can create wealth; you just tax them fairly, not at the senseless rate they're brandishing. Then, Ayrault, could have – perhaps – avoided name-calling, even though “pathetic” would, in many instances, fit Depardieu.

Finally, Depardieu who, like other artist-expatriate, such as Charles Aznavour, Yannick Noah, Johnny Hallyday, to name just a few are... “pathetic” too, because they make their living from the French public and should be boycotted by their audience if it were a tiny bit more thoughtful...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The true sources of evil...

I've remained silent long enough about the school shooting tragedy in Connecticut. What I simply would like to say though, is that the National Rifle Association, its entire membership, a few radical talk-show hosts and our dear member of Congress are collectively responsible for that massacre.

To top it all, I bet you that most of these retrograde folks are at the same time in favor of the death penalty, anti-abortion and anti gay!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sad update...

On Wednesday, I heard that Dick Needham, who was America's Ski magazine editor for many, many years, died at 73 in Sarasota, Florida. Dick was a wonderful person and I only have very positive memories of him.

He was on my address book and was also my Facebook friend. His Facebook page is still on and only God knows for how long... He is my second Facebook buddy to go, following my countryman Denys Liboz who left us on April 2011.

I just deleted Dick Needham's record from my Gmail address book and I will no longer send him any emails. Just pressing the delete button is, in a way, my manner of mourning him in this digital age. That doesn't feel good and it probably is not, but I guess we better get used to that new way of moving on. RIP, Dick.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Weather worries...

All my life, I have behaved like a farmer, that is, looking over my head and wondering what the weather would be. I was, and still am, a “weather worrier.” The ailment is perfectly justifiable; my economic life has always hinged upon having enough snow to ski on, and even today, it continues to be the case with no end in sight.

Like a special breed of people, I generally never worry about elements that I control, but always tend to get down in the dumps for issues that are totally out of my control. This, of course, makes absolutely no sense and has to stop. As a matter of fact, I will quit worrying for the weather starting tonight because it has just begun to snow. Just mark my words!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tips for staying warm while skiing

Every season is the same. I think I have all my gear ready when I go skiing, and then I discover omething's missing! Even though I've skied six times this season, the fourth day I hit the slopes was bitterly cold. I wasn't warm at all.

Then, I stopped to check my helmet and discovered the vents were wide-open. One hour later I was freezing round my torso; while I was riding the chairlift, I lifted the arms and found out that both opening were unzipped since the last time I skied with that jacket back in April! Will I ever learn?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

France or America?

After living more than 35 years in America, I've had my shares of doubts and ups and downs related to the wisdom of having moved from my beloved French Alps. This happened mostly during the early years, when we still lived in New York and when I was missing mountain living so much.

Even though I did a lot of shuttling back and forth over the Atlantic during those years, my heart was always torn apart when I wondered where it truly belonged. As both our children were born and grew-up in North America, they would become the catalyst that forced us to decide in favor of one place over the other.

We moved to Park City, and in so doing, made a commitment for the new world. Almost thirty years later we are so glad we did! The mountains, although not as spectacular as the Alps, are great for skiing, hiking and mountain biking, the climate is phenomenal and the place remains uncrowded, yet it offers the perfect blend of metro-sophistication and rural quaintness.

Not something found in my native valley where most people are still living in the past and consider their present “bubble” quite “normal” without knowing any better. People who've moved around can't just live in these French ski towns alone; they need a “pied-à-terre” in Paris or Lyon to make their existence more bearable and a bit more “civilized...”

Would I enjoy moving back there full time? I don't think so; I'd probably go crazy after two weeks. I would miss the Rockies and America so much that I couldn't stand it. Like a shell is to a tortoise, my French culture is attached to me so no matter where I go, it follows me.

The American culture is not as deeply rooted though, and I would miss it terribly if I had to live out of the United States. So that's about it; I cherish my alpine memories in the rear-view mirror of my life, but go full-steam ahead into the future of America, my new home!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ski Goals 2013

I've never looked at one single season thinking that I will be doing this, that and another thing. I'm very much goal-oriented for all the other areas of my life, but this approach has never permeated into my skiing outlook. So, the other day, when I was asked “what are you goals for this ski season” I had to think very, very hard!

I first remembered some wise words from Gérard Bouvier, a good friend of mine, who told me just a couple of years ago: “At your age, what do you have to prove?”. You see, I'm very competitive and have always looked at performing better and faster whenever possible. This approach of course has its own limitations as we age and our strength begins to decline.
At that point, we get less nimble and considerably slower. I am not going to argue with my friend and instead, will heed his wise recommendation! So, from that point forward, my goals on skis won't be measured in speed, quickness or slaloming through a tight grove of aspen trees.

Instead, they will be qualitative in nature and will consist of skiing much more often, but when I do it, it will also be much more smoothly and I will focus on saving all of my resources to enjoy a longer, fun-filled day on the slopes.

Sure, I'll go fast when I can and when it makes me more efficient, but never again at the expense of my own safety. I'll think more about being lighter on my skis, on better using the terrain to check my speed, make my turns and be one with the terrain. That's about right, less brute force and more “caresses” on the snow, this is how my skiing will be looking like this season and beyond!

Monday, December 10, 2012

World Cup's Swiss Army Knife?

To make things easier to organize and manage, Ski World Cup organizer love to hold as many events as possible on one single hill. To a degree, this may work for some venues like the Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek, but it's not always so great elsewhere.

Take Val D'Isère and Bellevarde as an example. The multiple use works to some degree for the downhill, that is nonetheless very much "man-made" in its overall topography. It's also okay as a slalom hill, but doesn't seem to function well when used for Super G or GS.

Yesterday, Ted Ligety got quite vocal about it and posted his dismay on Facebook. He said he had a love-hate relationship with Val D'Isère “An awesome place to ski but an awful race hill” he said. He went on about the steep and short race hill, “they have to set the course very tight, average of 21-22 m from gate to gate, with several under 17 m, at nearly a slalom distance, where all other hills have a 25-32 m distance gate to gate. A few meters makes a huge difference in skiability, especially with the new skis...”

According to Ted that sentiment was echoed by 98% of the racers (Hirscher and Luitz probably begged to differ), so go figure, but Ligety probably has another solid point and his ranting may validate the saying: “Jack of all trades and master of none” when applied to Bellevarde.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Incompetence galore...

Why are big, well established companies doomed? Because they're stuck in their way and they put up with mediocre CEO, managers and employees. Too many rules and an overwhelming fear of loss have dried up any creative juice and fueled mediocrity, whether it's under the form of people or idea.

It feels so much safer to nurture the status-quo than taking any chance. It's not the first time it happens however. Before Microsoft and some other big brands that I won't name here, there were the Roman and the Greek empires...

Cliffs of all kinds...

This month, we are already sick of hearing about the U.S. “Fiscal Cliff.” That cliff, while grossly exaggerated in its real probability and danger is something someone controls and can prevent. The “someone” are our most stupid members of congress that are united under the Republican Party.

Then, there's the “Snow-less Cliff” in Park City, where as the season advances and snow is not showing up, we wonder which economic impact this might have on our small economy.

That later cliff is totally out of our control, and praying or dancing won't make snow start falling. Washing one's car might be the only effective solution!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Puzzled by the new skis?

As a skier who would like to think he's still relevant, I need to understand the ins and outs of the new equipment that each year hits the market. I used to be “front and center” in that crazy business when I was active into it, but not anymore.

I'm now relegated to the role of a very ordinary user and it's paramount for me to understand what kind of skis I need to cruise without having to expand too much energy and be able, with one single pair, to move from “groomers” to deep, fluffy snow, and still look reasonably balanced, dignified on my boards and won't exhaust myself within a couple of hours.

Since I shoot videos for Deer Valley Resort, I have decided to launch some investigative reporting that may shed some light as to what the ideal board is for me. Rossignol will be providing the advice and I'll produce the video, so please, stay tuned for the results!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

When I was “demoing...”

Exactly forty yars ago today, I made the trip from my home town in the Alps to Storlien, a small ski resort tucked somewhere in the northern parts of Sweden.

I was part of the French ski instructor demo-team in these days and we were supposed to show the Swede how to tackle turns the Gallic way while Ingemar Stenmark was getting ready to dominate the world of skiing.

Were our hosts impressed? I can't quite remember. Was the skiing good? Not really as good as Chamonix! What about the food and the drinks? Not great, but okay; I was much younger then and not as picky as I am today...
Now, tell me, the girls? They were so smart, they had remained in Ibiza, Spain to work on their tan.  The entire experience must have been a bright spot in your career?  No, because it was so dark in that early winter season, with the sun coming at 9:30 am and leaving before 3 pm; this was far too somber for me!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Recently, I have been using the internet for fact checking and find it incredibly worth my time. There is hardly a day that goes by without hearing rumors, outlandish claims or simply false statements.

Generally a few keystrokes, a critical mind and a good search technique can shed light on questions that we have and remove falsehood from what could be taken as bona fide information.

Always worth my time, and as too many people forget or simply ignore, thanks to the US government for building that incredible resource back in the late 1960s!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Third time's the charm?

For the third time this season, Park City has received a new coat of white snow. It looks wonderful and fits her so well.
I hope Park City likes it and that she keeps it on through next spring. The two first snowfalls were in fact for almost nothing as everything ended up melting away. With more snow in the forecast this week, I am a bit more optimistic.

Perhaps this is just wishful thinking as I truly fear that this business of global warming is much more serious than the American business community seems to believe, and having enough snow every winter is beginning to really concern me.

For the moment, though, let's embrace the popular superstition that claims that following two failures, a third attempt is more likely to succeed. That's right, "Third time's the charm!"

Monday, December 3, 2012

Margin of superiority

When Park City's Ted Ligety won another GS yesterday in Beaver Creek, he illustrated the importance of maintaining a huge “reserve” of strength until the finish line and, as a result, being capable of dominating a contest, not just by sheer luck, good fortune or other set of circumstances, but by overwhelming the field of competitors.
For those who know the lay of the land, the lower section of Birds of Prey is steep and unrelenting. It sucks energy and if you've watched the race, it was clear that by the end of the run, the vast majority of racers had nothing left in them to complete the race, hence the dramatic drop in the difference of timing, between Ligety – the benchmark – and them.

This illustrates that in order to win, whether it be in sports, business, or any other endeavor, power capacity and good storage are paramount. If you don't have enough “reserve” from the get go, winning is dicey and mostly in the hands of “Lady Luck.” Before anything, the assurance of winning can be found through some margin of superiority and this measure remains the best bet for making it to the tallest step of the podium.

Being just “close” or almost there, is clearly never enough, and for those of us who have tried it too many times, it almost inevitably ends in a lesson in humility. No matter what you do and what your stage in life is, always think about building that “extra margin...”

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Grover Norquist's Fiscal Cliff

The Republican Party has created the concept of “Fiscal Cliff” because they can't cut tax rates. And I can understand their concern; 95% of them have signed Grover Norquist's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge", that opposes increases in marginal income tax rates for individuals and businesses, as well as net reductions or eliminations of deductions and credits without a matching reduced tax rate.

They're stuck by that pledge. Obama knows that and nothing much is likely to happen. As Michael Moore proposes, we might be better off letting all of the Bush tax cuts expire on December 31, and then, on January 1, Obama could push a bill that would restore these same tax cuts for 98 percent of the public.

Would that be a face-saving strategy for the Republicans? Perhaps; at least, they could claim that they didn't violate their pledge but that it was forced upon them. In less than a month we'll see...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Raymond, the soda man...

Soda and bier wholesaler, you name it, Raymond Marullaz and his brother were lemonade-makers, soft-drink and beer merchants in my home valley of Morzine, France. Raymond was essentially the salesman, the front-of-the-house guy and as someone who could turn lemons into lemonade, he was a very likeable individual.

My family had a small mountain restaurant and was of course was buying almost all of its beverages, except wine and spirits, from the Marullaz brothers, so every so often, Raymond would come by with his little notebook and would ask how many bottle of bier, coca-cola and orangina were needed for the upcoming delivery.

I only bring that story up because in latter years, something like 1966, our soda man was driving the sport car of my dream; not a Triumph or a Ferrari, but a sleek-looking Panhard 24CT. Even though its tiny 848 cc, 50 hp engine was anemic, it had unlimited power to make me dream very, very big...