Sunday, March 31, 2013

More about lasting...

If you really are serious about lasting, always be prepared to move and don't make it a difficult transition. In other words, don't hang in there to stay relevant; you just won't, beside you'll stay in the way of others and make everyone – including yourself – very unhappy!

Always have – or create – something you can look forward to and in the process, don't ever dwell on being old and misunderstood; instead, focus on what you can do and what makes you feel good. By the same token, don't waste the time of others and don't let other waste your time.

Obviously, moving on requires that you re-invent yourself each time you are changing, so just be prepared to do this often, besides it's fun and exciting. Of course, on the subject of fun, make sure there is some of that magic ingredient every day and everything you undertake.

Most importantly, don't ever forget to help others as much as you can. Be nice to them and be nice to you too; tell yourself you deserve whatever you want and don't find lousy excuses for not getting it.

Finally, accept that each stage in life as got a beginning and one end and keep in mind that there's eventually a grand finale but don't make a big deal out of it and never look at it as an end goal...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

It's all about Lasting!

There are many stages to our lives; in fact, there may be as many as one can imagine or think there are. As far as I am concerned, I three three of them that are meaningful.

During our formative years and our youth, we're all trying hard to assert our place in society. Then, later on, we're doing the best we can to achieve and be the kind of people we think they can be.

Finally, there is another stage where too many of us who can reach it tend to quit hoping, stop making plans and becoming grumpy. This highly enjoyable times in one's life is all about lasting. I have not said survive or struggle.

It's lasting, staying relevant, looking forward to tomorrow by making plans, having projects and desiring something. If you delve into it, you'll discover that lasting can be both an art and a technique!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Conserving snow in Sochi

The next Winter Olympics are a big deal to Vladimir Putine and the ruler of Russia don't want to take any chance in showing the world that Russia is the best.

Besides having already plunked down $51 billion into the two-week extravaganza (out of $10 billion at the outset), he also wants to make sure there's some snow when it's time to entertain the world. So as you probably have heard, the Game organizers plan to stockpile half-a-million cubic meters of snow in some shady gullies and creek beds above the venues.

This feat will be achieved by Snow Secure, a Finnish company. The stored snow will be covered under a 16 inch blanket of sawdust. During summer it will melt some and its density – just like with permanent snowfields before they turn into glaciers - will go from 400 kg/m3 to 600 kg/m3.

When the snow is ready to be used in late Fall or early Winter, it will be shoved down by snow cats or piped to the slopes that need it. The cost of the operation will amount to over $8 million which is probably not (yet) what American ski resorts are ready to pay at the moment!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mountain town elite

People who live in mountain towns inevitably come in contact with the rich, affluent and famous. It has multiple impact on that population, in different ways and at various degrees.

If your work puts you in some advantageous contact with these folks where your skills make you extremely useful or indispensable to them (i.e. you're a ski instructor, a mountain guide, a realtor or a doctor) they are more likely to level with you and even make you feel as if they were equal to you.

If on the other end you assume a lowly service function, they may (no guarantee!) be nice to you, condescending enough, tip you well and in many more ways than one, make your day. No guarantees, but it can happen. In many ways, and the higher up you stand on this prestigious "totem pole," the more you will feel that you're included, that you're almost just like them and part of the family.

Just beware though; don't ever take all that for granted, as easy as these impressions can be made on you, the fact of the matter remains that at the end of day, the vacation and the line, you are still you, they are still them and the divide remains.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Balancing yourself (on skis...)

Someone on LinkedIn, a professional social-group I belong to, is trying to find out where skiers believe they should focus their fore/aft balance - in other words, where should they apply pressure on their foot while skiing.

 I responded, as I often do, on the spur of the moment, by first saying that it must be somewhere under the ball of my foot and then added that it perhaps wasn't so definite, as I was trying to stay flexible and nimble whenever I skied.

These comments got me thinking and yesterday morning, as I was running, I realized that my best way of attaining “perfect balance” on skis, was when I concentrated on skiing as much erect as possible. This extended body position forces my ankles, hips and knees to work more subtly but highly efficiently.

We're of course talking about recreational, fun skiing, not racing. In truth, an upright position it's a real energy saving posture that prevents the typical stiffening created by a crouched skiing position induced by fear or apprehension that often requires huge amplitudes in body movement in order to achieve balance..

That also suggests that focusing on foot work while skiing is a bit of a pipe dream; as I've always maintained, our feet are the farthest body element from the brain and don't take its signals as quickly as we'd wish. Keeping an erect posture, or at least focusing on that, is a lot easier for the brain to remember and much faster to communicate. This remains, is in my view, the easiest way to effectively control our balance in motion!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

(Another) fresh insight on religion...

This past Sunday as we were watching our grandson and I was looking toward the house of my son's Mormon neighbors, just across the street, I was thinking how dumb the simple concept of religion is. Even though snow and temperatures were terrific, these “morons” didn't go skiing.

Or didn't go golfing, scuba-diving or just bicycling. They read the scriptures instead, as would be expected of any good Latter Saints' family on a Sunday afternoon after spending 4 hour in service.

So here you have it; you spend an entire life – that could in many ways fun and pleasurable – worrying instead about life after death (a very unlikely outcome) and sacrifice the known “here and now” for a totally hypothetical “eternal life.”

Give me a break, religious leaders, you've got here a losing proposition. One bird in the hand – here and now – for a highly improbable one in some bush called afterlife, that moreover must mean basking in eternal boredom. You've finally lost me, organized religions!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Yesterday's news

We don't read physical newspapers anymore, you know, the ones you open up and that have pages you can turn... We subscribe to the New York Time electronically and get our news from other free media sources.

For the past few days, I've had the chance to consult the printed edition of the Wall Street Journal, only to find that most articles were a day late and felt stale if one considers how perishable news have become.

Recently, we were just told by Newsweek that their weekly print edition would be discontinued at the end of 2012. We had no other choice but resign ourselves to that reality. We tried their online version, didn't like it and moved on without that magazine.

While there are still people who believe that news in print have some future, I've now become convinced that their total demise is just a question of time and not too far around the corner...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Another letter to one my Senators

Senator Mike Lee of Utah is a member of the Tea Party and yesterday, he delivered the national weekly radio address, in response to President Obama's own. Although, I didn't vote for him, Senator Lee represents me in Washington, so this is how I responded to his address:

Dear Senator Lee,

I am saddened to hear that your speech doesn't offer much room for compromise - a key ingredient in any successful and productive group work, including marriage, business and even team sports.

On the 10th anniversary of a useless and totally wasteful war in Iraq (cost $2 trillion) not to mention its genocidal side (several hundred thousand casualties), you're still picking on trivial staff that doesn't come even close to the magnitude of this tragedy.

Whether your like it or not, your Job is to WORK TOGETHER WITH THE OPPOSITE SIDE and achieve the kind of governance we deserve through productive compromise. Do just that, Senator, and as one many Utahns you are serving, I'll be proud of your accomplishment.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Barrel staves go full circle!

When alpine and north American countries adopted skiing from Scandinavia, they sure didn't stop at the formal, long skis turned up in the front. Many creative enthusiast skiers found in recycled barrel staves the perfect, cheap and fun alternative to the skinny and elongated skis of these times.

More than one century later, we've again come full circle; when I see some of the skis that some of my fellow chairlift passengers are now showing off. They almost are perfect copy of the oak barrel stave of yesteryear, except that they're equipped with fast bases, modern bindings and can cost more than $1,000 a set.
They work best in the deep, super-light powder that we normally receive in quantity, but have been unfairly deprived of this winter, which makes me say – once more – that the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Is there fame in US ski racing?

If you're a skier and follow that sport, even a tiny bit, you probably have heard about Ted Ligety. You see, Ted has been raised Park City and lives in Park City. Yet, if you read our local newspaper, the Park Record, you wouldn’t realize it; this mid-week addition only had a short blurb on the second page of its section mentionning without much fanfare his World Cup title victory.

It's not just the Park City's paper of course, it's our local radio or TV station, our City and Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Bureau. No one seems to care much, let alone know, what a great skier we've got in town.

So what's the way left for a US Ski Racer to attain fame in America? Probably what Lindsey Vonn just did by hooking up with Tiger Wood. So if Taylor Swift was to become Ligety's girlfriend, would our champion finally get the credit he deserves? Perhaps, but not guaranteed. The morale of this story: If you're a ski racing and need to bask in fame, don't ever think of moving to America!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happier today than yesterday

Whenever I talk to my French friends, I end up a tiny bit depressed after hearing their views about the world and their downbeat assessment of their own political scene, with no good news in sight.

 This said, their downbeat attitude isn't new. It's been the same for as long as I have left my home country and moved to America. French people have a knack for always seeing the glass as half-empty.

Yet, I can't help but realize that my life (and also theirs) has been getting better every year for over that entire period of time. We're living better, eating better, exercising more and are also staying more informed and connected to the rest of the world than ever before.

So what's wrong with this negative assessment? Probably too much comfort and cradle-to-grave assistance as people experience in that part of the world is poisonous to people's psyche.

Well, that doesn't quite wok for me. I take any improvement any day and intend to view my world this way for a very long time!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I wonder who among the European bureaucrats and the IMF had the brilliant idea to levy a 10% penalty on Cyprus savers in order to pay for that country's banking mistakes ?

It seems to me that the EU should have addressed the potential problem upfront, when Cyprus was admitted into the Euro-zone, by seriously limiting its ability to flourish as another tax heaven.

Short off letting the island nation leave the Euro-zone, the EU will have no other choice but fixing the hole by pouring into it some of its own money...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Teach your children...

No, it's not the famous song by Graham Nash, but instead the best way to teach small kids how to ski, when they're been instructed individually. You see, my experience in teaching small kids in a private lesson setting is limited to a few short months during the 69-70 winter season and that's about it.

I taught my children, of course, but by using my own method and borrowing tools and strategies I had seen other folks use, such as leash, harness and edgie wedgie, which after all, may not be such a good idea.

This time again, I tried this technique with my 5 year old grandson and they didn't work too well, until I asked a old friend of mine who has taught kids to ski for half a century; she gave me the “pole-tip” which she says work better than anything she's ever seen or tried. Next time, I'll put her tip to the test!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dog power

Better than most and certainly better than the mushers and their sled-dogs, my neighbors know how to harness their dog power. In the past, I have seen their mother walk her older golden retriever while riding her bike and – why not – extract some dog power out of the animal.

Today, with a brand new dog in the household, one of the boy uses that canine power to propel himself on the scooter and even break the morning ice inside the gutter. A scooter with 1 DP is a creative way to begin combating CO2 emissions!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

How to conserve Chavez?

I understand that Hugo Chavez was quite a popular man in Venezuela and that no one wants to see him buried or incinerated, but “conserving” him like was done before to Lenin, Mao, Saint Bernadette or even King Tutankhamun is too much work, never ends up that good anyway, and no matter how fine a taxidermy job is accomplished, it can't last and stay perfect forever.

What I propose to its desperate followers is going hi-tech, working with Pixar Studios and having a virtual, fully-interactive Hugo that could talk to his visitors in real time, answer their questions, make inflammatory statements about the USA and keep the Bolivarian revolution going.

A bit like Shrek if you see what I mean. It could be consulted not just on a giant screen at the Hugo Chavez Mausoleum, but also via iPads, computers or smart phones, wherever a loyal Chavista happens to be. The answers to the FAQ would be constantly updated, fine-tuned and adapted to fit the mood and the news of the moment.

This in my view is the best way to keep a mythical character like this one going on forever... Any better idea?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Measuring the health of a nation

My French friends seem to be complaining more and more about François Hollande's inept leadership and fear that their country is going down the drain. While pessimism is almost a national pastime in my home-country, there are numbers that might confirm my countrymen and women worst fears.

Based on a study by the World Bank which unfortunately go only through year 2010, public spending varies vastly per country. The table shows these public expenses as a percentage of GDP that represent cash payments for operating government activities in providing goods and services.

Such expenses include wages and salaries of public employees, interest and subsidies, grants, social benefits, and other expenses such as rent and dividends. These are compiled by the International Monetary Fund, Government Finance Statistics Yearbook and data files, and World Bank and OECD GDP estimates.

I'll let you pour through this table and draw your own conclusions...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Welcome, Pope Francis!

The smoke turned white, the lucky winner was announced, a (great) name was picked and we've got ourselves a now Pope. Don't expect much theological reform from that one, though. Perhaps, if he succeeds at shaming the Roman Curia into doing it, he might effect some major clean-up deep into St. Peter and the Vatican that is long overdue.

When I say long, it spans of course over multiple centuries. Hopefully he'll clean house and won't get hurt in doing so as they are some really bad people waiting for him in some obscure corners. If he could at least achieve it during his papacy, I'd be more than satisfied!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Extreme danger on snow

The movie “The Crash Reel” was one of the great movie we didn't get to see at the last Sundance Film Festival, but it became highly recommended to us by a friend of mine. It poses, and to a large extent, discusses the problems inherent with developing snow sports like slope-side snowboarding, where rules are being made as the sport evolves in its form and athletes become more sophisticated in their abilities.

Yet, there seem to be no limit to the danger that is lurking around for the participants as these young men and women are constantly pushed to the limit by non-stop evolving events, peer pressure and big money from sponsors. The movie poses the question of the quest for danger and its far reaching implications, not just for the athlete, but for his entire family and loved ones.

A must see movie for all adrenaline-junkies who have never thought much about the consequences of their acts...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The right man (or woman) for the job!

I am amazed to see how people get excited by the Pope's election. Folks who normally have no interest in the catholic religion are speculating about who is going taking over Pope Benedict XVI's position. Will it be the fellow from Quebec, an other Italian, an African or that man from Brazil?

I say, let's get the right man for that key job, and why not, the right woman? To that end, I'm proposing that we draft Hillary Clinton fTthe post. She'd be a staunch advocate of women causes, she'd put her foot down to stop once and for all this pedophilia mess within the Church, she'd get Catholic women the pill they deserve and would finally let all priests marry.

I can't see her president of the United States into her seventies, but believe that instead she'd be a good Pope, one that would turn things around. I know, she's not Catholic (yet...)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A few hours at the corduroy mill...

Tonight was my first time inside a ski groomer and for several hours we prepared and pampered Nabob, one of Deer Valley's most popular ski run. Unlike most other trails around Bald Mountain, Nabob offer a varied, rolling terrain and allows for pretty high speed when it's clear of people.

For me it was a chance to chat at length (two and a half hour non-stop), shoot a video and learn about the art of making corduroy and giving average skiers the illusion that they literally are on top of the world and are skiing like snow-gods.

This said, accomplishing the craft these guys and girls are capable of isn't for sissies; first you must work at night, both swing and graveyard shift and like anything else, expertise come from practice except that there are only 22 weeks in a year to accumulate the required experience.
So, instead of just three or four years, it's more like ten year that are required for one to becomes really good at driving these $250,000 a piece vehicles and leaving behind that seamless ribbon of white corduroy!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Feeling young (again!)

Today was a special day for me. First, it was a full ski day, from first opening to closing time and with a competitive flavor too, as I was attempting to ski a maximum number of runs at Deer Valley Resort.

While I was a bit apprehensive the day before, I got up early this morning, went running in the dark with my head-lamp on in this still dark daylight-saving morning hour and at 8:58 am was boarding the first chair at Deer Valley. I was done by 4:26 pm, after a quick pit stop behind a pine tree and a lunch taken on the go, that is on the chair.

When all was said and done and tallied up, I had done 65 runs out of some 100 possible and accumulated some 62,000 vertical feet! That night after dinner, my wife and I went for a 2 mile walk so I could just unwind a bit!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The aging skier

There's a time in a skier's life, when speed, agility and self confidence begin to fade. When a few too many accidents place a damper on excitement, explosive energy and fearlessness that inhabited the individual.
For me, that threshold is one I have begun feeling this season after kind of plateauing last year. I tire much faster, I don't nearly take as much risk as I used to and simply take my time when I have to.

A sad sign? That could be, even though I still can out-ski many healthy men a good ten-year younger than me.

A good sign then? Probably; let's call it self-protection and some kind of insurance that I'll still be there with all my limbs and mind for the longer haul!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The shorter ski pole (continued)

One significant element I forgot to mention in the discussion about selecting the right length pole is to pay attention to the ratio between torso and leg length. Skiers with longer legs in relation to their torso should end up using longer poles and vice-versa...

Now, here are a few responses from my French skiers friends to that blog:

Anselme Baud, the extreme skier, added the important speed element I had missed: “Obviously new easy-turning skis and high-speed are making turns that much easier. Without speed there's no turn! Now, when you combine manicured groomed runs with speed, poles become useless. Furthermore, expert skiers have rediscovered the virtues of leaning forward – moving away from Georges Joubert's backward stance! - so when speed is combined with aggressive leaning inside a turn, pole use becomes a mute point. On the other hand, when a skier is out of bounds, in deep or difficult snow or tricky terrain, speed generally goes down and longer poles become again a vital element. Snowboarders know that too well...”

Catherine Muffat, Cyprien Richard's former ski coach, who is slightly shorter than me, sounded like a contrarian when she stated: “I now use 50” poles instead of the 48 and even 46” poles I had 25 years ago!

Says Alain Tomamichel, ski-shop owner in Les Deux Alpes, France: “Might be interesting to take this guy into 2 feet of fresh snow with poles that are 5 to 10 cm shorter and see how well he does...”

Jean Barbier, the former French distributor for Leki poles agreed with my points and said: “Pole length has nothing to do with ski length and everything to do with a skier's height. I see in that effort to promote shorter poles an attempt to boost pole sales on the part of companies that have nothing new to bring to the table and that think that skiers will bite into this questionable hook...”

Then, Léon Empereur, a ski instructor from Val D'Isère and mentor to Sasha Rearick, Ligety's head coach, concluded quite appropriately in remarking that adjustable poles would quickly settle that discussion. His point was so obvious that I had not even thought about it...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Would you go to Cuba if you had cancer?

I personally wouldn't and my point is that if Hugo Chávez had come to America to get his care, he'd probably be still alive today. My understanding was that he had the opportunity of being treated at the Sírio-Libanês Hospital in Sao Paulo he would have increased his chance of survival.

That's what Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, told a few of her colleagues — in private — that “the Venezuelan head of state was likely to die as a result of ‘his excessive paranoia rather than as a consequence of his serious — yet treatable — cancer.’”

If you look at the accepted list of the best cancers treatment centers in the world, the University of Texas, M D Anderson, is still at the top, followed by the Institut Gustave Roussy, in Paris, France, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York, the John Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore and the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota.

You won't see the Sírio-Libanês Hospital listed earlier nor any Cuban hospitals. A few thousand barrels of oil would have taken care of Chávez hospital bill and he'd still be around. This is another sad case of killer-dogma. If you're sick don't ever do that to yourself. Be more pragmatic than you can be dogmatic!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The shorter ski pole

Last week I was told by someone who could be billed as a “ski pole specialist,” that my own 50 inch” Scott poles were too long for me (I'm 5'10” tall). I disputed the assertion but nonetheless listened carefully to the arguments presented to me.

I was basically told that I should at least be skiing with 48” poles, if at all, inferring that 46” might be good enough for me. The pretense given to me was the new carving skis (why?), the fact that poling had lost some of its “polish” in skiing and other nonsense along these lines.

Now let me state how I use my poles so we all understand each others. First, I enjoy skiing steep terrain; sorry, short poles don't work there!

Second, I'm an old “ski fox” and what I've lost in strength, I pick up “cheating” as much as I possibly can and in the super long radius turns I crave for, a long enough pole plays the role of an outrigger and helps me maintain, if not my composure, my standing balance.

Third, when I need to propel myself on snow, to slide from point A to point B, a long enough pole does the job while a shortened one is pure misery.

Finally, I can guess why a pole company might tell these lies like these to its gullible sales force (I've been there before): This could mean a potential 5% saving on material cost, which if you multiply it by quantities in the order of several 100,000 tubes for a manufacturer like Scott, you could get some huge extra profits!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Budget hotels at ski resorts

One of the best hotels in Park City is arguably the St. Regis at Deer Valley. I say arguably, because if that is true, the Deer Valley Montage isn't far behind. The St. Regis is the most expensive hotel in town but also in the nation when compared to other ski resort accommodations. I'm not making this up, I just read it as part of the results of a new survey conducted by Luxury Hotels.

That study, published this month compares all luxury hotels located at ski resorts worldwide, on the basis a standard double room rate. So here you have it: One night in the St. Regis Deer Valley resort will set you back an average of $1,243.  Our local luxury place makes it to the podium in third place, as isn't the most expensive in the world.

The Aurelio in Lech, Austria gets the gold at $2,011 and Les Suites de la Potinière in Courchevel, France (our sister city) makes it second at $1,878! If the St. Regis rates aren't quite to your liking, don't despair; if you choose to stay at the much more modest Peaks Hotel, less than a mile from my home, they'll be able to accommodate you for almost 9 nights for the same $1,243!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The GOP reinventing itself...

Following Romney's defeat at the Presidential election, the Republicans are scrambling to find out what went wrong and do what they can to change the course of future elections. In so doing, they aren't bashful - I'd even call this “gauche” - in saying: We'll fix immigration, we'll embrace same sex marriage, just to get elected!

Another skin they must also shed is their de facto “marriage” to the Religious Right. That's right, they should tell God to walk out of their platform, and replace the irrational, old man with two tangible values we all believe in: Justice and Fairness.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Another ski contest

Years ago, I shared that obsession of mine which was to rack up as much ski vertical as I possibly could. I've since got over it, and this season, I'll be focusing instead on a challenge that a friend of mine, who works for Deer Valley Resort, suggested we set to accomplish: Ski as many runs in that resort as we possibly could, in just one day.

This will be the subject of a blog and possibly a video. While there are about 100 ski runs at Deer Valley and 6 open bowls, we'll only focus on the former. That still makes for quite a busy day if we can wrap it up in just that, as the lifts are only open from 9 am to 4 pm and with just a 30 minute lunch break, that will give us just an average of 3 minute and 54 second per run, including riding up the lifts!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Listen to the expert

Yesterday, as I was riding the Canyons cabriolet after an afternoon spent skiing in some welcome new snow, I was sharing my ride down with two other men in their late 60s. One of them was definitely more talkative than the other and was complaining that he wasn't able to make his satellite TV work at the condo he was staying in.
He couldn't refrain from adding “I'm a heart surgeon and if I can't understand that, who can?” That pretty arrogant phrase was a sad give-away that, at such an advanced age, the man had not yet understood the virtues of humility and also that technology never misses a chance to play tricks on the very best of us!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Great minds must think alike...

Today was the celebration of our grandson birthday that took place at a Salt Lake Valley swimming pool and most particularly at a kids' wading pool where about 20 little friends had lots of fun in the water before it was time for the traditional birthday cake and an avalanche of presents.

Finn is now knee-deep into Legos and many parents, including ourselves brought that timeless toy for the occasion. The weird thing is that four of us bought Finn the exact same set of Legos. Pure coincidence or yet another proof that great minds think alike?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Meet Mike Day!

Yesterday, I spent a few hours skiing at Deer Valley with Mike Day and his wife Donalda. I know Mike since my Lange days and had another chance to work with him while at Pre Skis.

Today, Mike is just a few month from retiring from a successful career as a manufacturer’s ski rep and is ready to start enjoying his new home, near Mammoth Mountain, in the California Sierra and live – just like me - the perfect life of the retired ski biz folks.

We made some good, fast runs on that perfectly groomed snow that is Deer Valley's secret and were able to catch up as best a we could during the chairlift and gondola rides that felt far too short. We'll need to get back together soon to continue our conversation!