Tuesday, April 30, 2013

High tech divorce can cost too...

You've been married with your broadband carrier for 7 years, but you just met a new one that looks better (I really mean cheaper and more performing), then you file for divorce and realize that it will cost you a bundle or that you'll be asked to do the unthinkable (or something close to it, that I least you weren't prepared to do...)

Welcome to the world of high-tech divorce in which you wish you had read the rules before hand. It will cost you no matter what you choose to do, either in hard dollars or something less tangible like the loss of your beloved phone number that you won't be able to port to your new provider, but that's the cost of moving on, I guess.

Technology has become incredibly cheap when you first purchase it, but it will get a piece of you somehow, somewhere and generally on your way out, when you least expect it. Now you've been warned...

Monday, April 29, 2013

How can I be so... gullible!

Yesterday, as I was browsing Facebook (I only indulge in this once a week) my eyes were grabbed by that electric socket mounted on a disc equipped with suction cup and micro-solar panel. A seemingly magic way to harness solar energy and use it as a “plug socket”.

Even though the presence of a European-style socket arose some initial suspicion in me, my first reaction was: “where can I get THAT and how much does it cost?” It took me a few clicks and a rapid summary search to realize this was a hoax.

 To console myself, I remembered that someone once said (was it Napoleon Hill in his best-seller book “Think and Grow Rich”?) that “anything the human mind can conceive, it can achieve...” Engineers of all stripes, please get off your duff and develop that magic gizmo for me; I could use it!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lots vs. tons of snow...

By some accounts, I read that the French Alps have had a record snow year that goes back some 40 years. Yet, when I looked at a picture taken recently by Maxence Hernu, I felt compelled to argue with claim, simply because I took a similar picture 43 years ago when there was another record snow year that would put this year's to shame.
This picture shows the family restaurant in the picturesque village of Lindarets (elev. 4,825 feet), next door to Avoriaz ski resort in France. The place is now owned and operated by my niece Christel and her husband...

Springtime dandelion!

For years, now, there is no spring season without some dandelion salad. We picked and ate our first one of the year, just yesterday and it won't be the last. It's a rite of spring and a delicious one to boot!

Of course like anything worth some extra effort, the collection and preparation takes an inordinate amount of time and patience, making it such a special experience. The first salad of 2013 was accompanied with hard-boiled eggs and tiny chunks of sardines. Scrumptious!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The blessing of not being famous

As five presidents of the United States were gathering to celebrate the new Bush Presidential Library, I was thinking that when you're so famous – at the end of a mandate like the one these famous men were given – life is downhill from there.

At least there must be a lot of second-guessing and a deep sense of void and loss as one exits the Oval Office. Granted, a guy like Clinton now makes millions in speaking engagements, but he's no longer as relevant as he used to be. As for Bush Second, he has the least to show for his eight-year stint and, in all fairness, should be in jail for crimes against humanity!
All this to say that for us, the non-famous and unknown entities, which are after all the large majority of humanity, relevancy is no issue, privacy is total and life is easy. When all is said and done, I'm really glad I'm not famous!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Adventure in Running

Every time we visit a new place or stop on the road, I always make a point to run there. It never fails to be an adventure, to surprise us and provide an opportunity to discover what tourists and occasional visitors will never imagine.

I always check Google maps before we go, search for a nice itinerary and even if we must drive 10 miles to get there, we run in the spot we've picked. The settings are never quite what I would have imagined and each new venue never fails to leave a permanent mark in our memories.

A wonderful habit to nurture!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Back in Capitol Reef National Park

The last time I was at Capitol Reef National Park in Southern Utah was close to a quarter century ago. At that time, we had “done” the major Utah National Parks and after zooming through Bryce, Zion, that particular park and Arches, we were totally “parked-out.”

We had seen rock in so many shapes, sizes and colors that we could no longer stand the sight of one single extra mineral body. There's so much rock one can take, it's heavy, massive and very hard to digest. For us it's about two or three days at the most.

All that makes me think of these hordes of tourist who see most of our National Parks in Utah over the course of ten days or so. They must be rocked out of their wits and probably need a strong medical treatment to get rid of all this extra mineral overload!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another (stupid) dream

I dream a lot but rarely remember what it's all about. At any rate, if I do, it's so rare that I generally feel compelled to write a blog about it, as long as the subject matter is deemed suitable for what this chronicle stands for.

So, the other night, as I was dreaming loud and clear, I was waist-deep back into the snow business at my ancient job of ski instructing. The setting was that I was amidst a gallery of past and present instructor colleagues or acquaintances, and while my contemporary pals seemed to recognize me, those from yesteryear and from Avoriaz, France in particular, snubbed me magnificently while parading in some bright yellow and white outfits.

Unlike me, they had remained young and handsome and most likely couldn't figure out who was the decrepit looking man I had now become. To add insult to injury, these seemingly good looking people included in their ranks people that I knew were long dead. I was pretty dismayed and swore to myself that I would never allow such a stupid dream again...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stop Ski Link?

In all of North America, Northern Utah ski areas are uniquely located in the sense that seven of them could easily be interconnected like this has been done more than 40 years ago in several regions of the French Alps, with exceptional benefits for both winter sports, outdoor activities and for the local economies.

Mostly due to fear, backward thinking and misplaced environmental concerns, the seven Utah mountain resorts concerned by this physical rapprochement have remained inactive, with the exception however of Alta and Snowbird as well as Brighton and Solitude that have created their respective connections, “Altabird” and “Solbright”, opening up their runs to each other.

The logical next step would have been for the three other areas located on private land in Park City to make a similar move, but there doesn't seem to be the will or the motivation to do so, expect by Canyons. Since the adjacent Park City Mountain Resort is (wrongly) afraid of losing users to Canyons, the later is seeking connection with Solitude, over the mountain ridge.

This approach is quite convoluted, involves some Federal Land swap, making it distasteful to some environmental groups and sadly, a bunch of companies and individuals that don't appear to appreciate the economic consequences of Utah's tourism success.

These folks take advantage of all the amenities a vibrant tourism affords them, but don't like tourism and the visitors it brings to Park City in particular. They're in effect biting the hand that feeds them. While the proposal set forth by Canyons is not the ideal one and not the one I would prefer, it's much better than doing nothing and for that reason alone, I support it.

What I won't support however are all the companies and individuals that are behind the move and that are resisting positive change for Park City and the Wasatch Front!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Don't ask, don't get...

I'm currently shopping for broadband and voice over ip services. I've had my current provider (that bundles both) for close to 7 year now.

This said, there's a big battle going on between Comcast (our cable provider) and CenturyLink (the legacy telephone company) fighting for consumer loyalty and market share in what seems to be an ever-changing market.
Of course, changing providers – just like going through a divorce - is always a pain as it entails a lot of upheaval to experience, not to mention the one-time installation fees, the need to purchase new equipment, etc.

Bottom line, I'd rather stay with my current provider if these guys are prepared to meet their competition on pricing. Do I need to state, that once more, it's yet another lesson that if you don't ask, you won't get!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

An affordable high-speed chairlift

A good friend of mine who's spend his career promoting French heavy ski equipment continues to consult for some clients now that he's retired. At the moment, he's trying to find a good, used chairlift for a new ski area in Kyrgyzstan (correct, that's next to China and north of Tajikistan).

He's found a used one in Badgastein, not far from Salzburg, Austria and while his clients would have been just pleased with a fixed-grip chair, the one he's found is detachable. Today, a brand new detachable chairlift cost of a lot.

To fill the needs of the Kyrgyz, it would have cost them about $8 millions. Instead, my friend will get it for them for just $400,000 plus as much to load everything in seven 40' containers. Even at $800,000 this lift made by Garaventa remains a bargain when a brand new fixed grip might have cost as much as $2 millions.

Hopefully, that machine will work fine and serve the Kyrgyz skiers for another decade or two...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Terrorism and “extreme” religion

Freedom of religion maybe a good thing for some. What that means is freedom of believing in irrationality, in miracles, in life after death and in some other divine retribution. This is fine as long as the dogma isn't antisocial and dangerous to the rest of us.

As I see it, Islam appears to stand out as one of these religions that rests on “shaky” theology in which everything goes and against which there's no religious authority willing to take a stand. Further, Islam is reflective of a medieval if not pre-medieval set of beliefs and culture. Most of Christianity is a bit more advanced, but nonetheless still lags behind our times by one or two centuries depending on the flavor served.
In the face of what's likely to come out of the Boston explosions, religious leaders of all persuasion should come together and not just condemn, but do some serious homework aimed at amending and clarifying the interpretation that can be made of their teachings by their most extremist fringe. Of course, they won't do it, because in religion, just like in business, there's competition!

All are pretty much vying for the same customer and everyone wants to be holier-than-thou. All this brings me back to the concept of “freedom of religion”; how can we see through that religious smokescreen? How can we be certain that a religion is “good”, namely isn't promoting death like extremist Islam does at the moment through the voice of its imams and sometime its governments where a murderous tone is common place?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Leaving no stone unturned?

I have to admit that when I'm focused on some important project, I make a habit of leaving no stone unturned. This can irritate some, but I would hate to have missed an opportunity to do the right thing or discover an hidden treasure if I had not checked all the possible nooks and crannies.

I certainly could apply the Pareto principle (you known, the 80–20 rule that say that for most situations, about 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes) but I still find it too hard. I continue to look for everything and if I don't harvest that special something I'm after, I'll learn at least one or two things in the process.

Since I'm running out of time, I should begin to become more selective, more approximate and who cares if I miss a few gems in pursuing that big treasure chest...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Infinite choices, continued education...

It's amazing how shopping for anything new and different forces us to ask questions, try to understand, generally get a greater appreciation for how things and systems work around us and contemplate the huge array of choices that are presented to us.

A rich and evolved society makes choosing much more complex and forces us to dig deeper. These seemingly infinite choices might seem frustrating and quasi-impossible to process, but they also make us smarter and keep on adding to our knowledge.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Augusta Masters retrospective

I really enjoyed at quick trip to watch the Masters Golf Tournament 2013 with my son. What a wonderful and unforgettable father-and-son experience. Since I'm not into golf, my son - who's quite proficient at it - was on hand the whole time to answer all of my questions and give me a complete primer on the game in general.

Do I have to say that he sold me on it? He did; now, will I take a deep breath, step back and decide to take on the sport?

I'm not quite sure.

It's not that I feel I'm too old to embrace a new activity, it is more that I'm not quite sure I'm ready to take on the mental pain and agony that seem to go with hitting the little white ball.

At that point, I'm not quite saying no; just “maybe...”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Competitive Sports: Skills vs. Luck (part 2)

If I were to classify the sports I'm familiar with in terms of their difficulty, their amount of good luck they demand (or the bad luck that plague them) I'd probably have to resort to some graphic representation.

It's always hard to measure things that are dissimilar and bring every thing to a comparable level. Suffice to say that when I compared running, skiing, mountain-biking and golfing, it came clear that the simpler sport (running) was the least affected by sheer luck. So if you've got little patience for uncertainty, keep on running!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Competitive Sports: Skills vs. Luck

After watching the Augusta Masters, I'm now convinced that in that crazy sport of golfing, luck plays a huge part. It's not in any way to diminish the role played by skills.

Those required by golf, like many other professional level sports can only be garnered over a lifetime and at great expense of time, frustration, money, raw talent and selfless efforts from the athletes.

Based on this, and assuming the best skills in the world, those must account for 25% of the total equation with 70% for bad luck and perhaps 5% for good luck.

Next time, I'll draw a comparison of Skills vs. Luck in sports that I like, follow and know pretty well.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Augusta Masters – Day Four

How many people attend the Masters? Only God knows. Organizers don't publish numbers and are very secretive about that. I've tried to find out, without much success. I've heard 45,000, and this has to be more.
Suffice to say that I'll never forget the huge lines at the (men) bathrooms, the lines at the food stand and their incredible organization to feed all these people. The local high-school kids are employed for the event and for $8 per hour will work on the food and shop facilities where organization has been fined tuned for so many years and that it is magnificently oiled up and optimized to handle perhaps the 100,000 that are actually there!

What's amazing is that there's no giant screen for the spectators to see the TV feed and that the scoreboards at each hole are manual and must be updated as the scores are reported. This is all about tradition and a definitely “must see” in one's lifetime!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Augusta Masters – Day Three

Saturday and one might expect, many more people. A much greater percentage of women too. This time may be 25 to 30% of the total. Same grueling competition though. As I was telling my son: “the beauty about golf is that competitors always stand as much chance to redeem themselves than ruining themselves...”

For an optimist like me, there seem always that there's hope, even when things don't go your way. You can always hope that you'll execute flawlessly and perhaps that your opponent will miss a few opportunities and make as many mistakes... Today was hot and beautiful. After being severely burned on the head the arms and the legs, we pasted up ourselves with some serious sunblocks, didn't wear shorts (our knees were still burning from the day before) and we stayed well covered and in the shadows, whenever this was possible. We also observed a noteworthy incident.

People can bring small folding chairs at the Masters. It's possible to leave them unattended in a certain spot and return to them later and while most chairs are green and identical, owners slip their business cards into them to be able to claim them. As we were watching the game near some chairs, one of them that was sitting a large man broke and collapsed.

It wasn't the legitimate owner of the chair, though, it was an accidental squatter. Someone said “good opportunity for you to lose some weight...” The man left, leaving the broken chair behind and neglecting to add his business card...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Augusta Masters – Day Two

A detail that make this event so special is its “low tech” approach. The display boards aren't electronic; they're manual and regularly updated by real people changing names and numbers. Then there's the policy about absolutely no cell-phones, cameras and video cams that can be brought (even turned off) on to the course. 
Don't plan to snap too many shots and post them on Facebook! Not much connection with the outside world for as long as one is on the course. A nice way for everyone to take a break from these all-invading electronic, hand-held devices! We seemed to saw bigger crowds on Friday than we did the day before and the people in attendance were mostly men. I would say 80 to 85% of the attendance. Only a few rare kids, that's all. No dogs, obviously, what a relief.

Around noon, we had a brief rain shower and as we were taking shelter under a clump of trees, we were told that king snake might fall on us, from the tree, but that they were harmless. Yuk! The rest of the day saw more sun pounding on us and we remained more time sitting on bleachers than walking the grounds...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Augusta's Masters – Day One

My son Thomas and I flew this morning to Atlanta and upon landing, drove to Augusta, Georgia. We got there around 4:30 pm. Unlike him, I'm not a golfer and had no expectation whatsoever with attending a major tournament like this one. This classic golf event must be like was Kitzbuehel is to skiing.

The crowds seem huge, even though attendance to the event is regulated by a set number of admissions. We still got a chance to watch the last groups of players and stayed until the end of the day's events, around 6:30 pm or so. I was struck by the course sheer beauty and of its seemingly difficult features. The competitors seemed on top of their game and yet appeared to have moments of hesitation, apprehension and (perhaps) doubts.
The big deal for me about golfing is unlike most other sports, the preparation that seems endless, the execution that's instantaneous and – in most cases – the aftermath that is visible and incredibly revealing in a player's body language.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Looking back at another great ski season!

Last December, I was trying to see into the future and guess what a new ski season might be. It was more guessing than anything else; in fact, I had no specific plans or goals. I was just going to “play it by ear” as I had done it for almost six decades. Now, peeking into the crystal ball is over. It's time to look into the rear view mirror...

One truth I learned this season is that each ski day - just like our fingerprints or our irises - is totally unique. People often say, half-jokingly that there's “no bad day skiing” and while I subscribe to this truth, I can also assert that each daily ski experience teaches us something remarkable, provides us with one-of-a-kind sensation and makes us constantly view the sport under a fresh angle.

When you live in a ski paradise like Park City, it's very easy to become spoiled and only go out when all the ski planets and stars are in perfect alignment. It's so easy to become very picky and, often times, far too demanding. If we don't keep our attitude in check, we might sometime surprise ourselves muttering “I only do perfect blue-bird days, and today there are just too many jet trails in the sky...” then dismiss another beautiful opportunity to make some great turns. Thank heavens, I have not yet reached that level of decadence!

In conclusion, while I didn't quite make it to the century mark in terms of days I skied this season, I still came quite close to that number with quality, fun-filled skiing, and this is perfectly fine with me. I had some wonderful moments, great memories, not one single bad fall and no collision either; my body is still whole. I am now ready to rest for a few months with the firm intent to do much, much better next season!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Winter last salvo?

When I woke up this morning, my legs were a bit aching and felt stiff. Well, I skied some significant powder yesterday as winter came back with a vengeance and dumped a good foot of snow upon our higher elevations. Great skiing by the way... That's when I overheard - in my mind - a conversation between Mr. Winter and Mrs. Snow that went a bit like this:

Mr. Winter: Just like last year, you've been slacking off in Utah, Mrs. Snow!
Mrs. Snow: You told me to dump it all over the Alps!
Mr. Winter: I said some, just like I said last year to sprinkle Japan a bit more...
Mrs. Snow: That's not quite what I heard you say!
Mr. Winter: It's awful when some folks always want to be right and never fess up to poor execution!
Mrs. Snow: I'll admit though that I had two terrible wet seasons...
Mr. Winter: Okay, that's precisely the idea, return “en masse” to Utah and you'll feel dry and fluffy again! Mrs. Snow: I agree, you've made your point...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bye, Mrs. Congeniality...

Maggie is gone and her legacy is being debated all over the media. She sure was tough, focused, single-minded and pretty much detached from the humanity and the compassion that created her in the first place. Instead she put her rigid principles steadfast goals before any empathy and to me, she will always stand as the prototype of the dangerous human robot.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The rite of spring

Spring Skiing and Snowbird go perfectly together; while Park City was melting all over and the atmosphere in the Wasatch back was reminiscent of daffodils and gardening, my friend Dirk invited me to Snowbird to experienced what we missed most of the season in town: A real sense of winter. That was surprising, fun and... refreshing!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Still skiing at 80!

A few days ago, I received a postcard from Zermatt, sent to me from my Swiss friend Willy Haldemann. You see, Willy is 80 and as a Swiss citizen who lives just minutes from some slopes is still going on ski vacation – even for just a few days.

On the phone, he confided to me that skiing is getting “a bit tougher” when conditions aren't quite perfect, but he still does it... Kudos Willy.

Rediscovering snowshoeing

A couple nights ago, as I had to write a blog for Deer Valley Resort, we went snowshoeing with a guide.

The conditions were spring snow and were quite mushy, but we still managed to have both a great time and a good work out. It's amazing the difference good, modern snowshoes and a nice forested and hilly itinerary can make. Something we need to do more!

Friday, April 5, 2013

How lucky we are

No matter how bad things can be, we are all incredibly lucky to be alive and participate in this fascinating world. From the day we happened to be the faster sperm to this very moment in time, we literally have won the big lotto of life and we should never forget it!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How do you know you're doing a good job?

This morning we attended a breakfast seminar sponsored by a financial institution we use. The lady speaker was bright, came highly recommended, was young, beautiful and had an impressive track record.

However, she was a terrible presenter; her exposé was too complicated, too long, too boring. She was making “a short story long” instead of striving for the contrary. I can understand this type of mistake. I've made it over and over during my career and most of the time, unbeknownst to me.

This said, I hope that she gets some constructive feedback, the one she can act upon in order to improve her delivery. Regrettably, that is the kind of response a budding leader never really receives as it always gets “filtrated” at its source...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


On this April's fool day, I had decided to forgo skiing and quietly stay home as the weather wasn't that nice. I went instead at my accountant's place to drop some tax paperwork.

A sign on the office door said “Use other door”. I did; it wouldn't open. Inside the girl laughed. She had got me!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Enough is enough!

Today, I'm making two landmark decisions: No more running in the morning and no more skiing. Both are time consuming, hard on my body and just too stressful. Instead,

I'll watch more TV, stay longer in bed, spend more time on Facebook and let my mind wander around. I've been an advocate of change forever and this turn in my lifestyle is totally consistent with my overall life philosophy.

It's a timely move and I'm glad I made it.