Saturday, November 30, 2013

How forgetful can I be?

Last night, I was woken up by one of my dream. Some time ago, I had signed a lease for a commercial retail space at Canyons ski resort and had totally forgotten about that transaction.

As I happened to find myself at the ski area for opening day, someone asked why I had not opened yet my shop? I was dumbfounded, couldn't come up with a good answer... How could I have forgotten!

Friday, November 29, 2013

The wisdom (?) of low profile ski tips

Yesterday, as I was riding the chairlift, I noticed a pair of Völkl skis with a very shallow tip and thought, “I wonder how the skier can't avoid plowing in when he runs into a sudden change in terrain or a nasty bump?”
The answer to that question is that the absence of sufficiently turned up shovel makes any ski downright hazardous. A good friend of mine became quadriplegic when his flat-tip Scott ski got straight into a big bump and threw him violently forward, breaking his neck.

Of course, generously turned up skis are out of style and some could argue that the flatter the tip the less resistance to snow in powder, not to mention a reduced moment of inertia.

I won't mention the fact that it's also much easier to manufacture a flat ski than a ski with any kind of form, but as a skier who has gone too many times “over the handlebar” in a wide variety of snow and terrain conditions, I'd say, make sure there's sufficient tip turning up before you buy your next pair of ski...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Seeing the forest from the trees

Details always end up grabbing our attention when in fact we should always be able to maintain a trained eye on the big picture, the 30,000 feet view or viewing the forest from the tree.

Yet, the searing pain of the moment, the fleeting anger or the recurring disappointment never fail to take us off course and end up upside down when their impact on our whole life picture is merely a tiny bump on the road. This is another area that takes some discipline, constant training and sharp focus to become another good habit that will help us move where we want to go.

 A deep and wide ranging sense of perspective is not a native quality that come to us, but another fundamental habit that requires forming through continued awareness and determination...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Beginning with what's less attractive

Often, like the vast majority of individuals, I gravitate towards tasks or activities that have the most appeal for me. Things I like to do over ones I dread or I have little attraction for. Chores and unpleasant matters are tossed aside and left for “later.”

This precisely is where the problem lies. We get distracted by “fun-to-do” stuff at the expense of “must-do” endeavors and we let this happen with any form of regularity, we get deep into a hole and worst of all, we constantly feel terrible.

If I have succeeded in mastering many useful management techniques, I still have my work cut out for me with that one and need to get working on it as soon as possible.

This effort alone might get me almost 99% into total peace of mind. This would truly be wonderful, and I mean it very seriously!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More ski testing...

Sunday was the turn for my pair of Rossignol S3 “rock skis” to hit the snow in my second day on skis this season. While they're said to be “an all-mountain powder ski with an award-winning blend of versatility and float...”, the skis were a bit longer and heavier than the Salomons I tested the day before and felt more stable and a tad more maneuverable.

In fact, quite predictably, the other skis were lighter, shorter, therefore quicker and easier to move around. My take-away from this couple of tests is that buying skis at the annual ski-swap can be a wonderful deal if we know ski gear and have a clear idea of what you need.

Once more I enjoyed my couple of hours on skis and upgraded these two pairs of “rock skis” to almost “spanking brand new skis” and I will take as good care of them as I would if these boards came out of the box. Okay, what happened to my rock skis now?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Testing the $40 skis...

Saturday was ski opening day in Park City, so I patiently waited till 1:30 pm, drove to the parking lot, found a spot that had just been vacated by some early day skiers, parked my auto, walked 50 feet to the First Time lift and was on my way.

My main goal was not only to check if I still was snow-worthy, but mostly to test one of the two pair of “rock skis” that I had purchased at the Ski Swap, earlier this month. That day, I picked the cheapest of the two pairs, the Salomon XW Tornado that only cost me $40, with a pristine base and edges on which I mounted an old pair of Look bindings that have migrated from skis to skis over the last 12 years. I must say that this first day back on the boards was just perfect.

The weather was so cold that it kept the crowds away, the snow was excellent, my skiing felt as good as ever and the $40 skis exceeded my wildest expectations. Since I won't race the 2014 Hahnenkamm on these boards, but use them instead to weave myself through trees and fluffy Utah powder, they'll be just fine!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Serial Fiftieth Anniversaries (continued...)

Here's another 50th birthday story that's rather unsung, but is still as important to me. At that time, I was still living in the Alps, 5,340 miles away from Park City, and just around the corner, a new ski place was being readied for that same ski season.

The place was Avoriaz, a new ski area located over Morzine, France, the brainchild of Jean Vuarnet, one of its residents and recently minted Olympic Champion. There was a brand new tram (then dubbed "the fastest in the world"), one double chair (Les Foillis), a small poma next to it and a much longer Poma up at the very top of the mountain, in Arare.

The problem was that this was the thinnest snow season over the Alps in skiers' memory. It was when the first Innsbruck Winter Olympics were held, and at the time, the Austrian army rushed to the rescue hand-carrying 1.5 million cubic feet of snow inside buckets to the skiing venues. In Avoriaz, a rugged terrain didn't allow much skiing either until March and April of 1964, when the snow finally fell in sufficient quantity to cover most rocks.

It's precisely at that time that I skied in Avoriaz for the very first time. Boy, was I impressed! I remember dreaming of getting a job up there as a “lifty”. It's most certainly at that moment that I made a mental commitment to work up there, some day in my unspoiled future. I particularly remember the “Plan Brazy” Poma, its insane lay out with its brutal right angle turn preceding an almost vertical final climb!

With these stories in mind, you can understand why this winter season and these half-century old memories hold so much meaning for me!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Serial Fiftieth Anniversaries...

After having been under the spell of the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination for weeks, it's now turn for some more joyful celebrations, but still in the same half-century category.

Opening today for the new ski season, Park City Mountain Resort continues that string of 50th celebrations that are close to my heart. Sure, I wasn't there when it opened for skiing back in 1963, but I have heard the metamorphosis of the Silver capital of Utah into the largest ski area the state (and in fact the whole North America) counts to this day.
At that time, the last surviving mining company, United Park City Mines, re-invented itself into a ski resort with the help from a federal loan meant to revive what was fast turning into another western ghost town. The $1.2 million dollars loan bought a gondola, a pair of base and summit lodges, a chairlift, a poma, and a nine-hole golf course.

The resort was called Treasure Mountain Resort. Mine company officials urged townspeople to hang on to their properties because, they they also said, "it will be valuable some day." At the time, a town lot and house were only worth about $500!

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about another 50th anniversary, still in the ski business, that's also very dear to my heart...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thinking in circles (continued...)

After researching these concentric rings – like those of trees – I discovered that it was in fact one of many adaptations of Schneiderman’s visual representation. Ben Shneiderman is a Professor in Computer Science at the University of Maryland and is the individual credited with that graphic illustration, called circles of relationships.

It shows several concentric ovals (centering on the self) that illustrate how Trust dissipates outward. As we move away from people near to us, we trust them less. Typically there are "circles" of relationships, defined by interdependence, shared knowledge, and trust:
  • Self - Personal space (security, privacy and safety) 
  • Family and Friends (small number of people with enduring relationship, high level of trust and openness) 
  • Colleagues and Neighbors (larger group of people with frequent encounters, common interest, much lower level of trust) 
  • Citizens and Markets - Culture or Nation (less interaction, little in common) 
  • Some also suggest a fifth circle representing the hostile outer world (strangers, enemies, fear and strong suspicion.) 
This illustration has been used in all sorts of... circles (pardon the pun!) and adapted for a variety of purposes ranging from children education to urban planning or theories about social media. It can also be evolved into 3-D representation when some additional parameter needs to be part of the equation.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thinking in circles

Yesterday, totally randomly, I stumbled upon a wonderful way to visualize our relationships. It began with an article in the L.A. Times about how not to say the wrong thing to people who suffer hardship, suffering or sickness. I thought the whole approach was right on target, especially with the accompanying illustration that helped visualize the whole idea.

My take-away was that the individuals (for instance, the victim or the sufferer) in the center ring could say anything they wanted to anyone, anywhere. They could complain, whine and moan all they wanted. Sure everyone else elsewhere in the external rings could say those things too, but only to those people situated in the larger rings.

The idea was that if you were talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal was to help, with the idea that often, listening well is more helpful than just talking. Basically, it means that if you're going to address a person in a ring smaller than the one you're in, ask yourself first if what you're about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, shut up!

I thought the concept was great and this lead me to dig a bit deeper into it. Tomorrow, I'll tell you what else I discovered about these circles or rings...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Reducing the dose...

Running is good for a lot of things, but probably not on the joints. So far, I've been lucky with my ankles, knees and hips, but I can't tell how long my body will be able to take that much pounding. As a result, I've decided to err on the side of prudence, save my aging body by reducing the dosage.

How much? Just a tiny bit, twenty percent or so. Will my running life be extended in the same proportion? Perhaps, but since I don't know my own longevity as a runner, what do I care? My running time will just be a tiny bit shorter, at least for the moment!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Managing inept folks...

When I ended my working career a few years ago, I was relieved to get out of managing people or “baby-sitting” them, as I used to say. I didn't know that several years later I'd find myself in the midst of the most challenging management situation I've ever encountered!

My current building project pits me against a set of characters that are woefully unrealistic, incompetent and hopeless. Yet, I have a contract with them and letting them go for non-performance wouldn't be in my very best interest, so I'm left doing the best with what I have and this takes walking a very fine line between demanding what I believe is right and not totally antagonizing the opposite party.

In four month from now, I'll be in a position to reveal the secret of my management success. Sure, I plan to win that one!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Eleven years...

That's exactly the time we've lived in our small Park City home, after spending the twelve preceding years inside a much larger dwelling. Both this home and a small one we owned for five years in Chappaqua, New York, have been our favorite residences out of six places we owned successively in France and in America.
This home is quite charming, we've put a lot of hard work into it and we simply enjoy every spent inside it. Also, it now looks pretty sure that this 12th year of ownership that begins today, could very well be the last one too. If that's the case, we'll keep fond memories of this cute house.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Internet miracle cures...

I did it again! Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me a much “recirculated” email touting some unscientific “miracle cure” and while I forewarned a few folks to whom I forwarded the wonderful tip that I had not tried it myself, I ended up with literally eggs on my face by not checking if there was any truth to the approach.

Someone suggested I did and I immediately found out that it was in fact a hoax, that the medical community had long adopted a more efficient, logical and beneficial set of recommendations. This leaves me with a new resolution: Never again will I forward a questionable story like that one without checking the facts first.

This means I'll definitely email out less junk from now on...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

How I manage my moods

When I feel that my mood is going sideways, I try to focus on the slide and watch what happens before I take any corrective action. I'm not driving on ice and can afford to take my time in order to think of a strategy.

What works for me is to imagine other people that I admire and play into my mind's eye what they would most likely do under the same circumstances. What they would do would be cool, collected and would involve the very strict minimum required, but it would keep them on track and folks standing on the sidelines like me would say: Wow!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mood management

Whether you're a top athlete or a seasoned professional, if you're able to always have a clear mind regardless of the many bothers each instant bring to you, it's one more guarantee that you'll make it to the big leagues.

Constant mood management is probably the unsung hero of success and is so difficult to embrace that no one ever tries to tame that little monster and there's not much in terms of self-help resources. Just help yourself!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Feelings, goals and strategy

Sometimes feelings get into our lives in a big way and tend to distort everything, coloring the choices we make and changing the paths we take. Generally, the younger we are and the easier it is to fall into the trap of letting our feelings dictate our decisions.

Of course, our goals - if we've set them - should be our guiding principles and get us where we want to go with the help of a tailor-made strategy. Feelings are far less powerful in the presence of a game plan and when there is a prize for us to keep our eyes upon.
So whenever you find yourself torn with conflicting thoughts, experiences or feeling, always keep a cool head, remember what the goals are, review the strategy, tinker with the mix if you must and you should be headed into the right direction!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Keeping going...

The biggest secret of a happy, fulfilling life is to look into chores as new projects, unpleasant endeavors as challenges, frightening situations as an opportunity to measure our true mettle. If we're capable of doing that at all times, nothing is ever dreary at all.

In fact this is both my credo and my modus operandi. It's not that I never feel anxious, fearful or even depressed. I do, but I try to keep this moments short and I somehow always find the resource to rebound and remind myself of what I should do instead of just wishing or dreaming or trembling. Forward is the call to action in my life and I hope that it will stay with me until my ultimate breath.
Always solving problems, anticipating steps, being ready, present, willing and looking forward to participating into this exciting life of ours...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Supply, demand and real estate sales

Today, in my little Park City neighborhood of Park Meadows there are 3 houses listed for sale under one million dollars and... 14 listed between 1 and 2 million dollars.

If you subscribe to the (logical) idea that there's a price pyramid in which the lower strata offer many more potential buyers than the top one, and then if you wonder why so many expensive homes don't sell, you quickly realize that our real estate market has a serious problem of inverted supply versus a normal demand!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ski-swap: Skis as tires...

This weekend, I paid a visit to the Park City annual ski swap. This is a really huge event. My rock skis (2 pairs) are beat up and I needed to replace them. I found one pair of 186 cm Rossi, with bindings, and one pair of Salomon 180 cm (boards only) and pay less than $250 for both.

The base and the edges looked good and that's pretty much all I care for. You see, my skis are just like car tires. You may be a fan of Michelin or prefer Continental, but let's be honest, when you've been driving for a while, if the two sets of tires are of decent quality, who cares and who can really tell the difference?

That's right, we all adapt and I'm looking forward to adapting to my new rock skis. Chances are, I'll end up using them more than my “new skis” even if we get buried under the tons of snow that we're long due to receive this coming winter!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Avoriaz ski school saga

Part 6 and final installment

Following a series of discussions with the national ski instructor association, and some steady work with our attorney, a final meeting took place on December 17, 1973, at the ski-school. I couldn't attend it as I was still in Germany completing my language course.

On that occasion, a vote was taken to decide if the excluded members of the ski-school should regain their positions within the organization or start a splinter organization on their own (this wasn't a stated option, but would have been an inevitable outcome.) The vote was rather tight, but this time reason prevailed and the three excluded members regained their membership status.

Even though they belonged to the “opposite faction”, both Anselme Baud and Danielle Couttet, his wife-to-be, voted in our favor and changed things for the better. Without their votes, we'd still be in ski-limbo! Another letter was sent, advising us this time that we were back on board. What a waste of time and energy!

The ordeal was over and with it, my motivation to carry on in the job was no longer there. I began to seriously work towards a good exit strategy. In the ensuing months, I would start looking for an inside job within the ski industry and put my career of “selling turns” to a final, "hockey-style" stop.

In many ways, I look at these moments as a blessing in disguise that got me out of that seasonal activity and opened the portals of an exciting, diversified and rewarding career; a very good move that, in retrospect, I wouldn't have missed for everything. Today, this story is well behind me, the hard-feeling are long gone, all is forgiven and that's the end of the story!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Avoriaz ski school saga

Part 5 

The letter written the day before was mailed to me, just forty years ago, on November 9, 1973. It was letting me know that I was kicked out of the Avoriaz ski school, for no apparent reason. I have never been fired from a job, except in this instance. Further, as a ski-school member, I was an independent contractor and the organization was set up as a limited partnership, with the elected director acting as a general partner. 
Nothing in the by-laws allowed Mr. Pernet to fire me unilaterally, arbitrarily, without warning and hearing as he did. I was also not the only one let go. My soon to be brother-in-law, Xavier Guiot and Henri Marullaz also received the same letter. To this day, I still wonder what went into Claude Pernet's brain when he mailed these letters? Probably not much good, because it took a great deal of cowardness and mean spirit to compose these notices and mail them out.

My memory remains pretty vague on this entire episode. Today, I still can't remember how I felt exactly. I might have thought that the move was so egregious that we would easily wiggle our way out of that situation and regain our standing in the ski-school. I certainly don't remember being worried. I might have already left for Tübingen, Germany, when the letter reached my home, and for a while, ignorance must have been pure bliss!

If I wasn't overly concerned, I was simply as mad as hell!

To be continued...

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Avoriaz ski school saga

Part 4 

I really don't clearly remember the details of the 1972-1973 winter season, perhaps because it was so dreary that my memory didn't care to hold them long enough. The only bright news was that I had been named the French Demo Team, trained with it, and went to Sweden in December. This, if anything, re-inforced my status inside the ski-school.

At any rate, I got to the spring season totally exhausted, both physically and mentally. I had originally planned to return to Mt. Buller in Australia and switch from the French to the Austrian ski school but was so down that I finally decided to stay in the Alps.

Instead, I first went to Paris to sell Duret skis for a month (instead of “selling” it was mostly visiting potential dealers.) I didn't sell one single pair of ski, but still learned a lot and discovered that part of my future might lay in the hard-goods side of the ski industry.

Then, in June, I decided to travel to Grainau, Bavaria, to learn German. I got a job in that picturesque summer resort as a waiter but didn't have the fortitude to stay and I returned to France to help my brother at his retail store. Early September, we had a new executive committee in which we felt that the process was rigged. We protested. On September 27, 1973, we attended a hearing at the ski instruction association's headquarters in Grenoble, in an attempt to resolve the dispute, but nothing came out of it. A few weeks later, on October 11, I finally threw in the towel and resigned from the executive committee.

Tensions continued to escalate inside the ski school and while I can no longer remember the details, I decided to return to southern Germany in the fall to take a six-week language course and learn German. All my off-winter projects began to form ideas in my mind that would eventually ease me out of instructing.

To be continued...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Avoriaz ski school saga

Part 3

The June 3rd election turned the tables and with some subtle changes in voters' elligibility, paved the way to another slim victory by the Edmond Denis supporters.  That time, Claude Pernet was elected at the helm of the ski school with Jacques Simon becoming the technical director. I remained as a member of the executive committee. We forcefully protested the election procedure and the results that were forced onto us, but the ski instructor association wouldn't hear any of it.

On Saturday, August 12, 1972, as I was instructing skiing for yet another ski season down under, I received a telegram advising me of the death of Dominique Mollaret, our short-lived ski school director. It happened on the Italian side of the Mont-Blanc while he was repelling solo on the North Face of l'Aiguille de Peuterey. This news shocked me, both because I knew Dominique and also because we had just lost a hard-won leader.

When I returned home in October, it was upheaval all over again, with even more boiled up anger on all sides. When I returned, we retained an attorney and on October 17, 1972, sent a letter to the ski instruction association, protesting officially was were to us the "rigged" election results in St. Gervais.

From that point forward, I could only envision some massive retribution, but still kept on fighting as a member of the executive committee. Subconsciously, I saw the writing on the wall and understood that my ski instructor career might come to an end sooner than later. For the first time in my entire life, I began to mentally draft a plan for the rest of my life.

I kept on working like a dog, hoisting myself as the number two producer in the school, continued to play hard and juggle with my minority leadership role and hatred for politics. Another bitter winter that was portend of worst things to come...

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Avoriaz ski school saga

Part 2 

When I returned from my ski season in Australia, I was made aware of the sneaky purchase of that commercial space by a handful of our associates. Filled with my youth, passion and sharp focus, I didn't think twice and became one of the lead activists.
I was not even fully certified, but was made to believe that I had what it took to be leading the charge. Immediately, a huge chasm formed between the two camps and the once fun atmosphere that prevailed among us turned into poison.

Through family and friendly ties, the two factions where about equal in numbers. At the time I was playing hard but also working hard, putting some 8 hours teaching, each day, yet I mustered enough energy to become a watchdog on the executive committee.

At the end of an unpleasant season, a new director was elected on April 21, 1972, by a slim majority and the “offenders” where sidelined. The new head of the ski school was Dominique Mollaret, also a mountain guide, while his sidekick, performing the duties of technical director was no other than Henri Marullaz.

This election result was soon challenged by the opposite faction that lodged a protest before the French ski instructor association. In a letter dated May 22, 1972, the later ruled that, if the electoral process was consistent with the Avoriaz ski school by-laws, it wasn't in accordance with the rules proposed by the association. As a result, a new vote was ordered for the following June 3, in St. Gervais, near Chamonix.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Avoriaz ski school saga

Part 1

As most readers know, I used to teach skiing at the Avoriaz ski school in France.

In the Fall of 1971 a major crisis pit two halves of what used to be a fun workplace against each other. The reason for all that upheaval was that, earlier on, Edmond Denis, the ski school director, had suggested that it would be a good idea for all the members of the ski school to purchase in common a commercial real estate space, next to the ski-school, designated to be a bar, right on the ski-in, ski-out tram plaza.

For some obscure reasons, the deal was made in the summer or fall of 1971 and didn't include the whole ski-school as promised, but rather 3 or 4 of its members including Edmond Denis.

This triggered a fury from two other ski instructors, Henri Marullaz and François Baud, who both began to steer the pot in an attempt to rally opponents to what was perceived by many as a betrayal by some...

To be continued...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Moderate Islam? Think again!

The clip below is a good reminder that Islam, like most religions, is deeply perverted and that under the guise of doing good, it wants to force its views on the rest of us. In that video, the Chairman of Islam Net, Fahad Ullah Qureshi asked a series of key questions to an audience of Sunni Muslims, in Norway, that did not consider themselves as radicals or extremists.

Yet, when asked, all believed that sex segregation was the right thing to do, (both men and women agreeing). They supported stoning or whatever punishment Islam or prophet Muhammad ordered for adultery or any other crime. They even believed that these barbaric practices should be implemented around the world. This clearly tells us that extremism is part and parcel Islam.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

First tracks, last ride?

This morning was one of those typical early winter, snowy days in Park City and after a wonderful ride yesterday, I decided to still get out on my mountain-bike for what could be the last ride of the season.

This would be my 68th outing, so I have managed to ride more than my age, one more season! Riding on one inch of snow is an incredible experience, I got “first tracks” all the way, and that aside from another spill (at 34' on the video) all went famously well.

It might now be wise to literally “switch gear” and move from bike to skis!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Creative power

There's something in my house that has been bothering me for a long time. I won't get into the details of what it is, but suffice to say that it's some device that had been installed in total disregard for convenience.

For years, I've been wondering how to improve it, but couldn't come up with a “clean” solution. Suddenly, yesterday, when I revisited the issue and decided to do something about it, a solution suddenly came to light, obvious, much better and totally unrelated to the various schemes I had been contemplating.

In fact it went in the opposite direction as my intuitive thoughts! It was the kind of flash that makes us say “why didn't I think of it?” You get what I mean: The wonder of creativity!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween Stats

“Trick or treaters” traffic on any given Halloween night should be seen as a measure of a community vitality in particular and of the national economy in general.

Since I have no great things to measure, I've been keeping track of these numbers since 2006 and I'm glad to report a significant uptick since last year after hitting an all-years low in 2009.

What does this mean? More kids, more young family, more healthy growth, a slow but steady economic recovery, Vail Resort coming to town? All are very good reasons for a recovering Halloween Traffic Index that bodes well for Park City's future!