Sunday, August 31, 2014

Putin's Kiss, or how we get influenced...

There's not better time in life to be influenced than during our teens and early twenties. And depending on what influences us at that moment, the process can have some devastating effects on our lives.

While not really outstanding, this Danish produced documentary about Putin's Youth Movement put its finger on some bad choices that can happen at the confluence of smooth talking recruiters and a desire to stand for something or to exhibit some personal leadership.

Many of us have gone through those rough moments and their questionable choices, a lack of thorough comparison and the absence of critical thinking!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Have you reached your peak yet?

When do we reach our physiological peak? Is it at 30 years as most say, or is it sometime later - even much later, as we really start feeling it inside our aging body? I think it probably is the later.

This said there's a point where the descent begins and we have to recognize it. We just aren't at peak level anymore and for me this happened after 63.

For those of you who are of age, when did you begin noticing that you had reached your physical peak?

Friday, August 29, 2014

The joy of editing left-over videos...

A few blogs ago, I was explaining my back-log of unedited videos sitting in my “raw footage” folder. Over the past days, I have been catching up a lot and discovering many scenes that normal folks would find “ordinary” but that I would unbiasedly qualify of “priceless!”

Editing ski video was particularly thrilling as I found a few good pieces dating back to 2011, a landmark winter both in snow quantity and fun factor. If anything, viewing all this material has exponentially whetted my ski appetite and now, I want to ski more than I've ever desired at the end of a month of August.

To top this, I've also heard that the Farmer's Almanach is predicting tons of snow this season, for whatever that's worth!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

As we age, we change

I'm not running (or cycling) as fast as when I was 30 and while I haven't been able to measure the actual drop, I can guarantee you that I can feel it. Of course, I still can ski pretty fast or go down the hill like a bullet on my bike, but my aging cardiovascular system hasn't much to do with it.

This statement of fact brings me to the notion of VO2 max (that is also known as maximal oxygen consumption) and is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise, most typically on a motorized treadmill for those of you that have undergone a so-called “stress-test”.

I haven't yet, and have no intention of killing myself for stats that my doctor may not be able to analyze to my advantage. What I just need to do is take a peek at the table and see that “I'm not the man I used to be” as one of the Beatles songs laments. My performance is at least down some 40% and maybe more, and further I don't have the foggiest idea of how my VO2 max rate was when I was 30.

That's right, that weird VO2 max unit of measurement stands for the number of liters of oxygen per minute as it relates to the relative rate in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of my body mass. Just like your car carburator... But just thinking of that complex measurement is enough to bring me to my knees, so I'll have a beer instead!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Perfect is the enemy of good

I fully embrace this saying attributed to Voltaire. Looking back at my professional career, I simply regret not having made a more liberal use of, in the many business ventures I've been involved with.

While my perfectionism was often motivated by fear or guilt, I always knew - deep inside - that something good enough was vastly preferable to something close to perfection that would have cost too much in terms of time and resources. This truth applies even more in this era of rapid change and of constant evolution. There is no superfluous time left to guild the lily, else the perfectionist is left in the dust!

Something I found on Wikipedia, and in the same vein, is a quote from George Stigler, an economist, that I relate perfectly with: "If you never miss a plane, you're spending too much time at the airport.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Beware what you wish for...

Twenty-nine years ago today, our little family arrived to Park City for the first time and three-quarter of it were deeply disappointed to see so few trees in their new town.

We just traveled from Chappaqua, New York where we lived and where trees were wall-to-wall. Today, things have changed for the worst as trees are all over the places blocking views and turning our beloved town into a rain forest.

The obvious morale of the story is “be careful what you wish for...”

Monday, August 25, 2014

We can only change the future!

It's amazing how much time we waste wondering about past outcomes that could have been changed has this or that happened or if we had made a better decision.

The use for that kind of rear-view mirror driving is to learn from past mistakes and that's about it.

The only thing we can affect is the now and the future and that's enough a lot of work if we focus on these two era without beating ourselves up with the "Shoulda Woulda Coulda" chorus...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Asking; often difficult, always necessary!

This was 45 years ago, or just about. An August day of 1969. I was working at my parents restaurant and Edmond Denis was having lunch there.

Edmond was the Avoriaz ski school director and I dreamed of having a job there. I didn't know him, but following my brother's advice, I mustered all the courage I had then (which wasn't much), went to him and asked him if I could have a job at his ski school.

He replied: “Send over an application, show up at our October meeting and we'll let you know.” That was all I needed; deep inside I knew it was one of my (many) key tickets in life...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Park City Showcase of Homes

As we did last year, we signed up for the Park City Showcase of Home that enables us to take a peak inside 18 homes spread between town and its outskirts.

So far, we've seen about half of them and we have nothing new to report expect perhaps some funky, charming but unpractical architecture at one end of the spectrum with some huge, airport like, modern homes that we certainly couldn't afford at the other extreme!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Visitors from France

Today we were fortunate to have the visit of Jacques Guillaume who came to see us from France with his wife Jaja by ways of the National Parks located south of Park City. I had not seen Jacques in more than 30 years and he was still the same – except, just like me, for a few hairs missing on top of his head.

As always, we reminisced about the good old days at Look and the great people we knew and worked with. What I had totally forgotten though is that I gave Jacques his job with Look, that of the on-hill binding tester. A dream job that took him all over the world and got him started in the wholesale end of the ski industry.

Today Jacques is still teaching skiing, racing slalom and riding 7,500 miles a year on his road bike!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back in the market?

The US stock market has been doing phenomenally well lately. I measure my words “phenomenally...” By all measures, today's market is overvalued. By how much? Some 3%. Will its evaluation fall (I've not said “will the market fall”)? Probably. Will it go back up? Definitely. Then what's an investor to do?
Look at historical data; in case of doubt stay in the market, if not invested, buy on “dips”, keeping in mind that the biggest dips were 55% in 2009 (yes, the market was 45% below true valuation then - what a fantastic opportunity to buy!)

If you want to sell, watch for the market to get overvalued to 105% or 106% (it went up to 114% during some “bubbles”) and then patiently wait for it to get to minus something and then purchase! This said, buying on an elusive dip is always very challenging!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Battle of Ski Companies

Today, the conflict between Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) reached a new level as it made it to the New York Times. Even though it is generally accepted that “all publicity is good publicity” I don't think it quite applies to Park City economics.

This said, I remain confident that the Cumming family, the owner of PCMR, will come to the negotiating table ready and well prepared to extract the most outrageous consideration from Vail Resorts. Even though its CEO Bob Katz is known to be a fierce negotiator, the Cumming family has a lot that Vail needs desperately to make their astounding “lease” with Talisker work.

At the end of the day, Ian Cumming, the patriarch, who knows business well, will get more than the total assets of its resort are worth by selling or leasing them to its opponent. The bottom line though, is that the entire Park City community will win even bigger!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Massage of France

The person front and center in French health-care isn't a doctor or a surgeon; it's a masseur or a masseuse. Any remedy, recovery and rehab protocol seems to involve the hand treatment of these professionals that are as ubiquitous in France as an Advil or a Tylenol is to an American.

The liberal French health-care system that requires virtually no co-pay and gladly picks up a taxi fare to the most remote hospital has hooked its citizens on massage, until – it's just a matter of time - it will finally run out of money!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Video back-log

Yesterday, as I had not much going on, I've came to realize that a significant video footage was still lingering in my “raw footage folder.” That's when I begun to step in and did something about organizing these random shots into video form that made more sense.

I began with last Christmas and I'm still working on winter stuff. With some luck I should be through that project by next week. You see, building our new home not only had a disastrous effect on my skiing, but it also substantially slowed down my cinematic projects. Now, that I realize the hole I've fallen into, it's only right that I start some clean-up of my own.

What was great, though, was to discovered how memories are fleeting and how some seemingly memorable episodes - just a few months ago - appeared to have been long forgotten. Let me also add that preserving little, fun memories is just what creating family movies is all about!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Guess who came for dinner?

It shouldn't be news to the readers of that blog. I regularly interact with Jesus through Skype. So it wasn't long before Jesus accepted an invitation for dinner. Unlike what you would expect, he didn't make an “apparition”.

As one official in Heaven had mentioned to me earlier, “We don't let our senior executive do 'apparitions' anymore. It's too complicated and requires to much paperwork after the fact; we've bought a few drones and we take them where they're needed. No need for pilot or crew, no fuss!”

So I wasn't surprised when I saw a one-passenger, flying-saucer drone, parking in our driveway late afternoon yesterday. We were all uptight and I had prepared a few “talking points” for the occasion. Gaza, Ebola, Ukraine and ISIS, to name a few. Then we had dinner. My wife had prepared some delicious rabbit along with sauteed potatoes, green beans fresh from the market, salad from our veggie garden and we drank a bottle of Argentinian Malbec. For dessert, we had Häagen-Dazs ice cream.

We ate on our covered deck and when it was time to leave, Jesus said: “The dinner was delicious, but the conversation was such a bore! Life isn't that fun at home, so when I make the effort to come to Park City, I'd like to talk about skiing, mountain-biking and hear a few dirty jokes...”

As he closed the hatch of the drone, he added: “You guys better make some substantive efforts!” Not knowing what else to say, I answered: “We'll do our best, I promise...”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hillary Clinton for 2016?

I think Hillary is super smart and is probably behind her husband getting elected in 1992, but I'm not looking forward to having her as my president in 2016.

First, I'm against “dynasties.” The Bush one was enough to show that the “like father, like son” theory is fraught with high danger.

Second, I think Hillary's priority is to get elected, not to roll out a good plan for America (she's hasn't got any at the moment) and lastly, there's a mean, snappy side in her that I don't like at all that takes away the respect I should have for her.

Oh, yes, there's also the fact she's a woman? We've got plenty of American women better qualified than her, and this, in and of itself, isn't a good reason to be elected president.

Just my two-cent.

Friday, August 15, 2014

“La Vallée Ronde”: A cool concept!

Next to my house is a wonderful open-space area named “Round Valley” where we mostly go to for mountain-biking.

Getting there is much work though, and since we're no longer in our twenties, we wish that there would be more "old-folks-friendly"trails that are more in tune with what feel comfortable doing, namely featuring low grade (up to 4-5% incline maximum) and all dirt instead of rocks that are more technically difficult and always intimidating...
Add to this the fact that this would be a wonderful platform for would-be-mountain-bikers to get to know the sport and develop the basic skills that could take them to more technical trails. To perhaps enhance the user-friendly aspect of the trail, it could be made unidirectional?

We wouldn't need to build a brand new trail, but rather add access spurs and “borrow” existing easy sections and add them to the whole, to create “La Vallée Ronde”. Like Chamonix has its Vallée Blanche, Park City would have its own “Vallée Ronde”!

This idea and vision, that has come to me over almost a decade of riding as a “mature sportsman”, would be a terrific project that could maximize the potential of this open-space and would contribute to making Park City even more of mountain-bike mecca than it is today.

Further, it would do that not too many folks think of doing these days, that is aggressively marketing to the greying Americans, the ones that have a significant disposable income at the moment. So hold your breath and stay tuned...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When sunny is bad and cloudy, best

If you mountain-bike, chances are you'll do it early in the morning or late afternoon, when the sun is often at a blinding angle and shadows are overly long, making for stark contrast between sunny and shady sections of the trail and seriously limiting visibility, particularly in those vegetated single tracks.
Since mountain-biking is all about visibility, this can be annoying and that's why we always welcome an overcast day, because it makes for a shadowless, well contrasted view. In the American West where sun is king from June through October, riding on cloudy days is rare and priceless!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A smart product design!

I just purchased a heavy-duty steel shelving “Husky” unit at Home Depot that looked good and seemed that it would fit perfectly inside my garage. As we managed to fit the rather large, assemble-it-yourself box in my wife's Mini, I thought that I would struggle – as always – assembling another “tinker-toy.”

To my great surprise, I unpacked the lose collection of metal parts over my garage brand new epoxy floor and found that just a mallet was needed for assembly. Then, after reading and following the instructions, without using one single screw, nut or bolt – just my rubber mallet, the whole shelving stood up completely finished in less time it took me to write this blog.

Excellent engineering at work; I still can't believe how impressed I am!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The bike doctor makes house calls...

For the past three years, I've seen that van, always parked by a house in my neighborhood, with that unique paint job that proclaimed: “Flying Sprocket, mobile bicycle repairs”. I never thought much about it, until two things happened.

First a friend of mine, who is also a neighbor, told me to try this service and then, this past Saturday, as we were on our way to another early-morning mountain-bike ride, a terrible noise came out of nowhere around my back wheel and I couldn't quite figure what it was. A rider descending in the opposite direction stopped and offered to help me; he looked briefly at my bike, pulled his Allen-wrench off his pocket, loosen a few screws and told me “your brake pads are gone.” I had just encountered the “Flying Sprocket Doc...” 
I returned home and the first thing I did was to set up an appointment with the man for the following Monday. At 2 pm yesterday, Troy Michaud showed up in his van and took the time to take care of my bike. He just didn't work solely on the back brakes, but the front ones as well, changed a paper-thin rear disk brake rotor too and some cables that were frayed.

The job was done on the spot, by my house and to perfection! Troy also shares the same last name as my brother in law, Jean Marc Michaud, back in France, but knows a lot more about bikes than my relative will ever do. Troy Michaud used to be a road bike racer before becoming a mechanic and that wonderful family-bike doctor now makes house-calls for a living...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tour of Utah concludes in Park City!

As one of five major North American pro cycling events this year, the Tour of Utah showcases some of the world’s most prestigious teams and cyclists for seven days. It started in Cedar City on August 4 and worked its way North to finish in Park City on August 10.

Just like the Tour de France concludes on Paris' Champs Elysees, it was only fitting that its last stage begins and ends on Park City's Historic Main Street after covering more than 750 miles, all at very high altitude and climbing over 57,000 feet!

This last 78-mile stage rolls out of Park City into some nice rural rural roads that soon leave place for some grueling climbs well over 9,000 feet. Huge crowds in historic Park City on lower Main Street were greeting the racers.

The Australian Cadel Evans, from the BMC Racing Team won the stage, while the American Thomas Danielson, from Team Garmin-Sharp won the entire event. If you have missed this year's Tour of Utah, make sure to include this wonderful event in your schedule for next summer!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Difference between what I like and hate to do...

Most of what I do, I like to do. This makes some sense; it this wasn't true, I wouldn't and shouldn't do it. Most importantly though, is what I like to do is also something I know how to do well. Things I adore doing, I know them profoundly and can execute them extremely well.
This of course, leaves me with all the other chores I don't like to do. For the most part, it's not because they're horrible, it's simply because I don't know HOW to do them well or I haven't developed YET a process for them.

In order to love everything that comes my way, I must educate myself to these issues I ignore. What an outlook, what a program, what a concept!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The empty lot

More than one-and-a-half year ago, we set our sights on an empty lot that, we felt, might work to receive our new home. At that point, this was just a vague idea. That lot had sat empty ever since the subdivision was drawn up, in the late seventies.
There are two neighbors on each sides of the lot that purchased their home between six and eleven years ago, and until we started to build on this vacant, 12,000 square foot lot, it was some wonderful open space where their respective dogs could play and where they could throw their unwanted grass clippings, discarded Christmas trees and the like.

Obviously, since we've begun to disturb that freewheeling way of life and moved into our house, the good old days are hard to forget and resentment towards the new comers can still be felt at times. As my wife once suggested to one of the neighbors: “Why didn't you buy that empty lot?” Obviously, they didn't and today they must live with us, their new permanent fixture...

Friday, August 8, 2014

Stuck on epoxy

Epoxy resins are a class of reactive prepolymers and polymers. These resins may be reacted either with themselves through catalytic homopolymerisation, or with a wide range of co-reactants.

These co-reactants are often known as hardeners or curatives, and the cross-linking reaction is referred to as curing. The ski industry, through my good friend Michel Duret, is what introduced me to this material, that smells so intensely and stubbornly sticks to your fingers before it finally hardens.

Epoxy wasn't quite born yesterday; invented in 1927 and then licensed to Ciba of Switzerland in 1936 and then sold to Hunstman Chemical a local Utah company. All skis using fiberglass are bonded with epoxy. Yesterday and today, I'm literally bathing in epoxy as I'm busy coating my garage floor in that magic material; an awful, big job, but definitely worth doing, plus it smells 100% ski business!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The extraordinary block party

Our neighbors' house dominate the block like no other ones. It has expansive views, is the largest one and arguably the most decorated and ornate residence, not to mention the awesome rock-scape surrounding it like a moat!

So, this Tuesday, about 150 guests, friends and neighbors were invited to celebrate the completion of their regal landscaping and, just as simply, the apex of summer.

Big party, with Motherlode, the local band, playing Park City-approved tunes, and a large, fun and very diverse company. The stormy weather, quite capricious, threw a few fireworks here and there, graced us with a double-rainbow, but still let us have plenty of good fun...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Current conflicts seen by extraterrestrials...

Sometimes, we get so close, so brainwashed and so biased about current international events that we can no longer think “straight.” It might help us to place ourselves in the “shoes” of some aliens that would see what's going on in our world for the very first time.

What would an alien think of the Gaza massacre, of Putin's interventions by proxy into Ukraine or of these thousands of kids entering the US? It might respond in ways that might shock us or perhaps enlighten us. We might be surprised in comparing its reactions to what we think and to what the general media tries to tell us...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Basset vs. Mini Cooper

Yesterday, as my wife was driving back from the post office, she noticed a sixty-something man pushing a baby carriage, walking in the opposite direction, while holding his dog on a leash and talking, his cell phone wedged between his shoulder and his ear.

“Distracted,” by road-safety standards, would have been an understatement! She slowed down as she passed him and recognized him as the grand-father of a seven-month old baby who is actually our neighbor's son.

Suddenly she heard a thumping noise on the right side of her Mini Cooper and when she looked in her mirror she could only see something looking like a teddy bear in the middle of the road. She pulled over, walked back to the scene of the impact and found out that it was that same neighbor's basset dog, that had been wondering along with the rest of his group, unleashed.

He had crossed the road without looking and had hit the right wheel of my wife's auto and got pinned down between the lower body of the car and the asphalt. When she and the grandpa examined the dog, the poor pooch wasn't walking and his rear end looked scrapped to the skin and badly damaged. The grandpa remained optimistic and said “don't worry, he'll make it!”

We still notified the owner of the incident by sending him a message. He responded soon thereafter: “The dog should have been on a leash, no one's fault.  Unfortunately, he did not make it.  He was 11 and lived a good life.  It was just his time to go.  Please let Evelyne know that this was not her fault. These things happen...”

His response made us feel a whole lot better and latter on that evening, his wife brought us flowers to further alleviate the trauma. What a day!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Where's the bias in ski testing?

Last night we had dinner at some acquaintances and one of the conversations drifted on the perennial theme of “what's the best ski?” It made me thinking about the difficulty, the oddity and the absurdity of ski testing as I have witnessed it when I still was in the ski business.

No matter the tester's background or technical acumen, everyone was bringing their bias. For instance, if you'd normally ski on slalom, GS or just fat skis, you'd be likely to project your that bias on the ski you're testing. The reference remained your “preferred, day-to-day” ski to which you had adapted, and the new ski you'd be testing would only perform “as compared” to your daily boards.

Say what you want, but there's no escaping that reality. We adapt to our skis and we fall into that rut. Just keep this observation in mind when you start reading this season's ski-test results. There is much more BS than just meet the eye. Stay wary, read through the lines and most importantly, stick to your guns!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Another Park City Arts Festival...

This weekend is a big deal in Park City, with its annual Park City Kimball Arts Festival on Main Street. We went on Friday night to check out the work of more than 200 artists, including 70 that were new to the event.

While we were looking for something to put on some available space, at home, we didn't know exactly what it was and, of course, didn't find it!

I liked some “see-through” animals that displayed their inside organs and bio-mechanics, but my wife wasn't so sure. I might have to create this elusive piece of art myself...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Getting my fair share of tar

Last week, as an asphalt company was repaving a neighborhood street, they parked one of their smaller size truck next to our home. When the work shift was over, the truck left its parking location, but instead of turning around the block - a very easy task – its lazy driver chose to turn around on our brand-new driveway laid with pavers.

Of course, the tires smeared those with fresh asphalt and after some picture-taking, back and forth communication with the paving company and the City, I got a sizable check for my pain of cleaning up the tar residues left on my property. The morale of the story is to always do what it takes, right away, stand for your rights and get something in return!

Friday, August 1, 2014

See Tabiona before you check-out!

In my bathroom, there's that book titled “1000 places to see before to die” and there is just one spot missing, it's Tabiona, a typical, tiny Utah village, lost in the middle of nowhere. 
So, while I've yet to visit Persipolis, yesterday, we finally took a trip to Tabiona, located a mere 75 minutes from Park City. A friend of mine, who owns a second residence there inspired the visit of the village populated by less than 200 people.

Named for a Ute tribe Chief, Tabby-To-Kwanah, it sits like an oasis in the midst of the wilderness but, for the moment anyway, we've decided that it's not quite for us.