Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The gift of forgiveness

Just ten days ago – totally out of the blue – I set to embark on forgiving all the old grudges, unsettled accounts and other negative “baggage” that were encumbering my mind and requiring painful and tiresome, periodic “maintenance”.

Sure, I'm still working out the details of that process and fine tuning it the best I can, but I already can declare that the move has been quite liberating. To illustrate it best, it's comparable to erasing bad files off a computer memory in order to make room for good ones.

As my methodology develops, I'll try to share a few tidbits. In the meantime, think seriously about making that empowering move – unless you've made it well before me!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Leaves, altitude and latitude

This past week up in North Country was rather disappointing as far as Fall colors went. While Jackson Hole's aspen (43 degree latitude and 6,200 ft high) was still flaming and gorgeous, it wasn't quite the same story further North in Red Lodge, Montana (45 degree and 5,560 ft high) where leaves had already passed their prime.

When we returned to Park City, Utah (40 degree and 7,000 ft high) leave colors were about to peak. So remember, same relationship between changing leave colors and snow cover!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Brain-storming with Einstein

There's an art gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming that displays famous people from Mark Twain, to Benjamin Franklin or even Abraham Lincoln sitting on public benches and welcoming some company.
We too wanted to join in this form of inspiration and picked Albert Einstein. He asked me, “what do you think of my theory?” I replied: “It's all relative”. He muttered “Get of here!”

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Unexpected ski-lifts at Beartooth Pass, MT!

Beartooth Basin is one of these ski areas like no other. We found it on our descent from Beartooth Pass. There are two surface lifts serving a ravine topping at 10,900 ft and serving a 1,000 vertical bowl and 600 acre of skiable terrain varying in pitch from 15 to 50 degrees.
This place used to be where the Red Lodge International Summer Ski Camp was held. It used to be headed by Austrians Pepi Gramshammer, Eric Sailer and Anderl Molterer in the 1960's and is arguably one of North America’s oldest alpine ski training areas. I'm glad we stumbled upon it !

Today a newer ownership group has revived the place and in early summer is staffed with professional ski patrol and and lift attendants just as any other ski area, but with a summer like setting above 10,000 feet that can sometimes turn to winter at a moments notice. You might call it back-country skiing with a lift!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Where's the bear?

Now that we've seen quite a good number of bisons, we feel a lot better. Tonight, as dusk was falling as we were strolling around the the geyser paths around the Old Faithful Inn, in Yellowstone Park, I came up with what I thought was a clever joke each time we encountered anyone.
The joke went like this: “Be careful, there a bear coming behind you...” The results were quite varied from angst to “who the hell cares” but it procured us a tremendous lot of fun!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How many wildlife have we seen?

Our first day traveling through Yellowstone has been rather disappointing. We saw no single bison, not even one wolf and just one raven, but we run into thousands of Chinese tourists. Sign of the times?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jackson Hole, centenarian

It took me to get to Jackson Hole, to realize that the little cowboy, mountain town just turned 100 years. Same birth date as the beginning of the great war. The more I come up to this special spot in Wyoming, the less I'm impressed.

Traffic has become a nightmare, even at the end of September and the town and its back-alleys aren't kept that well anymore. At least Park City looks one hundred time better and yet, is pushing one hundred and thirty. Not bad for an old lady!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How far can Bode Miller go?

Recently, Bode Miller signed a contract with a helmet and protective equipment gear through the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang. I'm not writing Bode off completely, but am nonetheless wondering if his commitment, training and general focus will have a hard time hoisting him upon a podium this winter season.
Over the past decade, we've been looking at a slow fading away of Mr Miller, whom I think is now in his final phase of milking his remaining endorsement power. Don't get me wrong, I count amongst Bode Miller's fans. Well, we'll see. I know, I've been wrong before and, just like Bode, I'm not often acting my age either!

Monday, September 22, 2014

France: Is Sarkozy back?

As an incumbent, French president Sarkozy lost against François Hollande who, by most accounts, was a much worse candidate. Today, the latter is quickly becoming the worst president France ever had since the end of World War II.

Now, as he sees a vacuum because of Hollande lackluster performance and also because his own party is imploding, Sarkozy would like to return and first begin his re-entry into the political scene by getting elected head of UMP, his party.
Yesterday, I saw him made a case for it on French television. “Sarko”, as the French call him, launched into a piece of demagoguery that was grotesque and convinced me that he should now stay out of politics. He has no specific plan to lead his country and he's just acting like a consummate politician but a very poor salesman.

Further, the man has been involved into many scandals that he has managed to swipe under the rug and that might still bite him in the rear end, sooner than later. The problems that hail France are complex and can only be resolved by the French themselves, if and when they accept to cut deep into their own public service expenses to partly repair their situation, among other difficult actions that must be taken.

I still believe that France needs a moderate, center-right and don't hope anything from its brand of socialism. I further think that among the UMP party, there are some good leaders like Bruno Le Maire or François Fillion that would do a much better job than Sarko to clean up the party's act and redefine its platform and enlarge it towards the center.

If the French people allow Sarkozy back, they'll pave the way to an extreme right party victory and put Marine Le Pen into power. Just my two-cent.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

More on forgiveness...

In accounting terms, forgiveness is just like writing off a bad debt. If you keep it lingering, it never fails to come back with its full charge of bad vibes.

“Kill it” or write it off, it's off your books and it's soon forgotten. I probably will have to make a list of all the pardons I made yesterday for mostly trivial stuff, but I'm certainly glad I did.

In the meantime, I need to remember them all; not to reminisce them, but to remind myself that it's completely over and that it would be an emotional as well as a time waste to revisit the issue!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Forgiveness Day

Just before Autumn strikes, I did something really huge. Very early this morning, as I laid awake in my bed, I decided to embark on a forgiveness spree and I began scanning my lifetime from as early as I could remember through this very day.

It's not that I'm a guy who holds a lot of grudges, but I still had some left-over resentment for a few individuals that bothered me here and now. I examined each one of these pending cases and, very unconsciously, I extinguished all animosity once and for all.

It took me a good hour to go through my entire lifetime and when I was done, I felt happy, unburdened and totally liberated.

I even found the time to forgive myself for all the unforgivable stuff I have committed. Now I'm ready to begin a new season with a quiet and peaceful outlook!

Friday, September 19, 2014

When “Epoxy Man” screws up!

Yesterday, I coated my mechanical room with Epoxy to make it look good, clean and finished. Since it's only 80 sq ft, I used a portion of a kit intended for 500 sq ft. So I prorated the mix between adhesive and hardener to the closest percent, got everything ready, took my time and thought I had thought about everything.

After stirring the mixture and starting to spread it, I couldn't see much of the beige color I was expecting. Most of the coat I spread was almost clear and failed to cover the dark slab surface. I couldn't understand what went wrong.

An hour or so later, it dawned on me that after pouring 15 cl of the clear hardener, I poured 45 cl of the colored adhesive, but forgot to stir the container and the pigments had stayed at the bottom! Today, I'll redo a second, colored coat and all will look good. Live and learn!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A terrific reason to play...

I still love to play in spite of my age. Not card games, not video games, but I love to ski, mountain-bike and doing a host of fun things.

So yesterday, when I stumbled upon that quotation from George Bernard Shaw, it got my full attention: “We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
I said to myself, this is just me; I must be on the right track, I suddenly felt fully justified from my playful lifestyle and it made my day. Now, I just need to keep on playing!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


We have neighbors that look, walk, ski, bike and do things like most healthy people and yet show a “handicapped parking sign” on the windshields of their two vehicles.

It's fair to wonder what ails them, but suffice to say that in Utah, such tags are given to people who can't walk 200 feet without stopping to rest, use braces, canes, crutches, use portable oxygen or have some other clear physical limitation that I can't seen in either one of these people.

This said, last evening, as we were passing their house, the husband was busy chasing squirrels with a BB gun. He proudly said that he had already killed 50 of them this year. Hearing that, I finally understood what his handicap might be!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Could have been my dream job...

Last night, I enjoyed the interview of Yves Béhar, the Swiss-born industrial designer, by Charlie Rose. He came across to me as bright, charismatic and incredibly interesting. He was following another interview of Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, who in contrast was lackluster.

I would have loved to do what Yves is doing, had the talent (I honestly believe) but missed my calling because of my poor choices. No regret, no jealousy, just plain admiration for what this young man has done with his professional career. Kudos!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The failure of religions

In recent years we've been thrown back into the uncivilized notion of religion wars. Sunnis and shites fighting, tens of of thousands of lives destroyed at the expense of much needed humanistic progress. The fights rages on and yet no one, among the religious higher-ups, says or does anything substantive, or start a ground-swell of indignation capable of getting humanity's attention.

Religion is receiving another big black eye as the planet watches. In the Muslim word, it seems to be business as usual, same thing among Jews, and the Christian world watches without creating an opportunity for denouncing and addressing the issue. Even though I'm a fan of his, I'm particularly disappointed that Pope Francis doesn't fully embrace the issue.

Unless I'm wrong, these three monotheist religions worship the same God and because of it, should react vehemently, unless – deep inside – they all know that the program is bogus and that God doesn't care because he's not even there...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The power of negativity

Let's face it; it's a lot easier to becoming negative than remaining positive. Negativity is fed by fear, anger, ignorance, depression or jealousy among other not-so-noble feelings. It's easy to fall into their orbit and just like gravity, let any of them drag us down.

Positive outlook, on the other end, always requires a constructive effort that seldom comes naturally, except perhaps in the case of extreme enthusiasm, elation or love, feelings that sadly, are always short-lived and extremely hard to recreate by simple acts of free-will.

Creating and maintaining a positive environment is constant work, while sinking south into the dark side of life is unfortunately a natural tendency that pull us all down and that we should always resist as forcefully as we possibly can.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Foliage season and team spirit

We have four main types of trees that grow naturally on our Park City mountains. Fir trees on the shady, northerly exposed sides of the slopes, aspen and rocky mountain maples almost everywhere and gambel oaks on the arid, sunny slopes.

Sometimes, our deciduous trees get their act together and their foliage colors changes in synchronicity creating a wonderful symphony of colors mixing dark and light green, bright yellows, deep reds and browns to create a palette of colors that brings admiration in all of us.
This was the case in most recent seasons. This year, the mountain oaks decided they wouldn't be team players and began turning two weeks ago. Now, most of their foliage is either dull or gone. The aspens have not done anything yet and the “scrub oaks” - that's right, the gambel oaks as we call often call them, are still on the fence.

I am really worried as to where this cacophony of colors will lead us, but that's a trees' problem, not mine. Further, since I'm one who loves turning lemon into lemonade, I keep telling myself that this could be a harbinger of a fantastic snow year!

Friday, September 12, 2014

The plight of the old Jupiter chairlift

On Wednesday, my wife and I managed to climb to the top of Jupiter Chair, at Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR). The weather was just perfect, Indian-summer like, and as I was observing the old, fixed-grip chairlift, it suddenly started to move.
For some reason, someone, at the lower station was getting it going. The noise was creaky, almost plaintive. I wanted to shoot the scene, but failed to set my phone on “movie” and shot a series of still pictures instead. At about the same time, the grinding sound from the old lift turned into a voice that lamented:

“I'm old and tired and have been slaving on this mountain since 1981. After 30 years, I hoped that PCMR would let me retire and perhaps send me to South America or to Kazakhstan for some part-time gig, but it never happened. Today, I suffer from old-lift arthritis, my wheels are squeaking, my cable is beginning to fray, and all my seats are hardening. Besides, I'm getting slow, much slower than in the past (it must be the altitude) and my paint continues to peel. Please, get me out of here!”

I heard this on September 10. The next day, PCMR had sold the lift as part of the rest of the resort to Vail Resorts and hopefully, next year, the Jupiter Chair will enjoy full retirement as the new owner is not so much into “antiques”. That's right, even Kazakhstan only buys used high-speed quads these days...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11 and the rest of us...

We all have a story or some very distinct memories around the tragic events of 9/11. Thirteen years ago, I was at our Vail apartment, having breakfast, when I first heard the news about the attack. I remember thinking immediately “the result of the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian crisis...” I immediately called my wife in Park City, we both try to get in touch with our daughter, who at the time was in college near New York, but couldn't get through...

In 2002, as our kids were no longer living with us, we decided to “downsize” and sold our Park City home. The new owners, a Mormon family from California weren't fond of all that snow and three year later re-sold the residence to Mrs Schlag, a 9/11 widow. who moved to Park City with her three children. The five of them had visited our resort during a ski vacation before the terrorists attack. This is something we didn't know until a few weeks ago.

It's when I discovered that one of the children, Garrett, had made a movie about his struggle with the loss of his dad, Steven Schlag. As coincidence would have it, the Schlag family came from Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, just where Lange ski boots were headquartered when I still worked for the company. I watched the very moving clip and the opening section looked very familiar to me; it was filmed just inside our old garage...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The real good (ski biz) news!

It wasn't really that Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) had agreed, yesterday, to swallow a first bitter pill and post a $17.5 million bond to protract its demise, but more that – the very same day - Ski Utah released a map detailing its three potential connections for an over-the-snow interconnect between all seven resorts via chairlifts and ski runs.
This long overdue move called “One Wasatch” will offer the largest lift-served ski experience in North America covering over 18,000 acres via some 100 lifts and more than 750 runs, all on one pass. While no time-line has been set for that long awaited project, I might stand a chance to still ski it before I die...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

No longer used to rain?

This late summer, in Utah, has been much more rainy than ever thanks to all the tropical depressions that came to us from Mexico and it made me remember how bad weather was like in the French Alps.

Granted, we're still a far cry from the soggy summer my friends and family still living out there had to contend with, but it still reminded me how depressing serial rainy day can be.

So, how do I do to handle this? I just take inventory of all the things I can do in the dryness of my house and get them done by the time the sun returns - it's tomorrow, I'm told - and I remember to stay positive and happy!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Complex solutions for complicated choices

We inevitably run into problems that aren't easy to resolve and can eat us alive if we don't do anything to resolve them. We can obviously take the most drastic measures possible and these generally entail an amount of risk that few of us are willing to take.

Another alternative is also a radical solution that consists of “buying ourselves out” of a dicey situation, but again there's a hefty price to pay. The remaining situation is to make a complex situation work for us by resolving it to the best of our abilities. It requires patience, good strategy and plenty of creativity.

At the end of the day, this probably is the most advisable course of action because it entails researching something that was foreign to us, learning it and measuring ourselves against a cause often much larger than us...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How to make a Big fortune in the Ski-biz?

You just duplicate what the Cumming family did in 1996. You purchase Park City Ski Area for some $80 million, then you run it sparingly without investing much. In fact, you carefully “milk” your investment.

The only new lift added in 18 years has been Crescent, a high-speed quad. The rent on the 3,000 acre land was incredibly cheap ($155,000 a year).

While I don't know the actual resort's top line, the current legal dispute between Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) and Talisker/Vail, has revealed, through the arguments presented by both sides, an EBITDA of $25 to 30 million.

Wow! This to me is an incredible return on the original investment and debunks the paradigm I used to subscribe to, that in order to make a small fortune in the ski business, you had to start with a big one!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Park City Mountain Resort mess

The embattled Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) was told yesterday by a judge that it will have to post a bond of $17.5 million in favor of Talisker/Vail Resorts to keep operating through April 30, 2015. This amount is based on a fair market value for the lease of $5 million per year that, according to Utah law, can be tripled by the landlord to a total $15 million. The balance was added for interest and attorneys fees.
Based on total sales of $65 million and a margin of $25 million or so, this leaves PCMR plenty of profits to operate, by normal standards. Sure the deal isn't as massively juicy as it used to be, but that's the new Talisker/Vail reality. This said, "once a mad dog, always a mad dog," and the jury is still out as the which road the Cumming clan will chose to take.

While I was optimistic that cool heads and reason would prevail, I am afraid that “family honor” may get in the way of the economic interests of the entire Park City community. Unless some divine revelation hits that crazy family, I can see many more years of suffering and less that ideal situation for a healthy ski trade around Park City.

An ominous warning sign to all people living from and near the other Powdr Resorts, including Snowbird, Cummings' new acquisition, about the schizophrenic nature of their local ski lift operator...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Last tango in Park City?

This is probably true as far as outdoor concerts are concerned. This past Wednesday was our last Deer Valley concert of the season with a much thinner crowd than usual and a hurried sun that dropped off the hill just when the music started playing, letting some an ominous chill come in, forcing us to layer up in a hurry.
The band that was originally booked couldn't make it and instead we ended up with a wonderful variety of talents all working hard to making that last concert one to be remembered. With the leaves changing very early this year, it's now time to bid goodbye to a summer that felt both almost perfect and far too short!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Look! Forty years ago...

Four decades ago, this past Monday, I was starting a new job and a new career with Look Ski Bindings. I had interviewed for the position at the old factory and, that day, I was beginning in a spanking brand new factory, located rue de la Pique, in Nevers, France.
I still remember the impressive conference room with its “bas-reliefs” of skiers from recent years. For a full week, I would be indoctrinated into what what the “Look philosophy” at the time. It was all about long release path, pivot in the tibial axis, water-tightness and durability, all making up for the safest ski binding at the time.

For that short period, it seemed that my new life would be easy, fun and boundless. It would prove to be significantly different!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hike to Mt. Timpanogos

Yesterday was the seventh time I reached the top of Mt. Timpanogos, a fortress-like mountain that dominates Sundance ski resort and frames the Heber Valley, on the other side of Park City. This is a wonderful hike and I enjoyed my daughter's company to climb the 4,842 feet vertical.

For her second time climbing, she had much more stamina than I had, which is a clear signal that after seating on my duff for so long, it's now time for me to return to some serious training. There is no room for lying in mountaineering.

Another positive element that the mountain-goats, Timpanogos local resident welcome us and let us shoot pictures of them like I had never done before. Another great reason to return.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My other “wasted years”

Except for eighteen months spent serving in the French Air Force, most of my years have always been interesting and quite productive, except for those that happened when I was in 6, 7, and 8th grade, in what was called the Collège d'Enseignement Général, the French equivalent of Junior High.

While I was a “star” student in elementary school, middle school didn't work at all for me, and I had to double up 8th grade. Thankfully, that move and my going to a strict boarding school helped me regain my focus and become a human being that was more acceptable to society.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The “average” life

What should an average life be like? One with very few – if no – ups and down? One in which each day looks pretty much the same as the previous one, the future is a mirror image of the past and in which time flows uninterrupted, at pretty much the same speed? Would many folks dream of such a life? Probably an awful lot. Would have I liked it? Certainly not.
I needed strong sensations, excitement, fear and the extreme elation that came with a more chaotic living. My natural curiosity needed a daily dose of nourishment. It has kept me awake and alive so far and will continue to perk up my interest if it keeps on making waves.

As we move forward and grow older, these might be less spectacular, the ebb and flow will get closer, but there still will be plenty of room for the “extraordinary” or the “above-average”, whatever you may call what is generally known as being a bit abnormal...