Saturday, February 28, 2015

Does poor snow make skiing more interesting?

Huge piles of snow erase all bumps, tiny hooks and subtle terrain details. Generalized lack of snow creates a permanent challenge as to where to go, avoiding obstacles and still having fun.

Little snow forces all of us to ski tighter and to seek fun through constant research, imagination, exploration in order to finding fun new paths. Thin snow is certainly not simple, not joyous, but in the long run, more fun.

Besides this, it forces us to be much finer skiers, which in of itself might be something we all can use!

Friday, February 27, 2015

The 35 year-old ski poles

Early December, my old Scott poles broke at the tip after close to 500 ski-days. Pulling from my equipment stockpile, I found a pair of brand-new Look poles that I had horded since 1980.

I removed the old-fashion grip and strap combination, hit my right thumb with a hammer while doing this (it's barely healed today) and proceeded to re-install my old Scott grip and straps. These poles were manufactured by Mecanotex, near Aosta, Italy, in a factory owned by the now defunct Roy Ski brand that is today used by Scott.
The good thing about these poles is their excellent quality and the size of their basket that actually is useful in powder. We didn't have any powder to speak of this winter, but the season isn't over yet and I love my new (old) ski poles!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The challenge for "One Wasatch"

The local Utah interconnect project, known as the “One Wasatch” seems to be hitting a snag, mostly because of the opposition of the back-country community that sees its roaming area somewhat threatened.

This is a problem that must also have happened to a degree in the Alps around the time ski interconnects have been planned and established there. The current stalemate should behoove the “One Wasatch” proponents to inquire in that direction and get some badly needed inspiration!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Can “Mountain Accord” breeds disagreement?

Mountain Accord is a public process, bringing together more than 20 organizations and nearly 200 stakeholders to create a blueprint for preserving the future legacy of the central Wasatch region, including most of Salt Lake City and Park City.
Last night, I went to their first official public input session in Park City, got an earful from a various bunch of folks who chronically forget that tourism dollars are what makes this place so special and I also heard that “One Wasatch” wasn't front and center.

It should, though, in the effort of easing on transportation needs, making it better for the environment, stimulating the local economy and making our recreational opportunities even more wonderful.

Oh, yes, I also learned that “Mountain Accord” had already cost $450,000 of... you guessed it... Taxpayers' money!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New skis, bad fall and appendicitis

Just 50 years ago, I had purchased my first serious pair of skis. They were Dynastar Compound RG5, an early first torsion box, fiberglass wrapped design, with one-piece hidden steel edges, 207 cm long, and I boy, was I proud of my acquisition.

The third or fourth time I used them, I took a bad fall and managed to cut my right wrist artery. I was bleeding profusely, the ski patrol tourniqueted my arm, put me on a sled and brought me to doctor Vuarnet's office, in Morzine, France. He somehow fixed me, sent me home and that same night the intense emotion, all that gushing blood plus the stress had induced a crisis of appendicitis.

So my parents took me at once to the Thonon hospital were I was operated right away. Skiing can have some dire, cascading and unpredictable consequences!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Are all ski collisions black and white?

If you know the ski responsibility code, it clearly states that “People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.” Seem pretty clear, right? No necessarily.

A week or so ago, I witnessed a ski collision involving two adult males, both traveling at a high rate of speed and evolving on almost concentric paths.

The slope was wide open but its transverse configuration was slightly convex, so they couldn't necessarily see each other until the very last minute when they couldn't avoid the collision. They both fell, but since they were traveling at roughly the same speed in the exact same direction, they weren't hurt and, after exchanging a few strong words, went on their own way.

The take-away from that story is quite useful for all of us who like to ski fast. First, always stick to one side of the run, then keep scanning the periphery at all time and finally, slow down when there are many folks on the run!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Terrain is what makes skiing great!

Often, I'm asked how skiing in and around Park City compares with the Alps. I usually tell them that the European mountains are steeper, the valleys deeper and all this offers more vertical, plus that there are many interconnected resorts, but that the slopes are also far more crowded and lift lines are pure anarchy.

I often forget however that our terrain is every bit as good, if not much better than the Alps, and especially our tree-skiing, which stands out as some of the best. When snow is scarce, like this year, it forces skiers to explore even more, get super creative, and discover unique nooks and crannies that give skiing its wonderful character and make for long-lasting memories.

As I like to say to people, in this record-dry winter, I've never skied as much and also never had as much fun!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The end of satellite French TV

We've had the French TV5 channel for about 17 years and last week we finally threw the towel and silenced the TV dish that brought it to us. This collection of francophone programing was allegedly a compendium of the least-worst TV shows – mostly from France, some from Switzerland and fewer yet from Canada and Belgium.
At the end, we were not watching anymore because of their poor quality of content, a lack of HD transmission and we simply just grew tired of it. In an age when folks are”cutting the cable cord” and are going streaming, it would seem that TV5 should follow suit, but it may take them another 5 years to realize that it's time to change their business model!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Me and my mobile apps...

If you have a smart phone, you must have downloaded a bunch of mobile apps and I wonder - if just like me - you hardly use 20% of them. You know, along the lines of the famous Pareto Principle and the 80/20 rule!

Not only that, but if you use one app much more frequently than the rest, what do you use from that particular one? 10-20%? Just like most of us who use it, take advantage of the potential of an excel table? As for me, my phone is literally cluttered with apps that I hardly know and use.

The challenge is the same old one; each app requires that we get acquainted with it so we can use it, but learning requires efforts and I must be too old for that activity!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tech subscription pricing

I had already experienced the volatility of electronic subscription pricing 18 month ago with my satellite radio subscription and just had the same surprise when I recently renegotiated my internet broadband service and when, two days ago, I canceled my satellite TV service.

These suppliers are fully prepared when you ask them to renegotiate the cost of a subscription and will do anything to keep you onboard. First, they'll try to throw extra free services and if it fails, lower their price significantly.

My internet broadband subscription was simply cut in half after I haggled with the sales rep and as I was canceling my satellite TV plan, the rep who couldn't not take no as an answer offered to halve my monthly payment for a year. A day later, after I had scream a loud “NO”, another rep was offering me a one-year subscription at 40% of its original cost!

What does this mean? It probably that folks have had it with expensive e-services, many are choosing TV streaming instead of cable or satellite service; it also means that a client acquisition cost is enormous and that once in a program, it takes an awful lot for a subscriber to leave.

Finally, it clearly demonstrates that the actual usage cost per client is nil. Try it if you have the time and inclination. It works!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Are wide skis and carving bad for the knees?

Almost a year ago, I was already writing on that subject. Since that time, John Seifert, both a skier and an associate professor of health and human development at Montana State University, is researching what effects wide skis could have on knees and ankles.

He's been using leg sensors and has monitored muscle and joint strain on skiers. Seifert said when skiing hard-pack on a ski wider than 80 mm underfoot, the force needed to turn the skis puts an undo amount of stress on knee and ankle joints. He claims that the threshold is around 85 mm and that the extra width acts as an extended lever arm.
According to the researcher this higher torque is causing sore knees and ankles. This said, Seifert has no data to correlate injuries from skiing with such wide skis, but he will bring up that subject in the open next month, at the annual International Society for Ski Safety meeting in Cortina, Italy. By then we might see his data.

This said, this observation seems logical as long as these skis are used on hard-packed snow. While the effect of carving is not included in Seifert's statement, I suspect that carving on fat skis can also do a bad job on ankles and knees, but again this is based on personal observations on myself and intuitive deduction.

What is certain is that, to feel safer, I'll watch the width of my new skis and stay at or below 90 mm under the foot.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Listening to the body...

Early morning, as we slowly wake-up, remains the best opportunity to listen to one's (aging) body and check it for potential areas of concern.

That daily check that begins at the toes and ends up at the skull, is a great way to spot pain, soreness and other sign of trouble, or just say “good morning!” to many vital vital parts and body regions. I worry most about my ankles, my knees and hips.

The internal organs never tell me much and my back and shoulders are still pretty well-behaved. Sometimes, there's a hint of rheumatoid arthritis, but that doesn't count really as it's a rather volatile pain. After that quick, three minute exam, I realize that my “skiing joints” still seem to work and I'm profoundly grateful for that!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The USST at the 2015 Alpine Ski World Championships

Ted Ligety, Mikela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn and Travis Ganong managed to garner 5 medals. This was the U.S. second-best showing at worlds, while Austria finished number one with 9 medals.

 The United States' success comes from a handful of exceptional athletes, but surprisingly, they are not the trees that may hide the forest, as there is very little hopeful talent behind them. The base of the skiers pyramid doesn't seem there yet, compared to Austria, France, and other European countries.
Where is the emulating effect of all this talent and victories upon upcoming youngsters under these conditions? Is this a particularity of American culture and a cult of individualism as it applies to developing incredible performers or is it another form of American exceptionalism?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Should we be napping, like Shiffrin?

Before she dazzled us all with her quiet but forceful skiing style and became world champion yesterday, Mikaela Shiffrin seemed to be napping, lying on snow, near the slalom start house, and “hibernating” for about half an hour.

When I saw this, I grew concerned for her and wondered if she would ever regain her consciousness and all of her fighting spirit during the second run, but she eventually woke up, dusted herself off and managed to show me and the rest of the world that she wasn't half asleep.

I've been told, I've also read for years now, that a good nap has many beneficial virtues, so it might now be time for me to insert a few quality-naps between my many turns? This might make a huge difference on my skiing and turn back the clock at least three decades on my on-snow performance.

Who knows? I'll sleep on that one...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

In defense of snowplow (Part 2)

This is an old favorite subject of mine that was just re-awakened this past Thursday, as I watched the women ski world championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

Anna Fenninger who was leading 0.81 second after the first run was executing a repeat-performance in her second, when she seemingly caught an edge, went off-balance, her left ski blocked 90 degrees across her path, putting her in a powerful snowplow position that would stop the young champion in her tracks. The surreal scene seemed to last forever but was corrected in a split second...

Seconds later, the Austrian racer was winning the event with almost 2 seconds to spare. Some humorists might say that she wanted to give other racers a well-needed break, or that she saw a mouse right in front of her, but no matter the reason, she didn't let a brief snowplow ruin her day.

There isn't a ski day when I don't do use this basic form of technique in one form or the other, and when I do, I always feel very good about it. So snow-plowers the world over, unite and stand for a cause that will never go out of style!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why skiing stays good as we age...

During my morning run I was passed by a young lady in her mid-twenties. She didn't just passed me, she literally left me in the dust. For a moment I was a bit distraught and then I re seized myself and realized how lucky I was to still be able to ski as fast and as well as I do - at my age.

On skis, I'd probably leave that young lady in the dust! In fact skiing is mostly piloting. You drive your skis where you want them to go.

You sure need some muscles, but mostly to resist compression, accelerations and to set an edge; again, this is a essentially a passive effort, not at all one of the active kind you must produce while running or biking.

For sure, you need a good technique and you must be able to interpret the terrain, but if you have these skills, there's nothing that can stop you. So that's it; skiing is a sport for the aging body. I just need to make certain that I don't damage too much the old chassis!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How much longer, Doctor?

The morning before yesterday, I was I listening to the radio and there was that physician on who was talking about his interaction with terminally-ill patients. He was explaining that when he was telling them that they had a given amount of months to live, he was generally quoting the “mean” which stood for the half-way-point between the fastest negative outcome and the extreme longer one.

Like most of us, I have no desire to quick the bucket, but I am increasingly aware that I'm going motoring at good rate of speed towards that outcome. So, I imagine the dialog between my Doctor and me, after my annual check up next May.

Doctor: Go11, your prognosis doesn't look good.

Go11: What do you mean Doc?

Doctor: I have just found that you have this mortal sickness called living, and that you won't be able to escape it.

Go11: Is it contagious?

Doctor: Thank God it's not, but it's genetic. You got it in your DNA. That's it. Nothing I can do about it.

Go11: How much do I have left to live?

Doctor: Your “mean” prognosis is through 2033.

Go11: What do you mean by “mean” prognosis?

Doctor: It means your living expectancy stands just half-way between a quick death - the worst case scenario - and a protracted one, the best case scenario.

Go11: If I suffered a “quick death” when would that be?

Doctor: Next week.

Go11: What about in the best case scenario?

Doctor: 2051.

Go11: Okay, thanks Doc, I'm going to Snowbird, skiing (remember, we're in May...)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Team ski race event

This afternoon, I wasted my valuable time watching the Ski Team World Championship in Vail, under warm, spring conditions and at the worst possible time of the day. While the best won (the Austrians) and despite of that I wasn't impressed with the format which is more circus-like than anything else.
On the one hand, many teams didn't seem to have trained well enough for the event and on the other, quite a few athletes didn't seem to take the matter too seriously. I used to be interested in Pro Ski Racing that used the same system, but not anymore.

Why? Because the course is set in a boring, repetitive manner, luck plays a large role and top skiers aren't necessarily good at it. It takes a special animal to shine in this type of event. Of course Hischer was flying, but that's not a universal truth as it applies to only a few athletes.

So when I hear that this type of race might make it as an Olympic event, I just shake my head and just don't care. I won't watch it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What can we learn from a bad snow year?

What was a sad season is getting worse by the day (except that I just skied in 8” of fresh powder this morning). Lack of snow and spring weather; the lethal combination.
So, what are resorts to do? Learn plenty from that doomsday situation. Build stashes of snow in critical areas of the resort, wait till there's plenty of natural snow before building giant half-pipes and jumps and cut all the whippers that stick up everywhere.

These are just three obvious suggestions, but I'm certain there must be dozen more. Will ski resorts think along these lines? Let's hope so, but I won't bet the farm on it; in the meantime, I'm going to go wash my car!

Monday, February 9, 2015

What's wrong with Islam?

I certainly am not a Muslim scholar, but this is what I think about Islam. First, the religion is primitive and hasn't evolved at all since Prophet Mahomet made the whole story up. I get an iTunes update every two weeks.

Reason? There is no centralized leadership that can update the tale. The first order of business is that there should be a central leadership over that form of belief to bring some order, organization and believability to it.

I'm not even talking about the sad fact that there's infighting between Shea and Sunnite for no good reason. At least Martin Luther had a legitimate beef against Rome.

So, all in all, Muslims are a bunch of backward thinking folks that should update their views of the world and that are a good 500 years backward. Good luck in catching up!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A solution to everything?

I would tend to think so and I'm also one of those who believe that clear goals, perseverance, best practices and technology can help to that end. Am I a so-called “solutionist”?
Probably and I think that the enemy is polarization, partisanship and inflated ego. I've always had faith in progress by small increments instead of spectacular leaps, as least where us, the masses are concerned.

That's why I believe strongly in always bringing forth solutions, however small, to make this world a better place.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Accepting what we don't control

An almost impossible thing to accomplish. Right, accepting the outcome of events we don't control, don't want, don't like or that happened by accident or because the fault of some third party is extremely difficult.

Instead we spend most of our remaining time and energy wishing it didn't happen or finding out and blaming what is the cause of these issues.

Accepting remains the most difficult thing to do and yet it unlocks the door to solutions, to alternative and to coping with the problem created. We should get much better at practicing acceptance.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sixty years on skis

The other day I realized that I've been skiing for sixty years.

I began when I was a kid (anyone could guess that...) and right away fell in love with the sport. Rightly or wrongly, it became the center of my life and my continuous obsession.

I made it my profession and chose to stay in the mountains to live. I don't regret any of it.

Of course, if I could do it over again, I'd make it even better, but that's probably pushing the envelope a bit too much!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Why I tend to be positive...

Over the recent past, I've become increasingly positive.

This transformation isn't something that has come naturally to me.

It has actually required a conscious and continued effort on my part.

Yet, my rationale behind this good, positive attitude is both very simple and quite logical:

1. I can switch my attitude button to good when I get up in the morning and leave it there the entire day.

2. It cost me absolutely nothing to be positive.

3. It is much more fun than seeing my glass half-empty.

4. Over the long haul, I statistically stand a solid 50% chance of being right in embracing a positive attitude.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The never-ending learning process

My job as a blogger for Deer Valley Resort gives me lots of insights into domains I'm superficially familiar with, but for which I ignore the essential details.

Over the years, I've learned about snow-making, snow-grooming, trails maintenance and other subjects that most skiers experience daily, but know little about in terms of all the processes, equipment and people involved.
Yesterday was another learning expedition for me, as I picked up a lot of new fascinating information about avalanche dogs and forest glading. Well, this is great; I can't stop learning new things!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Risk-taking and selfishness

Snow is falling in the Alps and so are skiers to avalanches. These are not just inexperienced tourists, but seasoned local mountain people as well, who seem to know the mountain better and are (seemingly) able to read its mind.
Problem is, no one knows for sure, and as my brother was recently telling me, these folk are irresponsibly selfish. He sure had a point. My sense is that any risk-taking always entails a certain acceptance of risk, so where do we draw the line as to what is too much risk and too much selfishness?

Monday, February 2, 2015

The end and the best of Sundance

This year's Sundance Film Festival has been very quiet for us. Besides volunteering for 3 days, we only saw three movies and that was it. Of the two documentaries we saw, we liked “the Russian Woodpecker” most, even though it had a few quirks.

It was about the Ukraine-Russian war and a warning cry against Putin's relentless reach. The other documentary, “the Wolfpack” was a little bit more of a stretch as it clearly felt tinkered with a lot, something I have a hard time accepting coming from a non-fiction film.

The best was the drama (which ended up winning both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards), a wonderful story, extremely well told “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” We'll try to see more flick next year if we get better organized and really feel like it!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

As the snow-drought continues...

As I always say, I do my best to suppress any expectation as far as snowfall goes, but since I'm a born-optimist, there's always a beam of light in a corner of my mind making me hope that big snowfalls still will come.

Yet, we've passed January and have had so far the worst snow I've ever seen in Park City for the past thirty winters. So what's an avid skier to do? Keep hoping of course, and most importantly, make do with what Mother Nature has been serving so far.

That's when skiing turns from fun to interesting. Skiers have to actively seek the good runs, the interesting paths, those opportunities to work on technique and hone the necessary skills to avoid rocks, stumps and other obstacles. All that with the permanent fear that the existing snow cover may not quite last through mid-April if the weather keeps on being so bad.

This is what I'd call the “creative” side of skiing...