Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I can smell global warming...

If this dry and warm winter season in the West has tought me something, it's that the long promised symptoms of global warming are coming if they're not already there...

Dryer and warmer winters in the American Southwest, right? Yet, no one dares to talk about it, let alone stare at the problem in its face. Climate change is “just” the elephant in the room as far as the industry looks at it. Earlier in March, Whistler, another ski resort affected by the drought had the courage to call for corrective measures going forward.

When are Colorado and Utah planning to do the same?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Should established champions help aspiring ones?

This week, the US Ski Team competed in its annual National Championships and while the yound and talented Shiffrin was there, some other top athletes were conspicuously absent: Vonn, Ligety and Mancuso, to just name a few.
Why is that? Can't the Alpine Team demand that its best skiers be represented to inspire and emulate the entire field of participants? If the problem isn't with the Stars chosing not to show up, it definitely is with their coaches and the Team not management.

I doubt this way of doing things would be acceptable with the Austrian Ski Team!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My view on how prayer works...

I believe in the effectiveness of prayer, but only when certain conditions are met. Let me explain:

First, there must be sufficient time for the process to work, and the more the better. Short term wishes can't produce miracles!

Then, there needs to be total mental dedication to the goal prayer must attain; half-baked hopes won't work either.

Finally, the results prayed for must be attainable, which means somehow realistic, explainable, even by a long shot.

When these criteria are present, you can pray and it will get you to your goals...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ski equipment makers: Please, simplify!

Early this week, I visited Rossignol's North American Headquarters, right here in Park City, and had a chance to take a glance at its showroom where next winter's collection was on display.

I was absolutely overwhelmed by the massive quantity of models available, which to most of us would be incredibly confusing. Could ski companies streamline their offering and make it easier to digest for retailers who are the first in line, scratching their heads?

I think so; there would be a lot to gain in production cost, sales expenses and all kinds of efficiencies, but like a long story that is easier to write than a short one, having the seemingly reassurance that all bases are covered is the (lazy) shortcut favored by the ski industry.

Of course, it takes more time and work to be concise, but in a stagnant to declining market, the company that understands and is able to put that principle into practice is poised to win big!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Picking the right ski...

I don't know when you last set foot in a ski-shop, but if you haven't for a long time and were to pick a pair of ski, you might be in for a shock. That shock would be the result of two things, the astronomic prices and the plethora of choices available.

Of course, if you go just now, at the end of the season, the inventory you still might find could reflect the year's sales activity and unless your region has suffered a snow-drought like ours, in which little equipment has sold, you may find the "ugly duckings" that no one had the gumption to buy.
If you walk today inside a Utah ski shop, you'll still find the whole selection and may ask yourself: “Do I need a double rocker, a cruiser or something in-between?” Unless you can afford to own three specialized pairs, the latter question might be the right one to ask and answering it might lead to the pair of ski you just need...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

“Cloud” storage on top of black boxes...

These stories of black boxes that can or can't be located, then can or can't be deciphered should now be relics of the ancient aeronautical history. Planes can communicate with satellites, upload and store their info (cockpit and cabin voices or noises and engineering data) in real time on the cloud via satellite relay.

I could understand that, in order to be redundant we'd keep these “boxes”, but all flight data should be transmitted electronically on an ongoing basis to a safe and secure location away from the aircraft. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

If such a system had existed, it's quite plausible that the cockpit door could have been unlocked from a ground safety crew, just like satellites can unlock car doors when you lock yourself out...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to make a quick million...

This is a story of a house in my neighborhood that was put on the market last summer for $1.2 million and purchased for a bit less by a local contractor.

The guy did remodel the house over the winter and after some modest, mostly cosmetic updates, he is now putting it back on the market for about twice the price he paid for ($2,330,000!)

My guess is that – at the most - he might have invested $250,000 maximum into the home and now hopes to pocket the difference. Will this happen? I don't quite think so because the house and the area are more in the $1.5 million than the $2 million plus range.

Is he just greedy? Definitely, and most of the time that trait makes people blind to the most basic economic realities.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tidying up my office...

Yesterday, I didn't go skiing; instead, I finally began to tidying my office. My wife had reminded me – in no uncertain terms – that my place of business was a mess and that I had to do something about it. So that's how the project got started.

I hate to sort things out and have to decide which I throw away and which I keep. It burns holes in my brain and must take years away from my rapidly dwindling life expectancy. Not just that, but when I decide to keep something, then I must decide again where to put it away. Now, it's almost done; let's say it's 99% handled and I won't worry about that remaining 1%.
It will soon hatch back and multiply to return to a full 100%, but for the moment, I can at least appreciate the fact that “a clean desk is sure sign of a sick mind” This quote, often attributed to Albert Einstein, goes in fact something like this : “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Monday, March 23, 2015

When man-made snow pays off big!

As my 30th ski season in Park City comes to a tight close, it's now pretty easy for me to admit that it was the worst I ever experienced in Utah, both in terms of thin snow and high temperatures. Yet, our three resorts were able to survive, helped in large part by “Lady Luck” and snow-making.

Some were better than the others with creating that critical man-made cover. For one thing, Canyons suffered from its lack of snow-making infrastructure and remained at the bottom (I didn't ski much there), Park City did okay, but Deer Valley really offered the best conditions throughout, with a thick layer of snow all over the mountain.
I bet this season's will have a large impact on the way our resorts see snow-making next season, and with two world-class organizations now heading our remaining two resorts, this will bode well!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ski World Cup Finals

Just 40 years ago, I was in Val Gardena, Italy, watching the final and decisive act in the 1975 ski world cup finals.

These would become a historical event, when the three leading competitors Franz Klammer, Ingemar Stenmark and Gustav Thöni where still head-to-head, with an equal amount of points as they ran the final, parallel slalom event at Ortisei/St.Ulrich on March 23.

Klammer was ousted right at the beginning by Helmut Schmalzl and the final, cliff-hanger race was run between Thöni and Stenmark. There were 40.000 spectators holding their breath for them and when they sprung out of the gates, a roar filled the valley.

Thöni won the day and would regain the overall title (his fourth in 5 seasons) while Annemarie Moser-Pröll of Austria won the women's overall title, her fifth consecutive. This marked the end of these two racers competitive career and the beginning of mine, working for Look bindings.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How we remember things...

In talking today with my brother, I reminded him that we began skiing near our family house, on a slope called “le tremplin” (the ski jump), but he had no immediate recollection of that fact. It only came up later in the conversation.

This goes to show, that if we don't keep notes, we'll be lucky to just remember a small fraction of the events we went through in life. I may have remembered that episode, but my brother would have remembered many others that today are alien to me.

I'd better start on my memoirs before my memory is totally vaporized!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ski binding plate and close-call!

Last year, I remounted on a set of Salomon skis, a pair of Look bindings originally sitting on a Dynastar Autodrive plate.

Since I could use more height and more leverage, I thought it was a good idea to keep the plate, but I had somehow discarded the old flat head screws designed to slide or “float” inside a pair of rails, when the ski was bending. I replaced them with regular Posidriv screws that I tightened to the skis.

For a full season that worked until the stress on the plate became such that the front screws pulled out at the front on both skis. A smart and attentive lift attendant noticing this at a chairlift top station told me about it and I promptly interrupted my ski day, went home, removed the plate and re-installed the binding.

Glad this guy caught the problem and happy to realize that a binding plate always need longitudinal room to adjust!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The new “Fiat-ugly” Jeep

I'm neither the first, nor the only one, to find the new Jeep Cherokee ugly, but as I've dug deeper, I found in its styling many visual features and subtle details that relate it to the homely Fiat styling. Since the Italian brand now owns Chrysler and, by alliance, Jeep, it was only a matter of time before the worst of Fiat traits began bleeding into what used to be a rugged and macho-looking line of SUV.

This is precisely what the latest version of the Cherokee has accomplished. The new look adorning the latest Cherokee belongs more to Turin and it's trans-alpine countryside than America and its tough Rocky Mountains landscape. I, for one wouldn't want to be caught dead in one of these degenerated all-terrain vehicles; I'd rather stick to my Subie!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Will our remaining snow last?

Yesterday felt like summer skiing and today was a tiny bit better, but this unseasonal heat wave is exacting a toll on our thin snow layer.
While I've been hoping all along to see winter and snow falls returning, I'm now switching to “Plan B” and wondering how long our snow will last. Deer Valley Resort with its early closing date of April 12 and its trademark thick-man-made-snow cover, will probably make it alright, but Park City and it's planned closing date of April 19 might find itself one to two week and one foot short!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Already one year!

Today is St. Patrick's day and is also the first anniversary of our moving into a new home. Time keeps on flying at break-neck speed...

While we are thrilled with our new home, it took us more than one dozen moves and three constructions from scratch to finally figure out what we needed and we now have reached 99% of that goal.

Current homeowners, don't despair if you haven't found the perfect residence yet; just keep on trying!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Park City's Vailisation has just begun...

This weekend we strolled Main Street Park City, mostly to take a look at the new Gorsuch store. For years, that family-owned store has been a Vail institution in terms of retail showcase, and their new Utah branch is no exception.
Nothing much (except for maybe a lowly ski hat) is available for less than $100. The “base pricing unit” is more like something expressed in $1,000 increments. Deer Valley patrons will love it and the ostentatious goods offered for sale in that Vail transplant will make those offered by local merchants look like genuine bargains, so both vanities and values will all win in concert.

It sure took years, but Park City has finally become “Vail West!”

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thoughts about ski resort real-estate

There should be two sorts of growth policies at ski resorts (and all vacation resorts for that matter). A planned one, that deals with building “warm beds” that can be used by visitors who dynamically contribute to the local economy, as opposed to second-home that will only be used a few days in a year, occupy the landscape and needlessly impact the community.

Then, there should be another component that deal with organic growth. What would that be? Let say, you want a house in Aspen, Colorado? If none you like is available for sale, you find an empty lot, a house with tear down potential or a fixer-upper an you build. Of course, this approach doesn't factor in the development rights of landowners, but let them wrestle this out between zoning rules and the local planning department...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The end of a Park City privilege

At the beginning of the 2002-2003 ski season, Park City Mountain Resort introduced its “Fast Tracks” option that allowed users to take a priority express line in the lift mazes, greatly reducing the amount of waiting time to board a lift.

Folks with the “Fast Track” feature could sneer at the crowd lining up at the busiest lifts, while breezing through them. This questionable privilege will be history beginning next winter season, as Vail Resorts may have a more democratic view of how ski line priorities should be handled.

This special deal has always smelled elitist to me and unfair to visitors who were asked to pay a hefty $115 per day to ride the resort lifts, while a bunch of people could still sneak past them in line. I bet a lot of hard-liners and supporter of the “old way” will be furious, but this is called a good change and is always hard to swallow by those who feel entitled...

Friday, March 13, 2015

New experiences never cease!

Yesterday was a fun ski day at Park City and up in Jupiter that used to be my favorite stomping ground. Beside having fun in spite of the thin snow cover, I discovered a new run, just under the Silver Cliff area that
I didn't even know existed. Perhaps it's the result of some recent forest glading there, but I even doubt it?

Then, to add yet another new experience, I finally rode, for the very first time ever, the antique two-seater chair as the last passenger for the day at about 3:35 pm, with the “Last Chair” sign placed just on the chair behind me.

New experiences happen all the time...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My most transforming experiences

In thinking about it and without getting too detailed or overly personal, I'd say that the diversity of my professional experience (around 12 different occupations) and the many places I've lived in (more than 12 moves) have left the deepest imprint on my life.

Travel, although related to moves has also marked me a great and so as my life as an immigrant. Like most of us, my relationships and family have also had a very important effect on my whole life and I would say that skiing, running and my love for nature, have also had a positive effect on my life experience and so have a few impressive accidents and incidents I was involved in.

The rest, like education, religion and military experience, have had very little impact, albeit negative ones on what I have become today...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Looking for game-changing events in one's life...

I thought this would be a good subject to explore, but little did I realize that it's a loaded program that calls for an impressive number of questions. What are the components of transforming events in a person's life? Education, location, occupation, age, health, accidents, happy and sad events?

Is this all? I have forgotten some other important criteria? Regardless, those points that I have listed are just many important areas that have what it takes to make some impression on all individuals.

Perhaps, I'll take a stab at it tomorrow...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thin and beautiful: Our ski season

Today was a fantastic ski day in my wife's company. We skied all morning in perfect conditions: Bluebird day, ideal temperature, warm sun and wonderful snow in spite of a thin, thin cover.

We're locals and our opinion happens to be the same as thousands of ski visitors' from all over the country and many foreign lands as well. It means that we don't need ten feet of snow to enjoy a perfect ski day.

I hope our precious cover lasts and this trend carries on through April 19!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Skiing means more sitting than sliding!

So you still think skiing is a real sport, right? I did some very crude research on the subject to find out that skiers and snowboarders spend an awful lot of time actually sitting on a chairlift instead of just sliding down the mountain.

App designers and people who have looked into will tell you that skiing or riding only account for 20 to 30% of one's time, versus the rest sitting on a chairlift. Of course, this range will vary if you ski like a racer or very slowly and if you ride a fast or slow lift on steep or flat terrain.

The bottom line is that you remain seated an awful lot. Based on my age and my addictive skiing habit, I may have already spent around one full year (8,760 hours) sitting on some chairlift. Wow!

That's right, not counting lunch break or waiting in line, a five hour ski day might entail some three-and-a-half hour sitting. Not good for your lower back or your hemorrhoids if you have any!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Tree skiing in... Suburban New-York!

I just stumbled on a series of pictures of my son Thomas, taken during the winter of 1985 in our backyard of Chappaqua, New York. This is actually where he learned how to ski, not unlike his Dad.

We actually both did it just behind the family home! I remember that I packed the snow myself and that Thomas picked up the wedge right away and immediately understood how to turn.
The end of the run wasn't the safest there could be, but he managed to always stop or fall before some large tree would stop him.

Since we started from the back of the house, any run meant climbing back up the hill; a grueling predicament, but these were different days and more appropriately, a unique era that is now gone for good...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lance Armstrong, the monster

A couple nights ago, we watched a stunning documentary: “Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story”. Released in 2014, this films paints an intimate but explosive portrait of the man behind the greatest fraud in sporting history.

Lance Armstrong enriched himself by cheating his fans, his sport and the truth, but his former friends and teammates whose lives and careers he destroyed by this real monster, would prove to be his nemesis. After seeing this, you realize the evil of that person that I thought, for a while, was a real hero. Watch it if you can!

Another lesson in (bad) service

Ever since we moved into our new house, almost a year ago, we've had plenty of problems in making our TV work. After getting rid of our satellite service, we needed someone to come and clean up the mess that had accumulated after 3 different companies had attempted to solve our TV reception issues.

I called yet another, more reputable company to come and do the job. They said they would come between 1 and 3 pm, but barely managed to show up at 4 pm! Then, the fellow who came had no tools, no measuring gauges and no cell phone.

Very soon, I realized that the man had no clue what he was doing and after some tinkering, he managed to screw-up everything, saying that the problem came from the roof antenna, which by the way was brand new and the very best money could buy.

After struggling for a while the guy (Lane) threw the towel and Nick Moadelli, the owner of Alpine Electronics in Sandy, Utah, a pretty gruff guy dispatched another tech (Keith) who showed up later without any tool, but, from the seat of his pants, made it finally work.

Another lousy company that doesn't deserve to stay in business!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

My take on Mountain Accord

Mountain Accord is that public process that I discussed recently and is intended to provide a framework for the future of Utah's central Wasatch region.

At this early stage of the project, comments are invited and the following is the gist of my thoughts about it. In a nutshell, my feeling is that the “One Wasatch” ski resort interconnect project is woefully missing from that plan.

It is in fact “the elephant in the room” or even “the canary in the cold mine” if we look at it as a free test, as it can fully benefits each one of the four pillars of this plan: Environment, recreation, transportation and economy.

Further, interconnect resorts have been tested in the Alps for more than 40 years to the satisfaction of its visitors, its local population and its environment.

Environment: Many people staying in Park City ski Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons everyday. The availability of a ski connection would render any car trip unnecessary and would also allow folks living the Valley to ride the UTA transit system to any Cottonwood Canyon resort to get to Park City without using their car. Most importantly though, skiers have very little or no impact on the pristine mountain environment. Contrast this to, say snowmobile traffic, for example...

Recreation: The interconnect would add exponentially to the experience that both locals and visitors would receive when they ski our seven resorts without having to rely on vehicular transportation. The best things in life are experiences and opening up a small part of our Wasatch Mountain to winter recreation would expose more people, more dramatically to the beauty of our mountain environment and would elicit even more love and respect from everyone towards our magnificent nature.

Transportation: As said on the “Environment” section, vehicular traffic and need for extra parking would actually diminish with a working ski interconnect. A very compelling argument could be made to visitors for not renting a car. The net result would be enhanced traffic everywhere.

Economy: A ski interconnect would bring more destination visitors to Utah during during the mid-week period, maximizing the resorts capacity and providing an insurance that in spite of a receding snow cover, tourism business would continue to be good for Utah, making it a unique place in North America for its multi-resort experience.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

CVT, stability control and slick roads

After driving my Subie for 3 winters, I can say that the CVT transmission is good, but up to a point. Sometimes, when the roads are super slick, and that there are too many "moving parts" involved to watch what's going on, something takes place between the CVT, the stability control and the all-wheel-drive that can confuse the vehicle out of control.
I don't know what exactly happens and why, but what I've learned is that when roads are covered with “bad snow”, it's time to switch from auto to manual in order to remain in control of the car. Then, and only-then, the car will behave as told!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Still more snow in Park City than in... Boston

Unless, you've been buried under an avalanche, you know that Boston has received as of yesterday morning, some 104 inches of snow. This said, I'm happy to report that we have received 144 inches according to the Canyons' snow stake.

This of course is theoretically half of what we should get in a season, but winter isn't over yet, and according to the same yardstick we got 17 inches in the last 72 hours. I can attest to that, because I skied powder these past two days, like I never did so far in 2015.

This makes me more hopeful for the end of our season, but I'll continue to expect nothing and... we'll see!

Monday, March 2, 2015

When fun means heightened danger

Yesterday, I skied with my grandson and we had some great fun.

Especially when we skied through the trees and down some giant bumps.

But fun is a funny package; it also comes with danger, and at the some point the moguls were too big for the little guy, the “suspensions” had two work at their maximum and there was an unforeseen and very painful encounter between his face and his knees...


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Nice surprises I still remember...

Some folks are luckier than others. Some get lots of freebees that they're not supposed to expect. I can't say that I've been particularly spoiled in that department. 
The good things I got in life, I fought for them and I really earned them. Often, luck helped, but no one ever handed me anything on a silver platter. I can only remember a handful of gifts that somehow changed my life. Here they are:

- My first pair of skis made from scratch by my Dad in 1957; it got me going!

- Being named to the French Demo (ski) Team. This happened in the Fall of 1973; it made my winter!

- Being offered a tiny Casio calculator for the times; it was gifted to me by a Japanese that I took – as a guest – on the Ski World Cup circuit in December of 1974.

- Having a farewell party thrown for me at Nordica by Jim Garland, the then top honcho there. I received a huge, silver trophy and wasn't expected anything. This was in the spring of 1982.

These are it; these token of appreciation might sound trivial, super ordinary today, but they certainly did touched me very deeply; I'll never forget them and will treasure them forever...