Friday, July 31, 2015

The Olympic Comedy

Beijing, with all of its power, money and influence has finally grabbed the winter games. After the legit “snow countries” dropped off like flies in the selection process showing that the Olympics is becoming the exclusive province of totalitarian regimes. Is it the beginning of the end of the IOC?

One would hope so. Perhaps Pope Francis should now meddle and bring some order to this corrupt system, or the world should simply accept that the once pristine dream has finally run its course...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

New Park City branding

Yesterday, with much fanfare, Vail unveiled Park City Mountain's new name and new logo, marking th fusion of Park City and Canyons.

I liked its simplicity: It just said “Park City”, but wasn't too sure about the logo, another squiggly form used by Canyons and supposed to represent a juxtaposition of canyons, but suggesting to most the infinity symbol.

I personally don't care much for that logo and feels strongly that the folks in charge were lazy and should have done a much better job.
Don't get me wrong, the name “Park City” is just perfect, but the font is bland and logo looks like a recycled after-thought. I don't believe it will last long!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Me? Learning? At my age?

For years, I wanted to learn Spanish, but I couldn't muster the willpower to get back into the drudgery of learning something new.

Today, I hope that I'll be able to get some traction in grab the basics in the tongue of Cervantes. I've found a great interactive tool called Duolingo, a free language-learning platform that includes an app along with a translation platform, and a language testing system.

The project, started in Pittsburgh by Carnegie Mellon University professor Luis von Ahn, is ad-free, covers 23 languages, and is available on the Web or on as a smart-phone app. Try it and you'll love it.
As for me, if it's so good, I won't have any excuse if I don't see my goal through! To be continued...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Is religion supposed to kill?

At different times, some religions seem more dangerous than others. Currently, extremist Muslims are giving Islam a very black eye. This said, this religion's leaders seem to be doing very little to distant themselves from the crazies that say the Coran told them so.

It was probably the same when colonialists were “converting” natives after invading their countries and forcing them into submission or when the Crusaders were hitting on Arabs in the middle ages. Instead of these extremes, religions should be all about love, compassion and mercy, but too many religious zealots continue to push division, discrimination and racism.

Then, if religion doesn't always kill it often hurts. The pedophilia epidemic in the catholic church is another example. Religion also loves to control minds, instill guilt and brainwash kids! Perhaps Ennio Montesi, the italian atheist writer said it best: “Kill your religion before it kills you!”

Monday, July 27, 2015

Connecting the dots...

This week a powerful Kaman K-Max chopper was busy moving towers and gear to the area where the new gondola connecting Park City and Canyons will soon ferry skiers. 
This is the first concrete step in a long awaited linkage between Utah's ski areas. Let's hope that when the ski public can experience unrestricted roaming over almost 7,500 acres, they'll ask for even more, and other ski resorts will follow.

After all, as Lao Tzu used to say, isn't it true that a thousand mile journey always start with one single step?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ian Ferguson, 1936 – 2015

On July 14, Ian Ferguson passed away after a long battle with cancer. Ian was born in New England, skied for the University of Vermont and taught skiing at nearby Stowe.

In 1961 he became a rep for the Head Ski Company and worked his way inside to become product manager and national sales manager. In 1969, he moved West to Colorado to become director of sales for Lange ski boots. For a short time, Ian rejoined the Head Ski Company before becoming a media rep for Ski Magazine in 1974.

I got to know Ian when I came to the United States, attended major ski industry functions and bought media from him in the 80's and 90's when I moved out West. If there's one thing that was crystal-clear with Ian, it was his passion for skiing. I still remember a wet, snowy March day when we skied Jupiter in Park City in the mid 90s and had lunch at my house.

The deeper the snow, the steeper the slope, the wider his grin! He retired in 1999 and the last time we talked on the phone was on October 13, 2009. Happy trails into the wide blue yonder, my friend!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Happy Birthday Loulou!

My good friend Loulou Kneubuhler lives in Spokane, Washington and is turning 72 today. He's one of those quintessential Frenchmen who, in the sixties, went all around the world proselytizing the French ski technique on the heels of the French ski team impressive victories.

From his young stomping grounds in St Jean de Maurienne, Savoie (a part of the Alps that isn't really France), where he raced with Jean-Claude Killy as school boy, Loulou first landed in 1966 at Spout Springs, a tiny Oregon ski area prior to coaching at White Pass near Yakima, and before stopping for good in Spokane during the winter of 1968-69. In between, he found time to explore Australia and “sell” a few more turns at Mt. Buffalo, not far from Melbourne.

Back in Spokane, he eventually opened up a ski repair shop in 1973 and the rest would be history. “Loulou’s of Spokane Ltd” was set to become a trendsetting store where the best brands in fashion and equipment were offered to the ski public.

Of course, Loulou was also one of my retailers when I sold him gear during my days in the ski business and I'll never forget his inventiveness, wheeling his paperwork and catalogs in a carrying box around the Las Vegas ski show, long before luggage on wheels was invented.

After selling his shop a few years ago, Loulou still had the stamina to open up a ski museum at his original ski chalet in Spokane. So here you have it, Loulou has an unstoppable passion for skiing, and 72 perfect turns deserve at least another 28 great ones. If we follow his dedication, we may all finally become - as his TV commercials once said - “a Loulou of a skier!”

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mountain Town Music

Park City has a huge music program that arguably is the largest in the world, at least on a per-capita basis. Consider this: For 2015, our little mountain town has 197 community musical performances through the year. Most importantly, all of them are free.

The performances are diverse to. They range from a weekly, free concert at the Deer Valley Resort that can pack up to 4,500 people to concerts at nearby ski resorts, the Sunday Silly Market on Park City Main Street, all the way to rural Peoa, a mere 15 miles away, among the local cows and a crow of 50 country music enthusiasts.

We've also got,string quartets and solo performers in Old Town's pocket parts. While most concerts take place in the summer months, they keeping rocking us during the rest of the year...

So if music is in your life, make sure you sample the Park City experience after New Orleans and Nashville; you're in for a surprise!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Are you “Frugeois”?

This evening, I was watching the news and finally learned through a segment devoted to trend-spotting was a “frugeois” was. Well, it's a blend between someone “cheap” (frugal) and classy or snob (bourgeois).

From the get go, I can guarantee you that don't feel “frugeois”at all. On the contrary, I believe I feel just the opposite, but I'm at a loss of words to find a moniker that would describe my position (or plight) in that constantly changing world of ours.

Can any one step in and help me?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

After 65, it's all about keeping it!

As we grow and are becoming adults, we're eager, curious, adventurous, risk-takers and lives-builders.

Later on, as we past the crest of life, which to me is somewhere around the age of 65, we suddenly begin to realize that life is all about saving as much of what we've amassed, be it under the form of physical abilities, mental fitness, lust for life or material wealth, for as long as we can.

Suddenly, we're here almost just there for the duration. This truth is hard to accept at first, difficult to phantom as time advances, but very liberating once we understand it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mountain architecture

After about a quarter century of sensible architectural design, Park City residence are slipping back again into uncharted territory with a new push for “contemporary look”.

It's almost as if design was now preceding function instead of following it. Years of “bad design ideas” are resurrected and glorified under the guise of the modern look. 
Take this new home currently under construction in our neighborhood and see how's the exterior has been laid out: Its west-facing floating balcony (1) is fully exposed to the elements and sure could use a roof or some sheltering. Since the house is located in a northern-exposed slope, the two glass-walls (2) facing south, may get too much sun in the summer without the benefit of roof overhangs and, finally, the rafters sticking out (3) are a lousy idea that has no place on any mountain residence.

I haven't seen the floor plans, but if they reflect the exterior of the house, I have no desire to see them. Automobiles are getting better all the time, because of good, incremental changes, but custom houses fall pray to some architect's whims, set to re-invent the wheel and take their design back into a museum of terrible ideas.

The saddest part is that I know this particular architect. He's French and the nephew of former ski champion Léo Lacroix; well, maybe it's not his fault, but that of the client who asked for these features in the first place!

Monday, July 20, 2015

When dreams almost get too real!

Early last week, I got operated on. All went well, except for the pain and the recovery process that are part and parcel of any surgical procedures.

At 3 am, this morning, I woke up for no apparent reasons, breaking sweat like I had a major seizure or something, and feeling pain in one of my surgical incisions.

Still half-asleep, I instantly put two and two together, thought that my incision was badly infected and that I was in some imminent danger. Except for my sweating bullets, I had no apparent fever though, and while my wound was hurting, it wasn't unbearable.

Eventually, I calmed down, my pain diminished and I returned to sleep. I probably hurt my surgical booboo while rolling in the bed and my mind went 100 mph to create a potent story that would scare me to hell, make me sweat and wake me up.

Hollywood in my head!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Loving conservatism is hating change

For the most part, human nature doesn't take change too well and I must say, more often than not, it takes it terribly. Yet, everything around us is about changing. We all grow older, evolve, invent, destroy, build and today is never like yesterday and certainly won't look like tomorrow.

In the midst of all this, some people do better than others. They're the one that roll up with the punches, stay loose, don't hang up to much into the fleeting past and in the end are all the nimble, flexible and wide-open-eyed folks we all know and end up envying.

This leaves the hard core conservatives, the ones that can't take one bit more of the excessive change that pummels them, day in, day out. Think about this, next time you hear a conservative voice or see progressive ideas being blocked for no apparent good reason.
Conservatism is the brake. Change is the accelerator. I prefer the later and will make every effort to keep this orientation and remain adaptable to the end...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

France, fans and heat-wave...

My home-town region of Morzine has been sweltering under the recent heat wave and had to contend with temperatures in the 90's. With a fair percentage of humidity, it has caused much discomfort and, often, when I speak to friends and relatives, I ask them: “Do you guys use fans to keep yourself a tad cooler?”

They generally answer by the negative, saying that the stores “must be” out of them (they haven't checked, I bet) and that last year's summer was so raining and cool anyway that this consideration alone wouldn't have justified purchasing one single fan, and keeping it at home “just in case!”

I can draw an interesting parallel between my former Alpine stomping grounds and Park City. When we got to Park City three decades ago, conventional wisdom was you didn't need air conditioning in this cool, high altitude place. Well, in 2009, we finally installed A/C when we re-did our heating system in our previous home, and while we only used it between one and two week per summer, everyday we had it on was worth much more than the little extra money we paid for installing it.

We made sure we'd have it too, when we built our current home, and couldn't imagine life without it. So the morale of this story is very simple. If you live in the French Alps, make sure to buy a few fans today (I checked on-line, they're plenty of them available from $40 and up), put them aside and enjoy them to their fullest blowing capacity during the guaranteed, upcoming heat-wave!

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Iranian nuclear agreement

I don't think this treaty is nearly as bad as Benjamin Netanyahu or the Republicans would like to make it appear. Is it perfect? Not at all, given that too much toothpaste is already out of the tube, that the Israelis are the largest owners of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the region with their 200 + nuke warhead arsenal.

On the opposite side, the Iranians are a bunch of zealots, stuffed up in theocracy, like their Zionists enemies. Yet, the republicans have been unable to come up with a good alternative except for a massive military intervention – an option also favored by Bibi.

So what to do in the face of all these hurdles? In my view, not let the Iranians get away with the least incursion against the agreement, and punish them extremely harshly for each one of their smallest infraction. If we are able to do this, the clerics will start paying attention and may focus their energies elsewhere.

We need to soberly realize that we're dealing with weasels and religious nuts on all sides of the equation, so we simply must keep their more vicious dogs at bay. This said, I continue to wonder what God was smoking the day he invented religions?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Utah's mountain goats

Twenty years ago, for the first time, I pushed up to Emerald Lake, half-way up to Mt. Timpanogos, an iconic mountain of Northern Utah. I've since then climbed it many, many times.

That July day, I was accompanied by Yannick Chauplannaz, an 18 year old guy from my hometown, in France. He's the one who snapped the picture. He was amazed with our American version of the “Chamois” also known as Mountain Goat, or Oreamnos americanus.

These animals were re-introduced to Utah. Ten of them were brought from the Washington's Cascade Range in 1967. In 1981, the herd size had grown to be around 60 animals. How many are there today? I have absolutely no idea and besides, when we love, we don't count!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We won't be nuisance!

That what we thought would happened when our two neighbor ladies got married last Sunday. They had dropped a note in every neighbors' mailbox letting us know of the impending celebration.

We had company that night for dinner on our outside deck and we enjoyed the live music for the entire time we were together. It was pretty loud, but people generally only get married once, right? especially when they're in their seventies!

At 10 pm our company was gone and we went to bed while the music kept going loudly in spite of the local noise ordinance that stipulate that after that time, things should go quieter.

Well the ruckus lasted till about midnight as we were enduring some terrible renditions of the “Piano Man” and “My Girl” when silence suddenly fell over the party. Someone had probably called the cops!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Long-term goals and fear management

As I was laying awake in the middle of the night, it occurred to me that I have two different types of fears that are managed in the back of my brain by my long-term goals; in other words, what I want to achieve between now and the time I cross the finish line that's the end of my life.

First there is my lack of fear that I sense when my subconscious mind tells me something's doable and I should not worry about the outcome. Then, there's the kind of life-preserving fear that make me pay attention a lot or renounce a move, just out of self-protection.

A certain form of social fear remains the third fear of mine that I don't seem to be able to manage at all and has nothing to do with my goals, so for now, I'll forget about it!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Advantages to shrinking...

The last time I visited the doctor's office, I discovered that I'm no longer 6'10” tall. Instead, I must be content with 5'9”. That's right, I'm shrinking, as I was told I would. Right off the bat, I can think of two benefits of being shorter: 
  1. Air travel may become a tad more comfortable.
  2. I be under the (right) impression that the snow is deeper, next time I ski deep powder! 
If you see additional benefits to growing shorter, please, let me know!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ski as a TV sport?

Yesterday, I came across a column in Ski Racing Magazine lamenting about declining ski audiences, mostly from TV viewers. Over the years, in order to make big money, professional sports have become shows. In so doing, they have become consumable entertainment and must now do what it takes to compete in order to keep the public's attention.

To stay there, maintain their fair share of viewers' minds, or even progress, they need to be more elaborate, more extreme and outrageous enough. In many cases, like in cycling, there has to be a blurred line between dietetics and chemical dependency to sustain an increasing demand for superhuman performance.

Just take a look a what's going on around us? Youtube or Facebook videos, among others, are replete with hoax, virtual or pieced-together clips that are making the unreal look real. Folks are getting numb to yesterday's action, so it needs to be dialed-up! Unless you've been brought up as a ski racer, or raised in the ski industry, you won't get too excited in watching Marcel Hirscher working his way down a slalom course.

The bottom line is as simple as it is painful. FIS must decide if it wants to make a show out of its product offering, if it's ready to step into the world of entertainment and the big money that comes with it, which won't be pretty, but the alternative might be for FIS to shrivel and eventually go extinct.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What's in a brand and a logo?

In 1996, Park City Ski Area became Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR) and got a new logo on the occasion. I never liked the new rendition and in particular the squiggly portion that reminded me of a pile of dog crap, for lack of a better choice of words.
Today, I learned that the merged PCMR and Canyons will be renamed Park City Mountain and – I can only hope - should get a brand new logo in the process. I also wish that the pile of doggy doodoo is somehow removed and thrown forever into some landfill.

Will my expectations be fulfilled? I must just wait until July 29 to know the answer...

Friday, July 10, 2015

Forty years ago at Plateau Rosa...

In July of 1975, some skiers were already faster than others at Plateau Rosa, above Cervinia, on the Italian side of the Matterhorn, during the “Kilometro Lanciato” ski speed events.

Pino Meynet, the local boy from Val d'Aosta won the day, clocked at 194.384 km/h, just a few hairs before our own Steve McKinney and a tiny bit below the yet, unattainable 200 mark.

Four decade later, another Italian, Simone Origone, would bring the record to 252.632 km/h. I was working for Look bindings at the time and we were there to take care of the racers equipped with our product.

A wonderful assignment, indeed! My wife-to-be was there, as well as Joël and Jane Gros from Vail...We were all soaking in the sun and attempting to visually follow these speed demons barreling down the glacier and looking hopefully into our future.

I guess we were absolutely right!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sometimes, wearing a tie helps!

I've seen that one coming. Ever since Mr. Tsipras led Syriza to victory on January of this year, I've never seen the man wearing a tie.
I certainly don't wear one often these days, but when I was working in sales and trying to clinch a big deal, I would take no chance and always over-dress rather than under-dress when I was meeting a client in a formal setting or anytime I had to ask money from my banker.

Chances were that the other male party always would were one. By foregoing this clothing accessory, Tsipras was just telling people he was asking money or debt-relief from: “I don't respect you, I'm better than you...”

Well, this body language may not have on its own sunk the Greek ship, but it didn't help in keeping it afloat.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

…And you thought I was French!

I actually am a “Savoisien”, better known as “Savoyard”, and was born on the South Shore of Lake Geneva around the middle of the 20th Century.

What is known today as “Savoie”, was annexed by the French in 1860, a mere 30 years after they did the same with Algeria. This annexation was the by-product of a rigged plebiscite in which there was no secret ballots, just “Yes” was available to voters as they couldn't find a single “No” to stuff in the ballot box.

French occupation was going on while voting took place and any one voicing any opposition to the annexation was jailed.

So, if we had the rule of law then, I should have been born “Savoyard” and not French, and today, there's still an independence movement brewing in the Savoies while the rest of the world is rushing full-tilt into globalization.

Well, for the moment, I shall remain a true “Savoyard-American”, but I'll be the only one to know it!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Common-sense economic theory

With the Greece crisis getting everyone upset, economists are telling us how bad some fiscally responsible governments that tried to help Greece are victimizing a country down on its luck.

I'm not that sophisticated, but have always run our budget household quite conservatively, using austerity at times, investing at others and making a few mistakes along the way, but still we've made it okay over a 40 year period...

Our thinking was generally sound, our behavior stayed consistent and our (stingy) economic culture proved to be right on target. I just wish the Greek would dump theirs in exchange for ours...

Monday, July 6, 2015

Should Greece be sold and privatized?

Perhaps not, because it would be too expensive and the return would likely be negative.

Well, wait a minute, there might be a better way. Sell the ancient country to China. After all it has all the cash it needs to buy the Greek debt outright and could use a European beachhead.

China is also used to dealing with long-established civilizations, jagged history spiced up with some form of tyranny, a unique view on democracy, and no one would be more qualified to finally put the Greek folks to work!

The Chinese would also get an extension into Europe, a launch platform into the middle east and Africa which would make it a lot easier to trade arms and spy on everyone.

They'd also save the Greek from the expense of reprinting Drachmas and could do every bit as well by paying everyone's pension in Yuan Renminbi.

What's everyone waiting for?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A fun block party

The day after independence Day was great choice for carrying forward the festivities and organizing our neighborhood block party.

With so many households moving away and as many settling in, it was the ideal venue for meeting all the new faces, getting to know all the dogs, trying to remember the name of every one and chatting the evening away.

Glad we moved to this new, friendly neighborhood!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Another day, another birthday!

Ever since we've lived on this side of the big pond, this is the 39th time we celebrate America's independence.

In Park City, our counts are a tiny bit different as my wife is celebrating her 31st Fourth of July, while I'm only at number 30.
I'm always one beat behind; go figure, but in the meantime, happy birthday America!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Is the heat wave over?

We've never seen an end of June as scorching hot as this one, and now, it seems to come to an end, just like it appeared out of the blue, more than two weeks ago. Is it a sign global warming on steroids, or a weird extreme? I'd tend to say the former, but I'm not quite sure.

This could be a harbinger of burning heat to settle for good into our normally crisp mountain environment, but for the moment, I take it as a welcome reprieve and am sure relieved about it. Cool days are back!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Severing ties with Crédit Agricole...

Over two weeks ago, I got red around the collar when my old French bank wouldn't release the few Euros that still were sitting at their Morzine branch.

My repeated complaints escalated to the point that I had to contact the institution's CEO and it took another 10 days for his immediate subordinate to manifest himself, offer a solution and somehow apologize for his bank's lousy service. By then, I had had enough, I had written a check in Euros from that deadbeat bank and deposited it on my local account, in Park City.

Today, when I went on line to check, the amount, it had just been debited, emptying the account. In the meantime, Pierre Fort, Jean-Yves Barnavon's right hand man, made another excuse for its bank's lackluster customer service, writing in an email: “Without construing this as an excuse, our employees must follow drastic procedures when our clients request overseas wire transfers, particularly when the USA are involved. This, in part, explains the delay...

Well, good try Mr. Fort, but this sounds like unadulterated hogwash, your staff is a bunch of lazy and dogmatic bureaucrats on their way - I hope - to rapid extinction...

“Adieu, Crédit Agricole!”

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Is experience the sum of our pains?

I surmise that our most profound experiences are always the product of failures, errors and painful situations.

Granted, there are pleasing moments in life like love, wins, success and great achievements of all kinds that are wonderful, but these have always failed to make a lasting or transformational imprint on my overall experience.

Is this to say that folks who experience no setback cannot claim a solid experience compared to those who somehow have “paid some price” to get where they got. I'd tend to answer yes.

What do you think?