Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Park City surprise

These past days must have broken records around Park City with large numbers of skiers and snowboarders on the mountain. Good for the local economy and another perfect time filled with wonderful snow and great experience for our visitors.

Sure, there were big lines at the most popular lifts (not necessarily the best ones) and to our great surprise, nice things happened that day as we were skiing. First, we arrived at the Quicksilver Gondola on our return trek to Park City from Canyons, where a sizable crowd was waiting. An employee was making the rounds distributing water to everyone who wanting some. Impressive!

Even Deer Valley never does that. I had already spotted a few Park City executives working as lifties and was a bit taken aback when the person handing me my skis when I got off the gondola at Silverlode was no other than Bill Rock, the COO of Park City Mountain. Wow!

What a great example and a refreshing impression from a resort that most Parkites have love to bash ever since it was acquired by Vail Resorts. This said, this season has been marked with a remarkable outgoing attitude by all employees making a concerted effort to engage their visiting guests in a friendly manner.

Way to go, Park City Mountain!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Jupiter vs. Ninety-Nine-90

If you ever skied Park City and are a very good skier, you will have heard of Jupiter as the best place to go. The terrain is wonderful but the old, rickety, two-person chair, very slow.

Around the turn of century, appeared Ninety-Nine-90 in the Canyons area of the enlarged resort. The overall place looked very similar to Jupiter in many ways and was well-served by a modern high-speed quad.
For many years, I had abandoned Jupiter for that new spot and it's only yesterday – as I was skiing with my daughter – that I rediscover why Jupiter has so much appeal.

Sure, in this early season, the snow cover is exceptionally good and it makes a big difference, but the “texture” of “Jup” terrain, as most call the place, it is more finite, detailed and varied, which in turn magnifies its diversity and augment its skiing options.

The place still leads in that way...

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Most difficult job in the world?

Yesterday morning we had a discussion at breakfast about whether being the US President was the most difficult job of all.

I didn't agree, while my wife and daughter thought Commander-in Chief was indeed the toughest occupation there is.

I objected saying that the president was rather well insulated from unpleasant issues through his huge administrative staff and was also protected from the direct emotional trauma of being too close from what hurts.

I asserted that some small business owners are in a much tougher spot when confronted with dire situations. Sure it was hard to me with come up with the specific, detailed examples that I was asked to produce. I then diverted the debate by stating that some presidents (Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson) had it much tougher than others (Bill Clinton, Barack Obama).

Then I found this ranking on that validated my argument and listed twenty-five of the most dirty, difficult, and hazardous jobs that some people did every day. I will only list the top ten: 
  • Coal Mining 
  • US President 
  • Alaskan Crab Fishing 
  • Mercenaries 
  • Freelancing 
  • Calcutta Sewer Cleaner 
  • UN Negotiator Logging 
  • Prison Warden 
  • Mountain Rescue 

So, finding this great information made me feed vindicated and proud of my good judgment, even though I would say that being sewer cleaner in Calcutta seems much worst than being seated in the Oval Office.

Now, will you agree with me, or simply side with my wife and daughter?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My knee, day two

Today I as woke up and got out of bed, my left knee felt much, much better, for some mysterious and inexplicable reasons. I was rather pessimistic the day before. Still, I decided to stay home, not ski and let the situation further improve.

That's when I remembered of the tradition of healers and so-called “bonesetters” that was so prevalent in my Alpine hometown. Along with the “fire-cutters”, “shingle-cutters”, among many other specialties, they were a convenient way for the common and impoverished folks to affordably get better.

More than once, I had a sprained my knee and a local “bonesetter” came and fixed me up. I also remember than on numerous occasions my mom burned herself in the kitchen and had someone “cut the fire” on her.

This said, my recovery was nothing short of miraculous and while I was wondering if skiing on a weird pair of skis that kicked me around two days before, when I tested them, might have re-awaken an old injury, I couldn't put my finger on any other cause...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My left knee isn't happy

Back on December 18, 1994, I stretch my medial collateral ligament (MCL) on the left knee while skiing. I was back on skis on January 12 of the following year.

For the past few days, I felt that same ligament and today, while skiing fairly hard with my daughter my knee bothered me more than ever before. I don't know if I'll be able to keep skiing or if I should take some rest.

Perhaps wear a brace? I really don't know what to do and fear how it's going to feel tomorrow. Any recommendations?

Monday, December 26, 2016

The art of staying motivated

It's impossible to remain always filled with optimism, energy and appetite for life.

These cyclical elements always vary in intensity and when they do go down, it's quite useful to realize it and take them for what they are, temporary low moments.

If anything, it will help us understand what's going on, where it comes from and do whatever it take to bring the power up again inside the entire machine.

Just a useful reminder in a season filled with anticipation, plans, fun, elation, excess and their opposite effect that never fail to materialize shortly thereafter...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

What's your Tweet?

Christmas is about love, peace and many other positive thoughts, but certainly not a time for nasty “Tweets” like our president-elect seem to be so good at.
Today, as I was clearing the snow around my house I was thinking that for each Trump Tweet featured by the media, there should be at least one counter-Tweet coming from all of us who don't appreciate the man and what he has to say.

This would allow for a creative stream of entertainment and would be a wonderful push back against our intimidator-in-chief!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

To celebrate this very special evening, my eyes were drawn by this picture of a Park City's neighborhood light display shared by my friend Dirk Beal on Facebook, titled "Jesus in his pick-up truck".

I think this is the near perfect example of a self-driving vehicle for our mountain town. I hope there's a four-wheel drive transmission under the hood, because of all the snow that is in the forecast and I feel reassured that Jesus-Christ himself is in the driving seat, even though he's sitting there “just in case”.

Happy motoring Jesus and Season's Greetings to everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Is the stock market going to tank?

After years of growth, albeit modest, our US economy has perform to perfection. Recently, following the presidential election, our stock-market has skyrocketed.

Yesterday, according to Morningstar, it appeared to be 2% over-valued. When will it be time to sell and lock-in the gains? Probably sooner than we think. I'd guess, early January 2017.

Let's see about that...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How is a European ski lift line?

Often, folks that I meet on the chairlift ask me how it is to ski in the French Alps.

I say that the valleys are much deeper, they offer more vertical, the food is heaven and the lift lines are hell.

“How bad?”, they often ask. My response: “Imagine a total absence of organized corrals and hundreds of people behaving just like Donald Trump would.”

Some go: “How?” I reply “Being rude walking on your skis, bullying you, demeaning you and pushing you around.” Then, they pause for a moment, close their eyes and just say:  “Got it!”

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Difficult snow and other excuses...

Most skiers love excuses. Their skis are out of tune, their body out of shape or the visibility out of focus. I hardly ever use any of these excuses because I've heard them too many times and I'm tired of them. So the only excuses I use are only about snow-quality.

This is what I've found this season: Even with the best skis of the world at my feet, our Utah snow has been abnormally dense and humid and as a result, quite chunky when I ski in cruddy, crisscrossed tracks, my favorite conditions.

The chunks are so stiff that they deflect the ski and all the smoothness in the world in my skiing won't do much about it; quite on the contrary! What can one do? Be patient and wait for some softer pow, guess...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Are we curious enough?

...Probably not as much as we should. I'm currently reading “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life” by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman.

I wish I would have known what I found inside its pages when I was in my 20s, but I guess, better later than never! This book re-frames everything not just in terms of curiosity, but most importantly in the form of questioning, that is obviously the by-product or better yet, the main vehicle for curiosity.

We spend our lives giving orders, telling people, making comments, explaining ourselves, but not asking enough questions and by doing so, we're missing on so many things.

Time to get started, I guess...

Monday, December 19, 2016

The aging skier

One of my ongoing projects is to observe, as close as I can, how the way we ski is affected by age. No one escapes the aging process, but to my knowledge, few have tried to report how it affects skiing.

My guess is that most skiers are so busy trying to keep up as their physical abilities are escaping them that they don't have the time nor the heart to put in writing.

My observations have started ever since I suspected that my fast and fearless skiing days had begun to weaken. I can now attest that, well in my late sixties, the downward trend is definitely present and begins to undermine my skiing ability.

When do I think it peaked? Around the age of 63, I think, which is an encouraging sign for most 50 year old skiers. Now, how can I measure the dwindling performance? I don't have anything scientific tools at my disposal but some sharp memories of fast runs or fast series of laps on some of my favorite steep runs.

Of course, skiing parameters constantly jump all over the place, with snow in particular, that is a key variable, but timing and lap count, vertical drop plus the usual physical handicaps that pop up along the way should help frame a fairly accurate measurement.

So, if you're interested in my results, just stay tuned over these next seasons....

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

In this weird year, I have one sole wish; no toys, no video games: Can you just get us rid of Mr. Trump?

No, Santa, I don't wish bad things to happen to this blond, fat and immensely rich septuagenarian. I simply wan the Electoral College to think “out of the box”, you see Santa, just like you ask your elves to do everyday in this busy pre-Holidays season at your shop, north of Moscow.

I asked my Dad and he told me that we needed 38 Grand Electors to switch to Mrs. Clinton for her to win, so that's not to much for me to ask. I know these elections were “rigged”. Mr. Trump said it first, but he forgot to explain that Mr. Putin's I.T. Employees did it on his behalf...

Please, Pretty Please, Santa, listen to my plea and don't take my first name against me!

Ducky Junior.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

From Lange to Koflach...

Thirty years ago, I summoned the courage to resign from a stable, well-paid job with Lange, but that I didn't enjoy much, to start on my own as the American distributor of Koflach, a lesser-know Austrian ski and climbing boot manufacturer.

What a leap of faith this was on my part! I briefly investigated the company, and in spite of its lackluster product line and marginal position on the U.S. Market I decided to jump at the chance, starting literally from scratch, putting together my sales force, my office and warehousing facilities in Salt Lake City.

From that point on, I focused one hundred percent on building a profitable and dynamic venture and I was both lucky and successful with it.

Too bad the Austrian facility could only last on its own until the early 90s, before an already moribund Atomic ski factory took over, and Mr. Rohrmoser, its founder and owner at the time, thanked me.

This said, the ride has exhilarating while it lasted, totally rewarding and was the culmination of my ski industry career.

Friday, December 16, 2016

After Silicon Valley met Trump

A few days ago, Trump invited the main players from Silicon Valley to his 25th floor conference room at Trump Tower and when the meeting was over, our group of “techies” went for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, right on the 2nd floor mezzanine of the building.

I was a fly on the wall and listened what these folks had to say after sitting for 90 minutes with Donald and his three kids.

Tim Cook: “What a coward he [Trump?] was; he didn't dare to ask me about repatriating Apple's overseas profits!”

Satya Nadella: You guys didn't see, but I arrived early and when he saw me, Eric summoned one of his security staff members, who came towards me and asked if I was here legally. I though I was gonna be deported on the spot...”

Eric Schmidt: “The Donald whispered to my ears that my Alphabet was terrific and that after studying it, he might start reading stuff instead of just twitting or watching TV!”

Jeff Bezos: “The only relevant question came from Ivanka who asked me if I could get her and her husband a free “Prime” subscription each. I said 'get out of here, you dad is a f... billionaire, isn't he?'”

Sheryl Sandberg: “Actually, Donald sounded quite interested about Facebook and asked me if it was sort of like Twitter and if I'd want to be his friend; I politely said, 'nah, you don't want me, because you'd get a fatal heart attack if you saw some of my posts...'”

Larry Page: “After what I heard and saw today, I'm done googling the Trumps forever!”

The last and best few words came from Elon Musk: “I had an epiphany at this meeting; it inspired me to have SpaceX build a single-seater capsule, custom tailored to fit our president-elect, and send him on a one-way trip to Europa [one of Jupiter frozen moons]!"

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A five to ten year bonus

We don't develop at the same speed.

Some of us are much more precocious than others and I often wonder if this gap, that can be measured in a five to ten year span, among us humans, can ever be shrunk, caught up or eliminated?

As time goes on and as I mature, I realize more and more that I was one of these late bloomers. Not on all counts, but on some of characteristics like physical development and in certain mental dispositions to name just a couple.

Quite understandably, this was hard for me to accept as a young person and I've always seen this decoupling of maturity as a major handicap.

Today, as I find myself in my golden years, it appears to me that what used to be an impediment seems to work in reverse and still gives me a much younger outlook on life, makes me far more energetic and significantly less blasé and cynical than most of my contemporaries.
I now see this trait as a “blessing in disguise”, an extension of my lease on life and a fire that keeps on burning. Once more, there are two sides to every coin!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Fear of Trump

Everyone is afraid of Donald Trump and it shows. The Democratic Party, the media and the American People.

You see, Trump is not using conventional ways in interacting with this group of people and conversely, it seems, his entire opposition is sticking to conventions and not getting any traction.

Of course, they aren't used to compete head-to-head with Trump using the same weapons he employs because he is used to them and the rest is not.

This means that for the moment, Trump is well positioned to terrorize America, unless of course, the majority of American who hate him learn how to respond to him in kind.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Good name, bad book

I just finished reading “The Only Game in Town”.

Since it was authored by Mohamed El-Erian, a financial “celebrity” that hangs around all serious economic TV talk shows and has been involved with the IMF, among other institutions, I thought I would learn even more about the role of central banks and get a better grasp of their functioning, power, margin of maneuver and future options as the title led me to believe.

Instead, I was treated to a mishmash of senseless sentences and obscure words stitched together to get me 250 pages later with nothing understandable that could add to my knowledge. Gobbledygook at best plus an almost total waste of my time.

Another lesson about never to ever judge a book by its cover, all the nice compliments written about the author and the stunning reviews found on Amazon, mostly made by folks who probably didn't have the understanding, the patience or the determination to push to the end of this pointless essay.

Monday, December 12, 2016

What happened to qualitative growth?

Two days ago, I was lamenting the curse of growth at all cost as it is served to us by our governments. In the past, I have suggested the idea of “qualitative growth” that could bring us better services and products and might returns more good jobs to advanced countries.

With further considerations, such a return to quality might mean in aggregate less “stuff” produced, less consumption, less revenue and ultimately less GDP and a fall in our standard of living.

This might work well though with advanced countries that are beginning to suffer a decline in population and are considering “importing” labor, as is the case with Germany or Japan.

A return to quality might soften the blow, but would not help much in maintaining the wealth of these countries. And then, there is the growing labor demand for those tasks no one wants to do anymore in these same “advanced” countries.

Harnessing growth is by no mean easy and cannot be dissociated from out-of-control population growth. It then begs the question, where is the “soft-spot” if there is ever one, but doesn't seem to preclude an inevitable era of massive belt-tightening...

Sunday, December 11, 2016

First powder of the season

As usual, the quantities of new snow promised by the forecasters failed to fully materialize, but I still was able to remember how natural, powder snow felt like.

On Friday morning, I went to Thaynes, my Park City's favorite run and with hundreds of other powder hounds, ran laps among whippers of all sizes through half a foot of powder snow.
It was a wonderful change from skiing the bullet-proof man made snow I had been served prior to that day. It might now be possible that the real ski season is just around the corner!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Give me Growth!

Every politician is promising growth; Trump says 4% a year would be good, because the current 2% is a “disaster”.

The Europeans want more growth too, so are the Chinese, the Senegalese and the 200 others countries in business around the planet.

Are we to compete in a “zero-sum game” in which we steal business from each other, or do we believe that the pie, i.e. the population will keep on growing to sustain the unsustainable?

Where is that magical growth going to come from? Can an “economist” explain this to me?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Can “Charlie Hebdo” humor translate into German?

Recently, the French and tragically famous Charlie Hebdo began publishing in Germany.

I didn't get to read the magazine, but I just glanced at its cover with Angela Merkel slouched on a car lift, inside what looks like a VW repair shop.

The cover states that “VW stands behind Merkel” while the mechanic on duty hold what appears to be a replacement exhaust system, and says: “A new muffler should get her going for another 4 years”.

I just wonder how the acerbic Charlie Hebdo humor will fare on the eastern side of France!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Choosing a bad ski for a good day

It is said that too many cooks spoil the broth. Likewise, too many skis on a rack make picking the right boards a tricky endeavor. For years, I've been notoriously guilty of practicing “Polyskigamy”, which doesn't come as a shock, especially when one lives in the epicenter of the Mormon culture ...

I currently use four pairs of alpine skis, plus an extra one coming soon. Out of these, I've got a 5 year old pair of “rock skis”, one brand new pair of Dynastar, one 6 year-old pair of Scott that ski “average” and my Rossignols from last year.
Out of eight ski days so far this winter, I've used them all and in the process managed to scratch the base of my brand-new Dynastars instead of having picked the shorter, 180 cm, Salomon “rock skis”, with dull edges, that particular day.

The following day, I picked the “rock skis” I took them on some icy man-made snow with not a single rock in view. Go figure! Later, I was disappointed in my old Scotts and got the most satisfaction out of my too long, 188 cm, Rossignol Experience 88.

Too many choices, too many skis, too many causes for error. I need to simplify, in other words, “monogamize” my ski options...

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A bird shrinks the history of skiing...

The history of skiing spans over centuries. First there was sliding on mostly flat, snow-covered expanses of terrain, then came some downhill sliding that required climbing back up the hill the hard way.

This evolution happened slowly and very incrementally. Finally came the lifts. Cable cars, gondolas, surface lifts, then chairlifts and funiculars. More recently the helicopter became an even fastest – albeit environmentally unfriendly – way to fly back to the top.

Even with its tiny brains, the bird pictured in the video was innately able to compress that learning process and incorporate the fun of sliding in picking the perfect board (a yogurt lid), in finding good snow (looks like powder to me), the perfect slope and was able to fly back to the top for as many runs as it wanted.

Now, compare this bird to the human specie with its over-sized brains that took so long to get to that level of sophistication !

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A beneficial slow ski season start

Most skis seasons are almost the same. The snow comes parsimoniously if at all; snow-making only begins when it's cold enough, it takes always more time than planned before a few runs are passable and while skiers always delude themselves in wishing for six feet of snow on opening day, this is seldom the case, especially in November. 
Instead, all hungry powder-hounds are served piecemeal in tiny portions, one bit at a time. This in fact is a blessing in disguise as it enables us to start slowly, regain our footing, get used again to the effect of speed and the presence of other users all around us and re-train ourselves into good skiers.

Not that we forget the sport we love during the off-season, but we need to gently get back in the swing of things. If we didn't have to tip-toe back into it, it would feel like entering a shower set at full-blast and it sure would be disruptive if not downright dangerous.

So, thanks Mother Nature for easing us slowly and safely back into skiing!

Monday, December 5, 2016

If success fails to bring happiness...

...Can happiness bring success ? Most probably, I think. Recently, I was reading that aphorism and thinking at the “cart-before-the-horse” quandary.

It's probably true that happiness is a predisposition that we have or don't have. In other words, it is a state of mind that we deliberately chose at no direct cost to us.

Just like a positive outlook, a smile, a friendly gesture, an ability to always see our cup half-full and appreciate what we've got, as slim as it may be.

Happiness can be the color, the backdrop of our lives. If it's constantly bright, chances are that it will attract good things and desirable events.

Sure, they don't have to be called “success”, they just have to feel good and feed on the happiness that we borrowed when we “primed the pump!”

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Stuck in the middle with 'em...

A few days ago, I was riding a wide 6-pack chair with two grown men on either sides of me. They both were in their late 40s, early 50s, looked strong, tough and gruff. The man on my left had a pair of Head skis, the man on my right had a pair of Atomic slalom skis along with a pair of curvaceous ski poles.

Over me, while I was sitting quietly and silently, smack in the middle, both men struck a conversation as we went up the hill.

Man on left: “Do you like your Atomics?”
Man on right: “Yeah, these are 'race-stock'...” This man sounded just like Marcel Hircher.
Man on left: “I used to have the same before the Heads, but I liked the Atomics better, they were bouncier, had more life in 'em!”
Man on right:“Yours aren't 'race-stock', that's why...”
Man on left: “What bindings do you have?” The man probably thought he was Aksel Svindal.
Me: “Those are just Look bindings...” I had not realized that the man on left was not talking to me. I had ordinary Dynastar Power Pack and since I must have looked like a 70 years old, who would probably not grasp what both were talking about.
Man on right: “They're race-stock too. They go to '22'!”
Man on left:“That's high!”
Man on right: “You don't have to set them that high, though...”
Man on left: “You're probably right...”

We reach the top, I poled explosively out of the way, skied down like a rocket and never saw these two jerks again...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My ticket to America is 40 years old!

It's in December of 1976 that my life suddenly and unexpectedly changed. At that moment, my young wife and I had decided that Nevers, the boring provincial town where Look bindings was located, just in the middle of nowhere, as well as my job there, weren't bringing us the modicum of happiness we wanted from life.

Within weeks, we put the small and old apartment, we had purchased in the center of town for sale, got just more than our money back and had made plans to return to my brand new house near Morzine, in the Alps, where I would resume ski instructing up in Avoriaz.

At about the same time, Look held its international meeting of agents and distributors at its factory and the executives from Beconta, our American distributors, were in attendance. When they heard that I was leaving Look, they asked me if I would consider a job at their New York offices to assist with the nascent subsidiary that Look bindings wanted to start within its distributor infrastructure.

Kip Pitou is the one who actually came up with the suggestion on the account that I would well complement the skills and the lack of ski industry knowledge Ed Paul, the new president of Look Sports Inc, brought to the table. The offer captured my undivided attention and after a rather short negotiation, I must have decided that the opportunity was a life-changing deal for me and my career.

I took the job with enthusiasm while my spouse wasn't too sure, not knowing English and never having set foot before in America. I must say that I forced the issue in accepting the job. I would instruct skiing in Avoriaz during the Christmas – New Year Holidays and would begin my new American job, early the following January.

Ignorance being bliss, I had no idea what I was doing and what this fateful decision would entail in terms of pain, suffering and sundry disappointments along the way, but it would set the stage for a long career, a brand new experience, two American children and a new life on this side of the Atlantic that I still cherish to this day!

Friday, December 2, 2016

The freezing month of February 1956

I was a kid living with my parents at the time, and the month of February of 1956 was the longest cold spell in our mountain village history; it lasted from February 7 to February 29, with 23 consecutive days of extremely cold temperatures.

Recently, I was reminiscing these days with my brother, with whom I was sharing the same bedroom. He remembered that the inside exterior wall was covered with ice. That's right, sheer ice! Hard to imagine, ice on the complete wall, not just the windows; now, I remember it quite clearly!

Our parents cinder-block house had no insulation whatsoever and my brother who always had a weak pulmonary system was just in the worst possible environment that would exacerbate his current prolonged and very severe case of emphysema.

Of course, our parents had no idea at the time and for them it was simply a way to fatalistically accept the idea of the survival of the fittest!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why is American healthcare so expensive?

In the United States, the cost of healthcare is by far the highest in the world when compared to the country's GDP. Most other developed nations spend far less than we do compared to their own GDP. What creates such a disconnect?

Today, American spend around $3 trillion or a whopping $9,500 per person on healthcare for outcomes that are no better than any of these countries, and a life expectancy that is the lowest among these same nations. Over the years, prices keep on climbing, letting to think that, one day, healthcare might have to be limited to remain affordable...

Could our system be so inefficient to cause this disparity are there an army of parties that enrich themselves along the way, like hospitals, doctors, drug and insurance companies? Most probably. Common sense would suggest that there must be a way to look at what other countries do right to get their healthcare at a fraction of the cost Americans pay.

What ever happened to best-practices? Have be become so insular that we've also decided to so full of ourselves and chosen to ignore what it is that some other countries do better than we do? These questions call for more discussions and reviewing a selection of game-changing solutions!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

François Baud, 1928-2016

This man from Morzine, near my hometown, just passed away on November 24. Back in the 1950s, he was the local hero when he was named a member of the French Ski Team.

François Baud aka “Piron” was a strong and talented skier who competed at the 1950 Ski World Championships in Aspen and managed, while in the USA that very same winter, to win the slalom of the Harrimann Cup, in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Our local Olympic Champion, Jean Vuarnet marveled at Baud's athletic abilities. I remember him when I first began working at the Avoriaz Ski School, where he was a ski-instructor-at-large and also a significant catalyst behind the 1971 crisis that shook-up its entire foundation and altered the course of my career in the ski industry.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The French Right Primary

Just like we followed the primaries and presidential elections in America, we didn't miss the center-right presidential primaries in France and watched the four debates that led to François Fillon's selection.
From the get-go, we were rather impressed with the overall qualities of the seven candidates, even though just three to four clearly stood out. They were civil, were smart and all had a program that they were willing to explain, discuss and defend.

We were jealous, because both Clinton and Trump not only deprived us of a healthy political discussion of their program, but they were clearly not up to the task and only belonged in a TV sitcom.

I'm not even talking about the 16 other republican candidates that were all pathetic or the 3 democratic and forgettable candidates that completed the offering of Clinton and Sanders.

It's unbelievable that the land that produces people like Bill Gates, Steve Job, Mark Zuckerberg and welcomes an entrepreneur like Elon Musk, can only serve us unadulterated crap when it comes to political figures.

Monday, November 28, 2016

From fatigue to jogging suit

A few months ago, I had the good fortune to interview the “Comandante” Fidel Castro via Skype.

Go 11: How are you feeling today, Fidel?

Fidel: Pretty good, but I still feel a bit weak; the treatment didn't work as it should have. Still I'm in a good mood today, because I just got this new Adidas training suit!

Go11: It looks great on you! Tell me weren't you wearing Fila before?

Fidel: Yep, but its a complicated story. First, the color selection was seriously lacking. You didn't find the contrast Adidas offers. Then, the quality simply wasn't there. I had one shoulder that ripped at the shoulder seam and then there was their zippers. Ah, their zippers were just substandard; they failed on two occasions. I think the German simply make a superior garment.

Go11: Why did you quit wearing those fatigues? To be candid, you looked more revolutionary in them...

Fidel: After I passed the power on to Raoul, those became inconvenient. Too many pockets, I could never find in which one I had left my cigars, plus they were far to many buttons to button each morning and unbutton in the evening. Also, the cloth was kind of hard on my skin. If I were not close to my 90s I'd say that Adidas is to die for! Plus, the Adidas suit is much easier to handle, the pants have a rubber band and I always leave the top unzipped.

Go11: Where did you get that suit?

Fidel: Someone picked it up for me at the Adidas Outlet Store in Sunrise, Florida. Sure I wear them loose, but that one fit me right out of the bag.

Go11: Never thought of trying Nike?

Fidel: Are you kidding? These suits are for corrupt capitalists and I won't get caught dead in one of these (laugh)!

Go11: Just like free and fair elections in Cuba, right? Get out of here, Fidel!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ushering in my 64th ski season...

I've been remiss in not keeping you informed of our warmer than usual November. Blame it on the Presidential election and also on the fact that I have decided not to commiserate anymore about things I can't control, like weather-related issues!

That's right, for the first 3 weeks of November, the weather felt just like September and, in the very end, Park City only had 4 to 5 days to scramble and make enough snow to cover one single run.

Needless to say that the snow-covered area was packed on this opening day! After watching a video of the scene shot around 11 am, I wondered if it would be wise to risk my bones, joints and perhaps life.
But being the adventurous guy that I am, I managed to get out and ski from 2 pm until the last chair and had my full share of fun among skiers “exploding” from all sides and finding my way, more by the grace of God, than by sheer luck and evasive maneuvers...

Is a dead commie a good one?

I've hesitated a bit before picking this title, but I've little sympathy for communism and its ruling despots.

This said, I've always found Fidel Castro a bit of a cartoonish character in his later years. He probably was every bit as bad as before and still directing his thugs from his death bed, but in my eyes, he had somehow become an anachronism in the digital age.

The man was determined to cling on power, the past and his flawed ideology, just like modern-day Iranian ayatollahs keep on doing. I will only miss his active modeling career, sporting brightly colored training suits, mostly Adidas branded.

The German sport shoe company owes him a debt of gratitude and should cut the Cuban people a huge check to pay for the farewell tour of “El Comandante's” ashes around the island!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Good communication isn't easy!

When I became a ski instructor in my native France, we went through a highly selective and grueling training, mostly focused on skiing technique. In other words, you needed to be or become an excellent skier (in those days) to have a shot a becoming a ski instructor.

Just like Christians, French ski instructors had to study their own bible called “Mémento du Ski Français” that captured the art, the essence and the “theology” of “selling turns” to the public. That piece of literature was no easy read and was written in technical jargon that required to be adapted by the savvier instructors in order to communicate it understandably to their students. It's also true that pedagogy wasn't top priority at the time.

A couple of days ago, I discovered that an updated version of that manual had been released, not just in print, but also available on line. I jumped on it and I tried to discover what was new and hip; as I delved into the material, I discovered that the entire piece was written in gobbledygook instead of in a style that readers would be able to comprehend without focusing and pondering like crazy on each and every word.

I'm pretty good with foreign languages, but there, I was just lost! Skiing is already a counter-intuitive sport and if it's not explained in ways the student can directly relate, see and feel by using images and simple terminology, learning becomes even harder.

I hope the French skis instructors that must study their updated method are resourceful enough to translate it into a practical language that speaks loudly to their students' mind eyes and physical senses!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Do you still have a landline?

A Facebook friend of mine asked that question to his many buddies and here are some of the most interesting responses he received:

“What's a landline?”
“No, but my 82yr old mother does!”
“Yes......when I lose my cell phone, it is a Godsend!”
“I have a pay phone out front.”
“Got rid of the land line years ago and guess what? The annoying sales calls at dinner time stopped!” “Being Italian, I have a line on the South facing balcony on which I hang clothes. A receiver on the roof for high speed internet and a cell phone.”
“Yes for all the phone solicitors to call- we never answer it.”
“In 5 years we have built 240 new homes in Michigan. Only 3 of those homeowners have installed land lines. Mine has been gone for years.”
“We do. We have to have a phone to take all those political calls.”
“Yes. Bad reception out in the country.”
“Is that the rope attached to a life preserver?”

Then, my answer:

“I don't get many telegrams these days, I sure still have a fixed line but I think I'll dump my telex in 2017 and my fax in 2020...”

Now, what's your response?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Celebrating Thanksgiving for the 40th time!

Our first Thanksgiving spend in America was in 1977. So today will be our 40th celebration of this quintessential American Holiday.

In spite of our best efforts, we can't recollect where we spent that first “Turkey Day”.

Did we just stay home, my wife and I, or were we invited to partake in the festivities? We frankly have no recollection at all, but I guess we were discovering the idiosyncrasies of our new life in the New World.

Today we know the full Pilgrim story and while we were not fleeing religious persecution by any means.

White Plains was our Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower had been a Swissair DC10 that took us to Kennedy Airport...

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The “One-Sale” Salesman

Most of us have dealt with a wide variety of sales people over the years and in so doing, have seen a huge variety of different styles at work.

Arguably, the best one would be the one that truly tried to build a sincere rapport with the customer in order to foster a long-term relationship that would unavoidably lead – as a nice bonus – into multiple, pleasant transactions.

At the opposite end of that spectrum is the sales guy that has to make the sale no matter what it takes. Do accomplish that he or she will lie, cheat, deceive, insult, harass and bully. This sales approach is generally unexpected and most people facing it are so taken aback and ill-prepared that they can't handle it.

Chances are, the thug will trample them, may very well win the contest and ultimately get the sale, but this will be a Pyrrhic victory, or in more prosaic terms, a one-time sale.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Is Berlusconi a preview of Trump?

Both began in real estate, are unfashionably sexists, have hair issues, had extensive cosmetic work, don't like Muslims, are billionaires and are Putin's fans.

So when I watched “My Way”, a documentary on Netflix, last night, I couldn't help but attempt to “connect the dots” and projecting a Trump presidency as rough and chaotic as the Italian Prime Minister's leadership, antics and fall from grace and power.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a repeat of that crash with Trump and wouldn't be the only one. The documentary is well constructed but fails to clearly explain the downfall of Silvio Berlusconi as it was allegedly orchestrated by Christine Lagarde, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy.

I'll have to do more research on the subject...

Monday, November 21, 2016

A good cycling season...

This weekend I rode my mountain-bike for what is likely to be the last two outings of the season.

I began on Saturday on partially snowy, hard-packed, frozen trails and with Sunday's higher temperatures, the second ride was a rather muddy and tricky one in several areas, but all in all, I had a wonderful time.

I still managed to get 30 times on my mountain-bike and close to 70 times on my road bike which is my cycling record at the moment. Sure, my peak days on fat tires are becoming something of the past, but I'm not giving up yet on that form of riding.

In the meantime, the bikes are put aside for winter, unless of course, the snow fails to arrive!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Warren Buffet on the election...

The billionaire was recently interviewed on CNN about the presidential election and when I finally watched it, I wasn't impressed; quite on the contrary, I was deeply disappointed.

I used to like Mr. Buffet and thought he seemed like a well-meaning, down-to-earth human being in spite of his immense wealth, especially when he lamented the fact that he paid less taxes than his own secretary, but I now realize that he was just pandering to the gullible American public in saying that.

Now, the old man suggests that we ought to give Trump a chance and that everything will be honky-dory. Sure, he doesn't want to scare his customers away, whether they buy Duracell batteries, Geico insurance of Heinz ketchup.

So for him, even if the Devil ran the White House, it would make no difference as long as he keeps on piling up his money!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Are you ready for “Putinism?”

A friend of mine just shared an interview from Raffaele Simone, an Italian philosopher who claims that our politicians have done their best to screw up the political system by losing touch with people's daily reality, causing them to to lose interest in the political world and eventually, stop participating in elections. He seems convinced that modernity is under the influence of planetary capitalist power, a dual-headed system that is both monstrous and gentle. People crave economic comfort without having to get involved at all in a political system they feel alienated from.

The rise of populism that we're seeing is no surprise to him with Trump on this side of the Atlantic and Putin on the other. He call that new movement “Putinism”, in which “people are willing to give up political freedoms for economic peace of mind”.

To me the only alternative open to the failed representative democracy we must endure today is a more direct (or perhaps total) form of democracy like we see in Switzerland. More on this later...

Friday, November 18, 2016

The curse of modern retailing

This summer, we purchased two road bikes from REI, a sporting goods place where we happen enjoy shopping. Generally, the staff isn't pressuring its customers and the experience is rather pleasant.

The purchase of these two pieces of equipment came with two vouchers for a free tune-up within a six month time-frame ; so as snow was falling yesterday, we took the bikes back to the store for the free check-up that came with the purchase.

When we got there, the young saleslady jumped all over the chains of both bicycles and measured them for wear ; she immediately declared that both almost needed replacement and in fact needed to be changed if we cared enough about keeping the cassettes in good condition.

We had used these bikes for much less than a thousand miles and felt that changing the chains so soon wasn't just justified, but a bit premature.

Selling up, selling extra, has indeed become the curse of modern selling and retailing ; we're simply sick of it. We told the young lady to leave the current chains, but today I got a phone call from REI that my wife brakes pads needed to be changed...

I guess you can't win all the battles !

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A negotiation nightmare...

This bad dream hit me early this morning. I was in Geneva, Switzerland and had been offered a job paying Sfr. 90,000 a year (about the same amount in US Dollars).

For some weird reasons, I had brought all my furniture into an apartment that I wanted to rent. I remember that the place looked like a loft, with tall ceilings, a large living area, wood floors, up into a downtown building. Its interior features was reminiscent of a spacecraft, just like the USS Enterprise.

The Sfr. 1,950 monthly rent seemed quite high to me, but would be a bargain to any folks living in Geneva today, and I was desperate to negotiate the amount down. Problem was, all my furniture was already in and my wife was cold and rather impatient of seeing that transaction done with so we could leave the place.

To add to the drama, Chris Christie, the New Jersey Governor stepped in to interfere and the situation got so uncomfortable that my only issue left was to wake up!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Not thrilled about Trump!

A few days ago, I changed my Facebook picture to illustrate my discontent about our new President-Elect. A former ski business associate of mine, addressed it in his own words:

"Apparently you all have missed CNN's official election results? What happened to a smooth and seamless transfer of power. Anyone need a copy of the Constititian of the United States of America? Maybe residing in another country is 'your' answer."

Here was my response:

"Brad, I welcome your remarks. No, I didn't miss the election results, but remember that there is no constitutional obligation to accept them. I'm just exercising my First Amendment Right. This said, I have no current desire to take residence in another country.

Just like you, I'm an American Citizen who, for the last four decades, has probably been paying more Federal Taxes than Mr. Trump. You see, there are matters that are part of the American Fabric and one of them is to disagree with civility; we all need to respect this.

I'd love to say the same about the President-Elect, but I can't; he hoisted himself into position through hate speech, racism, insults, lies and misogyny. By so doing, he set up a terrible example for our kids, grand-kids and our entire society. I'm just simply and politely expressing my opinion. There's a huge difference between the two paths.

Because I've made my living (and still does) in the ski industry, I don't look very favorably to those who deny human-induced climate-change and want to shut down the EPA. I'm also very concerned about lowering taxes on the rich, on those (like me) that owned tax-pass-through tax entity and will end up paying a measly 15% in Federal Taxes when our cost of Government is north of 25% of GDP.

Ronald Reagan demonstrated that “trickle-down” doesn't work, and I don't think that the American Rustbelt will recover its glitter with a return of steel and manufacturing industries as we used to know them. I'm concerned about a tsunami of social fanaticism in the country with super conservative Supreme Court Judges and believe that government should stay out of our private lives.

Finally, I'm very, very concerned that Mr. Trump turns into an autocrat like Mr. Putin and that our Constitution and Rule of Law might be unable to contain him.

I could go on, Brad, but those are my main thoughts and I hope I expressed them in a clear and unambiguous manner."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ski Industry thoughts about Trump

Ski Area Management (SAM) is a magazine targeting the mid and top management at American ski resorts. Unless it has been living under a rock, its entire audience should be very extremely sensitive to the issue of global warming.

In a tongue-and-check survey it asked its readership to express their opinion about a Trump presidency. I voted along with 472 other readers, and I posted the results next to this blog.

For those of my readers who have not quite followed or understood some of the key points in Trump's program, just remember that he doesn't believe in climate change, that he will go full tilt to extract more fossil fuels every where he can, that he will renege on the recent Paris Accords, abolish the EPA and that Sarah Palin is likely to be his Interior Secretary (Nation Public Lands and wildlife)!

Enough to make a legitimate member of the ski industry commit suicide, but apparently not in the instance of our ski lift owners, operators and managers. More than 40% are okay with his program while the rest (less than 60% of smart folks) is praying hard that none of it comes to pass, so go figure...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Post-election survival guide

Almost one week after the election, half of this nation is in a total state of shock and it's only now that I'm absorbing the enormity of the situation. I feel like the inhabitants of Mosul when Isis entered their city of those of Kandahar when the Talibans showed up there for the first time.

Then, this morning, I asked myself, where do I go from that state of depression and move forward. That's when I found this article in the New York Review of Books by Masha Gessen, “Autocracy: Rules for Survival”.

In her article, Gessen, who is Russian and knows Putin well, points to the soft and conciliatory declarations by Clinton and Obama, asking us to keep “an open mind” towards Trump, echoing Neville Chamberlain’s when he declared about Hitler that “We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analyzing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will.”

This defeatist approach suggests to shut off alternative responses to his minority victory. Gessen's article is both terrific and terrifying; in it, she makes five strong points:

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. The Wall, the deportations, the hatred

Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. An autocrat is not normal.

Rule #3: Institutions (constitution, rule of law) will not save you.

Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised.

Rule #5: Don’t make compromises. Stay the course and don't give in.

Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever. The autocrat too will pass.

Most importantly, read the article and act on it...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Twenty years of home internet

In November 1996, we finally got the internet at home. I said “finally”, because I wanted it for at least a year, and couldn't wait to experiment with this world-opening marvel.

I've always been a sucker for novelty and an early-adopter of technology. We had gotten our first home personal computer 13 years before! This time, a new chapter was opening up.

Sure, we had to make do with a frustratingly slow dial-up connection. It would always come off line and was quite unreliable. The websites were crude, few and far between, and I could only email with the few americans I knew that were online at the time.

The situation would rather evolve quickly through the end of the 90's and by the millennium we almost had internet as we know it today, but these precious pioneering moments are now etched in my memory...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

From kitchen to politics, you need good ingredients!

We seem to have already forgotten that we had two of the worst candidates vying for the presidency of the United States. If we were expecting a good outcome we simply were all delusional. Just like hoping for a delectable meal cooked with foul ingredients!

Both were despised by a vast majority of the electorate and, in my case, I had to hold my nose to vote for Clinton. She won the popular vote thanks to all the people who hated Trump, but the later prevailed and got the job, thrust by an even larger number of Clinton haters.

When all was said and done, and with a measly 57% voter participation nationwide, Trump got less than 27% of the votes from all eligible voters, hardly a mandate. Now whether we have to cook it with Trump or Clinton ingredients, the food is guaranteed to taste awful and make you sick!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Let's get rid of the Electoral College

In terms of popular votes, Clinton has won this presidential election. Yet, the Electoral College is going to bypass that fact and soon, elect Trump instead.

Eliminating that archaic system would require a Constitutional amendment, so dream on! Another point that shows that the “sacred” American Constitution is badly beyond the times and would need to be fully scrapped and rewritten. This of course is anathema for the gullible, brainwashed, average American citizen, even though it may eventually come to pass when the American electorate grows a tiny bit smarter.

Still, there are other ways to rid the United States of the Electoral College, like convincing state-level legislators to require their electors to cast ballots for whoever wins the national popular vote. This effort would only takes effect if enough states whose total electoral votes surpass 270, pass bills agreeing to participate.

Today, there a petition running around trying to convince the Grand Electors to cast their vote for Clinton instead of Trump when they are called to vote on December 19. I cast my vote, but won't hold my breath...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

We deserve the leaders we get!

Eight years ago, Obama and Clinton made a deal after a bitter electoral primary. She'd get the Secretary of State job to round-up her resume.

In the process she and husband Bill high-jacked the Democratic Party (DNC) and started pulling the strings from within. When Bernie Sanders became a threat, they killed his candidacy and in the meantime, the DNC ignored their base, piled up irresponsible decisions, bad judgments, kept on enriching themselves from Wall-Street.

All the campaign time was used to defend her dismal candidacy, in the hope that, despite of all this, they'd “wing” this election just because every long time supporters including black or Hispanics would fall – once more - for the Clinton dynasty. In fact, voters' participation was 54.2%, the worst since 2000.

Now, we've got what we've deserve with Trump and it incumbent upon all of us to get off our ass and start doing something constructive to turn around this catastrophe. Clinton and Obama need to go away for good now. As for me, I don't plan to go to Canada or move back to France yet.