Thursday, March 31, 2016

Meaningful political debates?

In recent months, we've been debated to death, here in America. At first, the republican debates were entertaining and often funny, but nothing of substance was ever brought to the fore. I would even say that my later comment applies to the Democratic debates as well.

What would have made sens would have been to poll the population first, asking a representative segment to tell us what the real problems that government needed to resolve were, so these problems, not ISIS, abortion or other fringe issues could ever take center stage.

This would have provided a meaningful canvass for moderators to articulate the debates around, and give us an idea about which candidate offered the best solutions to the real problems faced by our country and its citizens.

Not the other way around by making it too candidate-centric and with no possible escape towards a bunch of trivial issues or sudden and convenient emergencies...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Big dump, years, strength and agility...

Yesterday was that spring snow “big dump” that gave us one to two hours of great skiing. Alas, far too quickly the powder snow turned to concrete to the point of becoming impossible to move around and being just dangerous.
Add to that a smidgen less muscular strength and some reduce agility from the aging skier and very soon, heaven turned into hell. I still managed to ski through it and had a wonderful time, but this morning, my body remembered far to vividly the beating it took!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What would we do if we feared not?

This is a wonderful question. The ideal answer, of course, would be: “Absolutely nothing extra.”

This is not the case as far as I'm concerned. I'm far from being free of fears and when I examine them, I realize that they are far from being rational, but they sure have their own power on me and it's hard to release their grip.
That shouldn't be such a big deal, but it is. Well, this is really too bad and there's only one person to blame for that sad state of affair: My own self!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Talking and fighting about God

Today, I was just reading an op-ed in the New York Times about the belief in God and (lack-thereof) in Atheism. It was saying that doubt permeates both extreme, or should, to validate them.

Interestingly, the article couldn't make room for a “middle way” called agnosticism. Then I read the readers' comments. One of them said it best: “God is Santa Claus for grownups”. Probably on target.

Now where do I fit in this smorgasbord of deities, religion, superstition, atheism, doubt, agnosticism and humanism? I'm simply marveling at Nature and the Universe without asking too many questions.

To me, that's the living and more attractive alternative to of all these archaic, closed questions that lead nowhere, but permanent conflicts and destruction.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

How to improve or maintain skiing skills?

Big question that we hear over and over again. The answer is simple: Do harder stuff (I mean skiing), push the envelope, research conditions that are pretty disgusting, impossible snow, hard terrain and even poor visibility.

If you're young enough (below 50 or 60) you'll improve, if you are over this range, you'll maintain what you've got a little bit longer. Very simple and yes, quite difficult!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The art of cultivating ideas, projects

Getting a project or an idea going, takes generally more time than planned, and is always fraught with unpleasant surprises or unforeseen hurdles. The nice developments are much rarer and are often, the result of pure luck.

The best way to protect against these vexing problem is to start much earlier than we normally would and begin planting seeds at all times, so answers to most problems can eventually come to fruition on their own.

This way, it's possible to resolve one issue after the other, bring up better solutions and unveil some of the unpredictable aspects of what we're after.

Luxury of time is obviously the key ingredient that makes the process work smoothly and, without it, we always rush into building something that its still simmering with a host of weird, damaging and costly issues as the by-products.

So if you are into starting a project, always begin ahead of schedule, keep planting many seeds all the time and never cease doing it until your plan is completed...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Another (Good) Friday...

Good Friday began to make an impression on me some 60 years ago when I began serving as a choir boy; this of course, was before I was promoted to altar boy, a few years later. While I can't say that I really believed in an almighty God, I was terrorized by all the damage he might do to me, so I kind of behaved as a believer under that understandable pressure.

This routine became part of my Easter school holidays until I became a teenager. What was most interesting to me though, was the story of Jesus being betrayed by one of his followers, then judged and crucified by Pontius Pilate. I liked that story a lot. To me, it was entertainment, a substitute for the theater or movies that I never got a chance to go to.

The resurrection, a few days later, didn't impress me as much. It was really hard to believe and frankly, I cared more about the legal proceedings and execution than the unlikely resurrection of Christ. I also liked all the liturgies, the hymns and other songs that flavored this yearly ritual.

Good Friday was by far my favorite celebration, much more so than Christmas or any other religious Holidays, as I will never forgot its tension-filled atmosphere when I stood front and center in that remarkable show...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

You must be a Chef!

I knew it; this would happen sooner or later. To most Americans, French people and only good at two things: Cooking and ladies hair-styling.

So, it was just a bit of a surprise, but no real shock when a Canadian-born skier living in Pennsylvania, riding the chairlift with me, assumed wrongly that I “must be a Chef, right?”
I retorted “Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm neither a Chef nor a Lady hair-stylist.”

It's amazing how folks rely on stereotypes to generate their flawed judgment, as if any Venetian was a gondolier. Get real, America; French people can be everything an American would die to become, and even much, much more!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Our first caucus...

In Utah, if you vote Democratic at the Presidential election your vote won't count because of the stupid U.S. electoral system based on “grand electors” that will only take into consideration what the (conservative) majority of our theocratic state will chose.

So, when we could pick between primary candidates, this was the only time our vote did count, so we couldn't miss this and last night we join 2,000 people who joined in at the local Democratic caucus and cast our vote.
The crowd was huge, the tension palpable and this morning we learned that 67% of Park City voters picked Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. We were elated and will do it again, because we might be gone when this stupid electoral system is finally changed...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Goals for the times...

As I am settling into the last phase of life, it would seem fitting to set some goals for these precious remaining years.

It's possible to look at my option on a dial ranging from one extreme to another, for example, “shrivel and die” on one end and “unleash all energy, passion and burn the candle at both ends” on the opposite end.
Surely, the sweet spot might be located somewhere in between these two extreme positions and the resulting plan could be summed up as such: “Eliminate fear and worry, only focus on matters that are happy, constructive and healthy...”

Seems like an excellent preamble. More details to come...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Getting some respect, finally!

In recent years, when I'm on the chairlift, most people either totally ignore me or treat me with deference, just because, I assume, they see enough older skin showing up from what they can see outside of my helmet, balaclava and snow goggles.

They seize me and quickly realize I'm not that young anymore, so here we are, I hear some “sirs” here and there, along with that shroud of respect that goes towards elders. I'd never really thought I'd reach that point!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Making skiing fun for kids...

Occasionally, I have the privilege to ski with my grandson, and today was one of these special days. We went all over Park City, including the terrain park, and at some point the little guy confided in me that he would love it if he could ski with other kids his age.
True, he doesn't have too many classmates who ski and it's not easy to join a season-long class when you live in a city, but this might be the best way for him to make skiing appealing rather than only ski with his parents or his grandpa...

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Got fiber?

While most sport doctors recommend a steady ski diet of groomed runs, a regular dose of corduroy, a few dozen moguls and a cloud of powder, the best ones also insist on a daily intake of fiber.

Aspens, white pines, red pines and elderberry will do. Just avoid getting too close and if you think the aspen in front of you is moving, you're probably right, so do everything you can to avoid it...

Get in the trees and find all the fiber you need; it's good for you!

Friday, March 18, 2016

How is your level of happiness?

Believe it or not, the U.N. has come up with a “world's happiness report” ranking, and for 2013-2015, Denmark has reclaimed its place as the world’s happiest country displacing Switzerland as number 2, while Burundi ranks as dead last (157th) as the least happy nation in the world, according to this year's report, released on Wednesday. 22.

This ranking is made up of elements like GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption among others.

I've no doubt that if he were elected, Trump would let “America be great again” and, as a result, we'd easily blow past Denmark (which happens to be one of the countries Bernie Sanders takes as an example to follow...)

Yet, I still feel good that we're a solid 13th, still ahead of Germany (16th), Belgium (18th), filthy-rich Luxembourg (20th), the UK (28th) and France (a surprising and distant 32nd)!

This said, and based on the numbers contained in the report, if I let my mood fluctuate plus or minus 5 percent, I'd feel at best like a Dane and at worst like the Frenchman I still am, so it's not totally this bad!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Judgment and experience

Last night, I heard the best quote about judgment and experience that has ever reached my ears. It went like this: “Good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment.”

The quote is attributed to Nasreddin, a 13th century Sufi and it made so much sense that it literally stopped me in my tracks. I can relate to it entirely, as it has been the live force behind my entire education.

While some first time, inexperienced entrepreneurs might be the exception that confirm the rule (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg among others), I remain convinced that for most of us, we learn the most when we screw-up, as long as we are willing and able to use the experience we learned in this fashion.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Don’t believe everything you think

Yesterday, as I was on my way to ski and crossing the Deer Valley parking lot, my glance caught another noticeable bumper sticker that proclaimed: “Don’t Believe Everything You Think”.
I thought it was cute, made plenty of sense, and since I didn't want to believe everything I thought at that particular moment, I decided to do some research to find out more about it.

I discovered that, besides being a clever sticker, it was also the title of a book by Thomas Kida. In it, the author discusses how to spot our own faulty thinking and develop strategies for not falling into their traps.

Among others points, Kida claims that we generally prefer stories to statistics and that we like to to confirm, not question, our own ideas. He also points out that don't want to recognize the role of luck in our lives.

In summary, the idea is that we tend to misunderstand the world around us, oversimplify our thinking and, too often, forget that our memories are not too reliable.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Warmer winters, vanishing snow

After about one month of spring weather, it finally snowed today.

Yes, I must admit it, winters are no longer what they used to be. It's getting much milder in the mountains and the cold season that bit you deeply at the start of November and lingered on through May is now relegated to the history books.

Skiing has been good though this year, but how long with this last? Another quarter of century?

Perhaps, if we're lucky. At least we must appreciate skiing while it remains decent and still possible. I, for one, does it religiously.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Deer Valley's elevator

It's been spring skiing around Park City for the last six weeks, which means that good skiing is only available from opening time till about noon.

So, the best place to get a “lotta skiing” is Deer Valley.

Consider this; this past Saturday, Evelyne and I skied for 2 ½ hour and racked up over 25,000 feet (7620 m) vertical worth of prime skiing...

Where else can you do this on a week-end day? Short of flying a chopper, just ride the mighty Deer Valley elevator!

Sunday, March 13, 2016


This morning while skiing, we rode a chair with a couple from Newport Beach, California that happened to own a condo in Park City.

They asked me what my favorite local restaurant was. I said Shabu on Main Street. Then they asked what was my second, then third choice... “River Horse, 350 Main” I said. The man said “350 Main offers a two-for-one”.

Then we realized that their quest for eateries was more a matter of two-for-one promo availability than gastronomy. That's when I said: “Would it not be nice if ski manufacturers offered a two-for-one promo; you'd pay for just one ski and get the whole pair!” They laughed.

That gave me courage to push the envelope a tad farther: “These two-for-one promos must have originated in Utah, in sync with Mormons and their plural wives; you marry one, you get two of them!” This time, they didn't laugh. These guy must have been religious and were a bit offended. Okay, I didn't start this stupid conversation...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Love light bikes? Why not light skis?

While some folks spend thousands of dollars on carbon frames and lightweight components for their road-bikes, they seem oblivious of what lightweight ski equipment could do for them. Perhaps they still believe that the corollary of light skis is poor stability, so how can they bridge the chasm?

There are skis that accomplish this better than others! Lights skis are good when you have to carry them, especially if you burden them with bulky and heavy bindings. Lights skis are also able to pivot faster and with far less torque, a great virtue in tricky, irregular or bumpy terrain as well as between trees when they are used in forested areas.

It also make it a lot easier to hoist your skis up on the car rack if you have one and if your vehicle is a SUV, and if you are into alpine touring, a few less ounces can also make a huge difference. Of course, at the end of a long day, a less ponderous equipment won't exhaust you as fast.

There is no question that the discourse about light skis should also involve two other key components that can also make a huge difference in reducing the burden: Bindings and boots. There are indeed lightweight, plastic bindings that work fine, but here again, look for a compact design that won't just be lighter, but won't add to the overall moment of inertia of the ski-binding system and make a world of difference in terms of maneuverability.

Next of course, is the ski boot, where no serious attempt to conquer weight has been pursued since the days of the old Scott boot or the alpine Garmont line that where abandoned and have never been revisited.

If you don't think that carrying too much weight around is smart, look for the equipment that will lighten your burden and brighten your experience. Don't wait!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Do we need another ski brand?

Yesterday, I tested XO, a small, new brand of ski and met its charismatic creator. The products skis very well, feels light, yet is quite stable, its graphics look “clean” and when you take time to examine it, there's nothing odd that jumps up.

All this to say that, unless you can detect the subtle skiability advantage, it's extremely challenging to pinpoint to a distinctive advantage over other models and brands. Ski-testing is also muddled with a host of variables, like ski base preparation, snow and weather conditions, tester's experience and snow-feel sense to name just a few.

Then, in order to go over these hurdles, a ski marketer must focus on a clear positioning and find a definition or slogan for the product that will firmly anchor it into a user's mental hierarchy. If the main quality is ease of skiing, lightness, stability or a combination of all, a short, snappy and sexy slogan has to be found. In parallel, a “best and highest use” has to be found for the product.

In this particular example, it could be “the ideal ski for women” or “perfect boards for tree skiing”. Of course, slogan and targetting can be fused into an all-encompassing positioning statement. This said, the selected positioning is what will determine the product appearance, performance and breadth of line, not the other way around.

These are reference points that are hard to grasp, often time-consuming and not always happening in the right sequential order, which explain why certain products that get it all right the first time are more successful (or lucky) than others...

Thursday, March 10, 2016

It's okay, the others do it...

Last night's Univision democratic presidential debate was arguably the best ran debate we've seen this primary election season.

I feel that Sanders did better than Clinton, but the old man got entangled over his past sympathies for Daniel Ortega and Fidel Castro while his female opponent handled the question about her use of a private server like a teenager would by responding: “because everyone does it” and “it's not forbidden”.

Okay, Mrs. Clinton was educated as a lawyer, she's been around the Arkansas governor's mansion, the White House and was a US Senator before she became Secretary of State and choose to be secretive by installing her own server in the basement of her Chappaqua home.

She should have know better, no, she should have know Ethics 101. She has no excuse and doesn't deserve anyone's trust.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Time, resources and business planning

Most business plans mostly focus on action plans, financial resources and time lines but do very little with the crucial ingredient that time represents, which might, in many instances – such as start-up phase – be the most valuable resource.

Why is that? Most likely because most of us don't value time as much as we should and don't realize, until later in life, that it's an equally limited and vanishing resource for all.

If we did, we'd be so much more efficient and effective that it could indeed change the world, but on the surface time looks and feel so free that we talk it for granted and waste it away as if there was no future...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

An interesting ski test

This morning I tested the XO skis, manufactured in Poland and marketed by Stéphane Exartier, a young French entrepreneur.

Besides being quite pleasant on the snow, well balanced, light and yet stable under the foot, I also discovered that the narrowest ski of the group we tested (77 mm underfoot in a 166 cm length) was also the most fun. Its wider counterpart (84 mm underfoot, 172 cm in length) was more awkward and not as easy to ski. 
Take-away for the day? I must reduce both the width and length or my skis and stop following the fattening craze that had messed up the quality of our collective skiing in North America.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Preaching the ski gospel

Early this morning, on my way to ski, I met Stéphane Exartier, a 46 year old former French and Polish ski team member who is trying to find ski shops able and willing to retail his line of XO skis. He's in fact the son-in-law of Andrzej Bachleda, a top Polish skier from the 70s and has worked in Switzerland for Dynastar/Lange as well as Scott winter products.
Today, he's attempting the unthinkable, the seemingly impossible task of selling specialty skis without a sale organization, the help of ski reps, a service center and a warehouse. In the next days, I plan to test his product and will report on my experience. I also plan to share some thoughts and advice with this fearless entrepreneur!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Can older champions spring back?

After we see Hirscher and Shiffrin winning in their unmistakable ways, it's nice – from time to time – to witness the resurgence of an older, former champion who is able to outdo him or herself.

This alpine ski season, I'm thinking about the Italian Blardone and my countryman and former colleague's son, Richard, both GS specialists and born in 1979. Just like a spring that is seldom used, it's nice to see it compressing and expending again.
Is there still some life left in their competitive skiing career or is it just a one time resurgence or fluke? Probably a little of everything...

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Grotesque: “The Revenant” movie

Sometime last week, we went to see that movie that had been the talk of the recent Oscars, thinking it couldn't be that bad, right?

We were treated to a lousy, impossible survival story that would have had the ruggedest band of mountain men laughing in derision. Hollywood continues to be consistent with the horrible way they design, construct and distribute entertainment.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Olympics of Hypocrisy

Last night we watched the brawl that was supposed to be a civil debate between the four remaining Republican Presidential candidates.

The Fox forum seemed to be just meant to animate cock-fights among the debaters, offered no substantive questions and led to a copious and colorful dose of mutual insults.
At the event conclusion, all candidates were given the ultimate hypocrisy test, by asking them if they would support the nominee. Without exception, they all said “yes” and proudly stepped upon the highest march of podium of hypocrisy.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Explaining US Politics to French people

One of my French friends recently asked me: “While I'm already puzzled with politics in France, I'm even more troubled with what goes on in the USA. How can a nutcase like Trump think he'll be elected president of the world's most powerful country?

Here's my response:

The American public is just tired of politicians who make promises and keep on falling short of delivering on them. They're tired of carrying a debt that is equal to the country's GDP ($50,000 per capita), they are tired of spending as much as they do on waging wars in the Middle East, spending the money we don't have on foreign aid and on defense.

They're tired of having an immigration that is broken and they can't understand why they must pay 17% of GDP on healthcare when the rest of developed nations is only spending 10%. They are tired of politicians who sugar-coat everything they say and are almost all profoundly corrupt. I repeat that Americans are tired of POLITICIANS.

They've lost total respect for that breed of people. So they think that they might as well try to put a businessman in charge. If that individual further articulates loudly what a vast majority of folks think for themselves, but don't dare to express because of political correctness, the guy gets even more support. In addition, the Republican party has lost its footing by getting entangled in social issues driven by the Christian Right and while this might please some older adults, it doesn't get traction with young people and non-whites.

As I have said many times, Trump is the monster created by the Republicans who obstructed the entire Obama presidency and this creation has been fueled with extreme right radio hosts (be careful what you wish for!) In the end, another Clinton might prevail against a Trump, but there's no guarantee, because she is herself a questionable character who only want the presidency to further ingratiate and enrich herself. With her total lack of vision and ideas, she'd bring no needed change and put us further into a hole.

The only pure heart in the race is Sanders who unfortunately is both too old and far too radical. It's unfortunate to say, but quite probable, that the only character able to foster change is Trump. Bottom line: All is still up in the air...

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Driving for 50 years!

Half-a-century ago, today, was one of the happiest days of my life. I had got my driver's license when I stepped out of the small Simca 1000 white sedan from Alliot driving school in Cluses, France.

My classmate Michel Vittoz, who took and passed the test along with me, felt the same sense of happiness too! Since that time, I must have driven at least 500,000 miles in 30 different cars and hope to keep on driving if not as many, perhaps another 200,000, who knows?

These 50 driving years have been marked with their share of weird incidents, breakdowns, flat-tires, accidents, lethal near-misses, long trips through Europe and Coast-to-Coast in America.

This morning, I'll take my daughter back to the airport and I already can see a long road trip lurking in the spring...

Of course, I almost forgot, I'm looking forward to the upcoming self-driving cars for extending my staying in the “driver's seat” far into grand, old age!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fork on the campaign trail

I found that one this morning on Facebook, just in time for Super-Tuesday.

If you've been skiing at Deer Valley, Utah, you may remember a ski trail off Flagstaff Mountain called Ontario and down this run, there's a split way that give you option of continuing on Ontario or veering right (!) to a trail called Trump. Yes, Trump.

So apparently, someone replaced the name of Ontario by Bernie, to give the viewer an alternative left that makes great sense.

Okay, now you got it; veer left for Bernie, veer right for Trump.

If it saw that fork on the road, I'm pretty sure the Clinton camp would say: “Hilarious!”