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!