Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sundance's evolution

This past weekend, we drove to Sundance resort. This is for us an annual ritual to drive 45 minute to that magical spot. Unlike most places in the “civilized” world, we always find the place totally unchanged, year after year. 
Well, almost, because in the absence of obvious change or “new stuff”, the place ages. The buildings fade away, the wooden stairs split, the vegetation invades a little bit more.

A pessimist could say that the place is going to the dogs. I say that I'd love to be in charge of maintenance at that resort, because there would be nothing for me to do!

Employees are not engaged, seem absent-minded, as if the place had fallen asleep. Robert Redford, the owner, turned 81 in August and this might show...

Monday, September 18, 2017

Finally, flat-fee realtors!

If your house sold for $500,000 or $1 million, would you enjoy paying the real estate agents involved in the transaction $30,000 or $60,000 in commission?

I guess not... Even though I tried briefly, decades ago, to join this shady profession and quit a year later because I found it particularly unethical, I've always considered its selling commission structure like highway robbery.

In a 2015 Gallup survey, real estate agents ranked below lawyers and used-car salesmen for trustworthiness with a dismal 20% rating! In spite of it, this strange system has held-up because it was a de facto monopoly and had the support of one of the strongest lobby in America.

Yet, today, we're starting to see some erosion in that outrageous commission scheme and it's a good sign. So, with this in mind, just bear with me, as I try to explain. A traditional listing agent typically charges 3% commission for listing a property and that's where a flat fee of say $3,000 charged by Redefy compares to the $15,000 or $30,000 portion of the commission mentioned in the above example.

The seller will still have to fork up the remaining 3% that goes to the selling agent, but instead of paying respectively $30,000 or $60,000 in total commissions, the amount will drop to $18,000 and $33,000 respectively.

Purplebricks is another company (from the UK) that offers a similar business model at $3,200 per listing and there are plenty of others outfits like Homie, that seem intent to making a dent into the cost of selling and buying a home.
I just hope these alternative solutions make it, spread like wildfire and are not thwarted by that nefarious and powerful monopoly, called National Association of Realtors.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Obit, the movie...

This weekend, we went out to see a documentary called “Obit”. It featured the way obituaries come to life at the New York Times, driven by a team of writers who are crafting the live stories of people that are more or less famous.

This process is filled with time-pressures, painstaking research, creativity, sometimes errors; occasionally, they'll even write an obituary in advance so can be pulled out from their files, updated and brought in to press at a moment's notice.

What the New York Time does is simply exceptional. While the idea behind this film was great, the execution could have been more streamlined, perhaps made a bit shorter and less boring.

This said, my take-away was that we should all write our own obituaries in advance of our passing, so they fully reflect who we really are and what we think we have accomplished – or not during our earthly passage!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Time to get on the Hyperloop!

You probably have all heard about the Hyperloop transportation technology. If you haven't or want a refresher of what this new mean of transportation is, it simply consists of a sealed, low-pressure tube through which passenger pods travel free of air resistance and friction thanks to magnetic levitation, reaching speeds around 600 mph.

Presently a third of a mile loop exists in Nevada and in 2016, the Hyperloop launched a competition involving 100 countries. The number of candidates was first narrowed to 24 finalists in April, and just now, the 10 selected routes were announced in the U.S., Canada, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Those of us in the ski tourism industry know how critical ease of access is to destinations ski resorts like Park City. In fact, I'm convinced that it's our ease of access, not so much our snow, the Olympics or our exotic liquor laws (!!!), that have put Park City on top of the U.S. ski map.

This has also dovetailed with a shrinking length of stay by winter visitors over recent decades; as a result getting there fast is key. The bad news for people from Park City is that a 360-mile route from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Pueblo going through Denver Airport, Denver, along with a spur planned all the way to Silverthorne and Vail, was one of these lucky 10 sites selected.

With Hyperloop, Vail travel time would be just 9 minutes away from Denver. This means that Utah's competitive advantage over Colorado would vaporize if we choose to stay on the sidelines and not become part of that new technology. In terms of timetable, Hyperloop hopes to see 3, out of the 10 full-scale systems, operating by 2021.

It appears pretty obvious to me that Park City can't ignore this new development, but must move as a community, joining forces with the greater Salt Lake City area, from Provo to Logan, Utah, to get as soon as possible on the Hyperloop bandwagon.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The stress-free life

For more than a decade, my job and my life have been much stress-free than they used to be when I had to be a rain-maker, was expected to pull rabbits out of my hat and counting on the miracles I performed to please my boss and keep my job.

To me, the joy of retirement has been more a situation of having been free of stress than work, or just having time for myself.

The proof is that, even in my new life, I still love to work and sometimes still get far too absorbed by it.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

When we stereotype people...

Often time, we have that discussion about how Americans are different from French people from a culture and attitude standpoint.

This is when I decide that what makes more difference than the country of origin is where the individual stacks up in the socioeconomic ranks than geography or even traditions. Think about it.

Humanity is pretty much the same everywhere and today's big difference is more likely to be found in someone's actual stage on life and how hard or easy it is to survive day by day, than by that person's passport.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Not an "Epic" incentive

Vail Resorts isn't that generous, but is trying all kind of tricks to get its clientele to commit early to their next season's ski pass.

In May, they begin by asking for a $50 deposit towards the pass lowest price by offering a few “buddy passes” that are a bit cheaper than their outrageous window price and will let you ride the few lifts open during summer as long as you don't have a bike in tow (if you do, you must buy a special day ticket or a season pass). 
If you can't decide to purchase your season's pass by Labor Day, the cost goes up by $20 until the final deadline at the beginning of October. All in all, skimpy incentives in relation to more than a 6 percent increase of their pass price over the previous season!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Steve Bannon Interview

Sunday night, I watched the Steve Bannon interview, by Charlie Rose, on CBS's "60 Minutes" and saw about 30 minutes of feisty exchange between the two.

Too bad that Charlie lost a bit of his temper (which happens all the time he sits down with folks he doesn't like), but in the end, it didn't change much of the outcome.

I was hoping to discover the real genius in Bannon; after all, the man had “fabricated” our 45th president, but instead, I discovered that he was a mirror image of Trump and someone making up his "strategy" as he spoke.

Just like Donald Trump, the man who served as the White House Chief Strategist during the first seven months of his presidency, is a big mouth and a bully, but there is nothing of substance behind his boisterous remarks and, at least in my view, the Vice-Emperor had no clothes.

Thank you Charlie Rose for debunking the only mystery left in the Empire of the Donald.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The double-edge of tourism

Just as a follow up to yesterday's blog, I was thinking how tourism can be a double-edge sword and how it can destroy and homogenize what otherwise makes a place attractive to visitors if not kept in check.

I speak both from what I see happening in my hometown valley, back in the French Alps today, as well as my four decade of living in Park City. Visitors (and tourists) come to specific places because of their beauty and their character.

Remove the latter and you take away most of a place's appeal. This means that tourist spots must be vigilant in not letting visitors, or worse yet, second-home owners, dictate what the place ought to be or should become.

This pressure happens all the time whether one lives (like me) in the Rocky Mountains or in the Alps. Typically, over a short period of residence, a significant percentage of second-home owners develops a tendency to resent the tourist trade and whatever makes the place authentic.

These same folks quickly get tired of the “charm” that got them to purchase a home in the first place. Instead, they strive to recreate the universe they've left behind with all of its trappings. Furthermore, as time goes by, a large percentage of these second-homer morphs into permanent residents when they elect to retire at the resort in question.

Kept unchecked, these pressures lead to the planetary homogenization that can be found everywhere, except perhaps in Corsica, because of the islanders' forceful push-back.

Classically, these new comers become the tail that wags the dog and if no one objects, they'll do everything to ruin the place, its character and its authenticity

Sunday, September 10, 2017

When in Rome...

...Do as the Romans do, at least that the way life should work. Recently, not far from my native hometown, up in the French Alps, a bunch of second-home owners started a petition and presented it to the City Hall at Le Biot, to protest the noise made by cowbells, as a herd has been grazing on the ski slopes opposite to their cabins and condos.

These malcontents were mostly made of Brits along with a Belgian and a French, I believe, and all but one of the dozen of households involved is a year-round resident. That rather trivial and petty grievance reminded me of my life experience, coming from the France and setting foot in America more than 40 years ago.

To survive, thrive and make the best of my American experience, I simply had to adapt to my new home, its different values and its unique culture. I did the best I could to lay low at times, make no waves or never fight against the main stream. This was what I believed then, what worked perfectly well for me, and what I continue to abide by today.

This is also what I expect newcomers to do; if they don't like it, it's always time to move on. Not rocket-science by any means! So, if these folks that can't stand cowbell music want to feel better, they simply have to leave. Adapt or perish!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Shopping for hard-to-get stuff

Thanks to the internet, it's a breeze to buy “stuff” online; from electronics, to shoes or even bicycles. Yet, there are some rare items and many mundane services that are not always so easy to shop for, so doing so requires a tad more creativity in the way we conduct our research.

Not everyone that has something to sell necessarily has a website, a merchant account or even an email address. That's where it pays to communicate through texting or through house services like Angie's List, to finally get closer to getting what you want or need.

Just “Googling” a rare item or a certain service won't spit a result right away and it's often necessary to spend a huge deal of time searching and looking into places or domains that we never envisioned going to when our search began.

So, if you want to find what you need on line, put on your thinking hat, be very persistent, don't expect a river of good deal flowing your way the first time around, spend even more time, and you'll eventually be rewarded!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Wall Street and Population Control

I often blame overpopulation on religion, but it's hard to deny the fact that our capitalistic system is also what supports it. It too, actively contributes to a deteriorating environment that leads to climate change, hence my finger-pointing at Wall Street.

As we all know, capitalism requires sustained production growth to remain stable, improve standards of living and keep a growing world population employed. Then, all that production need consumption; without it, the system would cease to function.

Evidently, this leads to a vicious cycle where constantly improved production demands even more consumption and more consumers to keep the machine running. This shows that mass consumption or consumerism isn't just a passing cultural behavior; it's instead an essential element of capitalism, an economic system in which the mad dog keeps on turning faster to bite its own tail.

This cycle is almost impossible to stop, because companies are constantly pressurized to cut costs; if they don’t, their competitors will.

Reasonably, one way of cutting costs would be to re-invest some of the savings into the environment, but capitalism has no built-in mechanism to do that, so it would require some forms of non-market intervention either by the State or by organized social forces.

Obviously, States' main concerns are to grow their GDP and keep their population working. States are also permanently under the pressure and influence of big business, have little incentive to intervene and only social forces are left to pick up the slack. In summary, Wall Street or capitalism have absolutely no incentive to discourage runaway births and could care less about the effect of overpopulation on the environment.

As firms are constantly pressured to cut costs and optimize profits, issues like overpopulation fall pray to the compulsive market behavior of developed or emerging Nations and are never discussed by their governments that prefer to keep their citizen unaware of that stark reality.

Without the intervention of social forces, capitalism as an economic system, is simply unwilling to reduce the world population and protect the planet.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

When there's smoke, there's fire...

For days, we've been dealing with hot and smoky weather, so much so that I thought my eyesight was impaired, but the air has been filled with so much smoke from local and out-of-state wildfires that we no longer can see clearly, even through short distances.
I guess that our lungs have been filling with smoke and we can only hope for some isolated thunderstorms and rain showers along the Wasatch Front, scheduled for today, to scour the skies of some of that smoke.

Now, while we breathe this filthy, smoky air, we also doubled-down with a surge in chenopods and ragweed rated “very high” on yesterday‘s pollen index. Hopefully, we'll all survive!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mountain-bike and Concentration

I've written this so many times; riding a mountain-bike demands concentration from the time one leaves home to the time the bike is safely hung back inside the garage.

Today, as I was riding and enjoying it thoroughly I came across a group of mountain-bikers that were stopped in some blind corner (where else, I wonder!) One lady, who evidently spilled badly, was all bloodied in her face, her bike front disc bent and she wasn't a happy camper!

I did what I could to help and went on my merry way. As I was riding, I was thinking that there isn't one single moment that's open for lowering one's guard on a mountain-bike.

Danger is lurking every linear foot along the way and if one doesn't concentrate 100%, one is bound to bite the dust.

That's right even a good, almost “safe” 99% won't do. I'll try to remember this...

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Uncovering Trump voters

Last night, as we were strolling by our former home, we met Pat who lives on the opposite side of the street.

We stroke a conversation, and somehow, as we complained about the current chaos in Washington, he told us that he had voted for Trump, believing in his outlandish program and promises. This said, he still gives credit to the man with the yellow hair-piece for a roaring Stock Market.

Pat, who is about 60, claims having a good education (MBA), but it probably was truer when he was younger, as it unfortunately no longer comes across in the way he speaks and the way he acts. He's got a good job with our State University and should know much better than voting for the Donald.

Of course, he's not the only one and as a matter of fact, he and his peers got the man elected. Today, he doesn't think that the product he's got is what he hoped and voted for, but to me, if totally makes sense that he, and his horrible choice only reflects his lack of good judgment!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Another ski season in view...

This long holiday weekend was the first deadline to get the best possible deal on our Park City Mountain season ski pass and we didn't miss it.

We got some brand new passes for the 33rd time since we've lived in town and we'll see how much fun they'll deliver and how many days they'll let us shred the mountain.

Since I'm an incorrigible optimist I hope the answer to these two distinct expectations will be “plenty” and I'll try to behave reasonably well so I don't get hurt and don't harm anyone anytime I'm dressed as a skier.

Let's keep our fingers crossed while making sure our ski tips remain uncrossed!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Can't wait to be 75 or 80?

The 2017-18 ski pass prices are out for the Wasatch Front of Utah. Prices do vary a great deal, and if you are as old as I am, it's always interesting to see what's offered to older folks.

First, I must say that Park City Mountain (part of Vail Resorts' Epic Pass) does nothing for seniors. Cheaper passes for all, perhaps, but they figure that when you're old and want to ski you need to be rich. Shame on you Vail Resorts for the way your discriminating against old folks like us!

Deer Valley Resort, with it outrageous prices, show that the give “breaks” for seniors. Yet, those still will break the bank if older geezers continue to cling to that resort's “rich” and “old” image. Not impressed!

You'll need to drive far away from Park City if you want a genuine old-person discount.

First, to Robert Redford's Sundance resort that offers a $150 pass for everyone over 65; great job!

Then, Alta must be commended for its $50.00 season ski pass, but you need to wait till you're half-dead as a skier; that's right you must be 80 to qualify, so I find it a real stretch and may not want to wait that long to indulge with the overblown Alta mystique.

Finally, I must salute two resorts that are in the northern Wasatch range, Powder Mountain and Snowbasin, that both make a genuine effort to attract the thinning ranks of the 75 + age group, respectively with $20 (yeah, no typo) and $80 season pass prices. Way to go northerners. I may give you a try pretty soon!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

As wedding anniversaries pile up...

Yesterday was our 42nd wedding anniversary, so when I woke up and reminded my wife about it, she exclaimed “I thought it was already the 50th!”

This says an awful lot if you know me and if you're a bit familiar with my adventurous and sometime reckless behavior.

It inspired me to post that remark on Facebook and it generated a huge amount of “likes” as well as countless admiring and humorous reactions.

We still have a significant number of years to go since we'll make it to the half-century mark (God willing) but these few years might go even faster than the 42 that seem to have eluded us!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Park City's urban forest

When we moved to Park City, more than 32 years ago, there were not many trees around, to the point that from our wooded Chappaqua home in New York, to Utah's arid high desert, my wife hated the barren landscape we found upon arriving there.

Since that time, things have changed a lot. The tiny aspen and evergreen saplings have turned into large, mature trees, overly crowded and often time, far to close to the homes for good views and fire safety.

With that new grown forest has come a complete ecosystem, including birds, rabbits, squirrels and regular year-round visits by deer, elks and moose that always manage to find enough leaves to eat, and flowers or veggie gardens to trample.

From empty desert to lush urban forest in just three decades!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What to do about overpopulation?

A few days ago, a Facebook smart alec responded to one of mine posting about the how the current environmental was a symptom of our planet's growing overpopulation.

The man said:
“What do you want to do? Kill have of them [the population], obviously all the 'others'”?

This was my response:
“Good point! But before suggesting any genocide, let's talk first about slowing down the growth of the population. When it can be stopped, and always gradually, start working on reducting the population, a stop not only desirable, but necessary. That said, a pro-birth push, this reduction will obviously be much slower and require both attrition through natural death and birth control, a much more complicated and time consuming process.”

What can we do practically? Become aware of the problem.
  • This is not presently not the case; No one really wants to talk about it, because the topic is taboo, as it's tightly controlled by all religious leaders as well as Wall Street (population growth being the cornerstone of the capitalistic system). 
  • Do something about it; the Chinese started right by setting a one-birth ceiling per household, promote family planning, etc. 
  • Spread the word about the dangers of overpopulation and their consequence and foster a conversation among civil and religious communities. 
  • Set realistic targets at the international level (UN) 
  • Decide on a long-term strategy. For example, economic aid to developing countries linked to robust family planning, etc. 
  • And you, what's your suggestion ?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

What's “a good politician”?

It happens all the time; folks that want to excuse Trump in the United States or Macron in France always try to make excuse for these heads of state by claiming they're not politicians and that's why they don't know how to navigate the complicated paths of the political universe.

I beg to differ. Both are excellent politicians, not amateurs, and I should say morally corrupt to perfectly find their way in the political maze they've chosen to cap their career. They just “pretend” they're not politicians to exonerate themselves from any mistake they make.

I don't think I'm going on a limb by saying that “good politicians” are pretty bad people that are ready to do about anything that will advance their personal cause. A “good politician” is in fact, an oxymoron; they're all bad, at least bad enough to be only of use in a political environment.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Climate change denier

A good friend of mine is fun, quick and smart.

I think he's also wrong in term of his assessment about what causes climate change. At times, he sounds like one of these climate change deniers.

When I tell him that the weather is going to the dogs in terms of temperature rising, he reminds me of the “Little Ice Age” that spanned from the 14th to the end 19th century.

There seems to have been several reasons for it: Low points in solar radiation, heightened volcanic activity, changes in oceanic currents, variations in earth's orbit and axial tilt, inherent variability in global climate, and decreases in the human population.

This period was preceded by an exceptionally warm period from the 10th to the 13th century when vineyards were spotted in some high alpine valleys of Europe. So he thinks that what we're experiencing now is a repeat performance of that milder period.

I cannot agree with him when I look at this NASA chart that only goes to 2004 (since then, temperatures kept on climbing).

Ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, planetary temperature rise is out of control and should be explained by the confluence of the industrial age and a human overpopulation that has exploded more than five-fold!

Monday, August 28, 2017

If I ever won the Powerball...

Recently, Mavis Wanczyk, a Massachusetts hospital worker won $758.7 million at the Powerball.The lucky lady took a lump-sum payment of $480 million, leaving her $336 million after taxes.
Now, what would I do if I were in her situation (an unlikely scenario, as I have never bought any such ticket)? I'd keep my home, my car and my wife.

I might get a carbon-frame mountain-bike, would never fly economy again and that's about it. I'd repay my kids mortgages and I'd give a big chunk of that money to a good charity focused on education.

So don't even think of asking me for anything because I'd tell you: “Get yourself a Powerball ticket!”

Sunday, August 27, 2017

What to do with Solitude?

Remember Solitude?

It's that charming, small ski resort that, along with Brighton, shares the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah, and was purchased on May 1, 2015 by Deer Valley Resort.

At that time, I wondered why Deer Valley's management made this acquisition; it didn't seem to make any good business sense to me. The resorts had no land or possible ski run connections to each other and there was no natural fit between the two.

In the ensuing seasons Deer Valley discovered that Solitude wasn't quite the sweet deal the seller had represented to them. That reality came back to haunt the owners of Deer Valley when they recently sold their famed resort to KSL and companies. The purchaser didn't want any part of Solitude.

As I have already speculated, the only hope for Solitude is to be purchased by neighboring Brighton, itself owned by Boyne Mountain in Michigan. If that latter entity is smart, they should get it for a song.

Unless, of course, there's another alternative; just today, I realized that the best and highest use for the two Big Cottonwood ski areas would be to have them gobbled up by Vail Resorts.

That's right, Park City, already owned by Vail, holds the right to expand all the way to Brighton's boundaries. This would provide for a seamless connection between Park City and some great, high altitude skiing, that Solitude and Brighton, together, would add to the package.

Something exciting to consider and act upon if you happen to be Vail Resorts...

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A transforming, annual milestone...

Every 26th day of August is always a reminder of the day our family set foot in Park City for good. The end of many roads and the start of a great one.

It was one of best decision I ever made, both in terms of career, place to raise our children and continued great quality of life.

They were very few problems and challenges, but mostly pleasant surprises and huge benefits in the process.

We've been so lucky...

As we're ready to embark into Park City year #33, my wife and I would repeat this move in a heartbeat if we had to!

My street gets a new skin...

The subdivision and the street where I live in Park City go back to the early 80's and with this, the pavement that was getting old, light gray and riddled with cracks.

Thank God, there's hardly any traffic on that street which explains the extreme durability of its pavement!
On Thursday, some 35 days later, it received a new coat of what's called “Slurry Seal”, a bituminous, water-based mixture used to fill cracks and voids, seal and waterproof the surface while providing color and skid-free texture in one single pass.

Of course, it's also quite cost-effective; the operation lasted less than one hour, was dry in less than four and now our street looks brand new.

A good reason, it seems, for buying a new car. My wife doesn't think so...

Friday, August 25, 2017

Last outdoor concert of the season...

Summer felt as it already was fading out during the final Wednesday free concert at the Deer Valley Snow Park amphitheater.

There were lots a wonderful musicians and singers, a great crowd and my wife had prepared a scrumptious picnic. The weather was beautiful but once the sun left the amphitheater, a cold air set in and we decided it was time to go home. 
Until next year, perhaps, if Deer Valley's new owners decide to continue with the free concerts format and if Mountain Town Music, the non-profit organization that put them up, can still carry on with a plethora of free concert throughout the community.

Let's hope for the best!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Janet, quit raising rates!

The Federal reserve has been obsessive-compulsive about raising rates even though inflation has fallen short of the Fed’s two percent target every month in the past five years and that any pay raises for most people have been exceedingly rare in spite of a record low unemployment.

To me, this deflationary climate is due to a continue oversupply of good and services, including energy, with the advent of alternative sources, that is likely to continue for a very long time.

As for wages, some top managerial or creative job will continue to pay handsomely well, while all other jobs that can't be robotized yet, will keep on lagging badly.

Finally, raising rates is counter-intuitive when American taxpayers will need to contend with financing a debt that keep on rising and will explode under Trump's plans.

All this make me say that many times, smart management means just doing nothing when there are no immediate lever to be pulled...

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Herding cats ? David Perry's challenge

The newly formed partnership of KSL Capital Partners and Aspen that just declared it will purchase Deer Valley will have its work cut out for their new COO, David Perry. This new — and yet unnamed — Denver-based entity now ranks as North America’s second-largest group of ski resorts just behind Vail.

The big difference is that Vail Resorts, as a public company, is organized with its branding, its image, its management practices and of course works under the umbrella of its formidable Epic Pass. This homogeneity is a key factor in producing economies of scales and insuring profits.

All things that Perry will have to create in short order or will have to muddle through for years depending on how advanced his vision of the new company already is, and on the willingness of each resort to be a team player.

Sure, the Intrawest family (Snowshoe in West Virginia, Steamboat in Colorado, Stratton in Vermont, Blue Mountain, Mt Tremblant and CMH, all in Canada) should constitute a starting nucleus to get that unlikely union to gel.

This said, in adding Aspen, Deer Valley, Mammoth and Squaw/Alpine to the mix, David Perry will soon find himself in the cat-herding business, with each established and set-in-its-ways resort clamoring for keeping its status quo and clinging to its idiosyncrasies, starting with Deer Valley that will resist letting snowboarders all over its slopes.

A great herding job that we'll soon (hopefully) marvel at!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Deer Valley's independence ends

Back around mid April of this year, following the merger announcement of KSL Capital Partners, Henry Crown and Company, Intrawest, Mammoth and Squaw Valley (KSL), I wondered how long the other independent ski resorts could survive.

I was thinking in particular about our local resort, Deer Valley, that I suspected soon would be gobbled up by Vail Resorts, as its owners, the Stern family along with Roger Penske, had grown tired of running it, were scared of climate change, and ready to cash out on an investment that had reached a plateau and was demanding more capital to be further developed.

I was wrong, KSL got it. It's true that the newly formed entity  absolutely had to have a resort only 35 miles drive from a major, reliable airport in their portfolio, and one telling reason for this was that Deer Valley couldn't even package Solitude as part of the sale; it's more than likely that the the small ski area will have to be "unloaded" sooner than later, to Brighton, its neighbor that is owned by Boyne Mountain.

Today, most skiers patronizing that resort are wondering with justifiable terror if snowboarding will ever be allowed there (in fact, this is the only resort in the world, along with Alta and Mad River Glen to still discriminate against snowboarders). Well, these die-hard skiers should breathe easy for another season as Deer Valley's announcement states that there is no plan to allow snowboarding “at this time”.

My sense is that skiing-only might have survived with a Vail ownership, having a snowboarding option next door at Park City, but not with KSL that is a private equity group (not exactly a not for profit corporation) and that will have to offer a common pass along with the implicit expectation that Utah, hence Deer Valley, is open for snowboarding too.

This said, change is good most of the time, and I'm pretty certain Deer Valley will continue to do well and might even benefit a lot from that merger. I'm a skier that happens to like snowboarders, know that there are families composed of skiers and snowboarders.

Why not keep them together? Isn't it time to be a little more inclusive?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Racism and territoriality

There's a long overdue debate about racism these days in America.

For me racism is linked to territoriality and ignorance that only education, culture and travel can cure. I remember growing up in the Alps, in a tiny village, where everyone was suspicious of folks living in neighboring communities. It wasn't racism, it was territoriality, but the roots were the same.

Alpine populations disliked people from Paris, French didn't like the Swiss, Italians or Spaniards. It was subtle because it was hard to tell for sure who was what; still, detecting an accent was always a great help in performing that type of triage.

Of course, when skin colors and facial traits are different, this kind of discrimination becomes much easier! You don't need to be nuanced; being plainly stupid will suffice.

The best cure would be to send all these idiot racists into space, so they can appreciate that the world isn't partitioned into white, red, black or yellow sections. It's just a big, open, unobstructed and beautiful blue planet.
Of course this could be quite expensive and perhaps we should try first with cleaning up our culture at home and opt for more wide-open, quality education in schools. So, what's taking humanity so long?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Trump-Bannon quandary

I don't know what to think of the puzzling Trump-Bannon hookup. To me, it makes no sense, with all of its drama, its provocations and contradictions.
Was it ever a good alliance? I don't know. Perhaps, Bannon can get credit – along with the Russians – to have gotten Trump into the White House, but Bannon's philosophy hardly makes any sense and is difficult to believe.

All of the “good cop – bad cop” situations within the administration lead me to believe that it was more a blatant proof of total confusion, a case of the right hand not knowing what left hand was doing, instead of any well thought-out strategy.

What seem sure to me is that these two protagonists are not just evil, but are also mentally deranged...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Squirrel story

Our little property witnesses an incessant wildlife traffic, from “big guys” like moose, elks and deer to smaller creatures like birds of all kinds, including humming birds, but also cottontail hares and squirrels.

If you didn't know it, our small Park City tree squirrels live, you've guessed it, in trees. This is where they build their nest, called drey, that's usually built of twigs, dry leaves, and grass, and squeezed inside the forks of a tree about 30 to 45 feet (9.1 to 13.7 m) above the ground.

Squirrels may also nest in attics or exterior walls of buildings, where a drey could be considered a fire hazard, as these critters love to chew on electrical cables. In our mountains, smarter or luckier squirrels sometime inhabit a permanent tree den in the hollow of a trunk.

The squirrel you see on that video is one of many we observe everyday, that carries pine-cones to its drey, and this time, we saw one being systematic about harvesting them from our next neighbor's tree by first pulling out as many pine-cones as possible, before collecting them later on the ground and bringing them home for storage...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Summer Heat: Beliefs vs. Facts

I have said it many times: “This summer felt really hot, nights were unusually warm; the planet is heating up!” This repeated statement forced me to look at the records I keep on a daily basis to substantiate what I thought was true.

I have kept track of daily and nightly temperatures for the past 11 years and have a pretty good database to work with. I am talking about my definition of summer season in the mountains, namely a period that is between June 15 and August 15. Just a 62 days span and a good representation of what a short, normal summer feels like in Park City.
Granted, this summer was on top in terms of heat, particularly on account of a long series of very warm nights, but when I lined the numbers up, I was shocked to see that 2007 was almost a mirror image of this year and, in between, the nine other years were not that far off!

While I am not a global warming denier, I must admit that our little mountain town is not turning into hell quite yet!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Another shaky real estate story

Over a decade ago, I worked with a company associated with a famous real-estate developer that always professed that large homes in ski resorts would always sell extremely well to wealthy families that would see in them a family meeting-place where multi-generations would congregate and partake in mountain living for ever and ever.

On paper that tale sounded good, sold well, but failed to stand the test of time and of common sense.

First, a large home comes with constant, massive headaches as they invariably need lots of maintenance and are fraught with incessant costly problems especially on account of an extreme climate and limited use (most second homes get occupied 20 to 30 days a year).

Second, another side to that fallacious tale is that whatever the parents happen to love about mountain living isn't necessarily their kids' taste and even less their significant others'; then it goes downhill from there with grand kids and even their own children.

The result is that Park City currently shows a glut of expensive homes for sale and the priciest they are, the slower they seem to move. We are not talking about condominium properties that also are available in large numbers; just large single family homes.

Consider this:
Our market currently has 75 houses for sale priced over $5 million, 23 houses from $4 to $5 million, 46 from $3 to $4 million and 71 from $2 to $3 million for a total of 212 mountain houses.

My sense is that these big houses (at least over 5,000 square feet) are seen as “uncool” white elephants to own these days as they generally make poor use of natural resources and are seen as an environmental embarrassment.

The future of these houses and their resale ability has become a huge question mark, something I'm not too bullish about...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Terrible knee pain, weird name

Last week I was visited with a terrible knee pain, mostly felt on the outside of my left knee.

At first, I thought it was related the MCL problems I had suffered this winter, but this pain was much different and horribly painful.
If it had not been the weekend, I would have seen an orthopedic doctor at once.

Instead, I went on the internet and determined that I was suffering from IT Band friction. No “IT” is not for “information technology” and “IT Band” isn't a metal rock band either. It means “Iliotibial band”, a condition that causes acute lateral knee pain in runners, hikers and bikers.

The iliotibial band is a sort of thick, hybrid muscle that runs from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and the knee, and anchored just below the knee as it becomes a tendon. This band plays a key role in stabilizing the knee as it moves from behind the femur to the front of the femur during activity.

What causes the knee pain is a continual rubbing of the band over the lower part of the femur coming in contact with the knee, combined with the repeated flexion and extension of that joint when someone runs, bikes or hikes and causes the area to become inflamed, which is exactly what happened to me.

The symptoms were a horrible pain when I went from a sitting to a standing position and began to walk or worse yet, going down the stairs. The remedy is to be patient (so hard!) and let time do the healing as well as doing some physical therapy. Can't wait to get back on my bike...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ready for the eclipse?

For months now, we've been told repeatedly that on Aug. 21, 2017, America will fall under the path of a total solar eclipse. It will darken our skies all the way from Oregon to South Carolina, along a stretch of land about 70 miles wide.

Park City will be slightly south of that path, but we'll see a sun darkened over about 93 percent of its whole area. At home, the “partial show” will begin at about 10:10 AM, peak at 11:30 and will phase out just before 1:00 pm.

If I were crazy enough, I'd drive up three and a half hour to Idaho Falls or south of Jackson Hole, but I'm too lazy and a big chunk of darkness is pretty close to the whole enchilada. Besides, there will be another one in 2045, so I might quietly wait to see the sun blacked-out for one very last three-hours period in my lifetime!

Monday, August 14, 2017

The truth about alcohol

A few nights ago, we watched a very good British documentary based on a recent UK governmental recommendation to lower the alcohol consumption of men and women to the same level of 14 “alcohol unit” per week (see table). 
This excellent, well documented production showed that booze isn't so good for us and than much less of it isn't such a bad idea! I learned a lot from seeing that film that I didn't quite know about the perverse effect of drinking.

Not just something else to think about, but more importantly, something to act upon. Just like me, you can begin by watching the film itself, right here, in its entirety!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Old trailblazers, unprepared explorers...

Yesterday, I had the brilliant idea to suggest a drive to the Smith and Morehouse Reservoir, an elongated man-made lake, located on the western edge of the Uinta Mountains, just 30 miles away from Park City and less than one hour drive from our home.

The reservoir is cradled into a scenic conifer and aspen forest at 7,800 feet. We thought it'd be a good idea to hike around the lake by following a narrow trail on the eastern shore (there's only a dirt road on the opposite side) as we saw a group of youngsters hiking on it.
Soon, the trail proved to be much more of a challenge than we had anticipated as it winded, climbed and plunged back and forth over a steep ledge overlooking the water, interrupted in all places by fallen trees we had to either step or climb over depending on their size.

We eventually caught up with the hikers that had stopped over a promontory high above the reservoir, where a huge rope swing was set and from which they took turns to jump into the lake. We watch a few of these young daredevils impressing each others and went on.

Once more, our hike turned into a nightmare as we had to zigzag our way through trees, rocks, steep ravine, slippery spots, brush and mud. It took us about two hours to cover what might have been a 2 mile trek and when we reached the southern tip of the reservoir we were pooped, bruised, wet and bloody. On top of that, the thunder was rumbling and the storm was getting too close for comfort.

By chance, we hitched a ride back to our car with a young man who was fishing not far from the spot where we emerged out of that mountain jungle, saving us an other one and a half mile of a painful return walk.

No more bush-walking around that lake!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Trump. Insane or Immature?

Not counting an endless and very entertaining presidential campaign, we've had now more than six month to measure and appreciate Trump's performance at the White House.

Having achieved nothing in terms of legislation, POTUS has exhibited many traits that would concern most mental health physicians that don't wear one of Trump's trademark red caps.
At the same time, the leader of the free world might have gotten the attention of child-care professionals as well for his total lack of maturity. In all cases, a legitimate question all American should have is whether Donald Trump is insane or just immature.

I'd tend to lean towards the mental sickness option as I think that at 71, the man should be reaching his maturity peak unless he suffers from a terminal case of Peter Pan syndrome, that pop-psychology concept about adults that remain socially immature.

By chance, this ailment is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a specific mental disorder, so it would be a much nicer, face-saving diagnostic for the man with the yellow hair.

What do you think?

Friday, August 11, 2017

When there's no room to negotiate

Has it ever happen to you that you want to negotiate, and there isn't much room for negotiation?

The transaction process feels deadlocked. You just want to negotiate because you've been trained that way and think it's the “manly” thing to do, or also because you don't want to leave money on the table or because your opponent isn't that strong anyway and you're much better than him or her?

I'm sure it happens all the time and the most important question to ask is if the external circumstances are in favor of one party or another, and, in the ideal case, when one has absolutely nothing to lose.

As an example, consider negotiating a real estate deal in a seller's market when you are the buyer. The seller has a huge advantage over you, so negotiating means protecting yourself and hoping not to be sucked into the seller's margin of superiority, unless you're indeed a much better negotiator!
The process really heats up when both parties are savvy, focused and determined negotiators; then, without a question, the one that is positioned within the current market trend or has absolutely nothing to lose will get the best deal. This is a simple as that.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

When music triggers memories

I liked some of Glen Campbell's songs who passed away on Tuesday, and in particular "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", that I first heard when I worked for TWA in Geneva back in 1969.

I had taken an airline mechanic job upon being discharged from my military service in the French Air Force.

Beside doing visual check on the Boeing 707 that was used on the daily New York flight, verifying and topping off critical fluid levels, I was also in charge of servicing the “Inflight Motion Pictures” entertainment system, changing the two 16mm films, on 25-inch reels, in both first and economy classes.

In addition, I also checked that the sound system was in working order by using the primitive pneumatic headset piping in-seat audio, through its hollow tube, that let me discover some of Glen Campbell's best songs...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Warmer nights and global warming

In most parts of the northern hemisphere, this summer has been another hot one, and with it, many nights have felt much warmer than usual.

If you didn't know it, warmer nights appear to be linked to climate warming.

A Norwegian study from the Nansen Center and Bjerknes Center for Climate Research based on observations made from the last half-century have shown that nights have been warming much faster than days and it would appear that the trend is likely to continue in coming decades.

Time to sell your extra blankets !

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

History, the handrail against forgetfulness?

Do you remember what you did yesterday, 10 days ago, one year ago, 10 years ago, or – try this one – 55 years ago, if you've spent enough time on earth to formulate the question?

Depending on how busy you are, overworked you happen to be, already demented or just too far away in times from these events, the answer could be “No” to all of them and most of us would understand it.

Only a select few events that have triggered strong emotions stay on my mental dashboard. All the rest require digging and sometime a more than we would like to. This is why I try to document my life via blogs, a daily activity summary or a few other tools that are ways of writing my own history.

These records have come to my rescue more often than not and this is why I cherish sound, precise and honest history.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Economists' Myopia

In my opinion, economist of all feathers are far too close to the ground and can't get to the 30,000 feet view to see and understand the world they live in. Economy is much more than factory production, jobs, inflation or growth.

It has to also be about belief in science, smart healthcare, sustainability and environment. Without these essential yardsticks, humanity is headed towards annihilation.

Yesterday, I discovered two photographs taken at a 125 year interval. They depicted the same viewpoint, at the same time of the year, showing how the Argentière Glacier, near Chamonix and not far from my hometown, had shrunk is little more than a century. Absolutely spooky!

Now if you go back to 1890, when the first picture was taken, there were “only” 1.5 billion humans on the planet. Today, we're well above 7.5 billion; a 600% increase.
  •  Conclusion #1: Too many humans have destroyed the planet to a point of no return. 
  • Conclusion #2: Quantitative Growth is misguided. We count on ever more people to buy more stuff and fuel growth. This isn't sustainable. We should have our minds set on qualitative growth instead. Conclusion #3: Bringing healthcare to the world only works if we bring education and contraception at the same time. We should adopt this approach now to delay the demise of our planet. 
  • Conclusion #4: In spite of my very good ideas that no one will listen to, we're now officially all screwed.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Another Art Festival!

If my memory serves me right, this weekend is our 32nd Park City Art Festival. We haven't attended them all, but at least, more than half of them.

At first, we were mesmerized by this overload of artistry, bought a lot of artwork and couldn't wait for the next festival.

Over the years, we've become more jaded and after “down-sizing” our home, our wall space, nooks and crannies hold no more room for new “stuff.” If something goes in, something else has to make way for it!

This said, even if nothing catches our eyes, it's always fun to fend the crowds and take a full immersion into the artsy atmosphere that impregnates Park City's first weekend of August...

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A jumpy smoke detector

We have seven smoke detectors in our house. Since we don't systematically change the batteries yearly, we often hear a chirping noise when a battery needs changing.

Two nights ago, at around 4 am, it was not just a chirping what we heard but a shrieking real alarm with Fire! Fire! superposed into the siren sound. It eventually stopped. I tried to change the battery but that wasn't the issue.

The next day I went to the unit's manufacturer's website to research the issue, watched a video, read the PDF instructions (the electrician that did the installation trashed them and never gave them to us).

I then called the customer support number at the company which confirmed that I needed to clean each unit yearly by blowing compressed air into its vents.

I followed the instructions religiously and the following night, the same unit went berserk again at 1 am. Another piece of nice quality work from the People's Republic of China and time for a new unit, I guess.

Thanks Kidde!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fear, stress and quest for perfection

This follows my recent reminiscing about Middle School days.

I clearly didn't enjoy that segment of time; I was bore and nothing that was pushed on me elicited any interest. My sole school passion was doodling sports cars (I know, I should have been an automobile stylist) and entertaining my classmates.

Maybe I was a late-bloomer or fell into a strange, hibernation-like hiatus, I don't know for sure, but my memories around that period are quite scarce, if not mentally repressed. Strange for a person as competitive and result-oriented as I can be.

As a result, my grades suffered tremendously and the fear of staying back one year or getting kicked out were creating an almost unbearable angst in me. I was always terrified by every single school day, which meant that I was spooked five days out of seven.

In winter, my only wish, my sole forceful prayer, was for our school bus to skid on the icy road and end up in the ditch so I wouldn't have to face school and another day of failure.

There was in particular a section of the school bus route, called “Le Bochard” which had a series of treacherous hairpin turns and I was visualizing the bus slowly flipping over into the trees below, along with a “no school” pay-off flashing, like you'd see then on any pinball machine.

That is exactly at that time that I discovered that praying for events we don't control is a total waste of time. That's also around the moment when I decided to leave that cursed middle-school and start my life anew in Cluses, an army-like institution, where there was absolutely no room for daydreaming or screwing around.

I had realized that all that fear and stress were slowly killing me and that it was time to get back to normalcy!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A slow concert season

This summer has seen a drastic fall in our attending outdoor concerts around Park City.

Last night was our fourth at the Deer Valley amphitheater where “Moki”, a “Grateful Dead” style band, performed, attracting a huge crowd of “Dead Heads” wearing their tied-dyes and losing themselves in a musical style that's always been alien to me.
As always, these concerts are essentially a way for extroverts to show themselves, people like us to observe their behavior, enjoy a great outdoor picnic and listen to some music.

The musical quality isn't really important and this is how we set our expectations. We like it that way...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Overnight explosion!

When we landscaped our new home, we planted a Siberian peashrub, this bush, also known as Caragana arborescens, is a species native to Siberia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. It was brought to America by immigrants, who used it as a food source while traveling west.

I like that bush and have salvaged its seeds in the hope of seeing more of them around the house. Like with any common pea, its seeds are found inside a pod. So I've collected a cup full of the ripen ones and left them for several days sitting on my office table.

When I got in, this morning, there were peas and exploded pods all over the table and floor with the pods twisted in spirals, as if some lilliputian terrorist had blown up the place. Since there was no blood in sight, I picked up and cleaned up everything, thanking god for sparing my life from a stray nasty little bullet!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Age before beauty

This morning as I was laboring on my mountain bike, I had one of these rare chance of passing a group of riders that were slower and – I assumed – having an even harder time than me.
When I began to passed them, I said hello, followed by: “I'm sorry to have to pass you, but it's age over beauty!”

One of the riders responded “You are both!”, meaning old and beautiful. I yelled “Thanks!” and was on my way.

These guys just made my day...

Monday, July 31, 2017

American mountain towns' future

If 2017 was another evidence - so far - our mountain climate is warming up. In fact it's been a long time since we've seen that warming trend coming.

I was talking about it in this blog more than 10 years ago and the situation has kept on deteriorating at a sinister pace. Okay, we now agree that winters will be warmer, shorter and that snow will become a much more precious commodity.

Yet, during future summers, sea level temperatures will keep on climbing and getting away to the Rocky Mountains will spell some sure relief, even if that new one is not nearly as cool as it would have been half-a-century before.
This said, in the meanwhile, mountain resorts will have beefed-up their recreational offering and spring, summer and fall will be fun-filled seasons, perhaps beating winter as we currently know it.

So, enjoy our traditional winters while they last and get ready for an exciting off-season that will bring year-round recreation, all over the mountain!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Appreciating mountain-biking

This year, I don't ride my mountain bike as often as I used to.

This is my 12th consecutive season straddling this heavier bike and it's undeniable that I've become lazy, seek to keep my body from hurting and let's be frank, I don't have the stamina that still possessed me a decade ago.

This said, I love as much as ever being on a single track, either struggling uphill or zipping down the mountain, especially now, that the opportunities have become few and far between.

There's just nothing like it and I hope that even if it has to be in small doses, I'll be able to savor that very unique pleasure for many years to come.

I can't wait for my next outing!

Saturday, July 29, 2017


That's what my parents used to say about anything that was not necessary for survival or for making money. Sport, leisure or just idleness were all useless. Not mentioned, but implied, was recovery after a (work-related) accident or a sickness.

Anything that was done to fortify the body or the mind (except going to church) fell into that “useless”, thus undesirable and wasted category.

In all fairness to my parents, they had been on “survival-mode” since the day of the birth and only useful acts and thoughts were essential to their salvation.

There was no room for futile pursuits during their entire lifetime. If upon my passing my parents ever end up being right about their beliefs, and after all is said and done, I will have spent a lot of time and efforts “uselessly” for my entire life...

Friday, July 28, 2017

Tired of being young?

Something I often see on Facebook is this quote from some unknown source: “Do not regret growing older, it's a privilege denied to many.”

When I read it, I always nod in agreement and the next day I forget it all together. This truth, I guess, probably doesn't sink-in until we're ready, mature or old enough to really appreciate it as we should.

This long, enduring state of denial is probably what prompted me, as I was riding my bike this morning, to think that “We begin to grow old when we become tired of being young.” This quote is from me, I swear. Keep it in a safe place.