Thursday, November 23, 2017

Mugabe, then Putin, Trump...

The worst tyrants never last forever, and this week, even a tough one like Mugabe was ousted before his natural “expiration date”.

I hope this is a preview of things to come, and that following the likes of Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin and a bunch of other less famous, rotten leaders, the next departures will include Putin, Trump and Kim Jung Un, and not necessarily in that order.
So why they last, be patient, just observe these bullies and learn something about their devious behavior.

In the meantime, do something, get involved and work hard so that their replacement is likely to be a huge improvement upon them...

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A refreshing dream

I've never skied in the nude and was quite surprised a few nights ago when I dreamed I was schussing without any clothes on, as fast as I could, as if I was trying to evade something or someone.

Was it the embarrassment I felt or the ski patrol that was on my tail? I really couldn't tell, but it sure gave me wings. True, I was skiing as fast as I could and while I didn't remember feeling the bite of the wind or freezing my rear-end in the process, I felt incredibly stressed out.
As I reached the bottom of the run and with nowhere else to ski to, I had no other alternative but wake up. As I did, still in a delirious state, I thought that skiing naked Park City from top to bottom might be an interesting feather to add to my cap this season, especially on a day when attendance was at its peak.

I need to look into that...

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Trump Toolbox

I'm not offering a crash course on how to become Trump, should anyone be inspired by the character, or if someone aspires to becoming a modern-day's Frankenstein or wants to build a contemporary monster.

I'm just simply inventorying some of the implements he's using as part of his daily routine. If America's 45th President happened to inspire anyone and if there were a toolbox of sort to becoming just like him, I've tried to inventory the tools that likely would be found inside it: 
  • Complex of superiority 
  • Ego-centrism Natural 
  • Bullying 
  • Racism 
  • Misogyny 
  • Plain meanness 
  • Allergy to apologies under any form or fashion 
  • Permanent attack mode 
  • Ten-fold aggressive response to any attack 
  • Dividing in order to control 
  • Doubling-up on a sparse vocabulary 
  • Waking up the worst in his followers 
  • Total absence of compassion 
First, I'll check if any of these tools are left in my own toolbox and will use my very best effort to discard them as soon as possible. If, in the meantime, I've forgotten something on the list, please don't hesitate to share it on this blog; I'll add it gladly...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Tax reform in a vacuum

For the past few weeks about half of the United States' politicians have been concocting a tax reform without asking for their citizens' input and without working with the other half of Congress.

The result is a joke or a monster depending on one's sense of humor.

Like in many countries, our tax code is unnecessarily complex and is the end result of countless compromises and back-room deals between special interests groups and politicians.

It's not fair and has never been good for the taxpayers as it has been created on their back and without any of their own input.

Instead, the process should take time, garner a full critique of what works and what does not withing the current system versus what's needed in terms of revenue, and strive to deliver a plan that all American PEOPLE can live with, but certainly not the United States' corporate world.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Park City needs access to Big Cottonwood Canyon

As I've said before, early season comes with its endless anguish about snow cover, not just on opening day, but throughout the ski season.

Last week, Park City decided to postpone its opening by six days, because it couldn't make enough snow, given the prevailing balmy temperatures. You see, Park City sits fairly low at 6,900 feet (2 103 meters) while Deer Valley's base is just at 7,200 feet (2 195 meters).

Compared to the other nearby Utah resorts, this is quite low and certainly even lower than most Colorado's ski areas situated under about the same latitude. Beside being higher up, Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons receive also more snow than the so-called Wasatch Back (Park City & Deer Valley) because they face and block most of the eastbound precipitations and also benefit positively from lake effect conditions.

Yet, Park City is where the action is, where the good restaurant are, where the après-ski happens and a massive lodging capacity is ready to make its guests welcome. We just could say the opposite about Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude.

Add to the equation the fact that our climate is fast becoming much warmer than anyone ever predicted, we have a “perfect storm” of sorts in which Park City needs to access at least its Big Cottonwood Canyon neighbor to the south in order to enjoy better and greater amounts of snow from season's beginning to end.

The good news is that it would work perfectly as Park City Mountain and Brighton are, technically speaking, bordering each other and it would just require two ski-lifts to join them. In addition Brighton is already interconnected with its neighbor Solitude to the West and the whole canyon, by also serving Park City skiers would finally gain its development potential that's currently impossible to reach with its lack of visitor “pillows”.

The bad news, or the challenge if we look at it positively, is that Park City Mountain should make an agreement with at least Brighton and ideally, Solitude too, to interconnect, or better yet purchase the two entities. This would be a terrific insurance policy against climate change!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Follow your Members of Congress on Facebook!

I'm not a fan of my two Utah Senators and my Representative, but when all is said and done, they're supposed to “represent me” in Washington. I wish they really did their job of representation, but they don't.

What they vote for makes seldom sense, but I guess what these politicians believe and common sense are diametrically opposed, through the irrepressible undercurrent of hypocrisy. Why in the world would a well-grounded individual accept to increase the Federal Deficit by $1.5 billion in exchange for a give-away to big corporations, pretending they will create job and pay for the cut over time?

If this not total hypocrisy it is incompetence or pure insanity. This said, I now get the Facebook Feeds from Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch and Rob Bishop and I focus not on what they say, but how their constituents react to them.

What's remarkable is how rare are their constituents who like what's being done to them, which goes a long way to saying that they're clearly on the sides of big money and large corporations, not their own constituents'.

Find your Senators or Representative on Facebook and follow them to check what they say and more importantly to see what their bona-fide constituents say (beware of “trolls” – check the presence of a “constituent badge” next to the name).

In the case of my Senators and Representative it shows a real disconnect between what they do and what their constituent feel about it. Clearly, these folks aren't on our side and we need to tell them about it. Now, that I've given you the tools, use them!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Can we afford to downgrade safety?

The tragic death of French skier David Poisson reminds us that downhill racing is very dangerous and requires a solid set of safety rules to minimize the risks to the athletes. Season after season, competitions have gained in safety, following lessons learned from all the tragic accidents that have occurred over the recent alpine ski history.

On race day and the during any training sessions preceding a downhill event, the hosting venue spends a lot of time, attention and money making sure that the conditions are safe for all racers and are meeting the standards set forth by the International Ski Federation (FIS).

Now what happens when ski racers train outside of officially sanctioned races? Many of them suffer accidents, as training is precisely the only time when an athlete is mentally free enough to “let go” and give it their all. It's therefore fair to assume that risk-taking will be significant, speeds will be higher and protection should be at least the same as during competition.

It would seem to me that diminished safety measures are woefully unacceptable. Is this always the case? Probably not most of the time as slope conditions are not as perfect as they are on race day, and seemingly not in this last instance.

According to some reports, skiers were traveling well over 60 mph in that particular curve and after losing one ski, Poisson went through two 25-meter nets before crashing into a tree. Should there have been the larger, 40-meter nets anchored with cables in that particular spot? Who decided on the safety infrastructure; the Team coaches (French, Italian or Swiss) or Nakista, the resort hosting the training?

Were Nakista's deliverables including the type of safety equipment, budgetary constraints that influenced the coaches and the final types of nets that were picked for this area? At this point, it seems that there are no clear rules emanating from FIS that would govern safety measures used during general training outside of downhill training runs and race days.

In the absence of fast rules, it is of course too easy to assign blame on anyone (team directors, coaches, resort) and this is why FIS needs to come up with some clear regulations regarding training in general.
Only then, will David Poisson's terrible accident will not have been in vain.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Trails for aging riders

I feel pretty remiss about my mountain-bike riding this year. I tried to find excuses for a spotty participation, but the main reason for my low mileage is simply pure laziness.

Sure, as one gets closer to seven decades, there's always a tinge of apprehension, a drop in VO2Max and an eroding muscle tone, plus also the fear of falling hard and getting hurt plays a huge role in slowing us down.

Even during my rare outings (still in the twenty range), I've discovered two new trails that are perfect for older folks like me. They're just behind my house and their names are “Pork-U-Climb” and “Down Dog”.
They are wide-single tracks, mostly covered with dirt with very few rocks, nice banked turns and their average grade is a sweet seven percent. On top of that, both are one-way, so there's no fear of colliding with another mountain-biker and the views are just spectacular.

Today, I took my wife after a two-year hiatus and she fell back in love with it. If you live in Park City, ride these two trails before the snow makes them impassable with regular tires, and if you like them as much as we did, make sure to mail your donation to the Mountain Trail Foundation!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Stress in the ski business

Snow is what makes or breaks a ski season; more so than a country's economic situation or any other possible reason.

No wonder then, that ski resort operators become obsessed with any form of snow when November rolls around.

In the past, it was always a tad colder, so if we didn't have the real, natural stuff, you could fairly easily make it, if you didn't mind the cost of pumping water, turning it into solid and spraying it all over the mountain.

These days are different, because even November isn't as cold as it used to be, and mountain operators can no longer “play chicken”, waiting for a very long, cold spell to blow snow.
Every seemingly cold night is now worth a shot. Park City is slated for a November 17 opening and if there's a continuous white ribbon, it's likely to be thin, narrow and overrun with people!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Paradise & Panama Papers are costing us...

Unless you fell into a deep coma on May 5, 2016 and just woke up today, you have heard about both the Panama and Paradise Papers scandals, uncovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and showing us how tax evasion and so-called tax avoidance are standard business practice all around the world.

Our complex, yet poorly regulated tax system allow multinational companies and wealthy folks to hire their fortunes in offshore paradises, in an effort to skip paying taxes in their own countries. The obvious losers are taxpayers like you and me.

As they stash about $700 billion every year into tax heavens, the ultra-rich and the large corporations are dodging the tax-man in the countries where they do business and earn their money. The United State Government alone lost $111 billion in 2016 because of these schemes.

These maneuvers deprive governments of the resources needed to provide vital public services and infrastructure like transportation, health-care and education among others, which means either cutbacks, runaway deficit or increased taxation.

The current government says that corporate taxes are too high; well, they counted for one-third of our Federal expenditures in 1952 and a measly 10% in 2015. So don't tell me that there's a need to cut corporate taxes when what is required is some vigorous legislation banishing the use of tax-haven for multinationals and super wealthy individuals.

By just doing this, we get more than $1 trillion in extra tax revenue over 10 years. Before re-doing the entire plumbing, take care of the leaks! Another good reason to call your Representative and your Senators today...

Monday, November 13, 2017

A biased ski boot salesman

Last Friday, as I was shopping at REI, I overheard a conversation between a shop employee and a customer that was being fitted a pair of ski boots. The salesman was complaining that European ski boot companies were unable to offer stiff boots that were wide enough to fit wider feet.

He said “European feet tend to run narrower than Americans' and that's why we can't get the products we need on this side of the pond”. How does that sound to someone like me that used to be marketing and selling ski boots for a significant portion of my career?

It meant quite simply that the sales guy, around 45 years of age, had a few biases and had little idea about what he was talking about. Let's try to see where the reality lies; stiff racing boots are used by better skiers that have someone (a tech) working on them, or get fitted by a professional boot fitter and in all instances, the boot technician is quite likely to modify the shell and/or the liner.

Proficient skiers generally want as close a contact as they can get between their foot and the shell, and will always begin with a narrow shell and make room for the foot by either grinding or heat-forming it. This is why racing boots essentially come in the narrowest size.

Now, with Caucasians representing 85% of the US skiing population (2015 industry study), chances are that feet very similar to them will be found among Austrian, German, French and Italian skiers and this debunks this salesman's grossly preconceived notions...

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Why don't you have a dog?

We don't have a dog, never have and probably never will; so, it's become a habit for people we know to ask us every time they see us: “Why don't you guys have a dog?”
While we are used to hearing the question, we don't necessarily enjoy it, as we often perceive it as meaning: “What's wrong with you folks for not having a dog?” This sneaky question infers that if we don't even have a dog, we must be bad people because only mean creatures don't love dogs; well, you catch my drift...

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel this particular question is the same as asking couples “Why don't you have kids?” to which the inevitable answer should be “None of your business!” right?

So when someone will ask us why we don't have any dog, will answer it by a question (always a wise strategy) that will confront the enquirers by asking them if they would dare asking a childless couple why they don't have any progeny. This exchange might sound a bit harsh, but I promise to test it and let you know how it flies.

An alternative answer could also take the form of a statement like “We'd love to have dogs, but with so many irresponsible dog owners that let their pooch roam around without a leash or don't pick up after them, we would hate to be perceived as joining their ranks; we know what we're talking about, wandering dogs have already banged our cars twice and we pick poop everyday around our house...”

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Firearms and me

The only time I've ever handled firearms was when I was in the military and during boot-camp, just 50 years ago this month.

We learned how to fire rifles and machine guns for perhaps a dozen of training sessions. I did okay with these target shooting exercises, didn't harm any of my comrades, but wasn't hooked on the experience.

It was in late Fall, the weather was foggy, damp and cold and my mind was completely filled with all the others things I could have done instead of that stupid training, like early season skiing for instance.
It's in fact quite probable that my lack of interest at this time, is the main reason why I don't have a closet full of guns at my house..

Friday, November 10, 2017

Montana's electric company

As most Americans know, following Hurricane Maria's devastation, Whitefish Energy is this small, two-man electrical contractor, based in Whitefish, Montana, that was awarded a $300 million, no-bid contract to rebuild the electric grid in Puerto Rico, completely destroyed the hurricane.
The sweetheart deal that involved $400/hr rates, seemed to have been facilitated by another Whitefish resident and Secretary of Interior, Ryan Zinke. When everyone came to their senses, the contract was finally canceled at the end of October.

Now, it seems to me that there might be ways to mitigate this sad conclusion and help both parties by encouraging Puerto Rican who can't do anything anyway at the moment, on their devastated island, to come to Whitefish, get trained on everything electric, lower the hourly billing rate to say, $100, and help beef-up the ranks of that tiny company so, when the next hurricane strikes, it will have the sufficient size and manpower to handle any reconstruction effort, no matter how large.

Since Whitefish is home to a ski resort, there should be enough pillows to accommodate several thousand Puerto Ricans during their training and bring some badly needed diversity and high-energy to the region.

If all works out as I would hope, the place could be renamed “Pez Blanco” in short order and this would be a true win-win idea for two communities that nothing ever destined to come together!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Terrorism and gun rights

If someone ever asked me what's the lawful, yet incredibly lethal terrorist organization operating on American soil, I wouldn't have to search long; I would immediately cite the NRA (National Riffle Association).

Why do I consider it a terrorist group? Because it creates an unsafe environment for all of us, by resisting any common-sense approach to gun control.

Like accepting legislation that would force the market-place to conduct background checks wherever a firearm is sold; at retail, on-line, at gun shows or between individuals.

Like only authorizing those firearms that can be used for hunting or self-protection, at the exclusion of assault weapons, huge magazines and uncontrolled number of ammunition.

Yet, what make them an even more dangerous entity is the fact that it constantly pressurizes our Members of Congress who, for the most part, don't dare crossing the NRA, that operates under the pretense of abiding by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Each year, inside this very country, the NRA is causing the death of about 35,000 Americans, while foreign terrorists like al-Nusrah, ISIS, al-Qaida, HAMAS or Hizballah, to cite a few of the 61 foreign malevolent organizations listed by the Department of State, amount to less than one hundred casualties, here at home.

What is our Congress waiting to go after this larger and ominous menace ?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Why Trump will fail

In spite of his character and his record low approval ratings, Trump seems to still be getting the support of his faithful base of voters.

The problem, however, is that the man lacks one essential ingredient to successful leadership: His total hubris and ingrained inability to listen.

People who don't listen observe things as they wish they should be, get some attention for a while, but eventually all will crash and burn. It's merely a matter of time.

This negative trait of Trump will eventually lead to his demise as a statesman as it has before as real estate developer. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Another massacre...

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

The Texas Church Sunday massacre wasn't different, as it was seemingly acted upon by a probably demented and heavily armed young, white man.

Is it even needed to remember that this massacre was the collaborative and steady work of the NRA, a majority of member of Congress and Trump?

Just remember that on average, about 35,000 Americans die each year from firearms. Until the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution isn't going to be seen in the same context as slavery, racism, sexual harassment and the use of fossil fuels, nothing is likely to change.

Monday, November 6, 2017

No tax cut for big business!

With the stock market and unemployment at record levels, access to healthcare the worst in the entire civilized world, corrupt political financing, infrastructure crumbling all around, a climate change the government chooses to ignore and a national debt inching towards $21 trillion, I wonder why there's a need to cut down corporate taxes, or any other tax for that matter.
Instead, there should be a tax hike to fix what ails us. Like a tax on fossil fuels for instance or a much stricter enforcement of tax collections.

Republicans and any politician supporting this mindless tax break and saying it will stimulate the economy is either corrupt or stupid. It didn't work under Reagan, Bush-Son and won't under Trump either.

If you agree with it, save this message and read it to your Republican representative and senator(s) when you call them this Monday morning.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Emmi, a Swiss luxury

Last night we had a friend at home for cheese fondue. I usually prepare that meal using half-comté, half gruyere and realized at the last minute that we had none of the latter.

I drove to the closest grocery store and got a small portion large enough (I thought) to complete the mix. The store offered a bunch of 0.53 lb (240 gr) shrink-wrapped pieces for $9.09 each!

Even though it was much more expensive than at Costco, I picked what I needed, went home and we all enjoyed a delectable cheese fondue!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Would you have rented this guy a truck?

The last terrorist attack in New York City begs lot of questions.

Beside the official's quandary as to prevent future similar incidents and the legitimate concern about not demonizing the entire American Muslim community, there is room for some discussion about using basic, common sense versus getting blinded by a rigid adherence to political correctness.

Another way to address the situation is to turn the problem on its head and wonder “Would I have rented the truck to that man?” It's undeniable that Sayfullo Saipov didn't have the good, clean look of the ordinary American.

If I had been behind the rental desk, assuming I had a fair dose of common sense and knowing what I knew about the Nice and other European street massacres, I would have thought in seeing and hearing Saipov “This guy must be middle-easterner and probably a devout Muslim to boot.”

After looking at his driver's license and deposit payment, I might have casually asked him: “What are you going to use this truck for?” He probably would have replied “I'm gonna help move one of my friends”.

Again, I might have struggled between my common sense and the easy path into racial profiling. The bottom line is that depending on Saipov's demeanor, his tone of voice and body language I would have rented the truck but also called the local police, explained my suspicions and ask them to keep a close look on that person.

Had you been behind the counter, what would you have done?

Friday, November 3, 2017

When I became a soldier

Half a century ago today, I rode the train to the middle of France where I had to attend boot-camp with the French Air Force.

This was the first day of 16 months of imprisonment into an institution that I would never get to enjoy.

As you can see on my mug-shot, I wasn't happy at all and wasn't looking forward to that long period of conscription.

One of the darkest moments of my life.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Clément Braize, 1936-2017

Today began with some sad news. My cousin Clément had just passed away.

He'd had turned 81 last March. I remember him well because I used to stay with him and my aunt for a couple of months each year while I was in middle school and my parents needed someone to look after me.

During that time, he and his mom were very kind to me. Clément was always gregarious and loved to sing; his favorite tune was the french adaptation of Venus (Frankie Avalon) by Les Companions de la Chanson.

My sincere condolences to his wife Yvonne and daughter Annette.
Clément will always have a special place in my heart.

Mad optical illusion

A few days ago, Park City Mountain began to make snow; it was cold and they probably wanted to test their snow-making equipment.
 As I picked-my binoculars to see how much they had cover, I discovered two strange elements: There was a lift tower (A) and a top chairlift station (B) that I had never seen before.

I looked up the resort website to no avail, besides, there was no way they could have built all this while we were away early October or without even telling the world.

I drove up the mountain to get an alternate view and discovered that the mystery chairlift was pure illusion.

For those of you familiar with Park City, the “Mystery Lift” was in fact the Lady Morgan chairs, about one mile away in Deer Valley, that appeared perfectly aligned to the Park City mountain side.

Morale of the story, whatever we believe we see or understand always depends on the point of view we take!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Trump's Halloween special appearance

Since we live in a low-traffic neighborhood, we enlisted the help of some big-name, to increase Halloween visits.

The Donald came on time, and for a while, no kid showed up, so we were a bit embarrassed as we feared that we had brought a celebrity over for naught!

Eventually, groups showed up, beating last year attendance by 23 percent!

The only problem is that the Donald didn't make kids laugh; he scared most of them (children aren't stupid), which was another demonstration of the law of unintended consequences.

Just after 9 pm, we've sent POTUS back to the White House after stuffing his coat pockets with the remaining candies. Now, we need to figure out a much better plan for next year!

Deer Valley's quandary

There's a snowboarding elephant roaming on Deer Valley ski runs and it never loomed larger than these days.
The deadline to purchase season passes at Deer Valley at maximum discount was yesterday. To entice procrastinators, the resort posted on Facebook a reminder of the seven reasons why folks should make Deer Valley their home resort again this season; here's how they were listed on its blog: 
  1. Complimentary Mountain Host Tours 
  2. Ski Valet 
  3. Complimentary Ski Storage 
  4. Limited Lift Ticket Sales 
  5. DV Text 
  6. Friendly Faces 
  7. Gourmet Food 
 Readers followed up by posting what could be seen as the above elephant: “No snowboarding allowed”, which by far, in their minds trumped the seven reasons listed.

The recent acquisition of the resort by KSL/Crown is shaking the assurance that Deer Valley would never let boarders roam free on its runs and this doesn't sit well with the older, discriminating clientele that is staunchly opposed to welcoming snowboarding as part of the snow community!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Great Tree Harvest

Our property is boarded by trees on its east, west and south sides, but while my wife tolerate evergreens, she doesn't particularly appreciate aspens that she considers like invading “weeds.”

I don't mind them and hate to cut any kind of tree, and that difference of opinion is exactly shared, along gender lines with Michelle and Bret, our neighbors to the west.

So, this past Sunday, we had an informal meeting between the two households and the two men basically acquiesced to the ladies' demands, agreeing to cut many of the offending aspen trees between our two properties.

After that harsh death sentence fell on trees that had committed no crimes, I began to have “buyer's remorse”, but that didn't prevent me from running to the store and get a brand new saw that got tested a few moments later when I fell seven aspen trees in less than one hour.

Granted, these trees weren't huge, but their future was bright, especially every month of October! A few larger trees asked for a stay of execution which I immediately granted, mostly on the ground that their trunk was too large and that they were too much work to cut.

After assessing the scope of the decimating work, my spouse seemed happy, my neighbors impressed and I hope the subject won't come up again for another year...

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Sölden half-mess

I didn't watch the women's GS and couldn't see the men either as it got canceled. This said, I might have watched post-race videos as I won't get up anymore in the wee hours of the day to admire a ski competition.

The women had a good race, without much surprise. As usual, Lindsey Vonn, did her best to steal the show by first announcing that she would finally take part in the race, little did she expect that she would fail to qualify.

At about the same time, in an October 24 interview with Sweden's Aftonbladet, she spoke about the women's circuit and stated: “I think it’s important for women to have equal rights, there definitely is a generalization that we are kind of second-rate on the World Cup. You know, we’re the pony show, and the men are the real race horses.”

Well, she's probably right and I'm afraid that the sport is globally too small, has not enough sponsorship money and fans to change this sad state of affair.

As for the men, well, too much wind canceled the affair on Sunday, but why in the world have the organizers not postponed the race to the following day (the weather forecast was improved by then) and waste precious time and obscene travel costs to athletes and their support team? 
This to me is inexcusable and show, if it needed to, that the international ski federation is ran by a bunch of incompetent, not-grounded bureaucrats.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Time to pick a new mayor!

In a little more than a week, Park City citizens will pick a new mayor and two new city council members. The bigger contest though, is about who will become our little-town mayor (8,000 people) for the next 4 years.

This is mostly a honorific and goal-setting position, as the day-to-day city management is left to a professional. Dana Williams, 62 years of age, one of the two contestants, has been mayor for three-terms or 12 years, and after taken a break for the past 4 years, wants to return, thinking he's still the best and is badly needed.

Andy Beerman, his opponent, is currently a city council member and doesn't offer a program that is drastically different than Williams', but his biggest assets over the previous mayor are his age (48 years old) and his rather successful forays in various local businesses that stand in stark contrast with Williams' mediocre professional record.

I have worked alongside Williams during a brief period and wasn't impressed at all. He basks in what he believes are his past “achievements”, talks a much better story than he's able to walk it, and as he said when he entered the race, is doing so essentially because the job now pays better than during the dozen of year he was at the helm ($50,000 per year).

My take on all this is that Dana Williams had his days in the sun and we're now ready for some lots of new ideas, refreshing directions and much energetic blood!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

High ski-pass prices, low wages

Last spring, I was shocked at how Park City Mountain and Deer Valley, our local ski resorts, had jacked up their season pass prices in relation to the consumer price index (CPI).

Over the past two seasons, they had gone up by more than 5 percent a year or 10 times more than the CPI. This morning I heard on the radio that Utah's ski resorts were struggling to fill thousand of seasonal jobs, which they were able to satisfy in the past by relying upon overseas workers coming on special J-1 visa (foreign work exchange program, for college students).

Today, these are under threat by Trump and many members of congress that have all criticized the visa program, saying that companies should hire American workers first. Of course these jobs are seasonal and pay close to minimum wage, so no locals or even other American want them.

Which leads me to wonder that with a 5 to 6 percent increase in their pass prices that must generate a volume comprised between $120 to $140 million, the annual “hike” in lift ticket prices amounts a least to $6 or $7 million.

Instead of stashing this extra profit in the resorts bottom line, this should go a long way into attracting more local and American ski resort workers by paying them well, recruiting at home and relying less on dirt-cheap, foreign labor...

Friday, October 27, 2017

Shopping for a... plot!

Yesterday, I went shopping for some very special real estate. Since Park City has become our home, we'd like to make sure it remains this way for a very, very long time, especially after we have taken our very last breath.

Now, you see the piece of real estate I'm talking about! Not that I'm in any hurry to kick the bucket, but some planning might be in order, especially in view of the growth that keeps on creeping in, all over Park City, so I thought that buying a burial plot before the city runs out of them might not be such a bad idea.
Compared to the rest of our local real estate, that particular kind is still quite affordable, so why not jump on the opportunity while it's plentiful and affordable!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Want to impress someone?

If there's a forum where impressing seems to be going out of control it's on social media in general and Facebook in particular. Folks showing off that they're handsome, smart, knowledgeable, affluent, well-traveled, famous and so on.

Evidently, the anxious human condition finds in affecting others a marvelous outlet, and social media is the ideal place for that, so when there's an urge to impress, there's a magic and easy tool immediately available to everyone.

Does it hit its target, namely impress all the onlookers? Partly so. Does it go further? You bet; it also fosters envy, jealousy and a host of other nefarious feelings. In fact, impressing seldom hits it target with all of its might. It splatters its energy under the form of resentment and other dark reactions.

When all is said and done, we can only impress ourselves and what's posted on Facebook to influence others is often so perverted that it would hardly touch us if we were truly objective about its contents.

A good place to start might be to work much harder at impressing ourselves and forgetting about the gallery of Facebook “voyeurs” altogether. Then, and only then, we might be impressed of the impression we make...

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

More ski resort numbers...

Just yesterday we discuss ski resort acquisition prices per skier day. The concept may sound new to you, but find it particularly helpful when we're looking for meaningful metric to better understand the economic reality of the ski industry.

If we stay with Vail Resorts, we can get a better sense of the inner working of its financial reality. In 2017, Vail Resorts claim 12 million skier-days for about $1,890 million in sales. While its income before income taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was $593 million, its net income was $211 million.

Based on skier-day, these number translate to $158 in sale, $49 in EBITDA and $18 in net income. One more thing, the effective ticket price (ETP), the lift ticket revenue divided by total skier visits, amounted to $68 about half Vail Resorts' peak season daily lift ticket.

Now, you can compare these numbers to the $525/skier-day acquisition cost of Whistler that we discussed yesterday and figure a 30 times earning-ratio, that also include real estate, various equipment and other non ski related assets.

This price earning-ratio is pretty much the same as Vail Resorts' stock (MTN) current P/E ratio for 2017 at 30.92 and its 28.73 projection for 2018...

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The ski resorts acquisition binge

In these days of global warming, you'd think that only Trump would be foolish enough buying a ski resort, as the prime denier of human-caused climate change, but this is not quite the case.

In the past years, some major conglomerates have been purchasing ski resorts, left and right, with seemingly little concern or regard about average global temperatures on the rise and a ski market size that stubbornly refuses to grow.

The recent purchase price of Deer Valley Resort to KSL/Crown wasn't disclosed but it must have been hefty to convince its former owners to sell.

If we were to use a metric to peg recent ski resorts acquisition cost and begin with Whistler's purchase for $1.1 billion by Vail Resorts, based on 2,100,000 skier visits during the 2015-2016 season, this would equate to about $525 per skier day.

If we apply that same rule to Deer Valley, we'd get to $360 million, but my own sense and the fact that Vail Resorts must have participated in the bid, tell me that the transaction much have been at least pushed to the $500 million mark to reach the tipping point that shocked everyone.

The planet isn't the only thing that is heating up these days!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Skis too long? Fold' em!

Ever since skis have existed, they've had their advantages and their downsides. One of their key advantage was to allow a skier to stand over soft snow without sinking in.

The downside of this was their length that made them hard to steer and clumsy to carry. We stay with the last idea: Ease of transportation.

For years, inventors have been toying with a folding ski that could be thrown inside a rucksack and allow someone to climb steep mountains without having one long pair of boards hindering their progression and destabilizing them in some precarious sections of the climb.

I know of the Swiss makers Attenhoffer in 1925 and Shraner in 1934 that proposed designs that didn't pass muster with the market. More recently MTN Approach was another execution of the stubborn idea that received limited attention.

This was until Elan, the father of modern carving skis, came up with yet another version of the ski that literally folds in half from the middle. Sounds good to me, but I like to see things before I quite believe them, so I've looked everywhere for a video of this folding contraption, but they still must be filming it!
Short of this kind of video-proof, I heard that Elan sponsored Davo Karničar, a famous mountaineer, to ski down Everest on its new two-piece, Ibex model. Apparently, he made it to the base camp without folding!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Are your spare tires full of air?

My recent flat-tire incident inspired me to check the pressure of the temporary spare tire in my wife's Mini. This was a bad and good idea.

Bad idea first, because I discovered that finding the spare tire and getting it out required a full-engineering degree and also good idea, because the spare tire, after years of ignoring its existence was as flat as a pancake.

My advice to all readers of this blog: Get under your cars and check if you have a spare tire; if you can find out where it hides, learn how to take it down and if check if there's enough air in them.

Do it sooner than later, because later might be at night, on a rainy evening, on the wrong side of a busy highway (that's happened to me before)!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Another flat tire!

There are things in life we're never ready for; winning the loto, dying or having a flat tire. Less than 300 yards after leaving home yesterday, I noticed that something was wrong with my car and pretty soon I realized that I must have had a flat.

Since I was in the middle of an hairpin turn I pulled over safely enough in front of the next available driveway and proceeded to change the wheel that had caught an ubiquitous construction screw. In the meanwhile two young Latinos stopped by and alarmed by my frailty, very kindly asked if we needed help.

I politely refused, but for the life of me couldn't find all the accessories needed to remove the wheel. This is the second time this happens with that car and while I knew the missing jack handle (#3 on the drawing) was hidden somewhere, I couldn't remember where exactly.

I opened the front hood (?) without any result and while I was frenetically thumbing through the owner's manual, it suddenly dawned on me that this particular tool was hidden under a panel located to the left of the spare wheel well.

When I finally removed the bad wheel and installed the limited service spare tire I saw that it needed some air, so I returned home, gave it lots of psi and drove over to the tire shop.

That's when I got thinking that a regular emergency rehearsal to remember where everything is, along with a check of the spare tire inflation, might not be such a bad idea in the future, right?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Weather or not snow comes?

Yesterday, NOAA's, America's climate prediction center told us how this next winter might be.
According to what they are asserting, la Niña should be back this season and play a major role on what will fall on us during the course of next winter.

Of course, my first reaction has been to decipher how Utah would fare in terms of snow and what I found out is that our average temperatures might be higher (not surprising and not good) and so would our precipitations (great as long as they are “solid”).

Now, I need to go back to that blog around the middle of next April to check if this forecast is something worth believing or if it's pure fantasy. We'll see!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

How will KSL & Co handle Deer Valley?

Yesterday, I was talking to a skier buddy of mine about how Deer Valley Resort might change out under new ownership. He thought Deer Valley brand was so strong that it couldn't be affected. I didn't see it quite the same way.

As a private-equity group, and in spite of what it announces to re-assure patrons of newly acquired resort, the affiliates of KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company (KSL & Co) isn't putting its collection of resorts together without expecting to achieve large economies of scale, consolidate best practices throughout them and compete head-to-head with Vail Resorts.
While Deer Valley may bask in the glow of Ski Magazine somehow flawed and narrowly based rankings, it suffered from a few issues that could be seen as opportunities for growth and progress by its new owners, like appealing more to younger crowds, broadening its product offering and even more simply, innovating, a policy that has dissipated soon after the resort's inception.

If KSL & Co is to be a success down the road, expect to see some drastic changes affecting its entire grouping of new resorts, including of course, Deer Valley.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Overrated tax incentives?

Amazon is searching for its second headquarter outside of Seattle, and soliciting bids from cities across North America for a place to build it.

The firm said it would invest $5 billion and eventually create some 50,000 jobs. Ideally, its new home should be a city with at least 1 million people, an international airport, and a "stable and business-friendly environment."

To attract the high-tech retailer, cities are rolling out a red carpet stuffed with tax-incentives. My question of course is whether these tricks will get the deal, or will ever break-even, as smart companies look much further than tax giveaways to build their strategies.

This precisely was this morning's topic of conversation on NPR, as to whether tax incentives are what drive companies.

The reporter, Alina Selyukh, framed the answer to that question by quoting Paul O'Neill, former CEO of aluminum giant Alcoa, when he told Congress at his 2001 U.S. Treasury Secretary confirmation hearing : "I never made an investment decision based on the tax code; if you're giving money away, I'll take it. If you want to give me inducements for something I'm going to do anyway, I'll take it. But good business people don't do things because of inducements."

To me, this makes a lot of sense and also confirms how reducing corporate taxes has never worked in order to stimulate the economy. Business goals and needs are what drive it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Jet lag and old folks

I used to travel an awful lot and through the years, developed my own technique in dealing with jet lag.

For one thing, I always adhered to the following principles: 
  • Try to sleep as much as possible during the flight. 
  • Run or exercise strenuously upon arrival at my new destination. 
  • Convince myself that the new local time is the real one and never “translate” with the time at home. 
 The bottom line is that it worked pretty well for me as I was trained and much younger. I've also always experienced that eastward travel was much tougher as I was losing precious sleeping time and my circadian rhythms were more perturbed.
Westward flying was much easier, of course, for the very same reasons. Sitting still for hours plus breathing recirculated foul air wasn't helping either.

Today as I am getting close to 70, most of these negative elements seem to have amplified and jet lag is no longer a fun and enjoyable game to play. Morale of the story:

Don't wait until you're 80 to do all your heavy traveling!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Post-vacation chores

Returning home after a vacation always feel good. Re-discovering one's own home, re-experiencing one's own bed ; nothing beats these feelings.

There's of course all the mail to sort, the bills to pay and the urgencies to address. Along with all of this there are the other by-product of all that the time-off, like pictures and videos, among others.

These are also my biggest pet-peeve that we seem to accumulate in huge quantities, especially now, in that smart-phone era, where we always have a camera or worse, a video-camera in our pocket. How do we deal with that deluge of material?

I usually leaves that for last. I get to do my daily blog first and then, when it's all published, go to the pictures. That's what I just started today. This is hard work because is requires sorting, which mean choosing and major brain damage.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A former colleague drops by...

My countryman Patrick and I used to work for a while at the same ski school, in Avoriaz, up in the northern French Alps and both of us had since moved on, he to Canada, me to the United States.


Yesterday happened to be a superb opportunity for us to meet again when he, along with his wife Vicky, came to visit me and my wife in Park City. Lots of stuff to reminisce about and old memories to dust off.

A wonderful day for all of us!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

KLM's toxic food

In case you didn't know it, the “KLM” acronym, means Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, which simply put, stands for Royal Dutch Airlines. Sound good, except that the food they serve on some of their flight is downright poisonous.

When we flew KLM from Nice to Amsterdam on our way back to America, the flag carrier airline of the Netherlands served us cheese sandwiches for breakfast that were not really attractive. My wife took a bite of it and tossed it away. I was hungry and ate the whole thing, not knowing that sometime later that Dutch delicacy would strike me with a vengeance.

You could think that KLM's recent merger with Air France would have had a positive influence on the airline culinary style, but apparently not. Upon my return home, I got food poisoning so severe that I thought I would die.

Since I'm writing this, I did survive it, but enough to remember never again to fly KLM or eat their spoiled food.

Better yet, regardless of the airline we'll fly in the future, we'll a point to pack up our food before boarding. Don't we learn something new everyday?

Friday, October 13, 2017

What could Deer Valley improve?

Being the “number one ski resort” in North America would suggest perfection, but perfection exists nowhere and for those that know Deer Valley Resort well, there are quite a few things that still could be improved.

These are personal thoughts coming through seasons of experience and observations. Let's start from the beginning, with parking. The current set up, while permitting unloading at the top, still requires one driver or a ski party skipping the whole valet thing to walk up to the resort or wait for the little shuttle-train.

What about instead, a series of covered moving walkways, just like the escalators at Beaver Creek? Then, there is the antiquated paper lift ticket that needs to be attached to the jacket or the pass that needs to somehow hang out.

Time to move to RFID and get a real count of how many skiers are on the mountain; I'm certain the new owners will do it! There, on the slopes, there is definite need for some in-between grade between the steep runs (terrifying for intermediates) at the top of Bald Mountain and the sheer flatness of Homeward Bound, as well as widening congested zones like Ontario run for example; some creative design is required to address these problem!

Also, be a bit more customer-oriented and delayed closing time at Empire and Lady Morgan, not to mention getting Carpenter to start a tiny bit earlier to disgorge skiers faster out of Snow Park. Having all ski instructors wear a helmet might also go a long way in setting example for all skiers and while we are at it, isn't it time for letting all users (skiers and snowboarders) enjoy the mountain together?

Discriminating against boarders pleases the dying crowd that still is – until now – the core constituency of Deer Valley, but it might be prudent to attract more millennials by walking the talk and creating more youthful activities to the resort by designating and building a series of real Park for the new generations and get rid of Cadillac as the official car of the resort?

Finally, tastes change and evolve all the time and it seems to me that the resort's food services have stayed stuck in the past and should strive to maintain their leadership through innovation in dining.

I won't even mention the creation of a good website and a workable app, but you get my drift...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Jean Ferrat's lust for life

When we found ourselves in Ardèche, I wanted to visit the village that the French singer Jean Ferrat literally “adopted” leaving Paris and its glamour behind.

The village of Antraigue sur Volane fits my one of my favorite French singer like a glove and while I never was fond of Ferrat's political views (he openly espoused communism for quite a long time until discovering Stalin's true work) I loved all of his other songs.

Seeing the kind of place and lifestyle he picked for himself in Ardèche made sense to me and fell perfectly in line with the image I had of the man and the poet.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Morzine vs. Park City; that's the question!

Upon my return from France, my wife is asking me how I feel about my distant hometown in the French Alps and how it compares with Park City.

My response never really changes. French lifestyle is fun but is also quite complicated. Park City's is super casual and totally uncomplicated.

The weather in Morzine is humid and subject to change almost all the time with about 250 days of precipitations a year. Contrast this with Park City's 250 days of dry and steady weather.
Skiing is just incredibly good in Utah while far too crowded, bordering on dangerous in France.

Then there's on big thing: Food. We eat like kings in France, while we tend to eat like our new president in American, but fortunately – and we have 40 years to attest to that – the gap is closing fast plus my wife and I have stayed thin!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wishing for supersonic travel!

Airplane GPS information is something I've loved ever since it became ubiquitous on all long-haul flights.

For one thing, I'm a graphic animal, I also love geography and can't stand not being able to see where I am in the world, especially while prisoner inside a flying tube, so instead of watching numbing movies and shows,
I leave the flight-tracker on while I read, so from time to time, I can raise my sight and check our progress. My wife is here to remind me that we're barely moving on a flight of over 10 hours and our path exasperating slow. Internally, I simply lament the premature death of supersonic travel!

Monday, October 9, 2017

I'm full, time to leave Club Med!

Club Med suffers the problem that ails any “all you can eat” eating establishment.

Even though the food has nothing to do with your typical American mass-eatery and is, on the contrary, quite delicious, you simply end up eating too much and adding inches to your waistline.

After four days of “filling” the old body, it felt as it was grossly overflowing and that gave us the timely signal that it was time to return to a more restrained lifestyle.
We can't wait to melt these extra kilos!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Behind Club Med's business model

Club Med relies heavily on young GO (gentle organizers) to entertain, amuse and coach their guests.

They're not paid well, but the organization covers all of their needs and even take them to assignment in faraway, exotic places and pay them minimum wage, knowing full well that this total charge taking is very hard to break away from.

Club Med tell its GM that they can save most of their money as they're only charged some 20% of their earnings for room and board, that they're learning an awful lot and that their job is a springboard to a great career down the road.

Their training appears to be minimum and clearly limited to what they need to know. Further, employee empowerment has no currency at Club Med. To me, the system breeds dependency and makes it often hard from a young person to eventually leave and try something different.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Virtual internet at Club Med

Internet connection is like freedom; I see it as an inalienable right; period.

Well, not so fast; when we arrived at Club Med, as we do in any hotel or resort we get to, we immediately logged into its Wifi system with variable results.

My wife could get into her iPad, but at struggling speed and I wasn't able to make my laptop and phone work on what turned out later to be an anemic, if not half-dead internet delivery system.

At first, I blamed my laptop and one of the browsers I always use. It took me 2 days to realize that I should have questioned Club Med's bandwidth, right from the start!

Club Med at Opio knows that their regular Wifi is useless so they advertise an optional “broadband” for an extra price.

I come from the standpoint that if I can get excellent internet service in hotels that charge less than 100 euros a night, I ought to get the same at Club Med that charges two to four times more than that!

After struggling about a day and having to be mean and threatening, I finally got the magic pass that opened the door to a decent internet speed. Oh yes, just for our last day of stay!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Enough one-night stands!

For the past five nights, we hoped from one place to the next, visiting many beautiful towns, seeing an awful lot of wonderful spots, but all this, at the cost packing and unpacking every single night.

When this routine goes on for so long, it soon becomes not being fun and we're now ready to dropping our suitcases in a place where we won't have to touch them for at least four nights!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The price for Mediterranean beauty

I've always said the French Riviera is just like California: Beautiful weather, beaches, hills and homes. Luxuriant vegetation everywhere too.

In both cases, a paradise coveted by all and with it, too many people, too many cars and too many small roads to carry all these vehicles and their passengers.

Did I mentioned the outrageous cost of real estate? That's right beauty always comes with a price, and while we've often toyed with the idea of buying a place in either spots, we've settled on the idea that it makes much more sense to just visiting...