Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The power of habit

I have a friend who only seem to enjoy skiing the same resort, the same lift and, for the most part, the same chosen runs. So, my next, obvious question is to ask myself, why? There might be countless reasons.

Generally speaking, we're all creatures of habit and some of us crave familiarity. No fear, no unknown, less possibility of failure or accident there. No need to adapt fast, regroup or re-strategize on a whim. We also stand a better chance of looking our best when we roam places we know like our back pocket.

All this sounds great but isn't my cup of tea.

I like too much to discover, explore, learn and feel destabilized instead of comfortably settling inside a rut.

But, hey! That's just me, the usual iconoclast with my own unpredictability...

Monday, February 27, 2017

Ball and Bar logos

You remember the resemblance between the Park City and the Martini logo?
Well last night, as I was laying awake in the middle of the night, another one of these distinctive branding signs came to my half-dormant mind: Datsun!

Younger reader of this blog may not remember what Datsun was all about, so let me remind them that the brand was owned by Nissan. Datsun's original production run began in 1931. From 1958 to 1986, vehicles exported by Nissan were identified as Datsun.
By 1986 Nissan decided to phase out the Datsun name for Nissan, but re-interoduced it in 2013 as a low-end brand for the emerging markets.

In 1931, Dat Motorcar Co. (DAT being an acronym for its founders) chose to name its new small car "Datson", a name which stood for the new car's smaller size when compared to the DAT's larger vehicle already in production.

When Nissan took control of DAT in 1934, the name "Datson" was changed to "Datsun", because "son" also meant “loss” in Japanese and also as a way to honor the sun depicted in the national flag - hence the name Datsun and the logo in which the name crossed the rising sun.

Now, with all that knowledge, don't ever drink and drive when you travel to Park City; in other words, you won't have any excuse if you mix Park City, Martini and Nissan!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

You Tube continuing education

Two days ago, as we were driving down to the airport to pick up our daughter, we bought a pair of replacement wipers at Costco, our favorite store, as the old ones could no longer wipe clean the road salt water.

When I got home I spent at least two hours figuring out how to replace them and soon was on the verge of giving up and returning these two beauties to the store.

I had gone through the ungodly confusing instructions and had looked through a couple of videos that didn't help me one bit, when I landed on this other video, was made for a Honda, but that worked just as fine for my car. In just two minuted the new wipers were snapped into place and I was proud of myself for not giving up.

Thanks one million to You Tube and George Fotinakes, the American author of that video!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Park City and Martini

Besides rhyming, both names have little in common. One is a Utah city, the very town where I live, the other stands for Martini & Rossi, an Italian alcoholic beverage company primarily associated with vermouth, including Noily Prat, and also Asti sparkling wines.

The Martini “Ball Bar” logo was registered for the first time in 1929. The other is Park City's municipal government trademark "Park City 1884", created to commemorate the centennial of the city's incorporation.
Both look eerily similar in the sense that when I first discovered it upon moving to town in 1985, I mistook Park City's logo for the famous vermouth brand and, for a moment, thought that my new town was sponsored by the Italian brand and that vermouth was flowing freely in its public fountains.

I have done some research since, and some one told me that the logo had been created by one of the Fetzer brothers who had an ad agency in Salt Lake City. Another person told me that Tina Lewis, a former City Council member did it. Well, who really knows?

Today, what's certain, is that I'm more used to my city than the Italian aperitif which after I drank it one last time, is nowhere to be found inside my bar...

Friday, February 24, 2017

My old Honda snowblower

We purchased our Honda snowblower back in November of 1990 for $1,418. Twenty seven years ago this was quite a bit of money and today, the same machine would at least set me back some $2,800.

Sure, there are plenty of cheaper machines around starting in the $1,000 range, but would they last as long as my old, red Honda blower has lasted ? Probably not.

When I bought it, I wanted an engine that would start the first time and that's precisely what that machine has been doing for almost three decades as long as there was gas in the tank.

Along the way there were seasons with little to clear and monster snow years like presently, but the machine always performed flawlessly except that day, before the age of internet, when it swallowed a fat, Sunday newspaper, but after taking it to the snowblower doctor, it did recover and has been performing like clockwork ever since...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ski Team event

I don't know if you watched the Ski Team event during the last World Championships in St. Moritz.

We did, we were happy the French won the day, but were not impressed by the overall format and I frankly don't think it should be given that much importance in the FIS calendar.

I used to be sold on it during the days of the World Pro Tour, back in the 70s and 80s, but have finally come to the conclusion that it is more fluff than substance.

I wouldn't be sorry to see it go away!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When wildlife eats out...

Too much snow doesn't make wildlife survival easier and this winter, Park City has seen a lot of wild animals venturing in town in search of food.

Yesterday, as we were walking we spotted that calf moose kneeling and eating some chipped bark in a front of a house.

The animal saw us, kept on feeding and one house further down the street, the huge mom ambled towards us, paid scan attention to the two nervous pedestrians and rejoined her offspring.

 Okay, that's another day in Park City!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What a difference 1,000 feet make!

Saturday was a miserable, soggy morning day in Park City, with a mixture of rain and huge snow flakes and skiing was the least thinkable activity a sane person would engage into. Yet, my wife pushed me out of my comfort zone and literally forced me out of the house to go skiing.

After braving the frozen mix that was falling down at the base of Park City, I soon was whisked into heaven when I reached 8,000 feet where powder snow was the only currency served to skiers.

I stayed all morning and just before returning to the parking lot, I skied into some untracked “plaster” that was quite a piece of work.
I returned the next day and was treated to great powder at the top and refrozen, cut-out ski runs at the conclusion of my skiing. All this made me think “if only Park City was at 8,000' instead of just 7,000'...”

Monday, February 20, 2017

When skiing looks so easy...

Both Marcel Hirscher and Mikaela Shiffrin are so good that they make world-class ski racing look so easy that it should compel the rest of us to follow their example every time we're on ski.
By being feather-light on snow, limiting ourselves to just the required gestures, remaining centered, anticipating turns before they come, absorbing shocks on time and working far less, we all will go a long way in skiing much, much more and better.

Thank you for the lesson you gave us all this past week in St. Moritz!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cultural assimilation...

On Friday night, we were watching a TV show featuring a recently deceased comedian, and as we discussed the cultural influence comedy has in our lives, we also measured that, beyond any language barrier, culture represents a steep ascent for immigrants.
From there I thought of all the steps we had to climb before we finally could grasp all the intricacies and mores of the American way of life...

  • Deciphering: A first step for newcomers to a foreign country; translating the language, understanding the spoken word, getting down to the mechanics of basic communications... 
  • Discovering: Getting to see, explore and realize how different ideas, attitudes or reactions can be part and parcel of a new culture. This is still a stage of observation. 
  • Understanding: Spotting differences right away between one's own culture and the host country's. Drawing conclusions, measuring the gaps both qualitatively and quantitatively.
  • Assimilating: Finally getting a full understanding of what is going on. Adopting some traits that we find desirable or compatible with us, while rejecting others. Navigating in much greater comfort, playing on a bi-cultural register. 

From a timeline standpoint, these different steps will occur at various moments. As far as we are concerned, I would almost say that they have been equally spread over four decades of residence in America...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Atomic numbers...

I'm not talking about the count of protons in the nucleus of an atom, which defines a chemical element in the periodic table, but I'm simply talking about the world's nuclear arsenal. Nine countries are thought to possess nuclear weapons, including North Korea, the new member of the club.
While both the USA and Russia have significantly reduced their inventory (which would be more than enough to destroy the planet several times over), America reached a peak of more than 30,000 in the mid 60s and the former Soviet Union broke the 40,000 mark in the late 80s.

Today Russia and the United States are believed to have about 7,000 weapons each, with about a quarter of these deployed, and most of the rest in reserve or set aside for destruction. I came to think about these spooky stats as I realized how insane and unpredictable both Putin and Trump are...

Friday, February 17, 2017

And for today, a gondola story!

Recently, my wife and I were again sitting inside the new Park City gondola, minding our our business, when one passenger was renting and raving about not being able to get the glove he had just lost on some chairlift while checking his phone.

He was screaming out of his lungs: “I could understand why someone would pick up a full pair of glove and keep it, but just one? For crying aloud, what can you do with just one single glove?”

I couldn't resist but jump into the conversation: “I totally agree with you, but let me just suggest that you primarily focus your search on one-armed skiers...” inferring those that might be profiting from such a crime.

Everyone inside the gondola burst into laughter and I'm sure each one reminisced the picture of Richard Kimble from “The Fugitive” TV series...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Another chairlift story...

It seems that it always happens when we're riding a chairlift. Yesterday, my wife and I were riding along with a couple to our left and a man to the right.

The two of us were talking in French and suddenly our neighbor to the right asked “Were are you from?” I said as if this was perfectly obvious: “Park City...” The man kind of sneered and said “Park City, yeah right?”

I continued: “We're part of a long-established French trapper family, mountain men if you prefer, and we live east of town...” I continued and said “ We occasionally go out on skis, like today, to harvest our traps and gather pelts!”

Every one laughed; I was ready to deliver the rest of the story, but alas, it was already time to get off the lift...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Marine Le Pen on French TV

A few nights ago, we remained at the edge of our seats as we watched Marine Le Pen in a fiery political debate with French TV journalist David Pujadas, among other personalities.

We were impressed to see how feisty, articulate and tenacious the presidential candidate of the French “Alt-Right” was, during the two-hour plus, unforgiving marathon.

Her economic views are catastrophic but she talks in a way and a style that remind me of Trump's, and her performance makes me increasingly convinced that she has a real shot at winning the election!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

One life and a stream of regrets?

Next to most of the fears we feel and the worry we have, are all the regrets we seem to harbor at one point or another that often make our lives miserable.

If certain forms of fear can be salutary and if worry sometimes acts as a useful reminder to refocusing one's intention, regrets are a total waste of time. Regrets are feelings about bygone events that can't be brought back to life and corrected; they belong to the past and therefore can't be changed, corrected or eliminated.

What they represent needs to be confronted immediately and, if appropriate, turned and stored at once into one's own experience and never be visited again because regrets serve no purpose!

How do I manage my “stable” of regrets? By constantly working at limiting their number in order to annihilate them all.

Each time I kill one, it becomes a a teachable moment that is transcended into practical experience that I keep drawing upon!

Monday, February 13, 2017

One life and the influence of luck

Yesterday, I was talking about Life, choices, joys and pain, but if there is a omnipotent element that always influences our destinies, regardless of good or poor judgment, it's luck. We get variable distributions of that elusive commodity and myself have been no exception to that randomness.

In fact, I consider that until now I have got much, much more than my fair share. From the moment I was born in a decent and loving family to the fact that I was endowed with many natural talents that I should have made better use of and did not always.

I have had many lucky breaks all along the way. In my professional life through serendipitous choices, in my personal life through my wife of more than 40 years, my two kids and my grandson. I also have been very lucky with my health by having had no major illness, by exhibiting quick and full recovery anytime something happened to me.

I've also been able to pursue a very active life, that countless time has put me into harm's way and yet has let me survive bad and often spectacular accidents, showing that unlike cats, I had more than nine lives.

Without more than my share of good fortune, I wouldn't be where I am today. Thank you, Lady Luck!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

One life, many choices, joys and pains

That's right we only have one life and from the moment we are asked to make decisions, each one of them will invariably lead to joy or pain.

If we are less fortunate and have few choices in life, we may either feel trapped or simply content because things are the way they are and there isn't a thing - we think – that we could do to change them. That's right, in choice-less situation, ignorance maybe bliss.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, too many choices might lead at worst to “decision paralysis” or in most cases at making some good and some bad choices. Since we seem to learn more from bad choices than good ones, we should strive at making as many decisions as possible so we can develop some expertise in that so important skill.

The problem is that we often get stung by the first decision we make that happens to turn bad and from that point forward, we don't dare to proceed any further. I'd say that on the whole, making many decisions is the best path in turning choosing into second-nature instinct.

Embrace all the results fully, the good and the bad and you'll move forward and it will prove to you that the more choices you make, the better you get at it and the better your life becomes!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Church of Common Sense

If I were to start a Church, it would be that of Common Sense. A congregation that is based on solid truths, proven experience and logical reasoning.

We wouldn't talk much about astrological signs, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Jesus, Mohamed or God by any other names. Joining it would be open to anyone without any proselytism, undue pressure or false promises.

Members would help each other, add to the existing knowledge and only bring positive values, personal contributions and critical thinking.

There would be no exterior sign of belonging to that Church and no need for regular prayer or service.

A smile, an open-mind and a good disposition would suffice.


Friday, February 10, 2017

The heat is on!

If someone still had any doubts, global warming is here to stay, get worse and will play havoc with the ski industry.

Unlike most, I simultaneously happen to observe what goes on both in the Rocky Mountains and in the Alps, and every indicator shows that rain on all continents is becoming more of a factor during what used to be cold, snowy winter months.

The winter snow level keeps climbing everywhere and that's not good. I follow webcams, watch nature attentively, keep notes, can see that our snow cover is in trouble and so is my beloved sport of skiing.

At the same time, there are still idiots who pretend that man-induced global warming is a hoax. Well, I hope these people holding these heretic beliefs burn in hell!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A very nice surprise...

Two or Three days ago I received a small book sent by a friend of mine and former work colleague from France.

“Les avant-gardistes” relates the history of the Avoriaz Ski School, my alma mater of sorts, in which I worked between 1969 and 1977.

I was both delighted and deeply moved as I opened up the publication and rediscovered old photographs and read the saga of what might have arguably been one of my happiest professional experience.

The piece was well laid-out, had great pictures, albeit too small, and a collection of colorful anecdotes, some of them half-truths, but after half a century, some “blur” factor is okay.

The only downside was an atrocious English translation, but who said you could have everything perfect!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What Democrats should be doing, now.

Besides demonstrating in the street, the very best thing to do is to act TODAY in order to change

Congress as soon as 2018. Making sure that the among the 435 Representative, a majority of them are Democrats and that the 33 Senators up for re-election also tip the total Senate count in favor of the Democratic Party.

Same thing – if possible – as the 36 Governors are up for reelection.

These elections are not just a priority, they constitute an urgency and the Dems must search, select, find and promote these candidates as soon as possible.

This means, this year, in 2017, and certainly not four months before November 2018!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Super Bowl indifference

It's not something new. My wife and I have never been into team sports and even less into American Football, so it was no surprise when the highlight of last Sunday for us turned into a wonderful ski day at Park City.

There was practically no trace of the 51st Superbowl, with the random exception of part of Lady Gaga half-time show performance; however, we also purposefully missed all the prized commercials.

In forty years, America has been unable to move us into the ranks of Football devotees and we're pretty sure it won't happen while we're still breathing. We'd rather go skiing!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Revisiting Condor Woods

It's been six years since I had not set skis into Condor Woods. If you don't know this area in the Canyons section of Park City, this is what I've called in the past a “schizophrenic” series of tight forested runs in which turns aren't optional, they simply must happen.

These chutes, accessible through three gates are long, challenging, almost impossible to memorize and end up in a natural half-pipe that is nothing else but a snow covered creek bed that offers no exit and forces the user to keep on going without crashing.

Until 2011, I had ventured into that universe from each of the three entry gates but might have ski down them just 4 or 5 times. The day before yesterday, I revisisted them and tested them all, from A to B and C (see map).

Course A is relatively short and leaves too long a section of the dangerous Canis Lupus natural half pipe to travel, increasing risk needlessly. Course B is the most traveled and the most middle-of-the road and C, farther away, is even longer, accesses a shorter dangerous halp-pipe section, but offers better snow.

I didn't ski as fast as I did in 2011, but made each run non-stop, didn't crash and felt like a million dollars. A cheap way to get to a heap of money ; try it !

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The unraveling Fillon candidacy

I watched all the debates of the French center-right primary and just one of their single left-wing debate as well; rather quickly, I concluded that Fillon was by far the best candidate for next spring's presidential election.

That was before everything unraveled and it was revealed that Fillon's wife had been handsomely paid by the French taxpayers for helping her husband, while in fact she had done little work, if any at all.

It appears that such nepotism is rampant (as well as legal) among French politicians of all parties, but hard to accept from François Fillion, a self-proclaimed champion of ethics. That said, I think Fillon has no excuse with the fictitious employment of his wife. It is not because "all others do it" that the practice is moral. Period.
Today, Fillon's posture is in serious jeopardy. I thought that he had an opportunity to remain above the fray and rise to the occasion by denouncing the practice of fake jobs given to relatives, in exchange for reimbursing all or part of his wife's compensation to the government or to a charity.

I can't help but draw a parallel between François Fillon and Hillary Clinton. The latter received money from Goldman Sachs for a series of speeches ($ 675,000) "because “it was what they paid and anyway everyone does it." She should have returned the money on the spot when confronted by Bernie Sanders on this compromising issue.

Instead, she chose to do nothing, cling to that dirty money, and by doing so, dug the hole she was already in much bigger and get buried in it.

Fillon's opponents, Macron or Hamon, have very little chance to win, but with his credibility on the skids, Fillon is likely to face an uphill battle against Marine Le Pen who will continue to destroy him, and in my opinion, is now quite likely to win the election.

How I use my time...

The older we get, the less time we have and whatever is left becomes increasingly precious.

I don't know what your current stage in life is, but chances are, that the older you are, the easiest it is to fully appreciate that plight. So, as a general rule, I try not to waste any of my time and accomplish everything I need to handle in a time-efficient fashion.

In fact, I strive to become more efficient all the time. Do I still squander some of my precious remaining time? You bet, Facebook being my number one culprit and my only major time-waster.

Resolving that time-leak should be easy, but even though I have tried many times, I haven't been able to resist that unproductive addiction. Some work remain to be done in that category.

Skiing alone could also be seen as a superfluous activity, but I feel it provides me with a daily break, a way to mentally relax and an exercise of what is for me a life-defining passion, so I won't touch it for as long as can do it and still enjoy it.

For the rest of my time, none of it is wasted and this is lifetime habit I'm extremely proud of...

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My best ski boots, ever!

Over its span, my ski life has been marked by a large and variable amount of foot discomfort. It started when I began to ski with the regular leather shoes I used everyday when I first stepped on my Dad's made skis at age 7.

Then I think I got a pair of dedicated leather, laced ski boots when I was 12 or so, with my first pair of Duret skis. My next momentous step in the ski boot universe world happened when my brother Gaston and I bought each a pair of lace-up Molitor boots from Switzerland that we brought home illegally, across the mountains.

After these boots, came my first pair of Lange boots, followed by some Trappeur plastic boots, before some Nordica, Dolomite and Lange again (when I joined the company).

When I became the U.S. Distributor of Koflach boots, it was only right that I skied in the product and shortly thereafter I relapsed into Lange, until I tore my Achilles tendon a decade ago and went to a three-piece shell made by DalBello.

I stayed true to that value-priced boot until this fall when I slipped my foot into a pair of Nordica NXT which hugged me like I never felt before, without the least pressure point, in spite of their less than racing flex.

You got it: “Love at first fit”, with only one problem: Getting in these boots is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and getting out feels like giving birth. I know, each rose has its thorns!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Capitalism, business and Sweden

To me, it's rather shocking that Sweden manages to be Number One in Forbes’ annual list of the best countries for business.

I thought that Sweden was number one in socialism, and why it might still very well be true, over the past two decades the country has undergone a genuine metamorphosis built on deregulation and budget self-restraint with some apparent cuts to its famous welfare state.

This year, the U.S. falls one spot to 23rd place, continuing a decade-long slide from its No. 1 ranking in 2006. Falling scores on trade and monetary freedom, along with rising levels of red tape and bureaucracy are behind our decline.

Forbes has graded 139 countries on 11 factors including property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market performance. Trump's potential plans to impose tariffs on foreign imports is not a recipe for improving the U.S. ranking.

Where's France? A few spots behind at number 26.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Skiing with moderation

This sure is a new concept with me, but thanks to an ailing left knee, I'm discovering the benefits of skiing with moderation, remaining light on my skis and not trying to kill the mountain or rack insane numbers in vertical drops.

This is a big departure from the skiing I have done this past decade. Will these efforts to moderate my insatiable urges work in the long run? We'll see; this is just a test!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The deep meaning of snow cover...

Skiers from all over the planet have always been obsessed with snow measurements and of course, snow depth seems the most important one to them.

People also boast about these numbers like they'd do about sex, and the most interesting piece of conversation I ever had on the subject was one day of last season, when I was commiserating about our lack of natural snow then and evoking the deep layers of white stuff we were normally getting the previous year.

A ski instructor sitting next to me on the chair, stopped my brooding in its track and said: “ You can complain all you want, but don't you think that what ultimately counts the most are the mere two inches you're skiing on, at any time?” A thinly veiled, humorous retort that was quite profound as well...