Friday, March 31, 2017

Blogging for ten years!

Just ten years ago today, I began this blog, as I was getting ready to undergo an operation to re-attach a broken Achilles's tendon.

I had long considered writing a blog, but never got serious about it. I liked to write and I also wanted to maintain my written command of French, my native language.

So simultaneously, I launched this blog in both English and French. At first, I didn't wright a blog everyday.

It's only in December of 2007 that my blog became a daily occurrence. To this date, you can find 3,651 blogs in English and 3,639 in French.

I've enjoyed writing all this and I hope you've enjoyed reading it as well!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The lone skier

It would be fair to say that I ski alone three-quarters of my time. This is not that I'm asocial, but I find it hard to seek a skiing mate that just happens to be available and ready to go when I am open to ski, not mentioning that, with age, my old buddies ski less often and prefer tamer terrain and conditions.

Aside from my family, with whom I ski whenever I get a chance to, I have grown accustomed to skiing by myself and by so doing I enjoy a great number of advantages. I decide when I go, when I return and what I ski. I don't have to wait for anyone – or God forbid, try to keep up the pace with a very strong skier.

I can also explore hair-raising spots without reservation or feeling any sense of responsibility for a companion. Skiing as a group is a process that is often marred by the weakest link in the chain (or the worst skier in the party).
Since I love skiing so much, I'm never bored and never count on someone else to show me a new place or a new spot, plus when I ski, I'm like a kid in a candy store: I'm always overwhelmed by my options...

I'm plenty curious to explore, revisit and try new itineraries. I'm not under the impression that I miss anything on my own, and I've skied alone for so long that it's become second nature to me!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The quest for cheap labor

Cost of labor is a big deal in labor intensive or high-value added jobs as the hospitality industry or agriculture. As a result, the H-2B visa program comes in handy to employers who don't want to break the bank and get away with paying minimum wage to temporary workers from the Caribbeans or Mexico.

Yesterday morning, I heard on NPR a piece by Fred Bever, a reporter and producer for Maine Public Radio, who said that Maine summer resorts' employers were complaining about the scarcity of these visas.

I immediately thought that if local employers paid their people better they'd get plenty of workers. I believe that in January of this year Maine's minimum wage went from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour, but $12, $13 or even $15 should be able to attract locals or better yet, US students who'd love to earn some money during the summer months.

Vacationers would pay a little more for their room and board, small businesses might have to squeeze their margins a tiny bit, but in the end, it would be a win-win for all. So why cry about the lack of availability of H-2B visa when market forces and American people could take care of the situation?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Republicans and Obamacare

It seems to me that for as long as I have been in this country, Republicans have never wanted to improve health care or its coverage as an effort to benefit active Americans.

It took the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) to get them infuriated about the idea and, from day one, promising to repeal (and not replace) the law.

So even with seven years to come up with a better idea, they did not, simply because enhancing that policy was never on their agenda.

It only took Trump's campaign promises to force them into concocting a replacement plan that was a disaster because they had never thought through the idea before and had no interest for it. They just were forced by Donald Trump to make something up.

At that point, only Democrats can do something about fixing the ACA and it will require a strong majority in Congress...

Monday, March 27, 2017

The (real) art of the deal

I have yet to read “The Art of the Deal” that best seller Trump has had written for him back in 1987 by Tony Schwartz. I plan to read it as soon as possible, because I can't understand that a self-proclaimed sales or business guru like Trump would fail at repealing and replacing Obamacare as he did a few days ago.

Maybe when I'll read his famous book, I'll change my mind about what selling is all about.

That's true, I've always thought that successful selling (or deal-making for that matter) began by listening to the customers, always doing one's very best to be polite and considerate with clients, always looking forward to establishing a strong and lasting rapport and, as much possible always attempting to hide one's ego and arrogance.

To me any other for behavior was that of a jerk, but again, once I've read the masterpiece I might be proven wrong!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Friends of Putin

Quite a number of prominent individuals have publicly stated their trust, admiration and friendship for Vladimir Putin, the former KGB chief, who has become Russia's de facto dictator.

The list is impressive, beginning with politicians like Donald Trump or François Fillon, actors like Steven Seagal, Gérard Depardieu or Pamela Anderson, and musicians like Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.

Worse, there even Jean-Claude Killy, the skier I admire most that has also fallen for the man. A character that many reasonable people see as a ruthless oppressor and killer.

Well, I can only hope that everyone of these famous people got something of great value out of the relationship and that Mr. Putin never turns on his western “friends!”

Saturday, March 25, 2017

America's Problem

We all are aware that America has many problems. Actually, our main problem is not with Mexicans, opioids, or abortion, and it's not with Muslims either, but it's with our Republican Party.

The latter is dead set on demolishing instead or repairing or constructing what we need (no border wall, please!).

Republicans congressmen and women must finally understand that they are working for us and that it's time for them to get off their rear-end and start playing nice with Democrats!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Military spending and education

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading.

The 2015 version of the test was published on 6 December 2016 and shows that Singapore outperformed the rest of the world. The top other OECD countries were Japan, Estonia, Finland and Canada. Now, contrast this with our worldwide military expenditures.

Close to $1.7 trillion is spend annually world wide towards military expenditures; in other words to kill people. This is a category where the USA is a dominating leader.  In fact we spend more than the 7 next countries for our defense (that is close to $600 billions or about 5% of our GDP).

We clearly don't do nearly as well with our PISA scores and lag on all counts. Wouldn't it be nice if we spent less on our military and more on our students?

If we did that, perhaps would we do a sudden U-turn and reverse our decline and return to excellence?

Something to think about...

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Weird hairdos and sick minds

I wonder if anyone has ever conducted a thorough study on people wearing weird haircuts, and their disastrous consequences on mental sanity?

Since the human hair is located so close to the brain, it does affect its function and whenever the hairstyle goes off the established norm, it must confuse the synapses and may provoke erratic behavior on the subject wearing the non-conforming hairdo.

For those who don't quite know it, a synapse is a structure that allows a neuron (or nerve cell) to pass an electrical or chemical signal to another neuron. It is therefore easy to imagine the resulting chaos that takes place when the entire synapse network is hammered with continued electrochemical breakdowns caused by a disorderly hairstyle.
So, next time you find yourself in close proximity to a person like the ones illustrated on this blog, change sidewalk immediately.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The first French presidential debate

Two nights ago, we bravely invested three hours of our precious time to watch the first French presidential debate of 2017.

The French must have an amazing attention-span because we were beat up at the end of this intellectual marathon.

What follows are just my reactions:

I thought both Mélanchon and LePen, were both the best story-tellers and communicators of the quintet. They seem to know what being populist is all about.

For me the most forgettable candidate is Hanon, the socialist, who like Mélanchon is a utopist and is probably too far ahead of his times. His program is as weak as his persuasion skills.

Macron is the quintessential French Technocrat. He piles up words that are meaningless. Since he has no program per se, he is smart enough to agree almost 100% with whatever Fillon says and since the later is the only one who has a sensible platform, Macron shows his intellectual clarity.

Clearly, Fillon's passive demeanor showed he's wounded and lacked the assertiveness he displayed during the primaries.

So, what should the French do? 

Just like we did it for Hillary, they should hold their noses and vote for Fillon, praying he makes it to the run-off and can block LePen.

This said, what's the likely outcome? 

At this juncture, I would predict that LePen and Macron will survive the vote. During the run-off debates, Macron will be crushed by LePen, many French will abstain, the right will support LePen and she'll emerge as the victor.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ski World Cup Finals

Like many other viewers, I enjoyed the last Aspen ski races and while I don't know who set the thermostat so high, the quality of the show under the Colorado sun made the series one to remember...

What was my take-away? Not just one, in fact, but very many: 
I like the fact that they were a lot of upsets and I'll never forget the tremendous performance of the Italian women's team, the continued strength of the Austrian men, the ascent of Slovenian and Slovak athletes, the strength of the Swedish technical guys, some promising Swiss newcomers, and the winners of the various globes winners.

I can just lament about the feeble American team (Shiffrin excepted) and the French women's as well (Worley excepted)... Well, many athletes have their work cut out for them this summer!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Another miracle...

On December 26 of last year, the MCL in my left knee began to hurt significantly while I began to ski with my daughter who came home for the Holidays.

What caused this, I don't know, but after some quick research on the net, Dr. Go11 determined that it was a ligament inflammation that required some rest in order to heal. No doctor visit, no orthopedic clinic, no rehab.

I just thought that patience, moderation and time would be the answer to the problem, so back in January when our new snow was so great and so fluffy I missed 17 days of fun.

 I resumed skiing in February, wore a brace religiously, gradually returned to my favorite kind of snow and terrain, and little by little the pain went away; finally, as of yesterday, I could hardly feel it at all.

That's must be right, self-healing still exist!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Seventy ski-days and still counting...

Saturday marked my 70th ski day of the season. By my own personal standards this is a letdown that is fully attributable to a bad knee.

This, in all likelihood, will prevent me to reach the century mark when our winter is over, but I will at least have been able to ski more than my age and exceed the million feet vertical. How long will I be able to play that game?

Hopefully into my eighties, but no one knows and each passing year, the nineties looks more like a major reach, but I won't give up!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

No longer a fan of dual slalom event...

Yesterday, as I watched the ski team event in Aspen, I became less enamored with that attempt of making ski racing visually enticing.
It's hard for me to explain why I'm not getting enthused by this race format, yet I'll attempt to explain why. 
  • Too easy: Compared to other alpine events, this one seems too easy because of its limited length, regular gate setting and slope uniformity; it's a huge letdown from the level of challenge ski world cup races are known for.
  • Too short: This “sprint” form of ski racing doesn't simply last long enough to allow for a full appreciation of a skier's technique and potential.
  • Luck plays a big role: Under direct peer pressure, racers are more likely to DNF or miss their start.
  • Afterthought event: Since it remains a marginal discipline to fill holes, few or perhaps no athletes seriously trains for it and it shows...
  • Poor TV coverage: Filming angles need to be reworked, with for instance overhead shots that would show a better view of skiers' differences. Profile and close up shots don't work well.
  • Conclusion: After several decades of “trying” the World Pro Tour failed using this very format and perhaps there's a lesson for FIS to consider...

Friday, March 17, 2017

How “cap” skis have evolved...

Some 27 ago, Salomon took the world ski market by storm when it introduced the first “cap” ski. Fundamentally, the change was purely cosmetic, but marketed masterfully; in fact, it was nothing much than a ski with a seamless one-piece plastic top to replace the traditional “square” sidewalls and top.

At the same time, as if it were in cue with the new French ski manufacturer, Elan launched its own cap ski called the MBX “Monobloc” (Salomon's skis were called “Monocoque”, like the race car chassis...)

Among the rest of the manufacturers, more fortunes were lost than made as they rushed to concoct a “cap” version of their skis, so they wouldn't lose the market share they held to the new craze... 
These days, when I look at ski racing, all Salomon and Rossignol skis, a few Atomic and many others have reverted to the basic rectangular cross section and even the current top of the line Salomon are back to pre-1990 sections, which goes to show that the more things change, the more they stay the same...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The advantage of lightweight skis

It took me more than sixty seasons on skis to finally discover the benefits of using lightweight skis.

I love to ski crud, cut powder tracks and wander into trees, so I must have something both very quick, responsive and nimble under foot.

For too long, I have used heavy metal skis, or a mixture of metal and fiberglass skis, and all the extra work they have imposed on me have aged me prematurely as a skier.

So, now I'm going light and won't care if my boards become a bit flighty and out of control when I happen ski fast.

I know from experience that extreme speed always come to a screeching halt!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

All lifts in one day

For some weird reasons, I have managed to put inside my head the idea of skiing all the lifts that are part of Park City Mountain.

The resort claims to have 41 lifts and this must include half a dozen surface lifts and kids' magic carpets, but I could only count 32 chairlifts, 3 gondolas, 1 rope-tow and with one chair stopped today (Eaglet) I only had 35 lifts to sink my teeth into.

I first looked at the map and devised an itinerary that enabled me to wrap up the entire feat within opening hours (9 am to 4 pm) and I ended up with one half hour to spare.

I managed to to log 37,697 vertical feet, didn't get hurt, used two lifts I had never experienced before and had a wonderful day.

Try it at home!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Older skiers: Concentrate!

As we grow older, falling is becoming less of an attractive option, particularly when we ski. Job number-one quickly becomes staying on top of the skis at all cost, with added focus, attention and over all, concentration.

Just like our friends Mikaela Shiffrin and Marcel Hirscher do when they win races. Simple, easy and effective. So, welcome to the “concentration club!”

Monday, March 13, 2017

Dynastar's mustache

If you are a serious skier, you must know Dynastar skis and you may have noticed the famous “mustache” that serves as its logo. If you have and are reasonably curious you might have asked yourself why a

The answer is complicated and is in fact related to the place where that ski company was founded and still is headquartered.

The town is Sallanches, in the northern French Alps, a small city of 16,000 people, facing Mt. Blanc and with a coat of arms that depicts the meeting point between two of its brooks, one called Frasse and the other Sallanche, both forming a “V” at their confluence.

This has been seen by some as a “V” for victory or as the symbol of the massive mountain that frames the valley. At the turn of the century, the term "mustache" has been abandoned in favor of "peak" that stands for the mountains surrounding Sallanches and the towering Mt. Blanc in particular.
Well, I suspect that Mr. Claude Joseph, one of the founder of the ski brand who was also extremely creative in the branding department (i.e. Dynastar = Dynamic + Starflex), turned that “V” on its head and voilà!, the famous Dynastar mustache was born!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Skiing: A never ending discovery

Currently, ski conditions are awful with temperatures in the 50s by the early afternoon. I know it's called spring skiing, but it may be a bit premature.

While I can do a few “groomers” to fill some of my time on the slopes, I never stop looking for fringe runs, special stashes, or tricks itinerary that I never get a chance to explore when conditions are normal or great, or because I simply didn't know they even existed.
That way, I keep on adding my knowledge, my experience and my world of skiing. I always learn something new and never, ever get bored on skis...

Saturday, March 11, 2017

When lights go down on the ski run...

Park City is one of the few ski resorts that offers daily night skiing almost all season. The lighting infrastructure is not limited to the Paday and First Time lifts, but sometimes it's slalom hill as well as Payday is also lighted to permit morning training for the local ski teams and masters.

For the first time since we have lived in Park City in more than 30 years, my wife caught the very moment the lights went down on the Park City run at 7:02 pm while we were having dinner.

That right; just a fleeting moment that we had never got the chance to observe. Since we've never caught that moment before, for the next following nights we followed the precise event unfolding and last night I even shot a video to immortalize it for good!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Lost passport

Yesterday, as my wife and I were walking in the neighborhood, I noticed what looked like a passport in the gutter, not far from our home. When I picked up the object, it was indeed a Mexican passport belonging to a 35 year old man.

At first I wondered where I should turn the document, given the current tensions about immigration. I noticed that the passport had been stamped by the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake which I took as a positive sign.

I then called the Park City Police and was assured that there was absolutely no risk for that individual if he came to retrieve it in person, so I dropped it at their office this morning, on our way to ski.

Hopefully the passport and its owner will be reunited sooner than later!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The secret of ski racing

In recent years and particularly this season, alpine technical events have become the confluence of lightness, speed and concentration, best evidenced by athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin and Marcel Hirscher.
Lightness, because the winning skiers must glide as much as possible and not “hurt” the snow by edging to hard of swinging their weight too much from the neutral position.

Speed, because of course, going faster is the mean to the end of victory.

Finally, concentration is key. It must be present moments before the start, to chase any bit of fear or apprehension, and stay on through the finish line without any little, tiny gap at all.

Just one lapse and victory may be over. This means, in GS or Slalom, around a full minute of pure, uninterrupted concentration on average.

Much, much harder to keep up than most of us would think, but by far the paramount ingredient in great skiing and at the same time the open secret of skiing success!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Ski helmets in America...

I've already been wearing a helmet for seven winter seasons. Today, I can't go skiing without one. When I speak to my French friends, they often equate wearing one with high-speed and reckless skiing.

I don't share that view and instead, see many advantages to wearing one, but I could also add that I didn't start wearing one for necessarily the good reasons.

When I began, during the 2010-11 season, it was to stick my GoPro video camera on it, but I soon discovered that it kept my head warm, no matter how cold the weather was and that it was a convenient receptacle for my goggles, my gloves and balaclava so I never forgot one of these important components on my way to ski.
True, safety wasn't on my list. Since that time, helmets have made huge gains in popularity among snow sport practitioners.

On Monday, as I was riding the chairlift in Park City, I conducted two very informal but telling surveys. I simply counted the folks that wore helmet vs. hats who were skiing below me (it was too cold to ski without any headgear).

Out of two counts, my observations yielded a solid 90% wearing hard-hats!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

François Bonlieu and his skis...

Just a few years ago, this famous, yet almost unknown French ski champion was the topic of this blog.

At age 17, Bonlieu won a Silver Medal just behind Stein Eriksen at the Åre Olympics in 1956, a Bronze at the Bad Gastein World Championships of 1958 and an Olympic Gold in Innsbruck in 1964. All medals won in Giant Slalom.

He was a natural-born skier and could ski anything on almost anything. The last time I skied with him was in 1973 (a few months before he passed) on the “Crozats de la Chaux” in Avoriaz, France. He skied the untracked slope straight down on one ski (he had at the time a pair of Fischer with the toe mounted at half-chord length).

He could have been on two-by-fours, it wouldn't have bothered him a bit. Morale of the story: What counts first and foremost is the guy or gal on top; the boards are just secondary...

Monday, March 6, 2017

The quest for a good parking spot

During the early winter months, I usually ski in the afternoon.

I show up at the ski resort parking lot and get lucky 98% of the time by sliding into an empty spot just left by a morning practitioner that will afford me a short walk to the lift. In some rare instances, I spot returning skiers, ask them if they're leaving and then wait for them to get rid of their gear and leave.

Some people do that quickly and efficiently. Others are desperately slow as if they took special pleasure in making me wait for as long as they possibly can.

When that burden falls on me, I may not rush, but I won't waste a second and vacate the place in the shortest amount of time possible.
I guess we all behave differently and in life like on this parking lot, there's always a palette of wonderful and nasty folks!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

My chairlift story of the day...

Yesterday, I rode on chair with two guys in their late 30s who didn't know where to ski in order to avoid the big Saturday crowds. I told them where I thought the best spots were and they asked me if they could tag along and follow me.

It's true that Park City was particularly crowded and that ahead of a big snowstorm announced for today, many lifts were stopped because of a strong wind.

I took the pair down into the shaft, a steep bumpy run that is served by the Crescent chair and both managed well. We then rode Crescent up and picked up a man my age, who sat next to me. He was from Lucerne, Switzerland, and had worked for both Swissair and Jack Meader Air Cargo, for many years at JFK airport in New York.
I noticed that he had a nice pair of skis, unknown to me, with a Swiss cross at the tip and I asked him if they were Stöcklis; he said “No they're 'Five Star' skis handmade in Engelberg and I paid $3,000 for them...”

Without missing a beat, I sprang my skis forward to show them for all to see and exclaimed “$250 at this year's Park City ski swap!”

Saturday, March 4, 2017

What's to be loved about skiing?

Many years ago, if someone had asked me that very question, I would have had this short answer: “Because skiing frees me from gravity and makes me believe I fly...”

Sure there are many more reasons than that cursory reply of mine. Finding oneself in an enchanted and totally magical setting, for many, in a totally different weather environment, for even more finding a form of easy, yet full form of physical exercise.

Today, I would say that skiing is all of the above, but is best at bringing escape from the cares and tension of daily life.

Yes, a form of relaxation in motion or an active mediation are the largest and most potent benefits that skiing brings to me these days!

Friday, March 3, 2017

When politics depress me...

I absorb the bad news, analyze them and follow by verbalizing what they inspire in me.

When I'm done, I pick up the phone, call my Representative, my two Senators and deliver them my message with all my conviction and my emotion.

I then feel much better.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Five great ski days

My daughter picked a short week to escape the big city and come ski with her Dad.

Boy, was it a lucky break! It snowed most of the time, the temperatures stayed low, the snow light and dry, no crowds whatsoever and only one day of sunshine but we didn't mind it at all.

During this action-packed short week, we did the best skiing Park City had to offer and enjoyed each others company. I was very mindful of my ailing knee, that somehow held up under all the powder we plowed through and since in the end no one got hurt, this was picture-perfect skiing!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The power of dreams

A few days ago, I came across an old Jacques Brel interview from 1971 in which the Belgian pop singer was sharing some interesting insights about life in general. Some of it was excellent, some misogynist (the piece was 45 years old!) and some just a bit weird. I just wanted to share some of his best views with you.

First, Brel talked about success; to him, success was the mere realization of one's dreams. He asserted that talent didn't exist per se, but was the result of wanting to accomplish something badly... To him wanting to turn a dream into reality was where talent was at.

He continued by saying that generally, we're all just telling stories about dreams that we fail to realize. He also contented that at the end of one's teenage years, a person has been exposed to all of their possible dreams; perhaps unknowingly but that it was sure that at that stage in live, anyone would knows what they wanted in life, be it glory, security or adventure.

Later in life, when one reminisces, their unfulfilled dreams resurface and like the frustrated novelist who threatens to write a book someday, too many of us never seize the opportunity to turn their dreams into reality...

That propensity to dream make males nomads, always antsy to discover what's going on onto the other side, until a female stops them in their track, wants a baby and retain them in place in spite of the fact that they remains wandering nomads all their life, if not in action, definitely in dreams...