Sunday, April 30, 2017

Trump's First 100 Days

In an interview with Reuters, Trump recently admitted that he thought being president would be easier than his old life.

Sure, before Trump was a real estate developer that worked with contractors, realtors, and lawyers. He also worked with politicians when he had to bribe one of them, banks so he wouldn't put his own money at risk and bankruptcy judges when his deals went south.

It was fairly simple; he was solely in charge and pretty much free to do whatever he wanted. Oh, and I forgot one big thing; he lied whenever it was convenient for him to do so.

Compare this with running a country, working with Congress, Justice, the Press and being stuck with the results...
No wonder he couldn't do any of the big deals he promised when he was selling himself as president!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The airline marketing opportunity

 For years, American legacy carriers like American, Delta and United have been in a tailspin in the so critical area of good customer service. 
This deterioration was evidenced recently during incidents involving a doctor forcibly removed from a plane or a mom with two kids and a stroller harassed by a flight attendant. When asked, American fliers say they'd rather travel with a foreign airline than a domestic one.

Which bring me to the point that the entire industry must be blind, dumb or totally brain-dead when it cannot even see an opportunity to create a new airline devoted to caring for its passengers, like this was the case fifty years ago.

Granted, it would be a bit more expensive, but everything would be included; things like smiles, attention, Nordstrom-type service and good food would be part and parcel of the flying experience.

Whatever happened to the American art of marketing; is it dead?

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Macron compromise

On May 7, my countrymen will have to pick their next president and, hopefully, they'll chose Macron over Le Pen.

The ultra-right candidate is smart, articulate and knows how to connect with people. She makes some good points about the Islamic tsunami raging over France, but her economic plans are a disaster. If elected, she'd be to France what Trump is to us.

Macron, on the other hand is the perfect technocrat, a former socialist economy minister re-invented into a centrist, pro-business leader and most probably, likely to end up with a minority supporting him at the Assembly when it's renewed next June.

Even with Macron at the helm, don't expect my home country to pull many miracles out over the next five years!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spring: Dead on arrival

After spending most of my life in the mountains I should know that spring never arrives until it starts feeling like summer.

Weeks ago, already, I had put away snow shovels, snowblower, melting systems and anything aimed at repelling both cold and snow.

So guess what? this week, winter came back with a vengeance, just to show me how ignorant I was...

Will I ever learn that in Park City we have two distinct seasons: winter, from November 1 to April 30 and summer the rest of the year!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Can a mechanical binding protect the knee?

Recently, a paper was presented at the International Society for Skiing Safety (ISSS) during its last congress in Austria.

From what I have been able to learn, it stated that ACL ruptures were, by far, the number one injury in skiing while MCL ruptures came in second. This said, the paper stated that the form of lateral heel release featured by the “KneeBinding” cannot mitigate ACL ruptures.
As I have always suspected, this finding makes reasonable sense to me. Unless there is a sensor placed on the ligament to measure the stress applied during any kind of ski maneuver, there is no way for a mechanical ski binding to read and interpret what happens between the lower and the upper leg.

For the most part, traditional, mechanical bindings work fine to read what happens to the lower leg, but can't arbiter what goes in the middle of the leg.

The “phantom foot” theory advanced by Robert Johnson and Carl Ettlinger has always appeared to me as a “stretch” and unless we're able to measure what goes on inside a skier's knee when it's under stress, we won't be able to protect that critical joint.

Just my two cent...

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Emotion control

It's not unusual that a “knee-jerk” response to emotions can have a devastating impact on our lives and that happy and successful people always seem to take control over their emotions. I wish I were part of that elite group, but I still have some work to do in that category. What to do seems pretty simple though...

Let time pass 
Refrain from reacting right away. Often it make us say or do things we'll soon badly regret. Before dealing with any emotion, always take a deep breath for several minutes to regain control of the situation. That's by far the most difficult part.

Find a release valve 
If you can successfully overcome the initial impact of the emotion, release it in a productive, constructive way. Never let it fester; if you can, get in touch with someone you trust, share what happened and seek council. Hearing what someone has to say may open up your views about the entire situation. If writing things down works for you, put your emotions down to paper. You can always kick the cat (if you own one), break some china (as long as it's yours) or meditate if you're able to quickly calm down.

Always look for the bigger picture 
If you can, place the emotion and its impact on you in context with the universe to get a just sense of perspective. We always say things happen for a reason, so if you share that belief, try to incorporate it into your situation.

Clean up your thoughts 
Negative emotions are feeding themselves upon former negative feelings, creating downward spirals that always drag us to the bottom. Time to be creative and replace the depressive thought with one of elation, a wonderful memory or thinking about what you love most or do best. Go one step farther and picture in your mind the situation turning around into your wildest, most satisfying desires.

Stop blaming others
These emotional triggers could be co-workers, friends, family member or just yourself. Don't leave room for “would-have, should-have”. Just make a heroic effort to forget and forgive. Throw away any resentment, jealousy or anger. Look at the situation as if you were a passive observer totally stranger to the conflict.

Remember that emotions are part of our daily life 
We often take the wrong steps when confronted with negative emotions that hit us on a continuous basis. By just following the above few simple steps, we can save ourselves lots of aggravation and soar over the petty and insignificant “grind” of life as well as above the tyranny of unbridled emotions.

Monday, April 24, 2017

On the way home

We had totally forgotten how beautiful the road (I-15) from Cedar City back home was.

Meadows, greenery, mountains and herds of cows were a nice transition following the mostly mineral world of Arizona. 
The roadway is fast, the mountains fascinating. Mount Nebo and Mount Timpanogos are particularly hard to miss. Along the way we listened to the result of the first round in the French elections and got most of its drama...

It always feels good to be on the way back home!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sampling Lake Powell

We had never set foot to Page and nearby Lake Powell and decided to get our feet (almost) wet by taking a little boat excursion on Antelope Canyon.

We certainly got the idea very quickly...

In leaving the town of Page, we checked out Glen Canyon Dam at the head of the lake. Quite a big deal in engineering!

Then, we traveled to Cedar City, through Kanab (is this the place where Kanabis was invented?), went through Orderville, stopped at Forschers (for sure) but couldn't find an ice cream or a fresh cake in this German “Konditorei”...

We drove up to 9,600' in the snowfields overlooking Cedar City before experiencing a picturesque descent and entry into town. That was the good part of the trip.

The not so good portion was to walk on a Saturday late afternoon in some empty streets where we had a very hard time finding a restaurant that would serve alcohol.

Cedar City was dead on a Saturday night! We finally got lucky and found a wonderful Mexican restaurant with beer to boot!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Still as Grand as ever!

We only had seen the Grand Canyon from its north rim and this time was our chance to observe it from the opposite side.
The view was different and maybe more impressive, albeit lacking the dramatic river views offered on the north end. Tourists were out in numbers, from Asia to Europe and of course, herds of French folks!

We walked 6.5 miles along the rim and when the sun was already low on the horizon headed north towards Lake Powell...

Sleek tourist trap and genuine mining town...

For years, I wanted to visit Sedona, Arizona.

ure, when we got there the setting was just gorgeous but the perfectly laid-out main street and its profusion of shops created the perfect Las Vegas version of tourist traps!

Thank God, we had the sense to explore the edges of that consumers' mecca and check out some beautiful homes...

We then headed to Jerome, a few miles down the road and discovered that almost ghost town perched on a hill and as funky as Park City might have been when it transitioned to a ski area in the sixties. To us and compared to Sedona, Jerome is the genuine article.

An old copper mining town atop a mountain-side with some great, unique shops and million dollar views. Totally unexpected!

Later, we settled in Prescott for the night; another great old town with its peculiar “Whiskey Row” flanked by large, old buildings and its picturesque Courthouse Square...

Friday, April 21, 2017


From Chinle, Arizona, we drove south to Petrified Forest National Park and saw the forest laying on the ground under the form of huge, cut up logs.

They looked as if some lumberjacks and their chain saw had been busy turning these huge trees into small pieces. We learned something about distant times when dinosaur still roamed the planet and the dead forest got buried deep into sand and all the silica seeped into the wood before turning it into mineral. We particularly appreciated the "Blue Mesa" section of the Park...
Then we drove to Flagstaff, a city of 70,000, planted in the middle of a huge ponderosa forest and tucked under the San Francisco Mountains.

We liked the town very much with its true western character. I almost could live there, especially when there is some skiing available just 30 minutes away!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

From Utah to Arizona

I love the Four-Corners area (where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet). The drive is always fascinating. 
We traveled through Navajo country, passed Mexican Hat which is pretty what the name is all about, went to Monument Valley which was not the greatest place we've ever seen (was it the sense of Déjà Vu from the many western movies we've seen?)

However, the best place for the day was Canyon de Chelley (overlooks only), near Chinle, Arizona that captured our attention as well as the native-run Thunderbird Lodge that is a must-experience place!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Trips south often begin in Moab

On our way to sunny Arizona, we decided to overnight in Moab, one of my favorite small-cities in Utah.

Except during winter months, this place is always busy and the traffic going through town is simply crazy. Crossing Main Street where there's no traffic light is simply suicidal! I have been half a dozen times in Moab and stayed there four times at various motels and motels.
This time our hotel was just great, brand new with a super large room, however our dinner at the Moab Brew Pub was disgusting. It used to be much better in years past. Okay, there's always next visit

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Park City is closed for the season!

This past Easter Sunday, as I was skiing with some “friends of a friend” from Europe, we all closed the door on my 32nd ski season in Park City which also happened to be my 64th in my entire life.
Suffice to say that I've now skied more in Park City than anywhere else and I consider this is to be a major threshold in my snow-life. I can now claim that I've become “an American skier” so, let's celebrate that promotion!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Not what my doctor ordered

When Emma Morano passed away on Saturday at the ripe age of 117, it was revealed that the secret of her longevity was a steady diet of 3 eggs a day and not much reliance on fruits and greens.

In other words, the total opposite of what my doctor keeps on telling me. Her bad cholesterol must have stayed in overdrive for the past half-century and she would have flunked every single physical she would have taken.

My sense is that she (fortunately) never took take any. My doctor would have told her “Emma, at this point, your chances of dying of a heart attack are 100%!, I'll have to put you on statins...” If she had followed his admonition, her chances would have climbed to 150% and she'd be long dead...

Another good reason to say that ignorance is bliss!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The shrinking American ski season

When I first moved to Park City, it wasn't uncommon to see our ski mountains stay open through early May, but this has become a distant memories. In fact, our real ski season now spans between December 20 and March 31.

That's right, just over three month! Unlike Europe, Easter is not a ski factor on this side of the pond, except maybe for a few Latin American visitors. Of course there's all the pre-season excitement, but it involves mostly local clientele.

Destination skiers only come during these sought-after 100 days. Early April, the interest wane and everyone is ready to show off on their expensive road or mountain-bikes, hit the golf course, jump in their boats or return to gardening.

I will have skied through the end of the Park City season (today is closing day) and can attest that after March, while conditions were still very good, the skiers were gone.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A glut of expensive homes...

Park City has been booming for as long as we've lived here, but not as much as it has in recent years, and particularly after Vail Resorts purchased two of our three local ski areas.

Lately, I have been shocked by how much real estate prices have soared. If we focus solely on the City of Park City (8,000 inhabitants) and look at its real estate listing for single family homes (not including multi-family dwelling), we find 129 listings, ranging from less than $1 million to over $20 million for a total of $575 million at an average listing price of $4.44 million!
Out of these numbers only 6 homes are listed under $1 million, 26 range from $1 to $2 million, 30 from $2 to $3 million and 97 are scattered from $3 to $20 million...

The bottom line is that we are faced with glut of expensive homes and their price distribution is totally out of kilter as it doesn't reflect the typical pyramid of affordability.

Is a correction coming? Most probably in my view, and much faster than we might anticipate...

Friday, April 14, 2017

Can the independent ski resort survive?

A few days ago, Aspen Skiing Company and KSL Capital Partners just acquired Intrawest in a deal valued at $1.5 billion.

We'r e talking about Snowshoe, Steamboat, Stratton, Winter Park and both Tremblant and Blue Mountain in Canada.

The following day, that same group gobbled up Bear Mountain, June Mountain, Mammoth Mountain, and Snow Summit, all in California. While not mentioned in the merger, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows (both affiliate of KSL) will also become part of this family.

So now, the big question is what will happen to the small operator like for instance Deer Valley, here in Park City?
Will the new mega-players like this new entity, Vail Resorts, Powdr Corp or Boyne Resorts try to jump on these independents and add them to their portfolio?

This appears to be quite likely as this on-going consolidation seems far from over...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The stagnation of ski binding design

For almost 30 years, nothing much has changed in the way ski bindings operate.

Nothing drastically new has come up and with binding companies moving from solely-owned companies ran by their founder to large corporations in which bindings are bundled and branded with skis and boots, ski bindings have become a commodity that no one worries about and for which the general assumption is that technology has reached its final destiny.

When Rossignel took over Look bindings in 1994, it has been notorious in getting away with stale and rudimentary designs that hearken to the old Geze toe-unit and the spartan Look 27 heel-piece.

The only interesting new product that came outside of the “legacy brands” (Look, Marker, Salomon and Tyrolia) has been the so-called KneeBinding that is supposed to mitigate knee injuries. That's right, we're talking about ACL injuries (anterior cruciate ligament) that are estimated to affect between 60 and 80,000 skiers, world-wide, each season.

Proponents of the KneeBinding claim that their bindings, with its lateral release at the heel, will protect the ACL. This claim might be overblown though, as no one, among the established suppliers has tackled this problem yet and by so doing, validated KneeBinding claim.

All this to say that we shouldn't expect much from that the legacy brands and can only hope that some independent product developers like KneeBinding finally bring some innovation into a market that is desperately asleep.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Alone on planet Jupiter

Jupiter sits on top of Park City and is one of the places where I like to recreate when I have my skis on.

The place can get mobbed on big powder days but you'll never see me lining up for making “first-track”. It simply isn't my style. I like to come to that special spot after the crowds are gone but the skiing is still excellent.

Yesterday, conditions on most of its runs were very, very bad and there was not a soul in view, except for the lift employees, the ski patrol and some rares skiers who pointed their nose, struggled to get down and turned around as quickly as they came.

After finding out how bad the main bowl (pictured here) was, I took a chance on one other run, “Portuguese Gap”, that also happens to be my favorite on this part of the mountain; it was so good that I took three consecutive runs there.

That's right, I stuck around and didn't fall like a fly, just as the rest of the other skiers did, but again in skiing parlance, I must be quite a cockroach!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A matter of skiing style

We all approach sports and leisure differently. Compared to my contemporaries, my way of skiing is peppered with idiosyncrasies that make it radically different from them. I tend to make it a rather intense experience and there is very little room for being laid-back or dreamy about it except for the time I'm riding the lifts.

For one thing, I never stops in the middle of a run; it's always non-stop from top to bottom, regardless of the distance. If I'm with family, I may slow down a bit, but I wont stop willy-nilly at the top of a lift, smell the roses and decide where to go; there's plenty of time to make that kind of decision on the way up! I generally ski as fast as the conditions and my body allows it.
When I get a choice between an easy and a challenging run, I always pick the latter; I love difficult snow, impassable terrain and this has nothing to do with masochism. Unlike normal people, I always keep an exacting count of what I do: Number of ski days, total vertical, etc.

Finally, unlike most skiers of all ages, I am totally conscious that my days on skis are counted, so this point alone explain why I make the very best of what I've got left!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fifty years ago: My bro and I

During the winter 1966-1967 I was teaching skiing to kids coming from Paris for one month at a time, and was working with my brother who had been instructing for one or two seasons.

I had no certification whatsoever at the time and was teaching the little ones how to ski down the hill, snowplow, turn and side-slip. If I did my job well, they might earn their “1ère étoile” or “2ème étoile” pin.

In those days, while still a teenager, I wasn't looking forward to begin serving 16 month in the French army the following November and didn't know what I would do with the rest of my life.

Already, my big secret dream was to teach skiing in America, most particularly in Aspen or in Whistler. I remember having applied for a job to Jim McConkey, ski school director at the British Columbia resort and he had even offered me position! I already had good tastes...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The lightning “excuse...”

This had never happened to me. Yesterday, while I was enjoying some great skiing in some good snow at the top of Park City, the entire ski resort shut down at 2:30 pm because of lighting danger.

I was a bit miffed, thought for a while that this weather danger was an easy excuse, but probably wouldn't have enjoyed receiving a huge electric shock while riding up a chairlift!

Trump's family business

By now, most of us have seen that Trump is intent to run his administration as if it were his own family business.

Conflicts of interest don't seem to bother him and he just elevated his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared as his (most) trusted advisers. I must say that I'm far from being impressed by the sum of the couple's intelligence.
Then, like in any large family businesses, there are the other employees who aren't too happy to see the “family” become front and center in the day-to-day operations. So, comments are made, innuendos multiply and soon, the working atmosphere turns into a permanent hell.

What we've just seen with Bannon is only the beginning of this destructive process. If you're familiar with any big family-run business, I leave the rest of this story to your imagination!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Trump's good decision

I was pleased to see that we finally responded to Bashar al-Assad barbaric ways.

It was largely a surprise, because back in 2013, Trump had admonished Obama not to intervene in Syria and that just a few days ago, his administration pledged not to get involved in that conflict.

So, while this spectacular action demonstrate that Donald Trump works more on instinct than through a well thought-out strategic process, our new president probably feels good as he can show the world that he's able make quick and powerful decisions on his own and this wasn't a shock to me.

What too much money does to people...

Lord Acton (1834-1902) famously said: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men..."

It often seems to me that the word “power” could easily be interchanged with “money” in that same quote, as we see everyday the devastating effect money has on humans, from nouveaux riches to many politicians, entrepreneurs artists or famous athletes.

Too often, being rich isn't enough; there is a visceral need of maintaining a high level of wealth at all cost and, more often than not, a real addiction forms to amplifying the thirst for even more wealth.

This flaw in the human psyche pushes what would normally be good people to do things that are simply irrational or just awful. Think about Lance Armstrong or Hillary Clinton and you get the picture.

Most of us need to remember Jesus admonition “lead us not into temptation” and, of course, be perceptive and honest enough to see what temptation is all about.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The French presidential debate deepens...

I tried to watch another marathon, 11-candidate debate, the other night and felt sorry for my home country. Fillon, the only candidate that makes sense from an overall standpoint, has shot himself in the foot and, in my opinion, won't make it with the victory likely going to LePen.
With French government spending recorded at 56.1 percent of GDP in 2014, the corresponding tax burden amounts to a whopping 44.2 percent !

Clearly, the number one priority, which also happens to be Fillon's, is to reduce that huge public expenditure. While America's governmental spending (equal to Canada's) seems huge, it includes an enormous 4 percent in defense spending.

This said, Switzerland would be a good target for everyone to follow, but at the end of the day, will the French willing to make the necessary sacrifices that go along with reduced government expenses?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The fifth Beatle?

I'm not talking about Brian Epstein or George Martin, but about a dream I had two nights ago. I was somehow with the Beatles (I remember for sure that Paul was there, not so sure about the other three) and that I was asked to play along with them.

I was given a foldable guitar (in my dream, it worked a bit like the the flip phones of the 90s) and I guess, was expected to play. The problem is that I would be hard-pressed to play any musical instrument, even if my life depended on it.

So, I decided to pretend like I was playing. My stratagem seemed to work for a pretty long while, except that after each song, I was asked to stick around for yet another one. Soon the stress began to mount, to the point that I could no longer handle it.

Soon, I blew my top and as I did, I woke up, but the comforting thing is that none of the Fab Four seemed to notice I was a phony...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The 100 best (American) companies to work for...

Each March, Fortune magazine comes up with the ranking of the 100 best companies to work for.

Once more, number one seems to be Google and there are 99 other companies down below, all the way to Allianz Life Insurance. The ranking is based on feedback from more than 232,000 employees at companies with more than 1,000 employees.

Winning a spot on the list is a sign that a company has succeeded at creating a great work place for its employees. The survey results are highly reliable, having a 95% confidence level and a margin of error of 5% or less.

Since I have one family member that's lucky enough to work for one of these great companies, I never miss to check the rankings.

Of course, after all I heard during 2016, like about how great a businessman and manager Mr. Trump was, I was sure to find the Trump organization at least in the top ten of these exemplary enterprises, but even though I read the list three times, I couldn't find it, even at the very tail end.

Mr. Trump probably thought as I did, but dismissed the omission of his company by saying that Fortune was only good at spreading “fake news”!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Last two weeks of skiing...

Yesterday, skiing was just great; cold morning and cool temperatures through the day.

Today, we're left with just 14 days of skiing in Park City and in previewing the long-term weather forecast, the future looks pretty good before we end what has been a wonderful ski season.

I hope to get out another 10 days and I'll be satisfied.

Perhaps one or two more trips to Snowbird and I'll be ready to move on to even more exciting things...

Monday, April 3, 2017

Looking forward to something cool...

The reality that really counts in life is made of now and tomorrow. “Now” exists to be enjoyed to the fullest, or when things aren't to our liking, to be experienced fully so we get some nourishment out of them.

“Tomorrow”, as some have said, is a mysterious land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation and achievement is stored. For me, Tomorrow is for hoping, visioning, planning and preparing, so I can have a never ending string of pleasurable or exciting “Nows.”

This is where my daily life is focused into. Sometimes, I do forget, but I always do my very best to remind myself that the best, most interesting and impressive things I'm likely to experience are in store, down the road, ready for me if I'm just willing to be pro-active!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A different April 1 joke...

Yesterday, I was anxious to go skiing since it had been snowing a lot the day before and I had better things to do than go play.

So, I left early and got to Jupiter, my favorite Park City playground. When I got there, there were very few tracks and the ones I could see where quite “angular”, to say the least.

I cautiously proceeded down the bowl and had to use a mixture of jump turns, pretty high speed and careful ski placement to survive the crusty snow that must have been the most traitorous that I had ever experienced in Park City for the 30 plus years I had skied on the mountain.

I did a few runs and before I took a severe spill and broke something I traveled by ski towards the nearby Canyons and got to 9990, the Jupiter equivalent on that other side of the mountain.

There, I found some decent snow, which goes to say that a great geographical diversity can offer some distinct micro-climates that may turn a bad April 1 joke into a pleasurable skiing experience!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Brexit... Good riddance?

Up until recently, Brexit had become the new “normal” for many. The Pound has dropped some, but it wasn't the end of the world yet for the United Kingdom.

This said, the 2016 UK share of the European Union's GDP is 17%, ($2.8 Trillion) which means that the UK has the most to lose as its access to the $14 Trillion remaining market won't be as easy after Brexit.

They are, of course many more measures that will become a reality two years down the road for the arrogant, picky and always unsatisfied partner. London's future as Europe's financial capital stands as the most ominous threat; the future of British low-cost airlines is also a big deal and a much harder time for its consumers and for expats of all stripes, whether they are EU workers in the UK or UK workers and retirees living the high-life on the Continent.

Sure, tourism in the UK may flourish and local exporters will do better for a while, but overall, the divorce is likely to be devastating for the average Briton...