Wednesday, May 31, 2017

America: The amplifier

Nothing is small about America. The landmass, the open spaces, the ideas and the achievements.

But so are the differences: From its extreme poverty to its obscenely high riches, from its most terrible schools to its best universities, everything gets amplified; equally it seems towards the very best and the terribly worst.

I could live with a more moderate, less amplified, America.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Special, resting places

My wife and I have always been fond of American cemeteries. Unlike their French counterpart that are always stern, if not sinister looking, American resting places feel just like a park, with much more greenery and flowers than monuments and even the later offer much more variety and not all of them take themselves too seriously.

Some tombstones are just snowboards, skis or benches, but maybe this is the fun-oriented side of Park City showing. This past weekend, when it's time to celebrate Memorial Day, American cemeteries are at their best and lots of people come to tidy the tombs up and visit.
Last night as we were strolling by one of the two Park City's cemeteries, we saw a group of people sharing a picnic next to their relative or friend that was laying there. This where I want to rest when I'm done skiing !

Monday, May 29, 2017

Snowbird Ski Day #99!

Sunday is likely to have been my last ski day out of a six-month long season that began on November 26 in Park City.

The weather was superb, the snow pretty good and what has almost become a classic in terms of my skiing experience at Snowbird, I was able to ski from the top of the tram to the very bottom, just where the bridge meets the parking lot!

We're really lucky to have such a long ski season in Utah. Snowbird plans to remain open for one or two more weekends, but I may pass; I got my share of skiing for the winter!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The wealth as been spread!

It took my wife and I only two days to spread 216 cubic feet of mulch over 2,600 square feet of both our front and backyard.

At first, as we saw the pile going down pretty fast, we feared we wouldn't have enough and yet we didn't skimp on the thickness we spread around, thinking that if we needed more, we'd get it later. Yet, when all was said and done, we were left with around 16 cubic feet left.
We either got particularly lucky or I must still be good at math; at any rate, we slept like babies these two nights!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Our houses are for sale!

Having owned and lived in four different houses in the same neighborhood for the 32 years we've been in Park City, makes us pretty unique, but what's even more remarkable is that two of these four houses are currently listed for sale.

They haven't found a taker as of yet, but this still makes us look at them with some kinship since we've lived about twelve years in each one of them with plenty of good experiences and memories (we'll forget the bad ones!).

This is well over the average, that in the USA, remains at around seven years...

Friday, May 26, 2017

Too much mulch?

There's a huge area covered with mulch around our house. On any irregular terrain, surface is hard to measure and while I came up with something around 2,200 to 2,800 square feet, this is neither precise nor guaranteed.

That's how, based on my calculations, I just had 8 cubic yards delivered to my home. Yes, that's about 216 cubic feet and if it were spread one inch thick, it'd cover just shy of 2,600 square feet, but will it?

For the moment, I'll have to shovel into that big pile of mulch, carry it on my wheelbarrow to where it's needed, while my dear spouse will spread it as harmoniously and consistantly as she can.

Will there be enough of it? We'll see, but what's certain is that with all the hard work at hand, we won't have to go to the health club for a while!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trump gets some religion...

On Wednesday, Donald Trump paid a visit to Pope Francis and got a free confession while the two were in conference.

The president acknowledged that he had been too soft on Hillary and that he should have lied a little more to beat her in terms of winning the popular vote.

The Pope said that he was far too modest and for penance gave him a coupon for a free impeachment redeemable before November 2020.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nice surprise!

On Monday, I got a call from my friend Larry Asay who lives near Seattle and said he wanted to stop to say hello.

Larry and I go back to my Lange days, when he was a rep for the brand, covering the entire Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Larry has always been a wonderful gentleman and only quit representing Dynastar and Lange a few years ago.
Today, this young-looking guy (on the left) appears to be his mid-seventies and I am not quite sure I can compete on an equal footing and look younger than him!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A bunch of bored Saudis...

I watched Trump speech before the Arab Islamic American Summit on Sunday and couldn't recognize our boastful president in the rather subdued declaration he made and his far less incendiary anti-Muslim rhetoric.

As expected, President Trump didn't have the guts to address the extremist ideology of Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia's homegrown sect embraced by ISIS. It was just another show of his horrible electoral lies.
What was equally remarkable was the body language of most of the attendance who looked bored and otherwise pretty unhappy, just like Melania Trump appeared to be, by the way.

While Donald Trump made a few suggestions among a sea of platitudes and choose to totally ignore the positive in Iran's Rouhani's reelection, I wondered what the 9/11 families were thinking as their president was cowing to the very nation that supplied most of the terrorists that attacked our country more than 15 years ago...

Monday, May 22, 2017

A deeper understanding...

In my neighborhood, there's a “DIP” sign that calls drivers' attention to a cemented drop at a crossroad. It is meant for them to slow down; if they don't, a car with low ground clearance may understandably hit front and back.

That sign is rather rare and I assume many motorists have no idea what it really means. A few years ago, a smart Alec had added the four letters showed on the picture to phonetically “complete” the wording, perhaps out of making a play on words or, more simply, spelling ignorance.

The graffiti has since then been rubbed off (I photo-shopped it on the photo) returning the sign to its simpler admonition. Last night, as I we were strolling in that particular area, a car came slightly over the 25 miles speed limit and loudly banged both front and rear end on the pavement; we assumed the driver didn't get the meaning of Dip...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Season-pass price increase of Epic proportions!

I love Park City Mountain and until now have appreciated the work its new owners have put on the mountain ever since they assumed ownership.

What I don't like as much however, is how the company keeps on raising its prices, season after season, with seemingly little regard for the locals that constitute the true fabric of the community, and by the same token, local businesses and their employees that are part and parcel of the “experience” Vail Resorts is so good at selling.

I'm not saying ski resorts shouldn't raise their rates, but they should do it more responsibly, in taking into account, for instance, some basic yardsticks like the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Well, the Epic Pass that was $769 in 2015/16 jumped to $809 last season (+5.20%) and is now pegged at $859 for next season (+6.18%).

The Park City Local Pass (with black-out dates, among other restrictions) also went from $579 in 2015/16 to $609 last season (+5.18%) and will be worth $639 next season (+4.93%).

Kids were not “forgotten” either with the Child Pass moving up from $289 in 2015/16 to $319 last season (+10.38%) and creeping up to $339 next season (+6.27%).

In the meantime, the CPI increased respectively by 0.01% and 2.22% for the two years in question (April numbers, when Vail Resorts releases its new pricing). 
All this to say that, if this crazy trend continue, many parkites won't be able to afford skiing in their own town and Vail Resorts will be on its way to slowly, but surely suffocating the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Life as a Circus?

I've never been to a traditional traveling Circus, with trapeze artists, elephants, tigers and smart dogs.

I probably should have, because after nearly 150 years of consistent performance, the iconic Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus, also known as the “Greatest Show on Earth” will be performing its final act on Sunday.

The mere evocation of the word circus brings back to my memory some remarks by Kip Pitou, a ski industry associate, towards Look bindings, my employer, back in the late 70s. Our business was struggling, we had a succession of general managers who failed to make the cut and at times, our little organization looked as if it were in turmoil.

That's when Mr. Pitou, whom we paid to provide us distribution services, nastily told me on several occasions: “If we'd put a tent over Look, we could sell tickets”, meaning that the company I worked for was a real circus.
Today, I'm tempted to paraphrase these harsh words when I look at the Trump White House, thinking that if we could find a tent large enough to cover it, we certainly could sell enough tickets to repay our National Debt!

Friday, May 19, 2017


Sixty years ago, the Annecy's Bishop, Auguste Cesbron, came to my village, in the French Alps, to confirm me along with a bunch of local kids.

For those who don't know any better, Confirmation is the sacrament by which Catholics receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That way, the Holy Spirit gave me the increased ability to soak my whole life into Catholic faith and to witness Christ in every situation.

I probably needed it an awful lot, because my faith was stuck in first gear and both the sacrament and the Bishop's best efforts were unable to get me up to speed.

Granted, I was an Altar Boy, but truth be told, I performed the job because it got me a free subscription to “Fripounet & Marisette”, a catholic cartoon magazine for kids, my only entertainment besides homework and home chores.

My religious practice amounted to fear (capital sins, confession, hell plus the rest), work (replying in Latin, ringing the bell, pouring the wine) and plenty of laughter as shown on the photograph (through pranks played along with my colleagues...)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

More fit than my father was?

I often wonder, what would have happened if I had gone skiing with my Dad when he was the age I am today, assuming that he could ski – he couldn't really – and where we would have skied together...

I would have taken a day off instructing, the day was beautiful in this late part of April, the snow still good in the morning. If that were remotely possible, I would have taken him to Avoriaz, the place I skied in France, we would have taken the tram (it would have been back in the spring of 1971) and we would have taken two or three run up on Arare, at the very top and then had a “steak-frites” lunch at the Pas-du-Lac, the only major mid-mountain restaurant back in these days.

He would have told me how the current equipment was so good and made skiing so fast and easy. He would have been mostly impressed how I skied and how effortless I made the whole thing look, but would have kept these thoughts to himself. We would have probably debated how wise it would have been to ski down to Les Prodains, decided against it and downloaded on the tram.

My father would have been tired and would have not wanted to take a chance. His whole body had aged much faster than mine because of all the hard work he had to perform all life long, the diet he had and the very little care he ever devoted to his own body. By any measurement, he wasn't as lucky as I was to have been born when I did.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hollande and Macron

I'm delighted that the French people have a new president and that he's both young and smart. I think he'll do at last as good a job as his predecessor, François Hollande.

This said, I've never liked the way Emmanuel Macron came across with his seemingly calculated choice of words and staged body language; that's caming to me as too well-rehearsed and too-well researched acting.

My overwhelming sense is that Macron is a creature invented by Hollande to avenge himself from his rather humiliating presidency in which his own Socialist party discredited him and left him to hang out dry.

To me, Macron is the by-product of what could be that long-planned vengeance by Hollande addressed to the entire French populace. No matter how you look at it, Emmanuel Hollande or François Macron, the more things will change, the more they'll stay the same!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Nightmares, dreams and reality

Sometimes, I remember my dreams, but most of the times my recollection is vague and hard to grasp.

Most of my dreams are unpleasant and deal with situations that would remind anyone about the predicament of Sisyphus, that Greek mythology character, condemned to repeat forever the task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again.
Precarious situations of climbing fences, building, dangerous mountains or cliffs also abound in my daily dream routine.

A normal person would place these kinds of dreams in the nightmare category. Rarely are my dream bringing me a pleasant experience either, so on the whole, my reality is much better than my best dreams and - of course - far superior to my mildest nightmares!

Now, how are your dreams?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Adventures in cholesterol

On Saturday, I responded to my health insurance company's annual invitation by to have my vital signs checked and see if I were in any imminent danger of losing my dear life.

So, as a good trooper, I just showed up and was measured from top to bottom and from side to side. Among other measurements, I got my cholesterol count that was well within the acceptable norms. No overage anywhere, no worries!

This was the second time I got such a good score when I went to this insurance-sponsored visit.

I also must say that my cholesterol readings stood in sharp contrast with the results I regularly get at my annual doctor check-up, in which my acceptable levels are always off the charts, always prompting my physician to prescribe me statins, which I refuse with all my might.

All this to say that, in keeping with conspiracy theories, I suspect the lab associated with my dear doctor is in cahoots with Pfizer or some other drug producer to get me hooked to their poisons. There's definitely a pattern there and I don't think I'm paranoid!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Frankenstein and the Creature

Last night we tried to watch “Get Me Roger Stone” until we couldn't stand it anymore and stopped 82% into it.

This is a documentary about the evil man who claims to have manufactured Donald Trump. If you want to throw up, commit suicide or even murder, I recommend that you watch this flick.

While Roger Stone claims to be an “agent provocateur,” he truly is a living piece of crap, just like his creation. It's a lesson in immorality, one that show hows to manipulate the 62 million gullible Americans who voted for the New York real estate developer.

I wish all these “deplorables” watch it too and perhaps understand how they were taken advantage of, if their limited intellect ever allowed them to be that self-critical.

I also pray that Pope Francis sees the movie before Trump stops at the Vatican for tea, next time he's in Rome. His Holiness will see the real face of the anti-Christ in Stone's creation and might be less than charitable with his celebrity-guest!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Speed, skiing's magic ingredient!

When I was a ski instructor in the early 70s, I read the various books written by Georges Joubert on ski instruction, in part because I was curious, and also because some of them ended up translated into American by the late Curt Chase, then Aspen ski school director.

If anything, this reading was supplying me the proper vocabulary to teach my English speaking students and by the same token, familiarized myself even more with Joubert's approach to ski instruction that was primarily derived from his observations of ski racers.

Because I didn't like to leave any stone unturned, I tried to test and apply Joubert's theories on my students and quickly realized that if they sounded good on paper, they didn't work too well in practice compared to the true-and-tried approach followed by ENSA (the French instructing school), but I could never really understand why...

A couple of days ago, I was in the Snowbird tram overhearing a conversation between what sounded like two senior ski instructors. They were talking about applying pressure, setting edge angles and the like as it related to that day's lousy spring snow conditions.

That's exactly when it downed on me that all instructing theories, either from the French ENSA, Joubert's or the PSIA, were mostly static and left very little room for considering the critical role of speed and momentum in the sport of gravity that skiing is.

Joubert's theories couldn't work for intermediate skiers because they weren't capable of producing the speed required in executing maneuvers like wide-track turns or “braquage” as Joubert called them then.

Same thing with spring skiing in lousy snow: Speed trumps everything and is key, obliterating the minutia of edging or pressure considerations. Balance alone is what goes hand-in-hand with speed or forceful momentum and both becomes the necessary ingredients that really move skiers smoothly and efficiently.

Yet, these essential aspects of the sport are largely ignored in ski instructing and, I must admit, are phenomenons I have discovered late in life after skiing a hundred days and accumulating between 1.5 to 2 million vertical feet each season for the past 13 years...

Friday, May 12, 2017

Do I miss France?

If I didn't have this question asked from me half of the time I meet someone new, I probably never have. This question is a gem and my answer has always ran the gamut.

This said, it shouldn't, because less than a month ago as we were visiting the Arizona side of the Grand Canyon National Park we found out that half of France was hiking alongside the edge of this wonder of nature.

That's true, they were more French tourists than Americans, Chinese and the rest of the world combined! So, the answer to the question we keep on getting is simple: When we feel a little homesick we just have to drive to one of the National Parks that surround us and we'll find plenty of French company.
Oh, they're easy to spot. Most men all wear a “Route 66” cap, a fly fishing vest open on some t-shirt all written up in English and mid-calf pants...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Snowbird's heating up

Today was a ski day for me, but I didn't pay enough attention to the temperature. It was just too warm and the snow, even at the top of Snowbird, didn't stay good very long.

In today's skiing world, more than ever, and from November to May, it's no longer how deep is the snow, but instead, how high is the temperature!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Obama is cashing in...

I voted twice for Barack Obama and gave money to fuel his grass-root campaign. From the get-go, Obama said he stood for the “little guy” and I believe him wholeheartedly.

Today, after he signed a $60 million book deal and gave a few speeches at $400,000 a piece, I would like him to do more than make a token, $2 million donation. He's already made plenty with his first two books and now, with his $400,000 a year pension plus perks, he has enough!

I expect him to give all of his windfall profits to a good cause, and why not to revive a moribund Democratic Party who needs all the help it can have.

He should now walk the talk and show some respect to his small 2012 donors that gave on average $54.94 to see him re-elected. To them, it amounts to a slap in the face.

Will I ever give again to a Democratic candidate? Only if and when Obama agrees to pass through his future earnings.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Burger King, McDonald and Politics

Last Friday, graduating students at Southern Utah University were treated to a commencement speech by political journalist, Bob Schieffer.

Aside from the usual advice that is part and parcel of this kind of address, Schieffer got my attention by explaining how mean and negative campaigning have finally destroyed the way American saw politics and downgraded its whole place in society.

What struck me most was his example of two fast-food giants battling each other with insults, lies and negativity, and the self-assured destruction that kind of communication would have on their own industry.

Well, we can just sadly see how our American political landscape has been debased with the kind of language and treatment our new president has used to grab the top job!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mini, Micro, Maxi, Macron!

Well, I'm proud of my countrymen for rejecting Le Pen's extremist views, voting overwhelmingly against her and, in the process, elevating a brand new Macron to the top job.

From big to small, this guy really runs the whole dimensional gamut; he spent a minimum amount of time in politics and in life (so far), was maximally lucky to see Fillon crash and burn.

While barely able to use a microphone to utter intelligent sentences, Macron saw his command of macro-economics triumph over Marine Le Pen, when she stumbled over the ECU, the Euro and a re-minted Franc.

Emmanuel Macron must know God on a first name basis to have such a luck and in all honesty, won't do much worse than François Hollande over the next five years!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Nationalism can no longer contain a global tide

Friday night, I watched “Latin Music USA”, a wonderful TV series focusing on the fusion of Latin sounds with jazz, rock, country and rhythm and blues, from its struggling early days through its emergence into what used to be a white, anglo music dominance, as it simultaneously became a global phenomenon.

From Ritchie Vallens, Santana, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan or Shakira, the entire planet picked up what was good and recognized the artists.

It showed is that whether we like it or not, we've become a global society and whatever good is offer is likely to be embraced by the whole world, except for these narrow-minded policies and politics like Trump, Le Pen, Netanyahu or Kim Jong-un's.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Just tired of politics

I don't know if it's just me, but I'm now totally fed up with politics.

Undoubtedly, this is caused by our new president that I given me an indigestion of everything that's bad about the world of political manipulation, spin and other fake moves or strategies.

My being close to the upcoming French election doesn't help either, and I know, deep inside, that I shouldn't keep my guard down, but instead, keep on resisting the idiotic policies that are forced on us.

Perhaps spring and summer will revitalize my political juice and give me a needed boost through the rest of the year. Right now, I need a serious vacation from anything political!

Friday, May 5, 2017

My Snowbird experience

This past Wednesday, I returned to Snowbird and had a most enjoyable early day. Groomers were perfect, out of the manicured path was a bit more of a challenge, but still much enjoyable.

I love the front lower part of the resort, from Chip's Face all the way to Lower Mach Schnell and I hold a distinct preference for Lower Silverfox.

I'm not to crazy about Mineral Basin, nor a fan of the Cirque and far less of upper Peruvian Gulch and most of the Gad Valley.

I only wish Snowbird would build a lift from the tram base to top of Dalton's Draw...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Last French presidential debate...

Once again, we mustered the courage to catch the French presidential debate almost from its start until its bitter end (no pun intended!) and found in Marine Le Pen a nasty side that had heretofore totally eluded us.

Macron was equal to what we expected, except that Le Pen terrible economic diatribe, constant interruptions and mean remarks made her opponent look very good.
After seeing this, we think that Marine will lose big on Sunday and that Macron might, after all, be a preferable caretaker for my home country over the next five years...

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Forty years in America!

Just four decades ago, on Monday, May 2, 1977, we left our new house in the French Alps, along with our antique Citroën and more than a quarter-century each of culture and memories, to move to America.

When we landed at Kennedy Airport, a limo was waiting for us to take us to the Elmsford Ramada Inn, 45 minutes to the north. We got very little in terms of support from my French employer and had to fend for ourselves from day one.

So, it's been often a tough, rough road and many, many years attending the “University of Hard-Knocks” especially in the early years. Today, the harsh learning curve is well behind us, we have no regrets anymore and are celebrating this important milestone.

Do we miss France? Just a little bit, but not enough to make us return for good!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Have lift ticket prices hit a ceiling?

Recently Vail Resorts published an interim season report, from the beginning of winter to April 23.

In spite of having one of the best snow seasons in recent history, it could only show an increase of sales amounting to about 3.5% over the previous years, while skier-visits dipped by about 3%.

What does that tell us? Simply that by keeping on raising lift ticket prices too much, year after year, ski resorts may have finally gone a bit to far and have begun to see their visitations drop. This season, prices went up 4%, much more that the consumer price index.

Seems to me that ski resorts ought to wake up and stabilize their prices!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Age, cold, visibility and deep snow...

Last Friday, I made the great decision to jump over the canyons and ski Snowbird. Wonderful idea, since the resort had just received 8 to 10 inches of new snow which would stay good all day under cold and stormy weather.

Indeed, it was just freezing but except for a slight frostbite on the chin, I stood up the blistering wind. Was wasn't so good though was the visibility that was almost nil and which combined with my fair knowledge of the mountain made me improvise a lot and hope for the best.
Then to add insult to injury, there was all that deep snow that had to be moved around, and after I had racked up 23,000 feet vertical in 9 non-stop laps on Peruvian chair, it was time for me to drive back home.

When I got into the house, my wife said that I looked like the living dead. “Must be the age”, I replied.