Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Deer Valley's independence ends

Back around mid April of this year, following the merger announcement of KSL Capital Partners, Henry Crown and Company, Intrawest, Mammoth and Squaw Valley, I wondered how long the other independent ski resorts could survive.

I was thinking in particular about our local resort, Deer Valley that I suspected soon would be gobbled up by Vail Resorts, as its owners were probably tired and ready to let go of that investment as their resort had reached a certain plateau.

What's telling is that Deer Valley couldn't even sell Solitude to that multi-resort entity, a dubious, recent investment that they will have to "unload" sooner than later, to Brighton, its neighbor.

I was wrong, even though a Vail's acquisition might have saved the “skiers-only” identity of the resort. Instead, the acquiring party was KSL and company. I was wrong about Vail, but perfectly insightful about the sale of Deer Valley.

Today, most skiers patronizing that resort are wondering with justifiable terror if snowboarding will ever be allowed there (in fact, this is the only resort in the world, along with Alta and Mad River Glen to still discriminate against snowboarders).

Well, these die-hard skiers should breathe easy for another season as Deer Valley's announcement states that there is no plan to allow snowboarding “at this time”.

My sense is that skiing-only might have survived with a Vail ownership, having a snowboarding option next door at Park City, but not with these new owners that will offer a common pass along with the implicit expectation that Utah, hence Deer Valley, is open for snowboarding too.

This said, change is good most of the time, and I'm pretty certain Deer Valley will continue to do well and might even benefit a lot from that merger. I'm a skier that happens to like snowboarders, know that there are families composed of skiers and snowboarders.

Why not keep them together? Isn't it time to be a little more inclusive?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Racism and territoriality

There's a long overdue debate about racism these days in America.

For me racism is linked to territoriality and ignorance that only education, culture and travel can cure. I remember growing up in the Alps, in a tiny village, where everyone was suspicious of folks living in neighboring communities. It wasn't racism, it was territoriality, but the roots were the same.

Alpine populations disliked people from Paris, French didn't like the Swiss, Italians or Spaniards. It was subtle because it was hard to tell for sure who was what; still, detecting an accent was always a great help in performing that type of triage.

Of course, when skin colors and facial traits are different, this kind of discrimination becomes much easier! You don't need to be nuanced; being plainly stupid will suffice.

The best cure would be to send all these idiot racists into space, so they can appreciate that the world isn't partitioned into white, red, black or yellow sections. It's just a big, open, unobstructed and beautiful blue planet.
Of course this could be quite expensive and perhaps we should try first with cleaning up our culture at home and opt for more wide-open, quality education in schools. So, what's taking humanity so long?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Trump-Bannon quandary

I don't know what to think of the puzzling Trump-Bannon hookup. To me, it makes no sense, with all of its drama, its provocations and contradictions.
Was it ever a good alliance? I don't know. Perhaps, Bannon can get credit – along with the Russians – to have gotten Trump into the White House, but Bannon's philosophy hardly makes any sense and is difficult to believe.

All of the “good cop – bad cop” situations within the administration lead me to believe that it was more a blatant proof of total confusion, a case of the right hand not knowing what left hand was doing, instead of any well thought-out strategy.

What seem sure to me is that these two protagonists are not just evil, but are also mentally deranged...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Squirrel story

Our little property witnesses an incessant wildlife traffic, from “big guys” like moose, elks and deer to smaller creatures like birds of all kinds, including humming birds, but also cottontail hares and squirrels.

If you didn't know it, our small Park City tree squirrels live, you've guessed it, in trees. This is where they build their nest, called drey, that's usually built of twigs, dry leaves, and grass, and squeezed inside the forks of a tree about 30 to 45 feet (9.1 to 13.7 m) above the ground.

Squirrels may also nest in attics or exterior walls of buildings, where a drey could be considered a fire hazard, as these critters love to chew on electrical cables. In our mountains, smarter or luckier squirrels sometime inhabit a permanent tree den in the hollow of a trunk.

The squirrel you see on that video is one of many we observe everyday, that carries pine-cones to its drey, and this time, we saw one being systematic about harvesting them from our next neighbor's tree by first pulling out as many pine-cones as possible, before collecting them later on the ground and bringing them home for storage...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Summer Heat: Beliefs vs. Facts

I have said it many times: “This summer felt really hot, nights were unusually warm; the planet is heating up!” This repeated statement forced me to look at the records I keep on a daily basis to substantiate what I thought was true.

I have kept track of daily and nightly temperatures for the past 11 years and have a pretty good database to work with. I am talking about my definition of summer season in the mountains, namely a period that is between June 15 and August 15. Just a 62 days span and a good representation of what a short, normal summer feels like in Park City.
Granted, this summer was on top in terms of heat, particularly on account of a long series of very warm nights, but when I lined the numbers up, I was shocked to see that 2007 was almost a mirror image of this year and, in between, the nine other years were not that far off!

While I am not a global warming denier, I must admit that our little mountain town is not turning into hell quite yet!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Another shaky real estate story

Over a decade ago, I worked with a company associated with a famous real-estate developer that always professed that large homes in ski resorts would always sell extremely well to wealthy families that would see in them a family meeting-place where multi-generations would congregate and partake in mountain living for ever and ever.

On paper that tale sounded good, sold well, but failed to stand the test of time and of common sense.

First, a large home comes with constant, massive headaches as they invariably need lots of maintenance and are fraught with incessant costly problems especially on account of an extreme climate and limited use (most second homes get occupied 20 to 30 days a year).

Second, another side to that fallacious tale is that whatever the parents happen to love about mountain living isn't necessarily their kids' taste and even less their significant others'; then it goes downhill from there with grand kids and even their own children.

The result is that Park City currently shows a glut of expensive homes for sale and the priciest they are, the slower they seem to move. We are not talking about condominium properties that also are available in large numbers; just large single family homes.

Consider this:
Our market currently has 75 houses for sale priced over $5 million, 23 houses from $4 to $5 million, 46 from $3 to $4 million and 71 from $2 to $3 million for a total of 212 mountain houses.

My sense is that these big houses (at least over 5,000 square feet) are seen as “uncool” white elephants to own these days as they generally make poor use of natural resources and are seen as an environmental embarrassment.

The future of these houses and their resale ability has become a huge question mark, something I'm not too bullish about...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Terrible knee pain, weird name

Last week I was visited with a terrible knee pain, mostly felt on the outside of my left knee.

At first, I thought it was related the MCL problems I had suffered this winter, but this pain was much different and horribly painful.
If it had not been the weekend, I would have seen an orthopedic doctor at once.

Instead, I went on the internet and determined that I was suffering from IT Band friction. No “IT” is not for “information technology” and “IT Band” isn't a metal rock band either. It means “Iliotibial band”, a condition that causes acute lateral knee pain in runners, hikers and bikers.

The iliotibial band is a sort of thick, hybrid muscle that runs from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and the knee, and anchored just below the knee as it becomes a tendon. This band plays a key role in stabilizing the knee as it moves from behind the femur to the front of the femur during activity.

What causes the knee pain is a continual rubbing of the band over the lower part of the femur coming in contact with the knee, combined with the repeated flexion and extension of that joint when someone runs, bikes or hikes and causes the area to become inflamed, which is exactly what happened to me.

The symptoms were a horrible pain when I went from a sitting to a standing position and began to walk or worse yet, going down the stairs. The remedy is to be patient (so hard!) and let time do the healing as well as doing some physical therapy. Can't wait to get back on my bike...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ready for the eclipse?

For months now, we've been told repeatedly that on Aug. 21, 2017, America will fall under the path of a total solar eclipse. It will darken our skies all the way from Oregon to South Carolina, along a stretch of land about 70 miles wide.

Park City will be slightly south of that path, but we'll see a sun darkened over about 93 percent of its whole area. At home, the “partial show” will begin at about 10:10 AM, peak at 11:30 and will phase out just before 1:00 pm.

If I were crazy enough, I'd drive up three and a half hour to Idaho Falls or south of Jackson Hole, but I'm too lazy and a big chunk of darkness is pretty close to the whole enchilada. Besides, there will be another one in 2045, so I might quietly wait to see the sun blacked-out for one very last three-hours period in my lifetime!

Monday, August 14, 2017

The truth about alcohol

A few nights ago, we watched a very good British documentary based on a recent UK governmental recommendation to lower the alcohol consumption of men and women to the same level of 14 “alcohol unit” per week (see table). 
This excellent, well documented production showed that booze isn't so good for us and than much less of it isn't such a bad idea! I learned a lot from seeing that film that I didn't quite know about the perverse effect of drinking.

Not just something else to think about, but more importantly, something to act upon. Just like me, you can begin by watching the film itself, right here, in its entirety!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Old trailblazers, unprepared explorers...

Yesterday, I had the brilliant idea to suggest a drive to the Smith and Morehouse Reservoir, an elongated man-made lake, located on the western edge of the Uinta Mountains, just 30 miles away from Park City and less than one hour drive from our home.

The reservoir is cradled into a scenic conifer and aspen forest at 7,800 feet. We thought it'd be a good idea to hike around the lake by following a narrow trail on the eastern shore (there's only a dirt road on the opposite side) as we saw a group of youngsters hiking on it.
Soon, the trail proved to be much more of a challenge than we had anticipated as it winded, climbed and plunged back and forth over a steep ledge overlooking the water, interrupted in all places by fallen trees we had to either step or climb over depending on their size.

We eventually caught up with the hikers that had stopped over a promontory high above the reservoir, where a huge rope swing was set and from which they took turns to jump into the lake. We watch a few of these young daredevils impressing each others and went on.

Once more, our hike turned into a nightmare as we had to zigzag our way through trees, rocks, steep ravine, slippery spots, brush and mud. It took us about two hours to cover what might have been a 2 mile trek and when we reached the southern tip of the reservoir we were pooped, bruised, wet and bloody. On top of that, the thunder was rumbling and the storm was getting too close for comfort.

By chance, we hitched a ride back to our car with a young man who was fishing not far from the spot where we emerged out of that mountain jungle, saving us an other one and a half mile of a painful return walk.

No more bush-walking around that lake!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Trump. Insane or Immature?

Not counting an endless and very entertaining presidential campaign, we've had now more than six month to measure and appreciate Trump's performance at the White House.

Having achieved nothing in terms of legislation, POTUS has exhibited many traits that would concern most mental health physicians that don't wear one of Trump's trademark red caps.
At the same time, the leader of the free world might have gotten the attention of child-care professionals as well for his total lack of maturity. In all cases, a legitimate question all American should have is whether Donald Trump is insane or just immature.

I'd tend to lean towards the mental sickness option as I think that at 71, the man should be reaching his maturity peak unless he suffers from a terminal case of Peter Pan syndrome, that pop-psychology concept about adults that remain socially immature.

By chance, this ailment is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a specific mental disorder, so it would be a much nicer, face-saving diagnostic for the man with the yellow hair.

What do you think?

Friday, August 11, 2017

When there's no room to negotiate

Has it ever happen to you that you want to negotiate, and there isn't much room for negotiation?

The transaction process feels deadlocked. You just want to negotiate because you've been trained that way and think it's the “manly” thing to do, or also because you don't want to leave money on the table or because your opponent isn't that strong anyway and you're much better than him or her?

I'm sure it happens all the time and the most important question to ask is if the external circumstances are in favor of one party or another, and, in the ideal case, when one has absolutely nothing to lose.

As an example, consider negotiating a real estate deal in a seller's market when you are the buyer. The seller has a huge advantage over you, so negotiating means protecting yourself and hoping not to be sucked into the seller's margin of superiority, unless you're indeed a much better negotiator!
The process really heats up when both parties are savvy, focused and determined negotiators; then, without a question, the one that is positioned within the current market trend or has absolutely nothing to lose will get the best deal. This is a simple as that.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

When music triggers memories

I liked some of Glen Campbell's songs who passed away on Tuesday, and in particular "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", that I first heard when I worked for TWA in Geneva back in 1969.

I had taken an airline mechanic job upon being discharged from my military service in the French Air Force.

Beside doing visual check on the Boeing 707 that was used on the daily New York flight, verifying and topping off critical fluid levels, I was also in charge of servicing the “Inflight Motion Pictures” entertainment system, changing the two 16mm films, on 25-inch reels, in both first and economy classes.

In addition, I also checked that the sound system was in working order by using the primitive pneumatic headset piping in-seat audio, through its hollow tube, that let me discover some of Glen Campbell's best songs...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Warmer nights and global warming

In most parts of the northern hemisphere, this summer has been another hot one, and with it, many nights have felt much warmer than usual.

If you didn't know it, warmer nights appear to be linked to climate warming.

A Norwegian study from the Nansen Center and Bjerknes Center for Climate Research based on observations made from the last half-century have shown that nights have been warming much faster than days and it would appear that the trend is likely to continue in coming decades.

Time to sell your extra blankets !

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

History, the handrail against forgetfulness?

Do you remember what you did yesterday, 10 days ago, one year ago, 10 years ago, or – try this one – 55 years ago, if you've spent enough time on earth to formulate the question?

Depending on how busy you are, overworked you happen to be, already demented or just too far away in times from these events, the answer could be “No” to all of them and most of us would understand it.

Only a select few events that have triggered strong emotions stay on my mental dashboard. All the rest require digging and sometime a more than we would like to. This is why I try to document my life via blogs, a daily activity summary or a few other tools that are ways of writing my own history.

These records have come to my rescue more often than not and this is why I cherish sound, precise and honest history.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Economists' Myopia

In my opinion, economist of all feathers are far too close to the ground and can't get to the 30,000 feet view to see and understand the world they live in. Economy is much more than factory production, jobs, inflation or growth.

It has to also be about belief in science, smart healthcare, sustainability and environment. Without these essential yardsticks, humanity is headed towards annihilation.

Yesterday, I discovered two photographs taken at a 125 year interval. They depicted the same viewpoint, at the same time of the year, showing how the Argentière Glacier, near Chamonix and not far from my hometown, had shrunk is little more than a century. Absolutely spooky!

Now if you go back to 1890, when the first picture was taken, there were “only” 1.5 billion humans on the planet. Today, we're well above 7.5 billion; a 600% increase.
  •  Conclusion #1: Too many humans have destroyed the planet to a point of no return. 
  • Conclusion #2: Quantitative Growth is misguided. We count on ever more people to buy more stuff and fuel growth. This isn't sustainable. We should have our minds set on qualitative growth instead. Conclusion #3: Bringing healthcare to the world only works if we bring education and contraception at the same time. We should adopt this approach now to delay the demise of our planet. 
  • Conclusion #4: In spite of my very good ideas that no one will listen to, we're now officially all screwed.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Another Art Festival!

If my memory serves me right, this weekend is our 32nd Park City Art Festival. We haven't attended them all, but at least, more than half of them.

At first, we were mesmerized by this overload of artistry, bought a lot of artwork and couldn't wait for the next festival.

Over the years, we've become more jaded and after “down-sizing” our home, our wall space, nooks and crannies hold no more room for new “stuff.” If something goes in, something else has to make way for it!

This said, even if nothing catches our eyes, it's always fun to fend the crowds and take a full immersion into the artsy atmosphere that impregnates Park City's first weekend of August...

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A jumpy smoke detector

We have seven smoke detectors in our house. Since we don't systematically change the batteries yearly, we often hear a chirping noise when a battery needs changing.

Two nights ago, at around 4 am, it was not just a chirping what we heard but a shrieking real alarm with Fire! Fire! superposed into the siren sound. It eventually stopped. I tried to change the battery but that wasn't the issue.

The next day I went to the unit's manufacturer's website to research the issue, watched a video, read the PDF instructions (the electrician that did the installation trashed them and never gave them to us).

I then called the customer support number at the company which confirmed that I needed to clean each unit yearly by blowing compressed air into its vents.

I followed the instructions religiously and the following night, the same unit went berserk again at 1 am. Another piece of nice quality work from the People's Republic of China and time for a new unit, I guess.

Thanks Kidde!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fear, stress and quest for perfection

This follows my recent reminiscing about Middle School days.

I clearly didn't enjoy that segment of time; I was bore and nothing that was pushed on me elicited any interest. My sole school passion was doodling sports cars (I know, I should have been an automobile stylist) and entertaining my classmates.

Maybe I was a late-bloomer or fell into a strange, hibernation-like hiatus, I don't know for sure, but my memories around that period are quite scarce, if not mentally repressed. Strange for a person as competitive and result-oriented as I can be.

As a result, my grades suffered tremendously and the fear of staying back one year or getting kicked out were creating an almost unbearable angst in me. I was always terrified by every single school day, which meant that I was spooked five days out of seven.

In winter, my only wish, my sole forceful prayer, was for our school bus to skid on the icy road and end up in the ditch so I wouldn't have to face school and another day of failure.

There was in particular a section of the school bus route, called “Le Bochard” which had a series of treacherous hairpin turns and I was visualizing the bus slowly flipping over into the trees below, along with a “no school” pay-off flashing, like you'd see then on any pinball machine.

That is exactly at that time that I discovered that praying for events we don't control is a total waste of time. That's also around the moment when I decided to leave that cursed middle-school and start my life anew in Cluses, an army-like institution, where there was absolutely no room for daydreaming or screwing around.

I had realized that all that fear and stress were slowly killing me and that it was time to get back to normalcy!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A slow concert season

This summer has seen a drastic fall in our attending outdoor concerts around Park City.

Last night was our fourth at the Deer Valley amphitheater where “Moki”, a “Grateful Dead” style band, performed, attracting a huge crowd of “Dead Heads” wearing their tied-dyes and losing themselves in a musical style that's always been alien to me.
As always, these concerts are essentially a way for extroverts to show themselves, people like us to observe their behavior, enjoy a great outdoor picnic and listen to some music.

The musical quality isn't really important and this is how we set our expectations. We like it that way...

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Overnight explosion!

When we landscaped our new home, we planted a Siberian peashrub, this bush, also known as Caragana arborescens, is a species native to Siberia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. It was brought to America by immigrants, who used it as a food source while traveling west.

I like that bush and have salvaged its seeds in the hope of seeing more of them around the house. Like with any common pea, its seeds are found inside a pod. So I've collected a cup full of the ripen ones and left them for several days sitting on my office table.

When I got in, this morning, there were peas and exploded pods all over the table and floor with the pods twisted in spirals, as if some lilliputian terrorist had blown up the place. Since there was no blood in sight, I picked up and cleaned up everything, thanking god for sparing my life from a stray nasty little bullet!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Age before beauty

This morning as I was laboring on my mountain bike, I had one of these rare chance of passing a group of riders that were slower and – I assumed – having an even harder time than me.
When I began to passed them, I said hello, followed by: “I'm sorry to have to pass you, but it's age over beauty!”

One of the riders responded “You are both!”, meaning old and beautiful. I yelled “Thanks!” and was on my way.

These guys just made my day...