Sunday, February 27, 2011

Glorious snow!

We had a very snowy start the ski year in November and December, which put down a great base of snow. Then January and early February were dry, with some very warm days, and even a bit of rain. Finally, we are back in the swing of things again. We've had five feet of snow since February 17th, ten days ago.

It's always nice to cover the brown yucky snow with fresh white powder.

However, big snows mean big snow blowing on the driveway. Here is my pile of work with the 60 pound reference dog.

After an hour and half or so, I had cleared most of it. I'm not sure what to do with whats left. You can see how high and how far the snow blower has to throw the snow, again with the reference dog. It manages to throw powder that far, but not any of the heavier snow.

The roof will be well insulated for some time to come. I thought about trying to get Jasper on the roof but decided it wasn't worth it.

And finally, another Where's Waldog?

It has been great for the skiers and wonderful for our tourism-based town. Yeah snow!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Amazon Kindle pricing is a ripoff

About 6 months ago, I bought a Kindle e-book reader for Julie and I to use. I really enjoy using it and think it (and its competitors) will eventually replace physical books.

One complaint I have had is the book pricing. Obviously with an e-book, you save a fair amount on printing, store space, inventory, and unsold/returned inventory. Today I was looking at the pricing for a book I read about called Linchpin, by Seth Godin. The prices charged by Amazon are:
  • Paperback - $10.05
  • Hardback - $13.09
  • Kindle - $18.99
What a ripoff! Needless to say, I didn't buy the book for my Kindle. I probably won't buy the book at all.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Just another pretty day

The ski resorts are packed with people here for Presidents' Day so Julie and I wandered for a snowshoe with Jasper. The weather couldn't decide between sunshine and snow showers. It made for some interesting patterns across the valley.

A fairly easy version of Where's Waldog? The latest snowstorm came down with some wetter snow. Not as nice for skiing, but it clumps up in the trees and makes for some beautiful scenery. Jasper likes the wetter snow because it makes better snowballs.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Best movie for the Oscars

The award show is less than a week away and Julie and I are getting close to having seen all the nominees for Best Picture. This week I add one to the bottom of the list and one to the top.

The Kids Are Alright? Really? For best picture? I think this is clear evidence that we need to go back to five nominees. This movie was dull. It picked up a little in the second half, but by then I wanted to start working on our taxes. Yuck. Wait until it comes on TBS and you have nothing else to do.

This afternoon Julie and I went to see Black Swan. Wow! This was a very different, very dark movie. When the credits rolled, everyone in the theater just sat there absorbing the ending. Not a happy Disney movie. Definitely not for kids. Natalie Portman was awesome. If she doesn't win best actress I will be stunned. The script was great. It kept you on your mental toes and threw in some twists even when you thought you had it all figured out. Steve's new favorite!

Oh, and for best actor, I would have to go with Colin Firth for The King's Speech.

  1. Black Swan
  2. Winter's Bone
  3. The King's Speech
  4. Inception
  5. True Grit
  6. The Social Network
  7. The Kids Are Alright

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday was a nasty day on the mountain, but I had to work as a Mountain Host. We only opened five lifts for the day. The rest were closed because of the high winds. Up at Jupiter Peak, the gusts were over 60 mph all day, and they peaked at almost 80. At about 2:00, the first wave or precip moved in, coming down as sleet. Imagine sleet being nudged along with a 40-50 mph wind. They had closed the everything but the bottom lift by 3:00 and we were happy to get off the hill.

Then we have today. Decent temperatures. Blue skies. Just a slight breeze. And most important, 8" of new snow. Julie and I got out early and got to start on runs like this. New snow, nearly untracked. This is how God meant skiing to be.

I officially hate my little Panasonic ZS3 camera when it comes to taking action shots, but I managed to get a few decent ones. Next powder day I need to bring my D300 out.

Notice the pile of snow Julie is pushing up as she makes her turn. These are the joys of skiing Utah powder!

We didn't ski that long because my right knee has been giving me some pain. We did get in a great morning though.

Back to ice and Ibuprofen.

More money than sense

I have always been one to admire a nice sports car and Ferraris are some of the nicest. I have to wonder what people are thinking when they are driving a quarter of a million dollar convertible around in the snow and ice and salt, when the temperatures are struggling to hit 40.

Is this your only car? Is this the beater you drive to the bank in bad weather? It has temporary tags on it. Is it just so new you HAD to show someone what you bought?

Oh well, back to my six-year old, dog totting, ski-slop, salt encrusted Honda Pilot.

A thought for the day

I like this quote I saw from a comedian, Mitch Hedberg:

I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where they're going and hook up with them later.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Picking a bank

For those who live here in Park City (or anywhere in Utah), I can offer a comparison of two local banks, one very large and one more local.

When we first came to Park City, we were only going to be here part time but we wanted a local bank. We went with Wells Fargo. Most of our transactions were at the ATM machine, either grabbing cash or depositing checks. That was all fine. However, any time you needed to do anything more, it was always a royal pain in the ass. It took 45 minutes to get a safe deposit box. Any time I needed to wire money, I was left waiting for 15-20 minutes before I was even helped. Finally, Julie and I went in to get a document notarized. After about 20 minutes, we still didn't have any hope of being acknowledged, much less served soon. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. (Poor camel)

We went down the street to Mountain West Bank. We had no money there, but they notarized our document, for free, within about one minute. We sat down right then and there and opened an account, which we funded by writing Mountain West a check from our Wells Fargo account. I have been back several times since and they are always well staffed with happy, helpful, skilled people.

It just reinforces the lesson of how important good customer service can be. I have to say that Wells Fargo just doesn't care about its customers. I could forgive one bad experience or even a sudden employee turnover problem, but this was persistent and consistent. They just suck.

Monday, February 14, 2011

NPR losing funding?

National Public Radio will potentially lose some or all of their federal funding as part of this years budget. If you are a fan of NPR, you should go here and learn more. Let your elected officials know how you feel about this.

Back to CrossFit

No that I am without hernia, it is time to get back to the CrossFit workouts. My first was this morning. No complaints at all from the hernia site. Now I just hope I can walk in the morning.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Steve's Best Films

Updated after having seen The King's Speech. It was excellent, but I still prefer the odd little film Winter's Bone. Colin Firth has a great chance at Best Actor. Now on to see Black Swan.
  1. Winter's Bone
  2. The King's Speech
  3. Inception
  4. True Grit
  5. The Social Network

Friday, February 11, 2011

Visit from Dick and Cosette

We have skied several times in France with Dick Philpot and his wife Cosette Serabjit-Singh. They come out to ski a week at Snowbird every winter. This week they came out a few days early and stayed with us.

As much as I like Snowbird, it amazes me that they ski that resort year after year and don't ever wander around to sample Utah's other fine ski areas. As they say, variety is the spice of life. (In Utah, that can also be applied to wives). Last year we got them to Deer Valley and Park City. This year we added a third, Snowbasin.

Although Snowbasin isn't having a great snow year, the conditions were still nice and it is a lot of fun to just wander all over the mountain, instead of following all the set runs. However, we did have to get a picture and take a run on Dick's namesake: Philpot Ridge.

Snowbasin has several small gondolas, which are very nice for the long runs up. They protect you from the wind and cold, which we will come to quickly.

Dick is a wonderful motivation for staying in shape. He just celebrated his 70th birthday, but still lifts weights, can do more push-ups than most people, and skis everything on the mountain. I hope I am doing the same when I hit 70!

One downside of Snowbasin is the weather at the very top of the mountain, the Strawberry gondola in particular. If the wind is blowing at 10 mph at our house, it will be 20 at the top of Park City, and 40 at the top of the Strawberry lift. Even though we were there on a nice calm day, you still hustle to get down off that ridgeline.

I think this tree leads quite the tough life. Amazing that it is even there.

Even life as a dead tree (pole) is tough. The 6-12 inch plumes on the side of the pole are an accumulation of frost, but even the frost is always being blown. It was quite pretty, but you simply didn't want to stand around and look at it.

Snowbasin has a few wheelbarrows for hauling skis around. However, in Mormon country, I guess a wheelbarrow can easily become a handcart and used for hauling children. At least there is only one child in this one.

Julie, Cosette and Dick, as the snow started to fall. After seven winters out here, you would think I would have learned not to wear very dark goggles on a day it might snow. It was sunny when we left Park City. I guess this is helping me to learn to ski more by feel.

And one last shot of their visit, this time over at Park City. Courchevel (a town and ski resort in France) is a "sister resort" to Park City. As far as I can tell, that only means that we have a run named Courchevel and they have one named Park City (but theirs is much prettier).

The interesting thing is to look at the ski run signs. This one is just over their heads and about six feet across. Now scroll back to the first picture in this post and look at the sign from Snowbasin. What are they expecting? Those signs are 20 feet in the air and 10+ feet across.

There has to be some sort of sign envy thing going on. Perhaps there is a ski saying: "You know what they say about resorts with big signs".

No, probably not.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Freestyle Ski World Championships

The past four days have brought a LOT of cool skiing to Park City and Deer Valley. Unfortunately, between work and weather, I missed a lot of it. There were several events between the two resorts:
  • Half pipe - skiing out of the 28' pipe and doing exciting twists and turns before dropping back in. (pictures from 2009)
  • Slopestyle - skiing along a series of massive jumps. They are in the air for a long, long way, spinning as they go. This week was the very first World Championship for Slopestyle.
  • Skier Cross - ski down a course with jumps and banked turns. The excitement is that 5+ skiers are on the course at once. (just started as an Olympic event in 2010)
  • Aerials - jump off a steep ramp, doing huge twists and flips (Olympic event)
  • Moguls - run down a set of big bumps, hit a jump, more bumps, another jump, and race to the finish. This is the Olympic event where it looks like the skiers' knees are rapid pistons.
We have had a number of World Cup events here during the past few years, but these were the World Championships, which are the biggest events in a non-Olympic year.

The only event I got to photograph was a real let down. Skier Cross can be a blast to watch because you get fast action, turns and jumps, and all the good wrecks of a NASCAR race. The only day I could go was for the qualifiers. Little did I know that the qualifiers were done with one competitor at a time racing against the clock. OK to watch, but boring by comparison. Where were the roller derby body slams?

I like how they land a jump about two feet from the beginning of a big sharp turn. It makes for some awkward landings.

So, not many pictures, but the big news is that one of our Park City locals, Alex Schlopy, won the first ever Men's Slopestyle World Championship. Pretty cool! A few other Utahns have medaled in different events but the Canadians are kicking everyone's ass. Last I heard, they had 7 out of 10 gold medals.

They are packing everything up now. Wish they would let us run the Skier Cross course before they plow it into the slope. Of course, with all the liability issues, there is just no hope.

Putting her education to work

One of our nieces, Laura Smale, goes to a very nice school in Portland, Saint Mary's Academy. As aunt and uncle, we are very proud that Laura has found her place with the varsity basketball team.

Go St Mary's Blues!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tough days to own a Border Collie mix

I woke up this morning and saw that the forecasters had been right. A cold front had come through and dumped a few inches of snow. Instead of the spring temps we had been having, it was only 4 out.

Jasper is oblivious to all this. He just knows that as a Border Collie / Lab mix, he is fairly certain that he is always supposed to be doing something.

I got him out for an early romp, but I was happy to see the brilliant blue skies. That means that by the afternoon, things would have warmed up a bit. Sure enough, by 4:00 in the afternoon it had warmed up to 0. That's right. Even with sunny skies, the temperature just kept ambling on down during the day.

We went out and played a long, very cold session of fetch.

The lows tonight will be between 10 and 20 below. Guess who gets to get up before the sun to go stand around at a ski resort tomorrow playing Mountain Host. I keep thinking that maybe Julie really does have a good idea with the job that you do indoors instead of out. I'm not sure I have enough clothes to stay warm in that weather. Just hoping it won't be windy.

Best picture for the Oscars

We still have quite a few to see, be so far, my film preference from the ten nominees is:
  1. Winter's Bone
  2. Inception
  3. True Grit
  4. The Social Network
The Social Network was entertaining but I really don't understand the hype.

Winter's Bone
is the one no one seems to have hear of. It was a Sundance film last year and won quite a few awards. Jennifer Lawrence is a young actress who does a fantastic job in this movie. She's up for best actress. It isn't a happy, cheery movie, but it is extremely well done.

Hoping to see at least The King's Speech and Black Swan before the Oscars.

Edit: Here is a good list of all the nominations.