Picture taken by Phil on one of his adventures. Likely New Zealand, Chile, or Switzerland... Refresh for more!

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Make up a full flight to let you meet more friends

I’m not exactly sure what the intended translation was, but given this was posted on the golf course my bet would be that the sign is encouraging people to make foursomes and hey – what better way to make new friends?

Yesterday we were on the verge of meeting the foursome in front of us who didn’t let us play through. Although golf is a global game, local customs or interpretations can result in confusion. The custom here appears to be that when you catch up to a slower playing group you simply drive past them to the next hole.

The last time i checked, the game of golf is played in 18 holes

One group drove past us yesterday and skipped two holes before teeing off. I’m all for playing 18 holes in a different order if it keeps the pace of play going (like I experienced in Jamaica a few years ago), but much like the driving culture here, people would rather speed up then slow down.

After three days of golf i’m losing the week long contest 2-1 to my dad. Yesterday it cost me a fancy golf shirt. Today we’re playing for a hat…. well after we go visit the Pandas of course :)

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August 18, 2010   View Comments

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China – a place of magical multi-scenary feasts

After a 14 hour direct flight from Toronto to Beijing then a three hour flight from Beijing to Chengdu, I arrived in China a few days ago to visit my dad, play some golf, take in the local culture then take a side trip to Thailand for the full moon party.

It’s steamy hot here – around 38 degrees with no wind and the constant humming of the tree locusts is reminiscent of the Vuvuzela sound the world was introduced to during the South African World Cup – but more organic sounding and not quite as loud.

Here are 9 quick things I’ve noticed or learned so far:

  1. Although you feel extremely safe here, driving is an extreme sport. A combination of cars, trucks, and bicycle’s stacked 12 feed high with plywood, farm animals or people and a code that says left turns can be made from three lanes across on the right is normal makes for an interesting ride every day.  Traffic lights seem to be “recommended” and not mandatory as people would rather honk than brake for a stop light or person
  2. Most signs are in English – although much of it barely makes sense (like the title of this article – it’s a selling point printed on a billboard for a new condo unit going up). I’m going to start capturing my favorite ones and posting them here.
  3. Social Media (at least North American) does not exist here. No Youtube, Twitter, facebook or foursquare.  There are some huge Chinese based sites, but it’s not like i can read them
  4. Toilet paper is soft and looks perforated, but in reality it’s a struggle every time to tear off just a few squares without making a mess
  5. If you go out for a run, be careful not to step on the sewer grates as many are missing and you don’t want to step into a dark hole unexpectedly.  Sewer covers are also prone to fall in when stepped on
  6. Chinese traditional greeting for hello is Ni hao (Knee How) – I use it everywhere. Most men will just look back at me, while most women will smile and return a greeting
  7. This place is exploding with growth. There is construction everywhere and many are massive projects. The city of Chengdu has about 14 million people – and growing. Their first subway line opens this October
  8. This is a cash society – virtually no credit. People don’t rent apartments or lease cars – they buy them outright. The government also takes back your home after 80 years, so you never really own anything
  9. There are only 4 golf courses in Chengdu and fortunately my dad lives on one of them – Luxehills International. It’s also part of the pro Asian tour every year.
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August 18, 2010   View Comments

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Shoulder update – one year later

It’s been about a year since the hook plate & four screws were removed from my shoulder and after a recent email asking about my experience I decided it was time to provide an update on the experience and where I am today.

The surgery and recovery after my second surgery was far less painful and eventful from the first one – although apparently I tried to get up & go for a walk in my medicated sleep post-surgery and it took a few nurses to hold me down & put me back in my bed.

The scar looks like somebody used a dull knife to cut me open – but keeping in mind that the doctors cut the same spot for both surgeries, it’s not surprising that it looks uglier than you’d expect. Having said that, it’s my first scar and I like it – it adds character and provides for a good story :)

What i liked the most post-surgery was that my shoulder was perfectly straight, re-aligned and there was no “bump” which is common for people who have had shoulder separations. Although I’ve been told that i could have rehabbed my shoulder without surgery, the reality is that once they went in they found a muscle that was torn and wrapped around my bone and there were bone fragments from my rotators cuff. Being very active, I believe having a great surgeon gave me the best chance for a full recovery & long term mobility with my shoulder.

Within 6 weeks of my recovery i hit a golf course and everything was fine – although I had a burning sensation after the round likely from the scar tissue being torn / moved around.

Unfortunately I also noticed the next day a slight bump on my shoulder where it was straight before. This is not uncommon and it’s hard to predict when it happens… but in retrospect golfing 6 weeks after surgery may have not helped my cause. The bump now goes up & down to the point that sometimes you can barely notice it while at other times it looks like i have a goose egg poking out.

Although disappointing, i have full range of mobility and don’t feel restricted in any way in terms of day to day activities or in any of the sports I participate in.

Having said that, last summer was the worst year of golf i’ve had in 10 years. I lost 25% of my distance off the tee and with my irons and the early season erratic play never really got better. My surgeon wouldn’t clear me to hit the gym & lift weights, so what I had was a body that was out of sync and out of balance.

Finally this winter I was cleared to start lifting weights again and I joined a local gym & hired a personal trainer. Within two months I’ve lost a lot of fatty weight (about 15 pounds) and put on muscle. I’m running again and feel like i’m in the best shape in several years. Although i’ve only been to the driving range once so far this year, i’m looking forward to getting back on course in a week when my father comes in for a week long visit from his stint in China.

Having gone through two surgeries and nearly two years since the original accident would I do it over again the same way?

There is no question that the pain I experienced from the initial surgery and the discomfort I had leading up to the second surgery was like nothing i’ve ever experienced before. It was many times more painful than the actual injury and I can’t believe that what i went through qualified as day surgery.

My advice to anybody about to elect for similar surgery is that you focus a lot on pain management post-surgery and ensure you have the right plan for recovery.

One thing I learned through this process is that once the pain takes over it’s nearly impossible to get ahead of it again. I was popping T3s and Percocets like candy to try to get ahead of the pain as it felt like somebody with a knife on their heel was grinding their foot into my shoulder. I nearly put myself back in the hospital with a drug overdose as I convulsed & had extreme stomach pain one night after having one too many T3s.

Having gone through this experience also re-enforces my outlook on life. Why put off something for “later” when you can experience it now. I can save every penny I make and hope to be healthy enough to enjoy some of it in my sixties, or I can strike a balance and enjoy my life now. I do have savings and two properties – so don’t think I don’t have a long term plan, my point is just that you can’t control many events in your life so you might as well enjoy the ones you can.

With that in mind, I’m planning my next trip. Japan, Singapore, or a return ski trip to Chile this summer are all being considered.

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May 2, 2010   View Comments

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Sometimes you just need to grin and barrett…

It’s hard to believe that it’s actually been a year since my last post here – but it’s not for a lack of things happening in my life.

If anything the last year has been among my busiest ever with the start of a new job at BSTREET Communications as their new VP of Digital & Mobile marketing, my continued recovery from shoulder surgery, and taking my role on the board of directors for the CSIA Ontario up a few notches by taking over the magazine (and rebranded it), their website, their facebook fan page all while creating & maintaing their new twitter account and launching a new blog that is complimentary to the magazine and all other channels.

The season started out well with a return trip to Zermatt to participate in Sandy Gardner’s “my swiss trip” where I was successful in achieving my level 2 coach (now called development level) and had so much fun that I’m now motivated to start training for my 3 coach.

Work was especially busy this Winter as my team doubled in size and we worked hard to keep up with the pace of our successes.  Because of my workload, I decided not to teach any programs this past season and instead focus on skiing for fun – and skiing with a slighly less regimented schedule :)

The season highlight was a quick trip to Utah where I participated in a “live to ski” camp with former world famous extreme skier Kristen Ulmer.  I had met her a few years ago at a new year’s party in Park City when I crashed my friend Pete’s party and stayed for a few days.  After 15 years of taking ski courses and training that fit within the CSIA or CSCF mould, it was very interesting to take a course that was completely different in it’s form and function.

Although smaller class sizes and more mileage would have made the experience even better, on the last day we had a “powder” day and all was forgiven.  I am looking forward to continuing on my journey of big mind.

The Ontario season has come to an abrupt end and for the first time in many years, I’m ok with that. I’m looking forward to getting back into a regular fitness routine, re-discovering the flaws in my golf swing, and maybe, just maybe head south this summer for an extra early start to my season.

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April 5, 2010   View Comments

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3 Wordle Clouds from Ski Press Magazine Ski Test Week

Wordle is an online toy for generating “word clouds” from text (or URL) that you provide.

The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

We love playing with Wordle – so much so we’ve created three below from our week as ski testers for ski press magazine.

What follows is a unique and creative way of getting the essence of our week in our own words… but remixed thanks to Wordle.

The first wordle cloud below was created using all the words we used in writing blog summary reports for 5 days starting last Sunday when we arrived in Ste-Anne. You can read all of them here if you haven’t already.

Click on each word cloud to see full size!

The next wordle cloud below was created using all the words Sasha used in writing her comments and impressions of the 30+ skis she tested over 4 days. All the comments were captured into our laptop (independent of ski or manufacturer) before handing in the booklet at the end of day 4.

The next wordle cloud below was created using all the words Phil used in writing his comments and impressions of the 30+ skis he tested over 4 days.  All the comments were captured into our laptop (independent of ski or manufacturer) before handing in the booklet at the end of day 4.

Wouldn’t it be cool to see a consolidated Wordle cloud from all testers published in Ski Press Magazine next fall as part of their profile of the testers?

We sure think so… and have emailed the suggestion to Sophie at Ski Press for consideration.

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April 6, 2009   View Comments

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Ski Press Magazine Ski Test Week – Day 4 Summary

We came. We skied. We tested.

About 35 skis later and we’re drinking a glass of wine looking over Baie-St-Paul.

Today wasn’t the epic day we were expecting. The weather was predicted to be 9 degrees and sunny, instead it was about 4 degrees and cloudy but that didn’t take away from the experience.

These skis were meant for cruising

Today I had short-turn carving skis and Phil had more of a cruising type ski. As the day warmed and the snow really softened my skis didn’t like the conditions but that didn’t stop me from testing their limits. Because I’m so light and because most of those short-carving skis have such fat tips I can use them to plow through the crud.

But Phil was on cruisers that just allowed him to really go through it all. I spent my day just trying to keep up while my skis just wanted to make all these little turns.

As we handed in our booklets with our notes about all the skis we had tested I couldn’t help but smile. What an amazing four days – amazing skis, the great people I had met, and skiing with Phil for the most consecutive days all season. I can’t wait to go back again next year (well at least I hope so)

Every great beginning should have a great ending

As we were finishing our day the sun came out to shine. Phil and I finished the day with one of those epic bump runs – huge, but super soft, bumps with blazing sunshine as I chased Phil down to the bottom. We said good-bye to the great friends we met and headed our ways. No matter where we all came from, we all had a common value; we all loved to ski.

We’re going to ski Le Massif for a couple of days together; apparently Saturday is their Reggae Festival. And then we’re off to Old Quebec city for a night of luxury before we head back to reality.

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April 3, 2009   View Comments

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Ski Press Magazine Ski Test Week – Day 3 Summary

After two days of mostly cloudy, foggy and what could be described as Ontario hard pack conditions, we finally saw blue skies on day three – although you’d never know it by the picture above which was taken in the morning.

Unlike day two, I had a full schedule with 9 skis to test while Sasha had 7 skis to test. We were both testing carving categories and although I was told most of my product would be geared towards intermediates, I ended up riding several top end skis that were well suited for experts.

With an average of 40,000 feet of skiing vertical a day, my body was reminding me that I was not in peak condition. My lower back tightened up as the day went on and my T bands were so tight that i was getting knee soreness.

Our legs were both feeling a bit rubbery by the end of the day – but we were also skiing hard and tracking at least 3 runs per ski…. while many others cruised in a lower gear and averaged 2 runs per ski.

Our reward for a long hard day on the hill was a scheduled massage at 5pm. Unfortunately there was some confusion over scheduling and a french tester ended up taking Sasha’s spot! Knowing I was in worse shape, Sasha insisted that I take my scheduled massage which I gladly did :)

Wednesday night was also our last night together as a group, so we decided to do a group stir fry dinner at our neighbors condo. Sasha volunteered (well maybe volun-told since i suggested it) to cook while our new friends both bought the food and prepared it for her.

Needless to say, dinner was a big hit with the 12 assembled – even the french tester who had stolen Sasha’s massage slot who ironically showed up for dinner was appreciative.

After finishing up on Day 4, Sasha & I are heading to Baie St-Paul where we are staying at a lovely chalet just outside Le Massif. We had planned on booking something last minute and as it turns out, one of our friends from Collingwood happened to own a rental property and offered it up at a great rate.

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April 2, 2009   View Comments

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Ski Press Magazine Ski Test Week – Day 2 Summary

Our first day started out as an adventure. We got to the top of the mountain fairly early and decided to take a run down the south side. Since we’ve arrived there has been some rain and it’s been warm.

We scooted over to the top of one of our favourite runs, the super s, and we found un-groomed ice bumps with a trace amount of dense powder in some of the troughs. It made for a tough warm-up run.

Our first test run was one of the epic runs – perfectly groomed and firm

After our ‘warm-up,’ or survival ski, we headed over to the tents for some more testing. Our day was to follow the theme of yesterday and test some more big mountain skis. Phil had a few ‘holes’ in his day, so he threw on his world cup slaloms and I chased him down the hill.

With all the test runs we’re doing we’re doing over 40,000 in vertical per day

The wind had died down so all the manufacturers had their tents lining the ‘catwalk.’ It was a great site, all the big ski names, some smaller ones too, and a whole bunch of people lining up to get their next skis to try.

On our way down the mountain after our day on snow we skied by the Super S and noticed that they had closed it off! We sped down the mountain and into the apres-ski where I won a long sleave shirt from Icebreaker. Most of the testers ended up at Laventure for dinner, but unfortunately they couldn’t handle the group and we spent 3.5 hrs waiting for dinner. All we could do is sip decent wine… so needless to say we were pretty much ready for bed after dinner.

Next we are trying the carving skis. It should be an epic day with the promise of warm weather and blue bird skies.

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April 1, 2009   Comments Off

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Ski Press Magazine Ski Test Week – Day 1 Summary

Our first day started at 8:15am at the bottom of the Gondola where we met our groups and were given intructions for the day.

Because of the varied conditions up top, we were going to spend the day testing all mountain skis in the performance category. Both Sasha & I had 9 pairs of skis to test – giving us about 30 minutes per manufacturer to test & write our evaluation.

That translated into about 3 runs per ski – or about 27 runs on the day.

We carried around blue evaluation books that were two pages for each ski. We had to test things such as stability, edge grip, energy, ease of initiation, forgiveness and performance characteristics around short and long turns.

There was also a spot for written comments – so we tried our best to summarize the ski in short & wity comments that may make their way into the magazine.

At the top of the Gondola we had what looked like a 75m fashion catwalk. This allowed the testers to slide to the assigned manufacturer and have the skis quickly adjusted for the next test. Some manufacturers had flags setup while others were more low key.

In all 17 manufacturers were setup including some I hadn’t heard of before like Vist – who are better known for developing bindings and binding plates.

Although we were restricted to the North site of Ste-Anne, the day flew by as every 30 minutes you were trying something new.

Even though Sasha & I were in separate testing groups, we were able to ski together the entire day.

Writing your comments in pencil with gloves on proved to be a bit challenging, but over the course of the day we found that writing our comments and evaluation at the bottom of the chair was more relaxing (and warm) then doing it on the chair.

In addition to testing skis, we are also evaluating under-garmets and socks from Icebreaker (made from Merino wool), next generation Leki poles, and next year’s Alpina goggles. First impressions of each were very positive – although the Icebreaker socks were too tight on my massive calf muscles :)

We both really enjoyed our first day as ski testers and we were both surprised at how different skis could feel and perform in the same category.

We were also pleasantly surprised that the forecasted rain became snow and that today’s weather is promising 4 degrees and sunny.

Day two has a similar schedule – although we won’t know what category we are testing until we arrive at the top of the Gondola. We also have a scheduled apres-ski today where we’ll get a chance to order Icebreaker gear with pro discounts. Apparently we’ll also be getting Swany gloves this afternoon to test for Wednesday and Thursday.

Look for Sasha’s day two summary next.

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March 31, 2009   View Comments

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A very civilized way to begin our week

With car trouble adding stress to what was already going to be a stressful 8.5 hour drive in the rain to Mont Ste-Anne on Sunday, Sasha & I cashed in some travel points and took a much more civilized route to Quebec yesterday.

We were able to book flights on Porter airlines for $69 (plus fees & taxes) each way the night before and flew out of the Toronto airport.  Besides being my favorite Airline for total experience and civility, the added advantage of flying out of the Toronto Island Airport was that we left our house just after 11am for a 12pm flight.

We were checked into our condo at the foot of Mont Ste-Anne by 2:30pm.

We even had time for a quick 30 minute run before grabbing some groceries for the week. The rain that was hammering Ontario (and some of our friends on the Level 3 exams at Devil’s Glen) finally found it’s way to Quebec around 7pm – the time we would have arrived had we driven from Toronto.

Last night was orientation for the Ski Test for Ski Press magazine which included a 45 minute product demonstration from Icebreaker and take home samples of next year’s Leki poles and Alpina goggles.

Stay tuned this week as we blog each day on our experience!

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March 30, 2009   View Comments