Friday, June 28, 2013

Powder Paradigm


    The gondola door slammed shut and the 6 old friends inside settled down for the quick ride up the mountain.  Doctors, Dishwashers, Engineers, Entrepreneurs, Real Estate Magnets and housewives, fathers, mothers, outstanding members of the community, they are defined, above all, as skiers.  The weather outside was a raging blizzard, in the middle of a Rocky Mountain three day storm, with new snow stacking up to the roofs of the small resort condos below them.  Although this group of skiers had taken this ride dozens of times before, they were incredibly excited by the upcoming challenge and potential adventures of the new snow. They had skied with each other many times but were hesitant to speak at first, until someone finally took the lead.

Luke – What’s it going to be today folks?   Biggest powder day in 5 years.

Chip – I gotta go for the gusto early, I’ve only got 3 hours to get my ya ya’s out and head home.

Rick – Efficiency is key, I’ve got till noon and then it’s back to work.  It would be great if we can, for once, stick together for more than 5 minutes, for safety, for group continuity and for shared vicarious experiences.

Peter – I don’t care, I’ve got all day and no agenda.

Martha – I’ve got an agenda but it’s hidden. 

Olivia – What are you guys talking about?

Chip – Well, we can improvise this day, wing it haphazardly or individually like we always do, or we can organize it, optimize it, maximize it and super size it with good team work, communication and planning.  I’m willing to facilitate the process if you guys are game for a paradigm shift. But I still get to vote.

Luke – I’m oldest here so I’ll be team leader but I will probably contribute only as much as the rest of you.  Powder skiing is like a commodity or a widget, a limited resource to economize and distribute competitively to the most deserving.  This is a business model, and engineering application of efficiency.  Let’s take the first derivative of this day’s fun equation and solve for zero to maximize it.

Rick – The first derivative has all the optimization in it but the second derivative is where the fun is, like acceleration – the rate of change in the change, the slope of the slope.  It’s only a 10-minute ride, we can do this.  Can we be called Team Powder Hound?

Peter – Fine with me, we can be called Team Butt-Face for all I care

Martha – I’ll record and remember the salient points of our discussion.

Olivia - I’ll be the heart and soul of the process, a Leo leading by example driving from the back seat.  Did anybody see my ski poles?

Luke – Good, we need to establish our agenda for the ride and state our goals.  I think that we need to optimize routes and timing for the deepest snow for everyone involved. We need to identify the root cause of our typical problems and come up with solutions from all our options.  We need to find the critical path for everyone involved.  We should assess the technique and results of this meeting when we are done and meet again at the end of the day to calibrate and adjust our strategy for our next powder attack.  Anything else?

Chip – How bout lunch.

Martha – Lunch is for wimps.

Peter – Eat it on the chairlift.

Rick – I could use a bathroom break soon.

Peter - Pee off the chairlift.
Olivia – My goggles are fogging.

Luke – Settle down people we are wasting time.  For 10 minutes can we be serious and not goof on each other, speak one at a time and respect everyone’s viewpoint.

Martha – Sure, and no group domination or manipulation.  All our time and ideas are equally important.  If I recall correctly, last time we tried this it was all about Chip’s needs and we wound up checking back at the lodge every 30 minutes to find his girl Pollyanna Powderday.  Remembered we agreed last time that meeting other people limits our flexibility.  Also remember that we all agreed to carry beacons and shovels and keep them with us all day so we are safe no matter where we go and we not tied to return to someone’s pack drop area.

Olivia – And if you can remember what I had for lunch the last time, I will be really impressed.

Martha – That’s why I’m the human recorder, my photographic memory.

Pete – That never develops. 

Rick - Are we bonding yet?   It’s storming inside and outside of this gondola car and we are not getting anywhere.  Let’s do this together, or not at all.

Chip – OK, we have defined our quest, established rules, and set our course, now everyone tell us what you know about the current conditions outside, in 1 minute or less.

Luke – 27 inches of new in the last 24 hours, 45 in the last 48 and 63 in the last 72.  It came in on a south wind that shifted to the northwest after 24 hours.  The density gradient is from 10 to 3 percent, inverted with a Crème Brule crust in the middle.  Could be death cookies.

Peter  - Temps at 10,000 feet have been below freezing for 5 days, no sun, I say we stay high all day.

Chip – No sun this week but things baked big time before this storm so we should stay off the hard crusty south faces.  Go north young man – I say.

Rick – Speaking of Baked, what do you know Olivia?

Olivia – I know that puppy dogs have cold noses….

Luke – Give me a freaking break

Olivia – OK OK, I’ve been up skiing the last 3 days and the sheltered trees have been primo deluxe.  Its almost too deep, we need the wicked steep.

Peter – That sounds safe, anyone hear any avalanche control bombs this morning.

Martha –They have been blasting early only over on Condor side.   The Trophy Wives in the Trophy Homes over in the Colony do not like to be blasted out of bed too early so they only bomb that side after the Cappuccino hour.

Luke – How bout the backcountry gates.

Rick – Closed indefinitely due to the high avalanche hazard, and trail breaking would be a bear otherwise. 

Luke – We need data, Peter stick your head out the window to see which way is the wind blowing.  Martha call the avalanche forecast report on your cell phone, Rick monitor the ski patrol bomb squad on your walkie-talkie.  Someone find Olivia’s poles.

Peter - Don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows and even a blind man knows when the sun is shining.  It’s blowing from the NW  20-30 gusts, to 50.  10 degrees ambient, 30 below wind chill.  It’s a white out.  Wish I brought my fat skis.

Olivia – I wish I brought my hat.  Weather, ultimately it is what it is, always, perfectly.  We take what we get.

Martha – The Avalanche hazard is off the charts.  Anything between 35 and 45 degrees is sure to slide; anything else would not be worth skiing – too slow or too steep. 

Rick – The Ski Patrol can’t even get to their blasting routes yet it is so deep.  Is there such a thing as too deep or is that concept in the same category as spare change, or extra beer?

Luke – This is all good technology and information and it should be good skiing eventually, but the problem remains that we have so many options and we are all going in 6 different directions.  This is inefficient and we waste too much time in transition, we need to coordinate and attack this as one.  If we can close this gap, we can ski twice as much terrain in half the time and all be home for Gilligan’s Island re-runs.  I know there are ‘no friends on a powder day’ but we can reinvent the paradigm and ‘all be friends on a powder day’.

Chip – That means a little sacrifice, compromise and pain on everyone’s part and it will require us to reach consensus.  This is not a democracy, this is Utah. 
Olivia – You mean that my opinion as a lowly dishwasher is as important as your plastic suited, cell phone toting, real estate mindset.

Rick – Ouch, that really hurts.  Remember the rules, no personal attacks.  Out here we are all equal, especially you.

Chip – Ok, now we are ready to brainstorm the root cause of our problem our ideas.

Luke – Personally I think we have too many options.

Rick – I think we all have types of equipment and different abilities.

Chip – The problem is we have different needs, for boards, skis or tele’s.

Martha – I feel that there are too many natural things out of our control.

Olivia – Obviously, there is too much snow.  We should not ski the same run twice, as if it was metaphysically possible to ski the same run twice.  You change, the run changes, the snow changes, nothing is ever the same…

Peter – Deep Space girl, let’s focus people.  In my opinion it is impossible to second-guess the ski patrol and the bomb squad.

Luke – Speaking of space, we have too many places and spaces to go.  The more you do the more you miss.

Chip – I really do have to meet up with Pollyanna some time, or I’m a dead man.

Martha – And a pee break at a lodge is critical.  Forget the trees boys.

Peter – We always do the same thing, let’s be different today, somehow.  Change is always good.  A change is as good as a rest or vice versa…   Our minds think only of linear change and can only extrapolate linearly.  Let’s think exponentially, nature is all an exponential spiral, like the shape of a hurricane, the flow of a flushing toilet, or the shape of a sea shell, the curvature of a cornice, a natural log.  Let’s think outside the box, outside the gondola….

Olivia – And don’t forget lunch.  Life is too short for fast food and slow skis.    Let’s combine all the lodge issues into one category since it is one stop.  And let’s combine the natural unknowns into one category and the variety of equipment, ability and schedules into one also since they are close. 

Chip – Let’s clarify these ideas now and analyze them with the data that we have.

Luke – I think this mountain is so huge we couldn’t possibly pick an optimal route for all. 

Rick – I think we are all on different equipment, skis, boards, tele gear, that we can’t keep everyone happy and healthy.

Chip – With all our schedules and time constraints, how do we coordinate?  I still have to meet Pollyanna.

Martha – Pollyanna is a symptom of a personal agenda not a problem in itself.  My problem is that with the bad wind and visibility we won’t know where we are or where we are going.

Olivia – With so much snow we can’t get to half the places we want.

Peter – And the ski patrol does their own thing that we can’t predict.  Snow cover is almost random and multiple natural hazards could be anywhere.  Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.  How can we choose?

Chip – Any other clarifications necessary?  If not let’s vote.  Criterion should be what works for you.  Agreed?

Luke  - Also consider the biggest problem for your needs.

Rick – 5 minutes left. We are on schedule Captain.

Olivia – Thank you Mr. Spock.  It doesn’t really matter, time is relative.

Rick – You can’t mix ‘matter’ and ‘doesn’t matter’ on this team.  We all have to care and try, or it doesn’t work.

Luke – OK the votes are in. The top 3 are;

A    Natural/Human Conditions  6

D    Route Preference  7

F     Personal Schedules  4

Chip - Now everyone rank each problem in order of importance to him or her, on the back window.

Martha – What about my pee break, I really have to go.

Luke – OK put that one up there too, even though you were the only one to vote for it.  Her is how it shakes out people.
Chip – It looks like the highest-ranking problem is Route Selection, and of course a pee break is still an irrefutable side solution if we want to stay together.

Peter – Great, can we move on and find a solution.  How do we look for time?

Rick – 4 minutes.   Let’s hurry, fast fast fast…

Olivia – The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time.

Luke – Let’s brainstorms some solutions for optimum route selection, informally, just shout out your ideas.  I say we go high to The Peak and ski the steeps until they open the backcountry gates.  Remember for everything you do there are some things you don’t do.

Chip - I think things will be closed for a while and we should stay at the Tombstone lift so we can access the first thing opened.

Peter – I say we go to the Condor lift and go fast on the rolled stuff

Rick – Let’s go over to the Colony side and cruise real-estate runs to be safe.

Martha – I vote we go to the lodge to pee, have lunch, wait for Pollyanna and watch what opens first.

Olivia – I say we split up and do our own thing or go home and forget this group continuity thing.

Chip – Olivia, we need consensus and some group buy in by you, what is your real problem and what can we do to get you on board.

Olivia – All right, I don’t know why Luke is the leader he is just big old and loud.  I ski everyday, twice as much as any of you and I should be running the show.  And besides I’m hungry, tired and cranky and need to pee too!

Luke – Olivia, you were supposed to leave your ego at the door, but if you want to be the leader you can.  Does that mean I get to be the backseat burnout space cadet?

Chip – OK back to solution ideas, are there any more constructive ideas.

Peter – Let’s check with the ski patrol in person for the inside scoop.

Martha – If you analyze some of these ideas there is a pattern forming, with a stop by the lodge as a part of each plan.  Then it is a question of going north or south to different parts of the mountain and then a question of how far and how soon.

Rick – A real solution would have portions of everyone’s solution but done in a priority that makes everyone happy.

Olivia – OK it looks like these are the priority rankings as I hear them.  We stop by the lodge first to pee, eat, and check with the ski patrol.  Then we head to Condor to warm up on some safe, rolled cruisers.  Then we head back past to lodge to pick up Pollyanna and head to Tombstone to wait for rope openings.  Once they open up the Colony we can cruise that before going to The Peak to ski the steeps and by then we can check the backcountry gates.  Those who want to stay can go for a tour; others can go home if they need to.   How’s that sound for all??

Peter – Great but can we just stop at the lodge only once, at midday for everything?

Martha – No way, we need sustenance and info NOW and I can’t wait till mid morning!  Stick with the solution, feel the force and trust the tools.

Rick – One minute left till the top.

Chip – OK, it has been decided, does everyone feel good about this plan?  Congratulations on the good consensus.  How did you guys like the format, the meeting and the results?

Olivia – I think it went great once we got a good leader and stopped bickering.

Luke – I think it went well but you guys should eat and pee before we start the day so we can focus and are not distracted or over concerned with your pressing personal needs and minutia.

Peter – I think it is a little over formal for a bunch of ski bums but I admit it is effective.

Martha – Let’s celebrate our success, I’ve got one beer we can share, no backwash please.

Rick – The gondola has stopped  - one-half minute left and holding.  Can meeting time stand still.  Are there any other problems to solve while we have to opportunity?

Chip – How bout world peace and global warming – we are getting good at this.

Luke – Don’t get cocky kid.  Here we go, we are moving again.

Rick – We are at the top, meeting adjourned.  Let’s assess, calibrate, verify and evaluate our solution at the mid morning break. I want Pollyanna included in this decision process and we should use a similar agenda and process to include her needs and desires.

Olivia - But first the group hug, on 3   1-2-3 mmmmmmmmm.

Martha – I love you guys.


            They pile from the gondola stumbling out into a ghost storm, white on white, with the realization that they optimized without manipulation, coordinated without compromise and reached group consensus and continuity without the loss if individuality or freedom.  Their personal bond and mutual goals allowed them to transcend the situation and themselves.  Together the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  As soul mates, they skied together that day, with vicarious and personal enjoyment of each other’s ability and performance.  Their highly functional, multi disciplined team and deep personal commitment to each other overcame insurmountable obstacles and a pressure cooker time constraint, guaranteeing them that they would solve their problems and achieve their goals.  They all made it home for Gilligan’s Island re-runs.