What's with the French?

Ask Dr. Flake

They're more than just bony-nosed prigs who hate George W and look like John Kerry—that's what. The French, for all their haughtiness, pioneered extreme skiing in the '80s, and, a few years later, the Dead French Extremists Club. In fact, it seems the French are eager to take on the challenge of just about any extreme sport, unless it involves self-defense from fascist dictators—or tipping. Yes, they're arrogant on the mountain, but we'd be high-minded, too, if we had the Alps in our backyard and our citizens dominated the freeskiing circuit (seven Frenchmen finished among the top 15 in the International Freeskiers Association's World Tour standings last year, taking three of the top four spots). So, despite the large-scale consumption of soft cheese, the French are presently producing better steep-skiers than we are. But that's not important: Most French prefer to ski on their side of the pond. Meanwhile, there's a far stranger species creeping into U.S. ski resorts—the Australian.