Last rev: Sep 2017
Restructures previous news items and articles of interest into a more useful blog.
Combloux skiing was first advertised on French railway posters in the mid-1930s. It was an exclusive holiday destination for Parisiennes and the first commune to install a ski lift (from the village to Ormaret chapel)...
We first skied in Combloux in 1990. At that time beginners could not ski down from Les Salles, there was a tricky off-piste path to the Jouty run, and a fast schuss before the climb to the Bachais restaurant. We used to take begineers to the green and blue runs from the top of Mont d'Arbois and Bettex. Then things began to change ...
In 2002, the mountainside between Mowgli and la Cry was reshaped, excellent facilities were put in for children and beginners, and parking for an additional 500 cars and 16 buses was created at le Brons - which incidentally gave easier access to our apartments. Combloux and all the neighbouring resorts introduced the hands-free lift passes, which we now regard as basic necessities.
In 2003 the old Princesse lift was replaced by the current gondola, which provides fast and easy access to Mont d'Arbois. And in the winter of 2004 the link to la Giettaz (Tete de Torraz) was opened providing an interesting excursion and an extra 25 kms of pistes including some to satisfy the most sporting skiers. New chair lifts made the Christomet area more accessible and Combloux also opened an additional black run, just before the newly built "Auberge de Porrez".
In 2008, at a total cost of €12.5M, the three old chair lifts in Combloux were replaced by the current six-man 'Pertuis' chair lift, which whisks skiers to the top of les Salles in 6 minutes; a permanent snow park was created; and 50 snow cannons were installed. The 90 kms of pistes between Combloux, Jaillet, and la Giettaz (previously the "Jaco" liftpass) was renamed "Les Portes du Mont Blanc". This forms part of the "Evasion Mont Blanc" area, which also includes the Rochebrune and Mont d'Arbois areas of Megeve, St Gervais and les Contamines.
There have been gradual developments over the years, mainly to improve piste maintenance. For the 2017/18 season €6.2M has been invested to improve the network of reservoirs and snow cannons to keep the main Pertuis and Christomet lifts and their blue descents running through any periods of poor snowfall and to improve access for all grades of skier.
Bob registered "bycar.com" and developed the website in 1997. Within weeks it topped the search engines and displaced magazine advertising for 90% of bookings. Since then simple creation tools like WordPress have proliferated websites, and (against the principles of internet pioneers) search engines were dominated by brand advertising and sponsorship money. We still use unique page design and coding but have succumbed to paid advertising.
There was a drastic decrease in bookings following the 2003 heat wave but too many new surfers were following brand advertisers and not finding us on search engines. So we started advertised on Owners Direct - reluctantly because the rise of internet middlemen pushes prices up.
Over the years we have recoded to keep up with increasing internet diversity but stuck to our unique page designs (which also avoids funding more middlemen).
In 2015 Owners Direct was taken over by HomeAway (part of the Expedia cartel) and pushed us into using their booking system. We had difficulty aligning our fair pricing scheme with their more rigid model but a good compromise was to calculate rents on a fixed price plus price per night.
The Microsoft platform bycar was built on had become unreliable so we hoped HomeAway bookings would suffice - but it could not deliver our added value to users and was far more effort to maintain. So in 2016 we entirely rewrote bycar for an Appache/php platform. We keep the Bycar and Owners Direct calendars in sync so users can book on either but the overall control is on Bycar in order to avoid confusion and misrepresentation.
We continued to collect and re-present information from other sites.
For example, several different commune websites provide webcam links and lift & pistes status for their own domain, but we collect all that information together and re-arrange it to correspond with the lift pass areas.
In June 2016, HomeAway introduced a fee of about 10% for clients additional to what they charge owners. The real benefit they provided to our clients was the ability to make secure online payments, so we opened a PayPal commercial account to match that for bookings via Bycar.
HomeAway (Abritel) found us french rentals for the weeks that are less viable for Brits, so since March 2017 we have based HomeAway bookings on a euro pricelist; and Bycar bookings can be according to those euro prices or based on a separate UK pound pricelist...
But HomeAway's latest move is to block direct communication between owner and renter. Their cut is already bigger than the owners' and now they deny the service we want to give so we must find a new way to advertise.