(AKA Self-indulgent rambling drivel while bored on an aeroplane)
I’m typing this at 40,000 feet somewhere over Zagreb, on a leg between Abu Dhabi and Geneva with my eventual destination being Chamonix. The fat bloke next to me is farting incessantly, and I seem to be in a section of the plane chock full of moustache-d sex tourist-types most probably on their way back from some SE Asian country.
Solo long haul travel gives you a lot of time to ponder, and travel in general is fantastic for people watching, guessing their nationalities, trying to pick their accents, where they have come from and their destinations.
I haven’t quite felt the excitement that has happened in previous years when in the closing stretches of the flight to Geneva, but as we now cross the Adriatic Sea and Northern Italy then the Alps, I know my heart will miss a beat once I catch a first glimpse of the imposing peaks if I am afforded the opportunity by the clouds.
This will be the fourth year in a row heading to Cham. Perhaps it’s that familiarity which has tempered my excitement, however I know that what lays in store will continue to challenge and delight us. I sometimes wonder if we’re missing out by heading back to the same place year after year, but the reality is that there is no end to the progression in Chamonix, and due to it’s location at the confluence of the French, Swiss and Italian borders we are at a veritable gateway to the Western Alps and a short drive from a multitude of different ski areas that profit from different weather systems.
It’s also a place that is gaining in significance for the recent developments in my own life – we first visited Chamonix in late spring 2004, however it took another six years for us to return with skis. It was during that 2010 trip that we were instantly smitten with the area, its vast mountains with unparalleled access. It’s a bit ironic that I was determined not to account for every moment on that trip with internet reporting, however a couple of days were too good not to share, and in a roundabout way that’s how I find where my current life has ended up.
Out of a three week trip to Verbier, Chamonix and Val d’Isere where the skiing was outstanding and we enjoyed ourselves immensely, a couple of days were absolute standouts courtesy of our guide and now dear friend Jerome. So I compiled the photos and posted trip reports on a couple of popular ski forums, ski.com.au and TGR. I received lots of complimentary feedback on those reports but didn’t think much more of it until a few months later where I was absentmindedly clicking through the screens on the back end of my web host and found that the images served in those Trip Reports had generated an immense amount of web traffic. Literally gigabytes and gigabytes and gigabytes.
This watershed moment showed me that people were out there and reading whatever it was I was publishing. So around that time in June 2010 I decided to start a blog. I had absolutely no plans whatsoever – apart from to write what I would normally write on the Internet under my own masthead.
And it worked.
I found a particular niche and the traffic followed. The main focus was on honest snow reports and pictures from my weekends at Mt Buller plus more comprehensive Trip Reports of further overseas trips. I also got involved in a few issues within the ski industry and also made myself particularly unpopular with the Mt Buller hierarchy after strongly criticising them for not following their rivals with a discount season pass. Gratifyingly for both my ego and wallet their tune changed 14 months later, and I received many thanks from Mt Buller skiers who believed my efforts contributed in some small part to falling in step with the rest of the resorts
As with all Internet businesses, first you build the traffic, then you figure out how to monetise it. In June 2012 I launched an e-commerce store. But it didn’t look like a store because it didn’t have a ‘Buy’ button. I wanted to test a theory on selling ski equipment, and my ‘store without a buy button’ was a perfect vehicle to present ski reviews. I spent most of the 2012 season demoing a number of skis from a bunch of companies and publishing my reviews on the net. And due to an incessant and sometimes obsessive amount of research on e-commerce, SEO and other Internet Marketing techniques I was soon the top Australian hit for every model of ski I reviewed except for 1. I was on the front page of google for all of them, with the existing stores languishing pages behind.
This test gave me the confidence to put my money where my mouth was, and launch a store in an industry that is screaming out for innovation and a fresh approach. During 2012 I found out that Tim had a similar idea so rather than being in competition we joined forces and I’m thrilled.
So to bring this self-indulgent ramble being typed 23 hours after taking off in Melbourne back into step, I shall soon be descending into Geneva where a van awaits for the short 1 hour drive to Chamonix. I’m sure I will gasp as I come around the corner and see Mont Blanc for the first time this year, and then see the smiling face of our dear friend Jerome. A day or two to get the legs going, and we will be sweating on the uphills, swearing on the steeps and loving life.
Check back often – it’s going to be a great trip and I’d love to share it with you.