|Watch out, they may be coming back!|
The name Comborcière deconstructed and translated means 'Vale of the Bear' (la combe = vale, l'ours = bear).
There were once bears there, and the next lift up the valley, Bois de l'Ours translates as 'Bear Wood'. According to one account the last bear was shot in 1924, just about where that chairlift starts. Because of unregulated hunting bears had almost died out in the Alps by the 20th century, so even then they must have been pretty rare (another account I read says this happened in 1890s, so I'm not sure which to believe...). Perhaps like the wolves, they will one day reappear - they have managed to preserve a small bear population in the Pyrenees.
|Notice the old drag lift trace to left of present lift|
However, that track passes under the notorious Avalanche de Chavonnes, which has proved fatal on many occasions. In fact it killed Robert Blanc, the co-founder of Les Arcs, in 1980, while he and a team of pisteurs were searching for 2 lost girls (a very dramatic story, more in later blogs). So if you do walk or ski there, take heed of the warning notices and don't risk it if the conditions aren't right. The road below is now protected by a 'paravalanche' tunnel, in which you will see a simple plaque commemorating Blanc, at the spot where he died.
So the logic of the building the first Comborcière lift was to avoid skiers having to take this dangerous route home, although it also opened up the long, bump run underneath and the wonderful off-piste terrain accesssible from the Malgovert piste.
The present lift (3 person chairlift) was built in 1985, as drag lifts started to go out of fashion. Rumour has it that the old drag lift is still in use somewhere in Poland! A new lift is scheduled for 2017, and hopefully by then the neighbouring, painfully slow Pre St Esprit lift will also be replaced, in 2014 (if you ask me, that should have been done years ago, and paid for by the Arc 1950 developers....).
And finally, a personal Comborcière anecdote: I was skiing with my wife about 6 years ago. We were heading for the excellent Chalet de Pré St Espirit restaurant at the bottom. I had got about half way down, but I couldn't understand why it was taking her so long- she was skiing much more hesitantly and slowly than usual. When she got to me I asked her what was wrong. She looked at me, and after a moment said:
" I wasn't going to tell you this till we got to the restaurant, but I am being really careful because I am pregnant again!"
About 9 months later our third child, Thomas, was born. Perhaps we should have called him Little Bear...