This is not a cliché.

December 2014

01 December 2014

A touch of nostalgia

In these last days of calm I try to take in and absorb all the joys of the silence which surrounds me. I look to capture the energy of the peaks, the vibrant peace of the walks through the village, the reflections which come to me as I walk up the deserted ski slope of Col Alto. There are very few tourists about, just the odd one here or there in search of a souvenir or perhaps just trying to find a bar open.
I dream of a mountain village, my village which I love so much, isolated from others but united by that ‘knot of gold’ (as would say F. Mauriac) between the I and the non-I, between the sky and the earth
In a way it is the calm before the storm. Soon tourists will arrive in their thousands and Corvara will resemble more a small and polluted noisy town than a peaceful village. There will be much traffic and congestion as the cars attempt to make their way through the village, heading for their hotel or guest house destination. The routine is much the same – deposit the suitcases, collect the ski pass, go through the list of requests to be made – and as always the holidaymakers will be a little stressed after their long journey. “Put your jacket on, don’t take off your hat, keep away from the deep snow”; these the exhortations of anxious mothers, their raised voices waking us from our autumn bliss as we move towards our winter reality: a bit of a circus parade in exchange for our happy economic return. “We need to take care of the tourists” was the advice of our old friend Giarone. True, certainly true that we need to tell them our tale and our legends and our local sense of pride. At times it is even necessary to reach out and comfort them and let them feel the warmth we have, for they need to get away from the daily treadmill of appointments, meetings, anxieties, routine, and the clouds of smog too! There is the definite need for them to slow down and step back from their crazy and ongoing search for the greatest happiness in life. Is it an illusion or is it reality?
True also that we play our part in trying to keep our regular clients and to attract new followers to the flock. We organise events and attractions, spread the word of our culture for we know that culture attracts and shares consensus. We manage to serve fish imported from abroad in our mountain huts and restaurants, and even arrange for techno style music to be pumped out up at 2000 metres. The aim is to create an enjoyable festive atmosphere in and outside the huts. Of course we have the panorama made up of cablecars and helicopters to add a touch of class to the surrounding vista. A word or two in Ladin gives authenticity to the occasion and of course we decorate and show off the Christmas trees well in advance – isn’t mid-November a touch early I ask myself!? Taking care of the client becomes much more than taking care of them in the traditional sense for it has become necessary to project them into a world studied to please. I must confess that I ask myself at times if it is necessary to organise such things as wedding ceremonies themed on occasions of long ago. Even more mystifying is the trend, developing everywhere it seems, to create retro style villages with fairytale-like bridges with streams flowing under, and the entrances to houses elaborate with trunks of trees. Is it not all more akin to Disneyland than our mountain home? Sure, these places become a sort of oasis of peace created to give a sense of wellness and help the client relax after the trials of a working year. However the question I ask is whether it is always the market pressure which must determine what is right and what is wrong?
At times I have my serious doubts as to whether what we are doing is right. My mind occasionally goes back to how guests used to have fun and relax years ago when they passed their holidays with us: they would put little more than two planks of wood on their feet and make their way up to Col Alto for an invigorating excursion. Of an evening they would be happy with four ‘canederli’ (dumplings) each, a glass or two of wine, and a grappa with the hotelier. It seemed that little was required to create a sense of peace and wellbeing. Such times when it was the beat of the heart which dictated choice are no longer. It is pointless to be full of romance and nostalgia about times gone by for they are very certainly gone. Today our village is a place of tourism for the elite and a happy place it remains. Clients come to escape from their daily chores and stress and by and large our clientele is made up of elegant folk.
All said and done I have a little confession to make. I would still love enjoy the scene immediately after a heavy snowfall and not to hear the noise of the snowcats and the various snow- clearing machines. I would love to see the mothers who enjoy the scene with their young ones without the usual ranting and raving and without the endless ringing of mobile phones. And the view of the slopes without the noisy motorised sledges would be a blessing. I would love to experience together with the villagers and the guests the silence of a mountain village not obsessed with trying to increase non-stop tourism numbers. “I dream of a mountain village, my village which I love so much, isolated from others but united by that ‘knot of gold’ (as would say F. Mauriac) between the I and the non-I, between the sky and the earth”.
Perhaps my reflections are not well founded. However sometimes in the non-sense of things there can be a sense: for as with all things we need to see how things actually turn out. This too was the thought of Erodoto. As well as the doubts which I have I also know that we are really fortunate to live in a location where others come to pass their holiday. And to my readers I say that we are fortunate to have you as visitors, notwithstanding our weaknesses, our errors, our thoughts too concentrated on the market opportunities and not enough on the real needs of persons. And also we are grateful to those who enrich us by expressing their doubts, with the criticism of obscene architecture which is emerging in the mountains. Thanks also go to the sceptics who attempt to open our eyes and see things as they should be, and to the strict mother who makes it clear that she fails to understand “why is it that in hotels there are no urinals at the right height for children?”
Thanks to you all who give us the chance to practise this profession. It is an opportunity which fills us with enthusiasm and which on reflection gives us an even greater opportunity: the one to take care and think about the wellbeing and happiness of our clients, and of course with the hope that our good intentions are followed by worthy and positive actions. The advantage to be had is an immediate one: wishing well to our guests and to our colleagues certainly helps us to lead a better life.
Happy winter season to us all !

Michil Costa