And just like that, the summer is over. The chairlifts are closed, the mountain bikers have packed up their mud-splattered gear, the bars have thrown their closing parties and shut their doors. Once again, this resort town became deserted almost overnight.
It’s a strange thing, living year-round in a ski resort. There are such peaks of frantic energy, months filled with crowds and purpose and motion, followed by these troughs of near perfect stillness and silence, when the mountain is empty, the buildings closed, and almost everyone has left town.
The summer in La Plagne is a short one. The lifts only opened for mountain bikers for around six weeks in July and August. But with the lifts came the shuttle buses, the transfer drivers, the guests’ cars chugging up and down the mountain roads. As the lifts opened, so did the shops, bakeries, restaurants, and bars. With the guests came the cleaners and maintenance staff, the childcare and the managers. Between the lifts, bouncy castles and trampolines sprang up, mini-golf courses were revealed, and packs of horses strolled back and forth carrying children up and down the mountain trails. And also, for some reason, several goats appeared, side-eyeing the crowds of people and chewing their way methodically through acres of grass.
For almost two months, the resort was a hub of activity the likes of which it hasn’t been in a long time. Although we did get an influx of guests around Christmas. They came to walk and sledge and enjoy a snowy, picture perfect Christmas, but since the resort never technically opened for winter 20/21, the lifts weren’t moving and there were no skiers whizzing by, and it wasn’t quite the same. But this summer saw packs of people roaming all over the mountain, cycling or walking with dogs and children, enjoying the alpine summer. It was wonderful to have the place full of life again, to have dinner in a restaurant filled with buzz and chatter, to have drinks on a sunny terrace and watch the crowds wandering by.
But then, just like that, the summer was over. There was no hesitation, no one took their time over it. The day the lifts closed, the shops, bars, and restaurants pulled in their tables and drew their curtains, they packed up and shut down. By the following day, the guests were gone, the chalets cleaned, and anyone with anywhere else to go was gone.
The business owners and resort workers will take these months off to visit friends, to have the holiday like they couldn’t take during those brief, busy, money making months of the summer. They’ll head for the south of France to relax for a while before heading back in November to start getting ready for the next peak of frantic energy. To begin preparing for the crowds that everyone is hoping will arrive for winter 21/22.
For me, sitting here at my desk, my work levels unchanged by seasons or snowfall, I’m surprised by how affecting the sudden quiet is. I would have thought, if anything, I’d be glad of the peace, of having the mountain to myself again, of not having to queue in the shops or dodge cyclists as I walk. But, this year the silent mountain is reminiscent, not of a calm after a storm, but of all those months of lockdown, of enforced stillness and quiet when we should have been busy and active. I’m having flashbacks to long weeks trapped in the house with nowhere to go and nothing to do and no one to talk to. It’s unsettling, especially when my social feeds are filled with other towns, open and busy, other people out and about, socialising, shopping, festivalling, partying.
Plus, along with the closing of the resort has come a change in the weather. We had harboured hopes of an Indian summer, of a September spent sunbathing and barbequing, but it’s not to be. Autumn arrived on the first day of September. The flowers outside my window drooped and turned brown overnight. A chill invaded the air necessitating the closing of windows and the carrying of an extra layer. And this morning, I realised that the sun has dropped lower in the sky, travelling behind a building that it used to arc above. So at mid-morning, my balcony is plunged into shade, and I am forced to drink my coffee indoors.
This sudden quiet, this remembrance of lockdown, and this change of season have combined to give me a definite feeling of unrest, and I’m thinking it might finally be time to leave La Plagne. I find that I no longer want to stay here on this deserted mountain. I don’t want to wait through two more endlessly quiet months for the snow to fall and the people to return, and another winter season to begin.
It’s finally time to call an end to this two week holiday that turned into an 18-month stay. Time to pack my bags and get going. Time to move on.
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