What is wrong with sushi at 2000 metres?

This article was first published by The Feminist Hiking Collective.

 

I remember my summer holidays as a kid. It was a big group of us: four or five families with two or three children each, “colonising” a small alpine village for two straight weeks in the middle of summer holidays. My parents and their friends were able to find the most remote places of the Italian Alps, away from the crowds that they hated, the smaller the better. We were city kids, used to spend time indoors and watch TV. But they were the early ‘90s and technology wasn’t quite what it is today: even though we literally moved half of our house to go on holiday we still knew that it was going to be two weeks of what must have felt like isolation to us, and we had to come up with a plan.

Tramonto lungo l’Alta Via 2 in Valle d’Aosta

The thing is that I don’t remember a single boring moment: we would play, run around, catch grasshoppers and see if they could jump without one leg (I don’t recommend doing this at home!!), study frogspawn and try to raise our own tadpoles, make bracelets and sell them to passerbys, collect stones and eat an incredible amount of icecream. The usual things kids used to do back then. Of all those holidays I have the most beautiful memories, and there wasn’t a day I wouldn’t have to be dragged back into the house when it was time for dinner.

Back then, if you went on holiday to the mountains it was because you liked the mountains. You went there to hike and pur your feet in freezing cold streams; you knew you’d have to put a jacket on in the evening because it would get cold; you went there to really escape the crowds. Where has all that gone nowadays? Last summer I worked as a Mountain Leader in a very touristy valley in Norther Italy, and I couldn’t see any of that. Now people who visit the mountains in summer look for a duplicate of what they leave behind in the city. They look for entertainment, games, things to do on the valley floor that don’t have necessarily anything to do with the mountains. Mountain paths and lakes are suddenly not enough anymore. They look to fill their days with activities, so they’re always busy and don’t have to think at how to entertain their children. And yes, this clearly brings money to the valleys, but at which cost?

A hidden mountain lake just a couple of hours away from one of the most touristy valleys in Trentino

The problem with this is that we’re used to find everything we want everywhere we want it, even where it doesn’t belong. This causes a place to loose its identity. It doesn’t matter if you are on the beach or at 2000m as long as there’s a bouncy castle to entertain you. And it’s a vicious cycle, because the more we demand the more they offer us, and the more they offer us the more we demand.

And this of course leads to another problem, which is the fact that we transform everything so that it fits our needs rather that adapting ourselves to what is already there. We don’t go on holiday to the mountains for the mountains anymore, but for what people have built there. And this brings more infrastructures, more roads, bigger huts, more cable cars, less trees, less wildlife, less wilderness.

Horrible buildings at Passo del Tonale, 1800m

 

All in the name of the development of tourism and growing economy. Or so we think, because in fact by fomenting this culture we are destroying the mountain environment. Those roads are destroying the alpine pastures where the local farmer won’t be able to take his animals to graze anymore. Those fancy hotels that serve sushi as a “special” are taking all the tourists away from the the small family-run B&Bs and the local restaurants. Those pre-packed adventures are destroying the true mountain spirit of a slow and quiet holiday. And after the crazy chaos of August all becomes quiet again, leaving behind what has always been there: the mountains. The only thing that was really worth enjoying but nobody even noticed.

Through the eyes of an average kid today, our early ‘90s holidays must seem so empty and boring. But we used to find excitement in the small things, things that you didn’t have to buy because were already there. I’m so glad my summer holidays were the way they were. I’m sure every kid would love such a holiday if they had the chance to try it. And I’m sure some adults, and of course the mountains, would too.

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