Arolla is located near the southern border of Switzerland, at the end of Val d’Hérens in the heart of the Alps at a height of 2’000 m. The long and deep valley is bounded to the West and to the East by mountain chains that reach up to almost 4’000 m and it is closed to the South by mighty Mont Collon. From here, only steep and winding alpine paths guide further, up to the realm of large glaciers, which originally also formed the Val d’Hérens. A last remnant of them, the Bas Glacier d’Arolla, still reaches the valley floor and continues to be fed by the Glacier du Mont Collon.
Arolla is a small village with some 50 permanent inhabitants. Many more are here during the holiday seasons. The center of the village is the Place de la Poste, with the final station Arolla Poste of the PostBus. From here, most everything is within short walking distance.
The village has limited facilities. Most importantly, there is a grocery store, open 7 days a week, 8:30–12:00 and 14:00–18:00, which offers daily fresh bread, a wide range of food items, and you can order/preorder also by email anything that may not be immediately available. Then there is the post office, which doubles as a tourist’s office, and a sports store where you can find everything from sunscreen and band-aid to rental crampons and skies.
There is a Green Motion charging station. The nearest conventional gas station is at Les Haudères.
Life here is determined to a large extent by the rough environment. Snow may fall during any month of the year and in winter, the village is occasionally cut-off. But there are also those brilliantly clear skies with intense sunshine at any one day of the year. Whether with its serenely calm atmospheres or with its horrifying tempest, nature here is nearer than at most other places, and it changes from jovial to merciless within hours, and back again. Come prepared and enjoy whatever nature offers to you.
Life here is simple. There are the seemingly eternal mountains that continue to be shaped by occasional and sudden rockfalls and avalanches. At times, this cuts the valley off from the rest of the world. More importantly, though, it reminds us of the impermanence of our being that can, occasionally, change in the blink of an eye. And then again, there are those unworldly beautiful evenings with glowing mountain tops in front of a deep blue sky, the wild cloud formations that dance across the sky, that wall of fog that crawls up the valley and turns it into an impenetrable soup. Impermanence, again, but also shear beauty, majesty, and mystery. Inspiration.
Simplicity is attractive even romantic from afar. Life here is also hard, though, and at times lonely. It shapes personalities, hardens them, certainly on the outside, makes them deeply compassionate, often hidden within, breaks them, occasionally. Touch ground.
A simple yet hard life may help to widen and deepen perspectives, may help to see the essential behind the details, may help to accept the recognized inevitable. And then again, those perspectives may be too simple, too singular. Contrasts.
Simplicity here… but look, and let these images tease you, let them evoke your own images and moods, let yourself be carried away by your associations, maybe far far away, reconnecting with more hidden aspects of yourself, find new inspiration and joy.
October 16, 2020: Boiling clouds vanish as they cross the mountain ridge. Mist softens, eventually erases the scene, erases all but the rising Sun, huge and majestic. The misty veil retreats, pure beauty.