Eggental’s lodge keepers

Sarah Meraner

Eggental’s lodge keepers

Between waking up gently in the Dolomites, the hustle and bustle of guests and female perseverance

The first spends half of the year in the mountains in the Roda di Vael lodge, the second won the tender for the Lieg Alm in Deutschnofen at the young age of 25 and the third has mastered the balancing act between guests, animals and grandchildren at the Untereggerhof in Obergummer: Roberta Silva (47), Carmen Gummerer (25) and Renate Pichler (54) – three women at three different locations in the Eggental Valley. What do they have in common? Well: They have committed themselves to leading a lodge keeper’s life. What that means in detail, how they master their daily life as lodge keepers and why it requires a good deal of strength, is revealed by these three women during the interview!

Tell us a little about your mountain lodges!

Roberta: The Roda di Vael is part of the Società Alpina del Trentino (SAT) and was built in 1906. It was renovated for the first time in the 1980s and for a second time in 2008. We are located at an altitude of 2,300 metres and have a total of 59 beds. The Roda di Vael is open for five months a year, from June to October. During this time I am actually almost always here. In the past, I ran the lodge together with my husband, but he died in an accident in 2011. At the time I decided to go on alone – the lodge shelter is my second home and I have a fantastic young team to assist me.

Carmen: The Lieg Alm was converted 13 years ago and is located at the border of the Province of Trento, at an altitude of 1,750 metres. Last year I took part in the call for bids and unexpectedly won. (laughs) For the next six years, my sister-in-law – who is responsible for the cooking – and I will thus be running the lodge. At the moment we are nearly all women in this business. Only one brave young man has become part of the team and he probably doesn’t find it easy at all times! (laughs) We try to offer our guests a combination of Trentinian and South Tyrolean specialities – the cheese, for example, we buy in Trentino, but the meat here on our side. In addition to the Alpine meadow there is a small pond and a bowling alley. Since storm Vaia, the view has become even more extensive and we can even see Roberta at the Roda di Vael. 

Renate: The Untereggerhof has been around for a few hundred years – it is thus one of the oldest farms in Gummer. In 1995 my husband and I started a bar and in 2002, when the observatory opened here in Gummer, we finally managed to obtain our restaurant licence and extended our business. I used to do all the cooking, but in the meantime we have employees, of course. We are open throughout the year. We host a lot of group and corporate events, employee lunches as well as Törggele evenings.

How would you describe yourselves?

Carmen: Chaotic, but cheerful. I think I am very open-minded and often tend to approach matters quite spontaneously, but somehow it has all worked out thus far. (laughs)

Renate: I am a very positive and optimistic person, uncomplicated and see the best in every human being – and I am always there when I am needed.

Roberta: I am chaotic too, but also rather well organised in the meantime. (laughs) I am a jolly and vivacious person, love life and want everyone else to be happy.

What challenges do you face or had to master in recent years?

Roberta: As the Roda di Vael is relatively easy to reach, the guests sometimes forget that they are in the mountains – one keeps having to remind them that they may not underestimate the dangers. For me personally it is the greatest challenge to have to go down into the valley from time to time and I am always grateful to escape all the hustle and bustle and get back to the mountains.

Carmen: It was not so easy for us to adapt to this “new” life. The greatest challenge at the beginning was to separate my family from my work.

Renate: For me the hardest part is being present all the time: I love to be with people, but always being reachable by e-mail and phone and having to answer messages is something I find quite difficult. It is also not that easy these days to find sufficient permanent and temporary staff.

How did you feel as women in this sector?

Roberta: When my husband, who was not just a lodge keeper but also went on climbing trips with the guests, died it took a long time until I was taken seriously as a lodge keeper or was even considered for accompanying climbing expeditions; I had to work hard to be seen as credible in these roles. In the meantime, many things have become easier, and female lodge keepers are no longer so rare.

Carmen: I must say that we get a lot of assistance from the farmers in the vicinity – I should say that sometimes it is even easier as a woman. (laughs)

What do you enjoy most about your job – and in general?

Renate: I am very happy serving the guests, but also like to be in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake cakes. Many people also call me a “crazy cat woman” because I spend so much time with our cats and the other animals on the farm. (laughs) I like to go into the forest, for example to look for mushrooms, but also simply to relax for a short while.

Roberta: I like the mornings and evenings, when there is a little peace, as I then have the time to chat to my guests. I also love to get out a bit, for example to check the paths. Then I spend more than two hours in the mountains and enjoy the silence. For me that is an important time out and relaxation; sunrise is an especially wonderful moment.

Carmen: In the evenings, when I look back over the day, I can remember certain persons who came to visit, encounters I had that day or a joke that I laughed at ... and I am thankful. And yes, as far as the sunrise is concerned, I agree with Roberta: This is the time when I also feel very free.

What do you wish for in the future?

Carmen: It is really important to me to offer more local products and that our guests are happy. We should like to maintain our motivation and our fantastic team and continue to give of our best each day. I hope that I can maintain my feelings of joy and the passion I now have for my work. 

Renate: Professionally we will carry on – I definitely want to remain a lodge keeper, as it suits me perfectly! I should also like to spend as much time as possible with my grandchildren.

Roberta: I have been happy for 17 years, because I can go to sleep and wake up here, but if one of these days I cannot summon up the joy and pleasure that I feel now and have felt for a long time, I would like to have the courage to say: Now I will stop. I don’t want to do things by halves. Whatever I do, I want to do them with gladness and wholeheartedly.

Sarah Meraner

is responsible for Digital Storytelling at clicktext, the South Tyrolean agency for corporate content and blogger of “Geschichten im Kopf [Stories on my mind]”. Making use of every one of her senses to experience the world, she can tell us all about it in words, stories and images.

The Italian version of this text is the work of our translation wizard Serena Schiavolin, responsible for Italian content at clicktext, who brings a typical Italian touch to our stories!