The village caretaker of S-charl

Dominique Mayor

Gasthaus Mayor in S-charl im Unterengadin
It is 5:30 a.m. in S-charl and the sun is still hiding behind Piz Sesvenna. In this morning silence, a man stands in the cellar of the Gasthaus Mayor and throws logs into the heater. "The guests want it nice and warm at breakfast," he says as he walks to the kitchen to prepare fresh bread and croissants. That man is Dominique Mayor, owner and manager of the Mayor Inn. He and his partner Anita are the only year-round residents of S-charl.

Step by step to year-round operation

Shortly before 07.00 Dominique prepares the breakfast buffet. He is 55 years old and a trained cook. He spent his childhood with his family in S-charl. In 1972, his father opened the Gasthaus Mayor, which Dominique took over in 2006. Initially, the inn was only in operation in the summer. However, there was a steady increase in demand to open as early as Easter so that ski touring fans could explore the mountain world around S-charl. Since then, the inn opened its doors earlier and earlier until it finally became a year-round business.

Active everywhere

Dominique is not only to be found in the kitchen or at the reception. After preparing breakfast, he takes his dog Aiko on a leash and walks down the street. He also works at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF). "I am, since I live in S-charl again for the whole year. So I can describe the whole situation on the ground to colleagues in the valley." Dominique used to work in rescue. Through the constant work with dogs, the love for the four-legged friends developed. Dominique is also a member of the Scuol crisis team, a firefighter on site, and responsible for the sewage treatment plant and clearing roads in the event of snowfall. The father of two never gets bored.

Over hill and dale and lots of snow

A carriage arrives in the village with new guests. The road leading from S-charl to the Lower Engadine is closed to motorized traffic in winter. How does Dominique manage to fetch food for his guests every week? His suppliers deposit a pile of food at the barrier at the winter closure at "Valang Zondrus". Dominique packs these into his pick-up and at Sasstaglià again onto his quad. With this, he can also drive on the snow-covered road to S-charl. "It's a long way," Dominique explains. "That's why good organization is key, because you can't go to a store for a short while if something is missing."

Making the best of unfavorable situations

At 11:00 a.m., the trained cook is back in the kitchen preparing lunch. Since he is assisted by another cook in winter, he has time to talk a bit with his guests. Often, he says, they come back to S-charl after unfortunate situations. "They ask me: do you remember when I was here, the road was closed for a few days and we had to spend the night in the dining room." That fills Dominique with pride. "It means I was able to make the best of an unfavorable situation and still offer the guest a nice stay."

The road in S-charl is often hit by landslides or avalanches. But the highly organized Dominique is equipped for such situations. He has acquired a small power generator as well as a camping stove. "With it, I can prepare something simple but tasty for the guests." Dominique automatically always thinks first about the well-being of his guests.

Dominique Mayor.

Patrolling through S-charl

After the guests have dined, Dominique takes Aiko on the leash again and starts one of his countless activities. In winter, he is the only resident of S-charl. That's why the villagers entrust Dominique, who calls himself "the village caretaker," with their house keys. "The house owners are usually only here in the summer. In winter, they ask me to go by once in a while and check if everything is in order." That's why Dominique walks through the village and checks, for example, that the snowfall hasn't damaged the houses.

A revair until tomorrow

After dinner, the last guests take the carriage back to Scuol. Dominique helps clear the table. Outside it is incredibly quiet. No cars, no bars, not a soul. This begs the question: what was it like to grow up as a child in such a quiet area? "It wasn't as bad as it seems," Dominique says with a smile. The village was bustling with guests in the summer. "We played soccer with the guests' children," he recalls. In winter, the family moved to Scuol, as the inn was not open at the time. Dominique's father was still running a restaurant on Motta Naluns at the time. Dominique gets ready for the night and sets his alarm clock for the next day, because then it is time to get up at 5:30 a.m. again. Thus ends the day of the caretaker of S-charl.