Emil Zangerl, 85, is the face of Paznaun’s smuggling past. For decades he smuggled goods over from Switzerland into the valley. On skis, too, and mostly when it was really dark. He tells Trisanna some of his best stories. Today: the girl and the cheeky downhill run.


“Something stupid happened to me once – I’d smuggled butter to Samnaun, and on the way, the ties on my rucksack broke. The butter fell out, rolled down the mountain and was really battered. It didn’t look very appetizing at all. People today would say “you can’t use that any more”.  But I was lucky.

A girl who worked at the hut took it quickly – before anyone could see how badly packed it was. She had a reward from me for that, and I went to the parish fair with her in Samnaun.  Then on the way back into Paznaun I took 50 cartons of cigarettes with me. It was already six in the morning – in other words, it was actually far too late. It was already light, anyway.

But I thought to myself: it’s all or nothing now – and I went the same way as all the tourists. On the Bodenalp in Ischgl, a hut manager standing in front of his door looked at me and said, ‘He’s a smuggler, I’ve never seen that before. What a cheek!’ ”

More interesting anecdotes from Emil’s smuggling past will be coming soon here in Trisanna.

For hundreds of years, when times were hard, the people of Paznaun brought their products into Samnaun in Switzerland, and bartered them there against other goods. But they had to watch out: it was a cat and mouse game with the customs officers. And where people used to smuggle in the past, there are today three ski routes crossing the border.

Would you like to follow Emil Zangerl’s path into Switzerland? Have a look here: the smuggler route.