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


“On my first round I was maybe 16 or 17, I was still going to school back then. I lived in Madlein and there was exactly one lift, the Edelweiss, a drag lift. It wasn’t long, maybe a kilometre, from the houses down below and straight through the wood. Skiing was great fun for me but there was a problem: the money at home ran out – and one ride cost a shilling.

Then I met there a young man who had earnt his skiing with smuggling. At that time we really had very little, for example, we had absolutely no coffee, no sugar and no cigarettes.  But over in Switzerland, there was eveything, and it was cheaper there, too. The man told me: “Come with me, we’ll get a pack of cigarettes and a bit of coffee.” And I just replied, “OK, I’m in.”

A couple of days later I set off on my first trip to Samnaun. It was in the middle of the night, pitch black, and I was pretty excited. There was butter and cheese in my rucksack on the way there – to barter with. On the way back there were 50 cartons of cigarettes.”

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 now, by the way, where people used to smuggle in the past there are three ski routes crossing the border.

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