Especially during times of need and in the post-war years, valuable contraband was smuggled across almost all borders. It’s no surprise, that the border region of the Paznaun was particularly popular with smugglers. From Ischgl to Samnaun, valuable Austrian goods, like butter, cheese and furs were smuggled into Switzerland. On the way back from Samnaun, everything which was in demand at the time, like American coffee, nylon stockings, tobacco, rice or flour was then brought into Austria.
That was everything but an easy task for the smugglers, which included many living in the Paznaun. A fully packed rucksack could weigh up to 40 kg and the walking time from Ischgl to Samnaun and back was about six to seven hours. To escape the tollkeepers, they also took the journey primarily during times of bad weather. Owing to the tollkeepers’ poor skiing skills and lack of knowledge of the region, hardly any smugglers got caught. And if they did, there were no other consequences aside from the confiscation of their contraband.
The increased tourism of the 1950s finally put an end to contraband trade between Austria and Switzerland. The rise in employment opportunities in and around Ischgl resulted in making the smuggling tours unprofitable.
Did you know … that the first ski lift in Ischgl was built in 1952 and was partially financed by the profits that were made from contraband trade?