Samnaun: From remote farming village to winter sports mecca

DIe Besiedelung des Samnauntals.
Life in the old Samnaun was sparse, strenuous and simple. A small farming village on the edge of Switzerland, populated by Lower Engadiners who tried their luck behind the mountain. In the 20th century, duty-free status and winter tourism helped the border village to international fame and initiated the transformation.
Samnaun-Plan. Die Geschichte des Tals.

Self-catering on the edge of Switzerland

Until well into the 20th century there were still about 100 farms in Samnaun. Even if not as large as we know it today. At that time one was already considered a large farmer with twelve animals. Most families owned only six or seven animals. And they were completely self-sufficient. Almost. Only a few products such as sugar, salt and iron had to be imported. For decades and centuries, agriculture and hunting, hard work and simplicity dominated the side valley.


Challenges of the periphery

Remoteness is always a question of perspective. For Samnaun's economy, however, the distance to the rest of Switzerland plays a weighty role: for a long time, the valley could only be reached at all via Austrian territory. In 1888 Samnaun therefore submitted its first request for exclusion from the customs territory. Four years later the request was approved by the Federal Council.

Zollfrei-Status seit 1892

Switzerland and abroad at the same time

In 1912, the Swiss connecting road to Vinadi followed. Nevertheless, Samnaun was allowed to retain its duty-free status in order to alleviate the locational disadvantage. The families built up a second livelihood with boutiques, stores and petrol stations. And partly also with smuggling, because in customs Samnaun is treated like a foreign country. Thus goods must be cleared at the border if they exceed a certain amount. Goods with high customs duties such as meat and dairy products, alcohol and tobacco were briskly smuggled across all borders in the border triangle. To this day we can find many anecdotes and references from this time in Samnaun.

Grenzenloses Skivergnügen in Samnaun.

Fun on the slopes on the national border

Samnaun is at least as grateful for tourism as it is for its duty-free status.
Winter lasts here for a whole five months. And that has been Samnaun's greatest trump card since the advent of winter sports vacations. At the latest with the merger of the skiing area with the Austrian Ischgl, winter tourism has become Samnaun's economic driving force. 238 kilometers of pistes and 45 transport facilities, including the world's first double-decker cable car, as well as around 1100 snow cannons guarantee unlimited fun on the slopes from the end of November to the beginning of May.


Snow safety and event competence

As valuable as the long winter is for the tourism industry, it is difficult to promote. What guest thinks of the deepest winter in November? And how can the "Unterländer" be made to enjoy skiing again in the mild spring? Samnaun's answer is: with top-class events. The world championship of the Santa Clauses with a subsequent winter opening concert accompanies the start of the season, while a whole concert and event fireworks display in the middle of the skiing area from April onwards sets winter accents again and again. When big events with big names take place in the middle of the snow, it finally makes the rounds and clearly shows where winter is at home.

Samnaun Skigebiet mit Skifahrer.

Metamorphosis of village and inhabitants

In the home of winter, guests can also feel at home. The inhabitants of this once meager farming village have mastered hospitality to perfection. Duty-free status, winter sports and meanwhile also summer tourism have helped Samnaun to blossom and have turned the inhabitants from rough mountain people into extremely obliging hosts. Of course there are still farmers today. The number of animals has never changed much, but the number of farms has. Today there are still 15 farmers in Samnaun. They too are happy and committed to tourism. We meet you in the hotel, in the skiing area, in the duty-free store in the valley or in the middle of nature.

On Topic

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Zollfrei einkaufen in Samnaun.
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