Accidents claim three lives in the Swiss mountains over the weekend

Three people died in two separate accidents in the central and eastern Swiss mountains on Saturday.

Accidents claim three lives in the Swiss mountains over the weekend
The western slope of the Hinterrugg where the snowshoers fell. Photo: St Gallen police

A 57-year-old backcountry skier fell to his death while ascending the Mutteristock in the Klöntal valley in Glarus on Saturday afternoon, the Swiss news agency SDA said, quoting Glarus cantonal police.

The man and a 60-year-old companion had set out from Wägital in good snow and weather conditions, the report said.

The accident happened in a narrow traverse between the Torberg saddle and the top of the Mutteristock.

The skier fell 200 meters and died on the spot of his injuries.

In a separate accident two snowshoers were killed on the western slope of the Hinterrugg peak near Alt St. Johann in the eastern canton of St Gallen, the news agency reported.

They were crossing the western slope when they suddenly fell, plummeting 400 meters.

A group of backcountry skiers who witnessed the tragic accident alerted the rescue services.

The victims were a 38-year-old Swiss and a 28-year-old German.


Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers

Italy has hit out at Switzerland for failing to prevent foreign skiers from hitting the slopes. Some have gone so far as to blame Switzerland for the spread of virus mutations across Europe.

Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers
The mighty Matterhorn lies on the border with Italy. Photo by AFP
Italy's government last week blocked ski resorts from reopening, the day before skiing was due to be allowed for the first time this winter season due to coronavirus restrictions.
There is also a ban on non-essential travel until February 25th.

“It's a disaster. For a week now, we have been readying the slopes for the opening and preparing the health protocol,” said Denis Trabucchi, an Italian ski instructor. 

But the ban has not stopped Italian snow enthusiasts from hitting the slopes on the Swiss side of the border, as Switzerland has kept its ski infrastructure open despite the pandemic.

Many Swiss and Italian pistes lie close to each other so it is an easy commute from one resort to another.

The mayors of Italian border towns are annoyed that local skiers are ‘emigrating’ to Swiss ski slopes, according to the Provincio di Como newspaper.

“Cross-border skiers are not as numerous as cross-border workers, of course, but ski traffic has increased,” said Massimiliano Tam, mayor of Villa di Chiavenna, a town in Lombardy.

He said that despite bans on such border hopping, many Italians rent apartments on the Swiss side of the frontier so they can ski.

Roberto Galli, the mayor of Livigno, a ski resort in the Italian Alps, is also livid at the “cross-border ski mobility”.

“Customs controls are really limited” he said, calling for more rigorous checks “especially for Italian cars with ski racks and snow on the roof”.

Italian authorities even went as far as blaming Switzerland for the spread of the pandemic across Europe. 

Walter Ricciardi, the head of the Italian government's coronavirus task force, said Switzerland's decision to keep ski slopes open throughout winter, while neighbouring countries shut down theirs, allowed the British strain of coronavirus to arrive on the continent.

READ MORE: Is Switzerland to blame for Europe’s third wave of coronavirus?

A similar situation occurred in December, when French skiers tried to sneak into Switzerland to ski.

France’s authorities quickly announced that French residents heading abroad to ski would have to self-isolate for seven days on return and that border checks would be stepped up in certain areas. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are the Covid-19 rules for skiing in Switzerland this winter?