Pensioner dies in ski touring fall on Säntis mountain

One person died and another was seriously injured after falling while ski-touring on the Säntis mountain in Appenzell Innerhoden on Thursday morning.

Pensioner dies in ski touring fall on Säntis mountain
Skiers in Säntis-Toggenberg. File photo: Perreten/Depositphotos
The two people involved, aged 73 and 77, were part of a group of 12 senior citizens on a ski touring trip from Säntis to Toggenburg, according to Appenzell Innerhoden police.
Immediately below the mountain cabin Alter Säntis one of the skiers slipped and fell, knocking into another a few metres below. Both ski tourers then fell 160-200 metres, causing the death of one. 
Due to the foggy weather it was not possible to bring in a Rega helicopter, so rescuers had to take the cable car to Säntis and then descend on foot to the scene of the accident, said police.
Given the steep terrain it was a difficult rescue, but the injured person was eventually transported by cable car to the Schwägalp and then driven to hospital. 
Säntis is the highest mountain in the Alpstein region, a popular place for hiking and ski touring, though it is known for its extreme weather conditions. 
From the summit it’s possible to see Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy at the same time. 


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?