How the melting snow sparked an international dispute between Switzerland and Italy over the location of a small mountain refuge

Zermatt, Switzerland. – high in the snowy Alps, at an altitude of 3480 meters, The consequences of climate change have altered the border between Switzerland and Italycreating a file A dispute over the location of an Italian mountain hut is now on the Swiss side.

The boundary line between the two countries is determined by the flow of melt water, which extends towards one country or another. But the retreat of the Ciudol glacier means that the basin has slid towards the Rifugio Guide del Matterhorn, adjoining the 3,480-meter summit of Testa Grigia, and gradually passing below the refuge.

The situation surprises athletes and tourists, such as 59-year-old Frederick, who, seeing the menu in Italian with prices in euros, instead of German and Swiss francs, ask: “Are we in Switzerland or Italy?”

The question is correct, and the answer is a question Diplomatic negotiations began in 2018 and concluded last year. but, The details of the deal are kept confidential.

“The thaw is redrawing the border between Italy and Switzerland”. High in the Alps, at an altitude of 3,480 m, the consequences of climate change have modified the border between Switzerland and Italy, giving rise to a dispute over the location of the “Rifugio guide del Cervino” (Italian side) now on the Swiss side.Fabrice Cofferini – Agence France-Presse

When the shelter was built on a rocky outcrop in 1984, there were 40 long wooden beds and tables all over the Italian side. But now two-thirds of the inns, including most of the beds and the restaurant, are technically located in southern Switzerland..

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The problem has come back to the fore because the area, dependent on tourism, is at the top of one of the largest ski resorts and a new cable car station is being built a few meters away.

An agreement was reached in November 2021 in Florence, but eThe result will not be announced until after the approval of the Swiss government, which will not happen before 2023.

"The thaw redraws the border between Italy and Switzerland".  High in the Alps, at 3,480 metres, the consequences of climate change have altered the border between Switzerland and Italy, giving rise to a dispute over the location of "Matterhorn Guide Shelter" (Italian side) which is now on the Swiss side.
“The thaw is redrawing the border between Italy and Switzerland”. High in the Alps, at an altitude of 3,480 m, the consequences of climate change have modified the border between Switzerland and Italy, giving rise to a dispute over the location of the “Rifugio guide del Cervino” (Italian side) now on the Swiss side.Fabrice Cofferini – Agence France-Presse

“We agreed to divide the dispute,” Alain Wecht, head of the border department at Swiss cartographic agency Soisstubo, told AFP. His job includes monitoring 7,000 marks along 1,935 kilometers of the Swiss border with France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein.

He participated in the negotiations in which the two sides made concessions to find a solution “Even if neither side was a winner, at least no one lost.”

The Italian-Swiss border passes through glaciers along the watershed. But Theodul Glacier lost nearly a quarter of its mass between 1973 and 2010which exposed rocks under the ice and altered the drainage gap and forced the two neighbors to redefine about 100 meters of their boundary.

According to Weicht, Such modifications have been frequent and tend to be resolved without the involvement of politicians.

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“We’re arguing over land that isn’t worth much,” commented. In this case, “it is the only site that includes property,” which is what gave the land “economic value.”

His Italian peers declined to comment “because of complex international situation.

Jean-Philippe Amsteen, former Swisstopo president, pointed out that Such disputes are usually resolved by exchanging plots of land in terms of size and value. In this case, “Switzerland is not interested in acquiring a piece of the glacier, and the Italians cannot compensate for the loss of the Swiss surface,” he explained.

Although the outcome of the deal is confidential, the shelter’s caretaker, Lucio Trucco, 51, has been told that The site will remain on Italian soil.

“The shelter is still Italian because we’ve always been Italian,” he said. “The menu is Italian, the wine is Italian, and the taxes are Italian”, he added.

Years of negotiations delayed the shelter’s renewal because none of the towns on either side of the border were able to issue a building permit. Works will not be completed in time for the opening of the new cable car scheduled for the end of 2023 on the Italian side of the Klein Matterhorn.

Its slopes can only be reached from Zermatt, the famous Swiss ski resort.

"The thaw redraws the border between Italy and Switzerland".  High in the Alps, at 3,480 metres, the consequences of climate change have altered the border between Switzerland and Italy, giving rise to a dispute over the location of "Matterhorn Guide Shelter" (Italian side) which is now on the Swiss side.
“The thaw is redrawing the border between Italy and Switzerland”. High in the Alps, at an altitude of 3,480 m, the consequences of climate change have modified the border between Switzerland and Italy, giving rise to a dispute over the location of the “Rifugio guide del Cervino” (Italian side) now on the Swiss side.Fabrice Cofferini – Agence France-Presse

Some mid-altitude ski resorts are preparing to close operations due to global warming, but you can ski in summer on the slopes of Zermatt-Cervinia, although doing so contributes to the retreat of the glacier.

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“That is why we have to strengthen the area here because it will definitely be the last to die,” Truco commented.

Currently, on Swisstopo maps, the solid pink strip of the Swiss border remains a dashed line as it passes through the shelter.

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