How to lose your bearings.

On the mountain was a refuge built in Italy, but the vagaries of climate change have moved the border on the glacier and two-thirds of the hut perched at 3,480 meters above sea level is now in Switzerland.

The Matterhorn Guides refuge, which offers board and lodging in this corner of the Alps among the most popular ski enthusiasts, was the subject of intense diplomatic negotiations for more than three years, until a compromise was reached. found last year, the details of which remain secret.

The strategic position of the building arouses envy: it is located at the junction of Zermatt-Cervinia, one of the largest ski resorts in the world, at the heart of a pharaonic modernization project.

"We split the pear a little in two," explains AFP the head of the Swiss national border Alain Wicht, who took part in the negotiations where everyone made concessions to find "a solution so that both feel if not winners, at least not losers.


The border melts

On the Alpine glaciers, the Italian-Swiss border follows the line of separation of the waters whose flow towards the north marks the Swiss territory, and that towards the south, Italy.

This was modified by the melting of the Theodule glacier which, losing almost a quarter of its mass between 1973 and 2010, gave way to rock, forcing the two neighbors to redraw a few dozen meters of their border.

According to Alain Wicht, if these adjustments are frequent, they are generally settled by comparing the readings carried out by the teams of the two countries, without political intervention.

"You have to know that we are fighting with land of lesser value", he notes: "it is the only place where we suddenly had a building that was located", giving an "economic value" to the ground.

His Italian colleagues for their part declined any request for an interview “because of the complex international situation”.

Mysterious deal

The mysterious content of the agreement negotiated in Florence in November 2021 will only be revealed after its approval by the authorities – on the Swiss side, the subject cannot be presented to the Federal Council until 2023, at the earliest.

Former head of the Swiss delegation, Jean-Philippe Amstein is more talkative, explaining that these disputes are resolved by an exchange of territories of similar surface area and value.

“Switzerland is not interested in obtaining a piece of glacier”, he explains, and “the Italians cannot compensate for the loss of Swiss surface area”.


Global warming: Could access to the glaciers of the Alps and the high mountains be prohibited this summer?


Global warming: Why the fate of Antarctica is linked to the “dual role” of clouds

  • World

  • Europe

  • Swiss

  • Italy

  • Alpine skiing

  • Environment

  • Climate change