Snowfall in Europe | 13,000 Tourists Still Stranded in Zermatt as Heavy Snow Hits European Ski Resort

The snowfall in Europe has been described as "once in a generation"....

A photo from before the heavy snowfall in Zermatt caused the closure of roads and trains. Similar helicopters have been put to use in air evacuations since. Photo: Stuart Kenny

Up to 13,000 tourists remain stranded in the ski town of Zermatt, Switzerland after heavy snowfall dropped two metres of snow on European resorts in 48 hours.

The trains out of Zermatt were meant to restart today from 11.15am and head to the nearby town of Täsch, but this was delayed due to the extremity of the clear-up process, leading to the restarting of an air-evacuation in the area.

A statement from the rail company said: “Contrary to a previous report from 9.20am, the Täsch-Zermatt shuttle can not be re-opened from 11.15am. During the clearing work large amounts of snow were found in the portal area of the gallery “Unnerchriz”, which made the clearing much more difficult.”

“Heavy snowfall dropped two metres of snow on European ski resorts in 48 hours…”

Mainstream newspapers around the globe reported on the situation in Zermatt, with helicopters being brought in to evacuate people who really needed to leave Zermatt and take them to Täsch, from where they could take a replacement bus service.

Zermatt is a car-free town and it’s actually not irregular for the routes out of the resort to be shut – because of the steep faces that surround the town, storms can often ‘strand’ tourists there. This time around though, the closure was longer than normal.

Helicopters were said to be carrying around 100 people per hour away from the nearly three feet of snow which fell on an already deep snowpack, though spokespeople in the area were keen to emphasise that it wasn’t an essential evacuation and there was no immediate danger to those still in the town.

There was actually a charge of 70 CHF (around £53) for those wishing to take the helicopter transfer.

While powder-hunters might think this sounds like something straight out a dream, it’s worth noting that due to the sheer volume of snow in the area, ski slopes, hiking paths and cable cars around the village remained closed due to extreme avalanche danger.

The extreme conditions in Zermatt came after an avalanche hit a building and forced road closures in northern Italy, on the other side of the Matterhorn. Another avalanche was then reported to have burst through window in the converted Olympic village near Turin.

The avalanche risk has since been downgraded however from five to four (at the time of writing), though of course four is still a high ranking of the avalanche scale and many resorts remain closed.

Tourists have been stuck in Zermatt for a couple of days now.  While electricity was down for a while, it has been restored since, and even without the opportunity for skiing or snowboarding, it sounds like quite a quaint time in the town as long as you’re okay with the lack of exit options.

A spokesperson for Zermatt, Janine Imesch, told The Guardian: ““Everything is normal, everything is under control. People are enjoying the snow, going shopping, eating and drinking. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. No one can go skiing or hiking, but it’s quiet, even a little bit romantic.”

They were even giving out raclette for free to those waiting on an air lift!

Still, it’s good to hear that the roads are re-opening, and we can only hope now that the blue skies come out in the days to come, and the skiing conditions progress and become less dangerous from there.

The ski resort that received some of the biggest falls from the mass of storms is actually Bonneval-sur-Arc in France. A crazy photo of the roads surrounding the arrea has been doing the rounds online, taken by Alain Duclos (below). Stay safe out there folks!

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