Helicopters have begun airlifting stranded holidaymakers from the Swiss ski resort of Zermatt after about 13,000 tourists were trapped in the mountain village for two days by heavy recent snowfall and an exceptional risk of avalanches reports The Guardian.
Local police said the airlift was taking about 100 people an hour who urgently needed to leave Zermatt to the nearby village of Täsch, a three-minute flight, from where rail replacement buses were available for their onward journey. Ben Kendall, who works for the Zermatt Bergbahnen cable car company, said people who had to leave were able to and the resort was “catering very well for the rest. We had another fresh dumping of snow today, so trains still aren’t running. Tourists cannot drive into Zermatt anyway.” Ski lifts should be open tomorrow, weather permitting, he said.
The resort said on its website that ski slopes, hiking paths and cable cars around the village remained closed. It advised people to follow instructions and stay at home so as not to hamper the ongoing clean-up operation.
A spokeswoman for the well-known winter sports resort near the Matterhorn mountain, Janine Imesch, said there was no immediate risk to “around 13,000 tourists” who remained there, approaching Zermatt’s maximum capacity.
One holidaymaker was looking on the bright side:
“There are worse places to be stranded. There’s enough cheese in this town to feed all of America for a full year,” he said. “And let me tell you, there’s no shortage of beer, Champagne, and other fine wines. We’ve been good. Sauna, massages, shopping, let me tell you: Not a big deal.”
Avalanche risk remains extremely high, but Swiss police are launching “preventative triggering” of smaller avalanches with the aim of opening the resort’s roads on Wednesday. Weather forecasts point to a reduction in snowfall during Tuesday, with no snow forecast for Wednesday.