Thousands of tourists are stuck in the Swiss ski resort of Zermatt as it was cut off by heavy snowfall for the second time in as many weeks, reports the Evening Standard. Heavy snowfall and risk of avalanches left 13,000 people trapped in Zermatt just two weeks ago.
Swiss authorities closed ski slopes, hiking trails, cable cars, roads and train services into the popular ski resort amid an extreme risk of avalanches and guests were being shuttled out from Zermatt by helicopter on Tuesday morning as the avalanche warning was downgraded to level four but land-based transport links remained closed. Each guest paid 70 Swiss Francs (about $73) for a 14-mile helicopter flight to Stalden, from where onwards travel was possible. But flights on the two five-seater Air Zermatt helicopters were hugely oversubscribed, with many who bought tickets on Sunday still waiting to fly on Tuesday morning.
Zermatt’s tourism office wrote in a statement on its website: “Approximately 1,200 tickets were issued [on Monday] – no new numbers will be issued today [Tuesday] as the maximum capacity has already been reached.” On Monday only 30 people were airlifted out of the resort as poor weather conditions restricted flights.
“We regret that the waiting time for many guests willing to leave has taken a long time. This is an exceptional situation which was also very demanding for us,” said Zermatt’s tourism office.
Meanwhile, tourists trapped in the resort were asked to stay calm and avoid unnecessary travel as they waited for authorities to complete work to clear snow with helicopters and avalanche blasts.
Authorities raised the avalanche warning to level five, the highest recorded, across the Swiss and Austrian Alps on Sunday as rail and road traffic was blocked to several resorts near the Matterhorn peak. In Austria’s Tyrol, snow also cut off the resorts of St. Anton and Ischgl, while ski lifts were stopped in Chamonix in France, and in the Bavarian Alps in southern Germany, a 30-year-old died after being caught in an avalanche.