Yesterday, an avalanche down the valley from Zermatt blocked the road and railway up to the Swiss resort. My parents happened to be driving up the valley at the time, and came to a couple of men waving flags to stop the traffic at about 2pm, somewhere below Randa, where the avalanche had come down. Today the road and railway have reopened.
While I was cruising the web looking for information, I came across an article (read it here) in the Swiss newspaper, Blick, which expressed entertainment at British papers’ coverage of the Zermatt situation (“Trapped! Avalanche strands skiers in Swiss resort of Zermatt” – Daily Mail).
Here’s my rough translation.
“The situation has even been causing excitement in England,” wrote the Blick reporter. “…Even the Guardian reports on its ‘imprisoned’ countrymen. But Marcus Rieder, a spokesman for the cantonal police, had to chuckle. ‘It’s not a serious situation, and the avalanche wasn’t that big,’ he said. ‘A couple of cars were covered briefly and a disused building had its roof blown off by the avalanche wind.” Interestingly, Rieder added that the avalanche – a powder avalanche rather than a slab – was triggered by a serac breaking off the Weisshorn glacier high above.
In fact, it sounds as though the conditions have left people stranded all over the place. According to the same report in Blick, the Swiss resort of Andermatt, parts of the Bernese Oberland and parts of Austria’s Arlberg are now cut off due to the high avalanche risk, which is level five in places after massive snowfall and – more significantly – high winds.
Yesterday was far from the first time holidaymakers have been “imprisoned” in Zermatt. On my first visit, aged seven-ish, just before Christmas, an avalanche in a similar spot shut off access for several days.
With no choice but to stay put, we tried to extend our lift passes beyond the three days we had already purchased and used up, but the lift pass office refused to sell us additional (and therefore cheaper) days, insisting we start again at day one. So unimpressed were we at this attitude that we joined the queue for a helicopter out of town…
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