Skiers had been stranded in the resort because of heavy snowfall and exceptional danger of avalanches
Helicopters have airlifted stranded holidaymakers from the upmarket Swiss ski resort of Zermatt after about 13,000 sightseers were trapped in the mountain village for two days by heavy recent snowfall and an extraordinary risk of avalanches.
Local police said the airlift was taking about 100 people an hour who urgently needed to leave Zermatt to the nearby village of Tasch, a three minute flight, from where rail replacement buses were available for their onward pilgrimage.
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 clear-up procedure.
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 sightseers” who remained there, approaching Zermatt’s maximum capability.
Imesch said energy in the village had now been restored after an earlier power cut, although the resort continued to warn of” possible power breakdowns all over Zermatt “. A farther update was expected at 7pm local time.
” Everything is normal, everything is under control ,” Imesch told the Guardian.” People are enjoying the snowfall, running shopping, eating and booze. The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. No one can go skiing or hiking, but it’s quiet, even a little bit romantic .”
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 dump of snow today, so trains still aren’t operating. Sightseers cannot drive into Zermatt anyway .” Ski lifts should be open tomorrow, weather permitting, he said.
The access road to the car-free mountain village, which has a resident population of about 5,500, was closed on Monday morning because of the extreme avalanche risk and qualifies have been unable to reach the station since 5.30 pm on Monday.
The avalanche risk around Zermatt and several other resorts in the south-western Valais region, including Saas-Fee, was created to its maximum level of five working on Monday night, the region’s chairperson, Romy Biner-Hauser, said.