Airlifts Continue for Tourists Trapped by Heavy Snow, Avalanche Threat In Swiss Alps

Pam Wright
Published: January 10, 2018

Support staff handle baggage of tourists at the heliport of Air Zermatt for an airlift into the valley to Raron, in Zermatt, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Due to heavy snowfall and rain showers, Zermatt can only be reached by air. Swiss authorities have closed roads and train service into the town of Zermatt amid a heightened risk of avalanches, stranding some 13,000 tourists in the town.
(Dominic Steinmann/Keystone via AP)

Airlifts continued Wednesday for tourists trapped by heavy snow and an elevated avalanche threat in the Swiss alpine town of Zermatt.

According to the Associated Press, helicopter flights ferrying tourists out of the town nestled at the foot of Switzerland's famed Matterhorn resumed as roads and rail lines that had been closed slowly began to reopen.

An estimated 13,000 tourists were cut off by the snow and avalanche threat. 

On Tuesday, some 300 to 400 tourists wanting to leave were airlifted out of the town, according to a Zermatt tourism official.

Despite the threat, officials say the situation remains calm. 

Meanwhile, controlled avalanches were underway to reduce the threat from more than 39 inches of snow that fell within a 24-hour period over the weekend, adding to the already 10 to 13 feet of snowpack that has already accumulated on the mountains above Zermatt this season. 

Swiss avalanche forecaster Frank Techel said the amount of snow this year has been "extraordinary," AP reports. 

(MORE: 66 Consecutive Hours of Snow? It Happened in Syracuse, New York, Last Week)

According to the BBC, tourists in other alpine towns in Italy and France were also trapped by the unusually heavy snowfall.

In Sestrieres, Italy, an avalanche hit a five-story building. None of the 29 people staying in the chalet were injured. 


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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