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Winter’s arrival brings Swiss travel chaos

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Winter’s arrival brings Swiss travel chaos
Snow hit much of Switzerland over the weekend including the city of Lausanne. Photo: OVT/L Ryser
10:33 CET+01:00
After unseasonably mild weather in the run-up to Christmas, frigid temperatures and heavy snow hit Switzerland over the weekend causing chaos on the roads, rails and at airports.

From Saturday morning snow fell throughout the country, with some parts of the Valais seeing up to 50cms.

The snowfall caused numerous traffic accidents over the weekend, including 60 in the canton of Bern and some 40 in Zurich, reported news agency ATS.

Temperatures fell to -29C in some parts of the country on the night of Sunday to Monday – one of the coldest nights of the year, according to MeteoNews.

The icy conditions caused track problems and signal failures on the rails and subsequent train delays and cancellations, particularly between Lausanne and Geneva, which continued into Monday morning.

Snow and ice on the runways caused flight delays and cancellations at Geneva and Zurich airports on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday 251 out of 620 flights scheduled to land or take off from Geneva airport were disrupted, with an average delay of one hour 40 minutes.

Some 30 flights out of Zurich were also cancelled.

The chaos was compounded by the bad weather in neighbouring France, where an estimated 15,000 people spent the nights in their cars on Saturday night whilst attempting to reach ski resorts across the Alps.

The long tailbacks on the roads resulted in many people delaying starting out on their journeys and staying at Geneva airport overnight on some 50 temporary beds set up for the purpose, spokesperson Bertrand Stämpfli told news agency ATS.

While the snow will be welcome to skiers whose start to the season suffered from lack of snow in December, with it comes an increased risk of avalanche, with experts warning against off-piste skiing, reports newspaper 20 Minutes.

Resorts currently at high risk of avalanche include Champéry, Montana and Sierre, the Institute for the Study of Snow and Avalanches said on Sunday.

Meanwhile for some resorts the snowfall is still not enough to satisfy the expected crowds on the slopes over the holiday season.

In the resort of Laax in the canton of Graubunden, the director of ski lift operator Weisse Arena Gruppe wrote to local residents on Christmas Eve asking them not to ski in order to give priority to visitors, after fears of long delays at ski lifts.

Despite good conditions over 1,600m, lack of snow on the lower slopes meant skiers could not ski down to the village and must use the lifts instead, said ATS.

The cold weather is expected to last at least until the New Year, Meteo Suisse said on Monday.

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