Winter’s arrival brings Swiss travel chaos

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.

Winter’s arrival brings Swiss travel chaos
Snow hit much of Switzerland over the weekend including the city of Lausanne. Photo: OVT/L Ryser

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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‘Don’t sleep naked’: How to get a good night’s sleep in a Swiss heatwave

As temperatures climb again, many people may struggle to get a good night's sleep in Switzerland. Here are some expert tips to help you even when it's sweltering hot.

‘Don’t sleep naked’: How to get a good night’s sleep in a Swiss heatwave

Switzerland’s summers tend to get hotter and this season has seen its share of heatwaves, bringing temperatures closer to 40C and making it almost impossible to sleep.

This could mean trouble for residents of a country better prepared to bear the cold weather than the extreme heat.

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has three ‘golden rules’ for how to make it through heatwaves; avoid exercise during the hottest part of the day, keep the heat out of your house however you can, drink and eat smart (fresh foods and lots of water).

With night temperatures in some regions above 20C, Swiss residents will also need some help getting through the night.

Here are a few tips to keep cool overnight and enjoy better sleep despite the heat of the night.

Don’t sleep naked

It’s tempting to ditch the PJs when it’s this warm overnight. But sleep experts say this is a mistake, as any moisture from sweat accumulates on your body.

Cotton pyjamas and cotton sheets are very effective in absorbing and removing sweat from your body.

Give a little help to your internal clock

Many people think that it is only the extreme heat in summer making your sleep seem a bit worse than in the colder months. But the fact that days are brighter for longer makes a huge difference.

READ ALSO: How Switzerland’s largest cities are combating the heat

As light suppresses our body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that signals that it is time to sleep, the longer days irritate our internal clock, according to sleep experts.

The old tip of turning off your devices to avoid the blue light is also extra crucial. So around one hour before going to bed, you can start your “darkening” ritual throughout your home.

In that sense, it’s also better to avoid naps during the day to keep a better sleep routine.

Try to cool your room and yourself

Of course, the cooler temperatures are in your bedroom when you go to sleep, the better. You can help get temperatures a few degrees down by following these tips: keep the blinds and windows shut during the worst of the day and ventilate the cooler night breeze during the night.

Sleeping during a heatwave can be difficult. Photo: Yuris Alhumaydy / Unsplash

You can also moisten your curtains just before bedtime and leave the window open; the water evaporation will make it a bit cooler. If you can, another tip is to put your mattress on the floor as hot air rises – excellent advice for those sleeping on a bunk bed.

Don’t forget to turn off (and unplug!) electrical appliances, as those are heat sources.

READ ALSO: Eight great swimming spots to escape the Swiss summer heat

To cool yourself, you could take a lukewarm evening shower (not a hot one, those will make your body react by generating heat).

Fans and humidity help

As long as you’ve kept your room relatively cool, fans work. They help evaporate sweat which, in turn, helps your body regulate its temperature.

Putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan can also help cool the room.

Some people swear by dampening their sheets before going to bed. But if you’re not used to it, the feeling can be a little disconcerting. You can also place multiple ice containers in the corners of your room, which will melt slowly overnight and cool the air.

Why is it essential to have a good night’s sleep?

Several days of scorching temperatures can cause heat stress, according to the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.

If the nights are not cool enough, the body can’t recover from the heat of the day, creating a dangerous condition called “thermal stress”, which can be fatal for the elderly and other vulnerable people.

While there are no statistics showing how many people have fallen victim to heat stress during the most recent heatwave, several cantons have implemented a system of home visits and frequent phone contact with this at-risk group.

READ MORE: How to keep your cool during Switzerland’s heatwave