‘We’ve got the slopes to ourselves’: locals are happy to be stuck in Zermatt

Caroline Bishop
Caroline Bishop - [email protected]
‘We’ve got the slopes to ourselves’: locals are happy to be stuck in Zermatt
Zermatt on Wednesday Jan 24th. Photo: Rowena Phillips

Zermatt remained cut off from the outside world on Wednesday, with a rockfall on the railway line between Visp and the village only hindering the clear-up operation, which is expected to take until at least Wednesday evening.


With no road or rail access to Zermatt and Swiss media reporting supermarkets running low on supplies, it would be easy to assume villagers and tourists feel under siege. 
But in fact that’s not the case, at least for some. 
“To be honest it really doesn’t feel like we are cut off,” Rowena Phillips, director of Matterhorn Diamonds ski school in Zermatt, told The Local on Wednesday morning.
“The majority of the slopes are open, the weather’s amazing this morning, so everyone’s skiing, everyone’s acting as though it’s completely normal. I think the tourists here in Zermatt quite like the fact we’re cut off, it means no one else can come and enjoy the slopes! We’ve got them to ourselves.”
The car-free ski village has been inaccessible since the weekend after two metres of heavy snow fell in the area – the second time this month it has been cut off.
The railway from Täsch to Zermatt was closed due to the sheer quantity of snow and the severe risk of avalanches.
Most occurred on Tuesday and the avalanche risk has now been lowered to three, according to the Institute for snow and avalanche research.
“The big job now for the train companies and the people clearing the roads is to get rid of the majority of the avalanches that hit the roads and train line. But because there was so much it’s going to take all afternoon,” said Phillips.
The authorities say the Zermatt-Täsch stretch of railway line will remain closed until at least noon, and the lower part to/from Visp for longer, though a bus replacement service will run there.
Currently the only access to Zermatt is via a helicopter air bridge, which transported 812 people out and 500 in on Tuesday, according to the village website. Up to 2,000 people will use it today. 
In typical Swiss style, it’s all very organized, according to Phillips. 
“They are keeping people very much in the loop online, telling people who have tickets when they can start queuing up to get the helicopter so they aren’t having to queue unduly for hours.”
Neither is the food situation as bad as the media is making out
“There was a point yesterday afternoon where some of the fresh fruit and veg were starting to run low, but Coop I know had a huge delivery in and were able to replenish everything,” said Phillips, saying she thought the supermarket used a helicopter for its deliveries. 
Supermarket Denner was cut off for a time because it is located in the avalanche zone, but has now reopened, she added.
All the locals can do is stay calm, wait for the authorities to clear the access routes and enjoy the amazing skiing. 
“I’m just heading up now to check it out.”


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