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

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.

‘We’ve got the slopes to ourselves’: locals are happy to be stuck in Zermatt
Zermatt on Wednesday Jan 24th. Photo: Rowena Phillips
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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WEATHER

‘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

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