Extreme Avalanche Risk Leaves Thousands of Tourists Stranded in Ski Resort Town


Snowfalls, described by French meteorologists as the heaviest in decades, hit Alps villages in Switzerland, France and Italy.

Both the road and the railway line to Zermatt were closed after the avalanche risk was raised to five, commune president Romy Biner-Hauser told Valais paper Le Nouvelliste on Monday evening, however as yet the village has not had to be evacuated.

"There are possible power breakdowns all over Zermatt", it said on Twitter, adding that the area was now inaccessible. The resort website says: "Without question, it is inadvisable to engage in ski touring, freeriding and snowshoe hiking outside marked and open pistes".

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The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said the so-called air bridge can transport about 100 people an hour, conditions permitting.

Rail and road links were cut off after at least 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) of snow dropped on the area over 24 hours, according to Switzerland's WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research.

A Facebook post from the Zermatt Matterhorn, a tourist information center, said all winter hiking trails and ski areas would remain closed until further notice.

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Janine Imesch of the Zermatt tourism office said power has been restored after a temporary outage.

A British skier remains missing in the French Alps ski resort of Tignes in Savoie, which is under red alert for avalanches. DOMINIC STEINMANN, KEYSTONE, via EPA-EFE Heavy snow falls in Saas Fee village, near Zermatt, Switzerland on January 9, 2018.

In the Italian Alpine resort of Sestrieres, where more than two metres of snow fell in 48 hours, an avalanche struck a five-storey building late on Monday, sending a mass of snow and broken branches into its corridors and even into several apartments, media reports said. None of the 29 people staying in the resort were injured.

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