While the Western United States is in the midst of one of the worst starts to winter in recent memory and the East Coast is bundled up against the insane wind chills of a Bomb Cyclone, halfway across the world, the Swiss Alps are receiving so much snow it has forced the closure of one of their most famous resorts.
After nearly three feet of fresh snow fell on top of a deep holiday snowpack, on Monday morning police and local authorities announced the closure of all roads in and out of Zermatt, Switzerland, due to extreme avalanche danger. All train services in the region were cancelled Monday night.
These closures and cancelations stranded an estimated 13,000 tourists in the Swiss ski town, which is home to a local population of 5,500.
A warning on the resort's website homepage reads that all hiking trails and cable cars remain closed, and asked all residents and tourists to remain in their homes while snow clearing crews work on clearing roads and hazards. The site also warns of possible power outages throughout Zermatt.
Helicopter evacuations began Tuesday morning for those who needed to leave the resort, with the airlift taking about 100 people an hour on a three-minute flight to the nearby town of Täsch, where buses are operating to help tourists continue on their trips.
While warmer temps have been experienced across lowland Switzerland recently, heavy snowfall above 1,400 meters brought a high avalanche risk to much of southwestern part of the country, including Saas-Fee, a neighboring resort to Zermatt. On Monday, the avalanche danger level was raised to the highest possible rating of five, with the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research warning that if triggered, the avalanches would have the possibility of being very large and destructive to exposed buildings and transportation routes.
Swiss police announced they would be working on the "preventative triggering" of smaller avalanches around the region, with the hopes of opening roads and railway lines as soon as possible. The latest announcement on Zermatt's website states that the road between Zermatt and Täsch has been re-opened, with continued work being done to clear railway lines between Täsch and Zermatt and Täsch and Visp. Train replacement buses are running according to the regular schedule, and there are no more airlifts planned for the region.