Tourists flee ski resort Zermatt by helicopter after heavy snow

Thousands of people were trapped in Zermatt on Monday after heavy snowfall cut the Swiss ski resort off from the outside world for the second time in two weeks.

Stranded tourists have been warned not to leave their hotels or holiday apartments because of the risk of avalanches, and police have asked people to avoid all unnecessary travel.

The highest avalanche alert, Level 5, has been issued across the Swiss and Austrian Alps, and villages in Austria and Italy are also cut off by snow.

In the Swiss resort of Davos, where world leaders are due to meet at the World Economic Forum this week, some residents have been ordered to evacuate their homes over avalanche fears.

Avalanche warning from earlier in the monthCredit:

In neighbouring Germany, a 30-year-old skier died after he was caught in an avalanche in the Bavarian Alps.

In Zermatt, trapped tourists queued for over four hours to get a place on a helicopter out, with hundreds paying 70 Swiss francs (£50) for a seat on a short trip to the nearest passable road.

But the flights were heavily oversubscribed, with authorities warning that only 300 places were available.

The flights are to be suspended Tuesday morning because the helicopters are needed for safety work, before resuming later in the day.

“No longer allowed to leave the hotel,” Pascal Ryf, a Swiss tourist who filmed an avalanche from his balcony, tweeted. 

“The fire brigade have told us not to leave our apartment,” Roger Spautz, a tourist from Luxembourg told Luxemburger Wort newspaper.

Romi Biner, the mayor of Zermatt, called on tourists to stay calm and be patient, saying the village had plentiful stocks of food and drink and the electricity supply was secure.

The local tourist board said there was no danger to anyone in the village, but that people were advised to remain indoors.

In some parts of southern Switzerland as much as 9 feet of snow has fallen in the past week alone.

Meteorologists said a rise in temperatures in recent days has exacerbated the risk of avalanches, with warmer air and rain at lower altitudes loosening the snow.