More pictures and video here:
– European ski resorts in ‘lockdown’ after freak snowfalls cut road, rail and air links (Daily Mail, Jan. 11, 2012):
Many have become stranded since the weekend because of the heaviest snowfalls in Alps in the past 30 years.
– Snowed in! British skiers stranded in resorts across Europe after record snow dump (Daily Mail, Jan. 11, 2012):
Thousands of British skiers are said to be stranded across Europe after heavy snowfall trapped them in their ski resorts.
Austria, southern German, France and Switzerland have seen freak snowfalls dumping up to 18ft of snow and blocking roads and railways.
But in a case of ‘too much of a good thing’, the heavy snow has increased the likelihood of avalanches, leading to pistes and lifts being closed as well as road between different parts of ski resorts.
In the Austrian Alps, it is estimated that 1,000 Britons are trapped after 10ft of powder fell in 48 hours, cutting off popular resorts like Ischgl, Galtur, St Anton and Arlberg.
Rainer Silberberger, mayor of the Wildschvnauer region, said: ‘We are working around the clock to clear roads and secure the snow falls. I’ve never seen weather like it.’
In the popular ski resort of Ischgl a total of 17,000 people are thought to be snowed in and in neighbouring Galtur experts are studying the slopes from helicopters as there is a high risk of an avalanche.
St Anton tourism chief Martin Ebster has confirmed that all roads in and out of the ski village are closed due to the quantity of snow that has fallen.
Avalanche warning service spokesman Rudi Mair said: ‘This is a type of snow fall the like of which we have not seen for years. Combined with that there are very high winds which are making conditions especially dangerous.’
Worst affected is western Austria and southeastern Switzerland, in the heart of the Alps, which has been virtually paralysed by the ‘once-in-a-decade’ snowstorms.
Just last week Switzerland had a similar problem when skiers became trapped in the resort of Zermatt, which sits in the foothills of the Matterhorn.
A major avalanche, triggered by heavy snowfall, blocked the roads and railway, cutting the village off.
Adverse weather conditions also struck France, with the road between the high-altitude resort of Tignes and Bourg St Maurice closed several times last week due to high wind and the risk of avalanches.
At one point over the weekend, just three chairlifts and a draglift were open in Tignes.
Austrian weather service ZAMG said some places had not seen snow ‘so deep’ in more than 30 years, adding that the village of Nauders last saw a similar depth of 47in in 1951.
And in Germany the 9,718ft summit of the Zugspitze, which only had 7.5in of snow six weeks ago, now has 150in.
The main access road, along the Paznaun Valley from the town of Landeck to Ischgl, was open for a while on Saturday – allowing holidaymakers in and out of the resort. But since then the road has been closed because of the high risk of avalanches.
‘Although the roads have been closed, the resort itself has been operating as normal with skiers and boarders experiencing amazingly good conditions,’ said Andreas Steibl, tourism director for the Paznaun-Ischgl resort.