“Stranded” in Zermatt, Switzerland
These are the headlines we woke up to in Zermatt, Switzerland last week, along with emails and Facebook messages from friends asking if we were okay. We had to laugh… yes, we were ‘stranded’ in a 4-star hotel, eating Swiss fondue, drinking wine, and watching the most epic snowfall we had ever been witness to in such a short period of time.
Zermatt is a beautiful village tucked at the end of a box canyon in the Swiss Alps beneath the mesmerizing Mount Matterhorn, and this year, home to the 28th (ish) annual Milliman ski trip. A group of 21 of us had arrived (some without luggage for several days thanks to the weather/travel woes that affected the US the weekend of Jan 6th).
Zermatt is car-free – only electric taxis and snowplows are allowed in town – and though delivery trucks can take the road from Taasch (the closest town) to Zermatt, no public transportation is allowed by road, only by train. So when the train was shut down due to avalanche activity and high avalanche risk, the only way to get from Zermatt to Taasch was by helicopter. So technically, yes, people who needed to leave town on Tuesday and Wednesday, were ‘airlifted’, aka took the 3-minute helicopter ride, and then took the bus out of Taasch back to Zurich. Two of our group did need to leave on Wednesday and they captured their ride, and that of their luggage, on video:
The mountain was closed on Tuesday, January 9, and electricity did go out for a short time, so for our group that meant:
- Romantic candlelight breakfast, snow hiking draped in huge wet snowflakes all around us, and an evening meal of raclette and wine while laughing over our ‘dire’ situation; and
- An epic snow fall that led to 3 subsequent days of sunshine and deep powder skiing under the Matterhorn, with a bonus day skiing over the pass into Cervinia, Italy on our last day.
A recap in pictures…
Over 5 feet of now falling in 48 hours:
Some of our group got in on snow removal chores in the village.
“Trapped” in these dire surroundings, with barely enough food or drink to sustain us…
And after the snowfall… gorgeous scenery, epic powder and skiing Switzerland to Italy and back.
After the group let, Mark and I rode the Glacier Express train from Zermatt to St. Moritz. “Express” is a bit of a misnomer; in fact, the Glacier Express train has the reputation of being the slowest express train in the world. But that is just perfect. With panoramic windows, white table cloth lunch, and arguably the most stunning scenery in the world, this is a train ride you want to go on forever. Having ridden this route in both fall (glorious fall colors above green green pastures with snow-capped Alps above) and winter (miles and miles of winter wonderland crisscrossed with ski resorts, cross-country ski routes, miles-long sledding hills, snowshoe/hiking trails and picturesque chalets) we highly recommend this ride.