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Huge snow storm batters The Alps
Friday January 6, 2012 - Email this article to a friend

Many resorts are closed, others are cut off and the avalanche risk is high as one of the biggest snowstorms of an already snow-filled winter hits The Alps. Check out our news, pictures and video from the thick of it. PlanetSKI reports from The Alps.

Verbier, Val d'Isere, Tignes and Zermatt are pretty much shut. Not only is there huge amounts of snow falling but also severe winds are causing added problems.

On Friday 20,000 homes in the northern French Alps were without power. In the Austrian Tirol the police said that thousands of households have also lost their electricity supply.

The storm, named Andrea, has been classified as a hurricane.

"With winds peaking at 170 kph we can safely talk about a hurricane. Heavy new snow, freezing temperatures and the hurricane we are talking about high risk. The avalanche risk across Tirol is high and it will rise," said Rudi Mair, manager of the avalanche action team in Tirol to The Austrian Times newspaper.

In parts of France the wind is reported to have had gusts of 200 kph.

On Friday morning the road from Val d'Isere and Tignes to Bourg down in the valley was shut again by an avalanche. 

It re-opened at lunchtime after a huge effort to clear the snow from the road and make sure it was safe from further avalanches.

"The avalanche risk is down to 4 on the European scale of 5. The road to La Daille is now open to pedestrians, as well as cars," said Radio Val d'Isere.

Below is a twitpic from PlanetSKI reader and local ski instructor, Lee Townend, as he tried to get to work on Friday morning.

End of the roadEnd of the road













For a video report of condition in Tignes and across The Alps see below. 

It was recorded on Thursday 5th.

Since James Cove filed that report it has now started snowing heavily in the Dolomites too and parts of eastern Austria.

In a separate story on PlanetSKI we question whether too much snow is a bad thing - see that story here

Some people are probably saying yes.

Especially those that have to clear the snow.

Clearign up in ZermattClearing up in Zermatt

















In Tignes a few people have braved it out into the storm to try to have a ski.

Into the windInto the wind













The video below is the journey from Tignes down to Bourg that was filmed on Thursday afternoon. 

It certainly won't win any awards for cinematography, but it does show the huge amounts of snow that have fallen and the state of the road.

In the Swiss resort of Zermatt an avalanche cut off the town and the railway line was closed.

The resort has had almost a metre of snow in 24 hours.

First thing on Friday morning we received this text message from a local ski school, European Snowsport, "Zermatt cut off by big avalanche. Top of town out of bounds."

Since then the Director of European Snowsport, Rowena Phillips, has sent us this update.

"There was an avalanche between Randa and Herbriggen just after midday on Thursday 5th that made the road and train line too dangerous to pass. The emergency services worked through the night to make the area safe from further avalanches so that they were able to reopen the train on Friday around midday.  As of 1700 Friday the road remained shut but this is relatively common at this time of year.
Zermatt has received approx 50cm of snow in the last 48 hours which have made for great piste conditions, but due to the gale force winds they have also made many off piste areas unsafe.  The avalanche level is at 4; high.  Within the next few days the situation will hopefully stabilise and we look forward to great skiing next week!"

Zermatt under snowZermatt under snow












PlanetSKI reader, Helen Gillespie, is in Zermatt.

"Owing to the storm, all lifts in Zermatt were closed today.  The first train out of the valley was not until 12.30 on Friday due ot the avalanche. There was also an avalanche yesterday afternoon somewhere near Bluherd, no one was hurt, and by 3pm the bus turning area near the Klein Matterhorn station was closed off owing to the mounting avalanche risk.  The storm brought we think a meter of new stuff, plus severe winds of easily F1 velocity," said Helen.

The train down to Visp in the valley normally takes an hour but the first one on Friday took four.

There was reportedly much pushing and shoving at Zermatt to get on it.

A rail snow plough ahead of the train then broke down, and after more official discussion and delay, the passenger train was apparently then employed to push it further down the valley into a siding.

The local police have just released the photo below of the avalanche.

Zermatt avalancheZermatt avalanche













Lech, Zurs and Stuben in Austria were all cut off for a time on Friday as the access roads were closed.

Other resorts were shut including La Grave, Andermatt and Val Thorens.

In our base resort of Verbier in Switzerland the resort was closed as high winds caused massive problems.

Trees were  blown down and the avalanche risk was at the top level of 5 for a while though it is now down to 4.

The whole resort was closed until 11.30 on Friday morning as the ski patrol made some of the slopes safe above the town.

Locals are now saying it is the biggest amount of snow since the record breaking year of 1999.

"The most snow I've ever seen in Verbier! I've been wondering the past couple of weeks whether this season would actually see more snow than in 1999. After the storms last night and the continued snowfall today I actually think is it now an even bigger season than that epic year," said the ski instructor and good friend of PlanetSKI, Warren Smith, over on Facebook.

We have just heard that the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana had a couple of the lower lifts running on Friday and up top over a metre of fresh snow has fallen.

One thing is for sure. The skiing and snowboarding conditions will be very good, and very dangerous, once the weather clears.

Though perhaps we should say "if" it clears.

"It's funny we keep saying here in Espace Killy that once the weather clears it will be epic, but we have been saying it for weeks. It just keeps on snowing," said the local, Richard Scott, who lives in Tignes and has been based in the resort for the past 9 years.

We will let you know here on PlanetSKI.

We are simply battoning down the hatches.

This story will be updated with pictures and further information so do check back as the storm develops.

For the spirit of the mountains

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