We need to talk about climate change in Zermatt…

This summer has seen record temperatures set around Europe, from the UK to France to Spain, and sadly Switzerland is no exception.

Freezing point at highest altitude ever

Earlier this week MeteoSwiss reported the highest ever elevation for the zero degree isotherm with the freezing point recorded at 5184m above sea level – 70m higher than the previous Swiss record from July 1995.

This Tweet from ETH Zurich’s Glaciology group shows the stark contrast over 70 years of the state of the Gornergletscher near Zermatt:

Italy/Switzerland border has moved

The melting of the Theodul glacier has even led to a dispute over whether the Testa Grigia mountain restaurant is even in Italy any more.  

The watershed has moved, meaning that around two-thirds of the once wholly-Italian refuge is technically in Switzerland.

Zermatt restaurants
The Testa Grigia refuge

Summer skiing to stop temporarily

However, the saddest news we have to share is that from this weekend (29 July 2022) the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise ski area will temporarily close.

Zermatt Bergbahnen have decided that the security risks presented by thin snow cover and cracks in the glacier mean that “maintenance of the slopes…can no longer be fully mastered”.

The resort has stressed that this is a temporary measure and that it is expressly a “time-out of summer skiing operations”.

Zermatt Glacier, 26 July 2022
Zermatt Glacier, 26 July 2022 (c) Matterhorn Chalets

Downhill race preparations continue

Preparation work will continue on the Grand Becca race piste, which will host World Cup downhill races in October and November.

Zermatt still expects the course to be fully ready by the beginning of October 2022.

“With these measures (we) can guarantee that, in the event of a drop in temperature and sufficient snowfall, training for ski teams and general summer skiing can be resumed…at any time.”

Markus Hasler, CEO of Zermatt Bergbahnen

Governments and Individuals need to change

While we always welcome guests and love sharing and showing off this beautiful resort, it’s evident that to prevent this becoming a regular occurrence we need to limit the growth of global emissions.

While governments and corporations must take the lead, as individuals we can also make a difference by taking our travels by train or by electric vehicle where possible, as well as making other simple changes to our lives.

Fortunately, Zermatt is well-suited for both these forms of transport, and has been recognised by the Swisstainable label for its excellent work on sustainability.

We remain optimistic for the future, but recognise that without change, nothing will change.

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