Keeping the streets clear of snow is vital in Zermatt. In the first of our blog posts about the logistics of keeping ice from building up, we looked at how the resort uses salt to de-ice the streets.
In this post, we answer another question we often get asked: “Why is the snow cleared right down to the tarmac?”
Why are the roads cleared all the way to the tarmac?
Aesthetically, it’s true that the village looks prettier when it’s full of snow, but the policy of ‘black clearance’ (i.e clearing snow in Zermatt right down to the asphalt) is in place for a reason.
When it’s warm in the day and cold at night, the constant cycle of freeze/thaw destroys the roads. Potholes can increase accidents and damage vehicles.
In winter, Zermatt’s population can increase to 40,000 guests and residents, the majority of whom are transported around the resort by electric bus or taxi. It’s important to ensure continual access for vehicles.
What about just leaving Bahnhofstrasse with snow on it?
This is a nice idea, but the difficulty here is the high level of traffic on the key access route.
The other issue is that it runs in a north/south direction, which means that it’s caught in the sunlight and snow melt (then the subsequent freeze) is guaranteed.
On top of that running under Bahnhofstrasse are sewage and water pipes, power lines, internet and phone lines. The heat generated from all of these means that the snow thaws from below, as well as above and results in a thick layer of ice forming.
How is the snow cleared?
The snow clearance team in Zermatt starts early every day…at 4am!
The aim is to ensure all the work is done before the holidaying public are up and about.
Equipped with ploughs, tillers and snow shovels, twelve machine operators, start clearing the snow while we are all still sleeping.
Ploughing the roads takes about 3-4 hours in low traffic conditions, but the complete task of removing all the snow takes about 6-8 hours.
The ‘machine’ team are supported by a twenty-strong ‘foot’ team, who concentrate on clearing all the stairs and footpaths that cannot be cleared of snow with machines.
“Viele danke!” to the snow clearing team
The next time you are in Zermatt, making your way to the lift for another wonderful day on the mountain, spare a thought for the resort’s hard-working snow clearing team – up since before dawn to make your day easier.