Avalanche of feelings, what happens when you’re in one

By Janet Hommel Mangas

I was sitting at my desk at work on Tuesday morning when I noticed the Geneva AP caption: Snow, avalanche risks strand 13,000 tourists in Zermatt.

I admit I normally would have thought “yikes” or on a good day said a “quickie prayer” for people I didn’t know. But this day was different, because the news report was attached to my daughter Chloe’s Facebook with the post: “So this is us. We rolled in on the very last train before they shut down. Today was … leisurely.”

Chloe and my son-in-love, Michael Tillman, left a few days before the New Year to backpack and tour Europe. Spending New Year’s Eve and five days in Paris, then to Nice Beach in the French Riviera, and then into Switzerland — taking the last train into Zermatt, which is at the foot of the Matterhorn, one of the highest summits in the Alps.

I was glad they had run into a “bit of snow” because they left before we Hoosiers received our first good snow and Michael was disappointed they had missed it. But I was still oblivious, maybe because I was working, to the dire news reports when Chloe called.

Chloe: “Hey Mom”

Oblivious Mom: “Hey Chloe — looks like you got a little snow.”

Chloe: “Yes the power was out, but just came back on and the Avalanche rating is very high — it’s a five.”

Oblivious Mom: “What’s the scale? Is that like a 5 out of 10?”

Chloe: (We were Facetiming, so I actually saw her furrow her brows.) “No Mom, the chance of an Avalanche is ‘very high’ — it’s a 5 out of 5 chance. They’ve shut down all the ski slopes, all the trains (the major ground transportation to get in or out) and people have been scrambling to fly out by helicopter.” We got over a meter (39”) of snow in 24 hours.

Suddenly concerned Mom: “Oh my goodness Chloe — are you safe? What floor are you on?” (I only understand tornadoes and winter storms on flat topography).

Chloe: “Yes we’re fine, Zermatt is beautiful. Last night, we were walking along the streets after they were cleared of snow and some of the shops were handing out free cheese with fresh bread cubes. I did, however find out you can’t walk on top of a meter of freshly fallen snow — I intentionally tried and fell right through it.”

Concerned Mom: “So what do you do if you’re in the middle of an avalanche? I know you can swim, ski and scuba dive, but I don’t think those skills will help you in this matter.”

Chloe: (Pretty sure I heard Michael laughing in the background.) They are shooting off cannons, which allow the snow to come down in smaller sections deterring an avalanche. But, they expect the trains to be moving in a few days. People are flying out by helicopter, but we’re going to hang out and wait — we’re fine.”

We said our “I love you’s,” and the following day I read another news report titled “Thousands evacuated from Alps after heavy snowfall cuts off Swiss Ski resort.” The story ended with a quote: “The atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. No one can go skiing or hiking, but it’s quiet, even a little bit romantic.”

Less concerned Mom: Sigh.

Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.