Zermatt, Switzerland (CNN) — It was drinks as usual in the bars of Zermatt after a day’s skiing in the Swiss Alps earlier this week.
The aprés ski crowd in this skier’s paradise showed no signs of panic as they sipped wine outdoors, despite the rest of the world going into lockdown mode amid the spread of coronavirus.
In happier times, Daron Rahlves was skiing during ‘Race the Face’ in Zermatt in 2018.
Mika Merikanto/Red Bull via AP Images
Swiss authorities ordered the closure of the mountain railways servicing the area until at least April 30, 2020, according to a Zermatt Tourism statement sent by spokeswoman Fabienne Fux-Schaller to CNN Travel around 8 p.m. local time.
Saturday’s trains out of the remote mountain village were packed with travelers loaded down by bags of ski gear. Many wore face masks or wrapped scarves around their face and mouth in the close quarters of the crowded trains.
Like the bars in Zermatt, the trains’ minibars were also closed to travelers, without so much as a water bottle available for purchase.
Italy, of course, had already shuttered its ski resorts during the country’s mandated lockdown.
Chaos and fear at warp speed
A new ropeway with a view of the Matterhorn mountain had opened in September 2018 after three summers of construction work.
Dominic Steinmann/Keystone via AP
The chaos and fear that one day earlier appeared nonexistent in Zermatt, accelerated at warp speed the morning after visitors learned of the news.
Friday afternoon’s sunny skies and warm temperatures saw travelers taking a break from the slopes with a mountainside lunch and wine. By nearly all accounts, the vibe — before the announcement — was normal, at least for those travelers able to insulate themselves from constant media coverage.
But by Saturday’s first light, precautionary measures like these would seem like small peanuts in the new world order.
The Zermatt bubble, as a genial German bartender at a local bar described the scene just two nights earlier, had burst.