Trains have begun running to Zermatt where more than 13,000 tourists have been trapped for two days because of heavy snow.

The local Matterhorn Gotthard railway company said the track between Zermatt and Tasch had been cleared of snow and shuttle services had resumed.

Helicopter airlifts were being provided as the only method of travel from the snow-bound Swiss ski resort.

The unusually heavy snowfall and avalanches have caused havoc across the Alpine region, and led to several casualties.

Up to 6ft of snow fell in 36 hours in parts of Savoie, leading French forecasters to describe the snowfall as the kind that is only seen “once in every 30 years”.

It led to a number of avalanches and caused power cuts and road closures, disrupting transport services.

Skiing has not been possible with the avalanche risk level set at maximum for the first time in ten years.

Twenty-nine people were able to escape after a five-storey building was hit by an avalanche in the Italian Alpine resort of Sestrieres late on Monday. They were able to flee through the garage, the BBC reported.

British skier John Bromwell remains unaccounted for after he was last seen on the slopes in the French resort of Tignes on Sunday.

Dramatic photos have been published by media outlets showing workers cutting through a 22ft wall of snow to clear a road in south-east France.

Taken by Alain Duclos, they showed the ice corridor reconnecting Bessans and Bonneval-sur-Arc in the Savoie region.