Paris grinds to a halt as rare heavy snowfall closes Eiffel Tower

Skiiers beat the traffic jams after up to six inches of snow fell on Paris CREDIT: CHESNOT/ GETTY

Skiers took to the steep streets of Montmartre as the heaviest snowfall in 30 years brought commuter misery to Paris, stranding travellers, delaying trains and flights, and bringing the bus network to a standstill.

The stunning scenes of the French capital coated in white powder delighted tourists but offered little consolation to the millions who struggled to get to work or school or catch a flight at the city’s airports.

Up to six inches of snow fell on the city and much of northern France after the clouds opened on Tuesday afternoon and kept the flakes falling until well after dawn on Wednesday.

The Paris region recorded a record number of traffic jams  stretching 460 miles in total as commuters tired to make it home on Tuesday evening.

Dozens had to sleep in their cars while others abandoned their vehicles and continued the journey on foot.

A man looks at the snow-covered Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden), near the Eiffel Tower, following heavy snowfall CREDIT: AFP

More than 200 people had to spend the night at Orly airport, while 700 people slept at Montparnasse and Austerlitz stations after their trains were cancelled on Tuesday evening.

Hundreds of other stranded commuters slept in 46 emergency shelters opened in the greater Paris region.

Heavy goods vehicles remained barred from the main routes in the region, leaving lorries stacked up along the motorways leading to Paris until the weather eases.

Temperatures were set to fall further overnight on Wednesday, dropping to -6C CREDIT:  CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP

But temperatures were set to fall further overnight Wednesday, dropping to -6C, which is likely to freeze the heavy snow and make conditions even more treacherous.

On Wednesday police told drivers to leave their cars at home and take public transport if necessary.

But the transit system was thrown into chaos by the snow.

Several tram and commuter rail lines shut down completely, and almost all bus services were halted.

A rare coating of pristine snow delighted tourists at attractions like the Notre-Dame cathedral CREDIT: THOMAS SAMSON/  AFP

The SNCF national rail company said it had been forced to reduce the speed of its high-speed TGV trains because of the snow and advised customers to postpone their journeys.

The Eiffel Tower, one of the world’s most visited tourists attractions, was closed for a second day in a row due to the weather.

But tourists were treated to the splendour of the French capital covered in a rare coating of pristine snow.

And the wintry weather was a delight for many schoolchildren as well as the handful of ski and snowboard fans who flocked to  Sacre-Coeur basilica at the top of Montmartre hill.

They managed to get in about an hour of runs on Wednesday morning on the slopes of the park that descends from the church, as well as on some nearby streets, before being chased off by the police.

“The snow is good, a little powdery,” a man who gave his name as Gilles told AFP news agency.

He said he was the founder and sole member of the “Montmartre Ski Club”, and wore a sweatshirt with the club’s logo and altitude – 130 metres above sea level.

Source: Paris grinds to a halt as rare heavy snowfall closes Eiffel Tower

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