Adieu 162: Switzerland to retire telephone weather service from Monday

If you're still dialling 162 to get the weather forecast, there are some clouds on the horizon.

A rotary phone in a red telephone box
Calling 162 will no longer get you the weather report, from November 1st onwards. Photo by Antoine Barrès on Unsplash

Dialing 162 on the phone to hear the latest weather forecast — the service that has been in use for 30 years —  will no longer be possible from November 1st.

Due to lack of interest, Switzerland’s official weather service, MeteoSchweiz, has decided to discontinue its telephone service.

In an update on the MeteoSchweiz website, the agency confirmed the number would be given a “well-deserved retirement”. 

“With the increasing popularity of alternative information channels such as the MeteoSwiss website and the MeteoSwiss app, the use of 162 has been declining for a long time. The current usage figures and comparatively high operating costs led to the decision to discontinue the number 162 at the end of this month.”

To be maintained, three-digit phone numbers must be used by a large audience, at least several million per year.

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But in 2020, barely 350,000 calls were received on the automated service — down from about 7 million in the early 2000s.

One of the main reasons for the drop in callers is the ease of getting weather forecasts on smartphones or online.

Those who want to make sure they continue to get their info directly from MeteoSchweiz can still do so relatively easily however, as the website and app provide up to date coverage of the latest weather in cities towns and villages all across Switzerland. 

The weather is available in English, as well as in each of Switzerland’s national languages. 

Short numbers themselves are set to be phased out over the coming 14 months, with the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) ruling that all (except emergency numbers) will be phased out by the 1st of January 2023. 

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Nine injured in Swiss Alps avalanche

Nine ski hikers escaped with their lives after being caught by a major avalanche high in the Swiss Alps on Saturday, emerging with only light to moderate injuries.

Nine injured in Swiss Alps avalanche

All nine were found by rescuers and helicoptered to hospital, police said. The avalanche was triggered near the summit of the Alphubel mountain in the Saas-Fee area of the southwestern Wallis canton, close to the Italian border.

The site is near Switzerland’s iconic Matterhorn mountain and the plush ski resort of Zermatt.

“While groups of varying sizes were on the Alphubel at an altitude of 4,000 metres, an avalanche was triggered. Several were swept away by the mass of snow,” a Wallis police statement said.

Emergency services quickly scrambled to the scene in several helicopters.

A Wallis police spokesman told AFP that there were 16 people ski touring in the area, all of whom were taken off the mountain.

Nine were airlifted to hospitals in the nearby towns of Visp and Sion. Of those, three were able to leave after outpatient treatment and the others were being kept in overnight under observation.

“We’re talking about very light injuries so it’s looking positive,” the police spokesman said. “They were very lucky, we can say that.”

The other seven people on the mountain were unaffected by the avalanche or were able to extricate themselves uninjured. They too were airlifted off.

The police are not aware of any other people unaccounted for.

Emergency rescue services were on alert in the Wallis Alps due to the high numbers of winter sports enthusiasts taking advantage of the favourable weather over the Easter holiday long weekend.

Switzerland’s Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) said the avalanche risk for Saturday was 2+ (moderate) in southern Wallis, on the scale of 1 (low) to 5 (very high).

Fifteen people have died in avalanches in Switzerland between October 1, 2022 and March 31 this year, while one person remains missing, the SLF said.

The figure is close to the 20-year average of 17 deaths.