In Queensland, some houses are built off the ground, on stilts. This allows for a breeze to cool down the houses, and every degree helps in such a tropical place. So why on earth are there so many huts in Zermatt that are raised off the ground? Being 1,620 metres from sea level and miles from the equator, Zermatt doesn’t really have a reputation as a tropical haven, yet these huts are dotted around town like ants outside their nest.
A local explained all. The huts are used to store animal feed and sometimes animals during the cold months. One hut we saw had sheep wool hanging out its open slat windows and the local said the sheep had been in there until recently. But that doesn’t explain why the huts are raised off the ground. Apparently, Zermatt has had a rodent problem, so the huts were built off the ground — and often with stone at the base — to prevent the rodents from climbing up into the sheds that stored feed and eating it. The huts are still used to store feed to this day, so they’re obviously doing their job well.
Others have told me that the gap allows snow underneath, for insulation or in case of avalanche, but I don’t see how a hut would survive an avalanche, and I’m not convinced that the ground is any less insulating than a layer of snow. The internet is proving very unhelpful in finding out any more, so please do let me know if I’ve got this all wrong.