Ski resort Zermatt, located beneath Matterhorn's magical peak, is known for superlatives. Winter 2018/19 will see another highlight added to the list: the world's highest 3S cableway up to Klein Matterhon. 52 million Swiss francs were necessary to build the new Glacier Ride at the extremely demanding alpine area. After more than two years of construction, it will finally open its doors on September 29, 2018.
Europe's Highest Top Station
The new 3S cable car at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, where the summer ski resort is located as well, is one of the most spectacular cable cars in the world. One factor is its hight alone: the top station at 12,536 feet is the highest in Europe. It is located right next to the top station of the old lift that has reliably transported visitors up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise for the past 40 years and that will continue to run in the future. Hence, idle time will be a thing of the past at the base station at Trockener Steg (9,590 ft) once the second cable car has opened.
Extreme Weather and Thin Mountain Air
Around 150 people and 38 different companies are involved in the biggest construction project in the history of Zermatt Bergbahnen AG. For one, they struggled with extreme weather conditions: temperatures of up to 30 degrees, winds of up to 240 kilometres per hour, severe snowfall, or thick fog are not uncommon. Furthermore, exposed to oxygen-deficient mountain air at 13,000 feet, a person can only perform at 60 to 80 percent compared to normal. The materials as well reach their limits far sooner than at the valley.
Moreover, logistic challenges were extreme. Heavy building supplies and tools had to be transported up the mountain. Besides the building of a cable car for materials, thousands of helicopter journeys were necessary.
Here you see the effortful transport of the cables to the new cableway. The pull rope alone is around five miles long and weighs over 67 tons.
28 People Per Car
Highlight of the new cable car are its 25 ultrmodern cars, created by Italian star designers Pinifarina (Ferrari, Maserati). Up to 28 people can occupy each of the spacious cabins. Besides the panoramic windows offering impressive views, the interior lighting shaped like a starlit sky, and seats inspired by automotive design (heated of course) are sure to fascinate.
Cars With Swarovski Crystals
The four “Crystal Ride” cars, decorated with 280,000 Swarovski crystals are unique in their luxury. But there is more: after three minutes, the cabin floor changes from opaque to transparent, providing a 360 degree experience of Zermatt's unique mountain panorama.
Stations Made of Thousands of Individual Parts
Besides the new cable car, two entirely new station buildings are being created as well. The valley station is located west of Matterhorn Express's top station at 9,619 feet. The top station's spectacular location is right at Klein Matterhorn's rocky west face at 12,536 feet near the old cableway's top station.
The buildings' components were manufactured at the Leitner plant in Sterzing (South Tyrol). Tens of thousands of individual parts were sent on a long and effortful journey to Zermatt.
Blastings to Make Room for the Top Station
While the valley station is made of large glass and photovoltaic elements, the top station's building with its angular shape is reminiscent of a rock (see image). This was a conscious choice, in order to blend the metal and glass structure in with the mountain top surroundings. Before construction could begin, hundreds of blastings had to take place in order to make room for the building. This took 90 days and five tons of explosives.
Matterhorn Glacier Ride: Technical Details
|Type of cable car||3S cableway|
|Cabins||25 for 28 people each|
|Stations||Valley station 9,619 feet|
Top station 12,536 feet
|Jouney time||9 minutes|
|Capacity||2000 people per hour|
|Manufacturer||Leitner (car design by Pinifarina)|
|Construction time||April 2016 to September 2018|
|Cost||CHF 52 mio. (approx. 46 mio. euros)|
This is a video of the trial run in September:
Visions for the Future
In winter 2020/21, another cable car coming from border station Testa Gricia, is meant to join the new Glacier Ride. This would create the highest Alpine crossing over Klein Matterhorn, connecting northern Italy directly to Zermatt via cable car all year round.
Building another cableway between Ayas (Italy), and Valtournenche/Cervinia could create the possibility to seamlessly connect ski resorts Zermatt, Valtournenche/Cervinia, and Monte Rosa. With around 600 kilometres (372.8 miles) of slopes, this would make one of the largest connected ski resorts in the world.
One of the Best Ski Resorts in the World
For many years now, Zermatt has always gotten full marks at our test visits, and has been awarded as the best ski resort in the world in 2015 and 2016. Skiers find a total of 365 kilometres (226.8 miles) of slopes. It boasts impressive views of Valais's mountains. Matterhorn (14,692 ft) especially fascinates the visitors. Zermatt received especially good marks at the categories Advanced, Freeride, Terrain Parks, Service, Snow, and On Mountain Dining.
At Zermatt, skiing is not only possible in winter, but in summer as well. Around 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) of Matterhorn Glacier Paradise's slopes are open consistently from May to October.