After more than two years of work and CHF52 million ($53 million), the world’s highest “3S” cable car system was inaugurated Saturday in southern Switzerland’s Zermatt resort.
The grand opening was attended by some 500 guests as well as Swiss transport minister Doris Leuthard. Dubbed the Matterhorn Glacier Ride, the system connects the Trockener Steg (2,939 metres/9,642 feet) and the Klein (Little) Matterhorn (3,883 metres/12,740 feet) peaks.
Tri-cable systems (often abbreviated 3S for 3-seil, which means three ropes in German) have two supporting cables plus a looped traction cable. Currently there are 15 worldwide, but Zermatt’s system “surpasses them all in height and in the long range between two of its three pylons," according to Jan Sorg, project engineer for Italian cable car manufacturer Leitner Ropeways.
With its 25 gondolas, which are wheelchair and stroller-accessible, Zermatt’s system can transport up to 2,000 people per hour. The nine-minute ride suspends passengers at a maximum height of 198 metres.
Four “luxury” cabins have also been specially designed with floors that become transparent during the short journey, so riders can see the mountainous view below. Round trips in the regular cabins will cost CHF100, with the luxury cabin rides going for CHF115.
The new ride will complement, rather than replace, the resort’s existing cable car system, which can transport 600 people per hour. The combined systems should allow gondolas to operate 365 days a year, and help shorten ride wait times, which could previously reach up to an hour and a half during the peak winter tourism season.