Zermatt has always been a fertile environment in which visionary projects and pioneering spirit have been able to flourish, and the village continues to be a cauldron of ideas today. One such is the vision of the Alpine Crossing.
Franz Julen, Board Chairman of Zermatt Bergbahnen AG, describes the vision of the Alpine Crossing as follows:
Visionary projects are a part of tradition in Zermatt. Without visionary ideas, Zermatt would not be what it is today: one of the best-positioned and most successful tourist destinations in the world. The Matterhorn glacier ride, which opened in the autumn of 2018, takes this tradition one step further. However, the construction of the highest 3S cableway in the world on the Matterhorn glacier paradise (Klein Matterhorn) is just the beginning of a much bigger vision: a continuous cableway connection between Zermatt and Italy. An Alpine Crossing. This will be made possible by the addition of another structurally similar 3S cableway between Testa Grigia and the Matterhorn glacier paradise. By the spring of 2021 it should be possible for visitors to travel all the way from Zermatt to Cervinia or vice versa without having to battle the elements. We expect this to provide even greater added value for our ski resort and also to enhance the appeal of the Matterhorn glacier paradise peak to day-trippers.
“Zermatt never stands still. And Zermatt Bergbahnen plays an important part in that. We intend to continue shaping visionary ideas and implementing significant projects.”
The Alpine Crossing project focuses fully on the Matterhorn glacier paradise as a tourist destination. The highest mountain station in Europe and the attractions associated with it already enjoy great popularity. Over 400,000 visitors come to the Klein Matterhorn every year. Now, this unique peak is set to become easily accessible to visitors coming from Italy as well. At the moment the journey from Breuil-Cervinia to the Matterhorn glacier paradise can only be made on skis or a snowboard. Visitors have to travel from Cervinia to Testa Grigia by cableway, then strap on their sports equipment and set off for the descent towards Trockener Steg. From there, the Matterhorn glacier ride takes them to the peak.
The Alpine Crossing cableway project aims to create a link between Testa Grigia and the Matterhorn glacier paradise. When the section is open, pedestrians will be able to reach the Klein Matterhorn from the Italian side in comfort. There will even be wheelchair access along the whole connection from Breuil-Cervinia to Zermatt via the Matterhorn glacier paradise. The Alpine Crossing will not only provide added value for visitors holidaying in Cervinia. Zermatt Bergbahnen AG is thinking ahead.
The Swiss are masters of tunnel building and exploiting winding mountain passes. Tunnels are a perfect solution if you want to save time, but there is nothing to see. For commuters it’s the perfect solution, but tourists have a different attitude to transport and want to be able to see and do as much as possible in a short time. The Alpine Crossing provides the perfect alternative to a tedious trip in a tunnel.
For people travelling through Europe, the new cableway connection opens up whole new route-planning opportunities. For example, from the airport in Milan you could take the train and bus through the idyllic Aosta Valley to Breuil-Cervinia, where you can rest and relax after a tiring flight. Next day, take the cableway and settle down for the spectacular trip across the Alps. Bulky luggage is brought straight to the accommodation you have booked in Zermatt, so you don’t have to worry about that. At an altitude of almost 4000 metres above sea level – on the Matterhorn glacier paradise – there’s time for a short stop. The sight of the 38 four-thousanders from the viewing platform is enough to take anyone’s breath away. The Restaurant Matterhorn glacier paradise offers refreshment and there are further activities to enjoy in the form of the Glacier Palace and Cinema Lounge. Then take the Matterhorn glacier ride and Matterhorn Express down into Zermatt village. Once you’ve checked into your hotel, you’re free to enjoy gourmet cuisine, shopping, hiking, biking and skiing. With so much on offer, Zermatt really merits a stay of several days. And when it’s time to move on, just hop on the train to Visp and follow your nose to Paris, or wherever.
Milan, Zermatt, Paris – a special kind of journey, and one sure to linger in the memory.
The Theodul Pass, over which the border between Switzerland and Italy runs, was for centuries an important transport and trading route between Zermatt and Breuil-Cervinia. As skiing grew in popularity and became more widespread during the last century, the use of the Theodul Pass evolved as well. It became probably the most travelled pass in the Alps – not by cars or motorcycles, but by skiers.
It was the Conti di Cervinia, Count Lora Totino, who paved the way for people to access the Schwarzsee lake and Theodul area. In founding Cervino SPA, still known to this day, he was responsible for creating a tourist region in the valleys around the Matterhorn which promoted and encouraged holiday transport on cableways and funicular railways. The starting point of this project was Breuil-Cervinia, where the various forms of transport were to be produced.
Between 1935 and 1939, this Italian company built the Cervinia-Testa Grigia cableway in several stages. The project was completed on 4 March 1939: the cable car from Plan Maison to Plateau Rosa (Testa Grigia) started operations, establishing the first link between Zermatt and Cervinia. In the same year, the Italian company launched the Testa Grigia – Gandegg – Riffelberg cableway project. Zermatt’s electorate voted in favour of the project and accorded the Italian company construction and transit rights for the next 80 years. If everything had turned out as planned, a large part of the Zermatt skiing and hiking area would have been developed economically by Cervino SPA. But with the outbreak of the Second World War, the project came to a standstill and it did not resume at the end of the war following an intervention by the municipality of Zermatt.
In 1946, the citizens of Zermatt under the leadership of the then mayor and municipal president Othmar Julen decided to develop the ski resort of Zermatt themselves. The first section to open was the link between Zermatt and Furi in 1956. The second section, Furi to Schwarzsee, opened a year later. The next big step followed in 1979. With the opening of the cable car from Trockener Steg to the Klein Matterhorn, the skiing areas of Zermatt and Cervinia were also linked from the Zermatt side. The building of Europe’s highest mountain station and the cableway with what at that time was the world’s longest single cable span was a remarkable pioneering achievement. Since then it has been possible for skiers to move between the Zermatt and Cervinia skiing areas. But those on foot were not able to use the crossing.
This situation was not remedied by the opening of the Matterhorn glacier ride, which made the Klein Matterhorn accessible 365 days of the year. In 2021, the final gap in the link between Cervinia and Zermatt will be closed. With the connection between the Matterhorn glacier paradise and Testa Grigia, Zermatt Bergbahnen AG will complete the highest continuous cableway in the Alps. This Alpine Crossing will see the dreams of a link between the skiing areas of Zermatt and Cervinia come true, dreams harboured by several generations of the population around the Matterhorn for more than 80 years.