Alpine Crossing: New link between Zermatt and Cervinia

Last year Zermatt celebrated the opening of the world's highest 3-S cable car after more than 3 years of construction. We already know it's not over, as another unique construction project is starting in April.

Alpine Crossing 3-S render, Zermatt
Alpine Crossing 3-S render, Zermatt

Alpine Crossing

That's exactly what the resort operator has named the project. Not unreasonably - at a record altitude in the Alps, the new cable car will connect Italy's Cervinia with the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise in Switzerland's Zermatt. Zermatt Bergbahnen AG is not wasting time, and following the opening of the construction costing more than CHF 50 million, it has officially announced that the recently opened 3-S Matterhorn Glacier Ride cable car will be extended to the Italian border at Testa Grigia. Once completed, we will travel from Plateau Rosa to the summit of the Klein Matterhorn (3821 m a.s.l.) in comfort and all year round. Until now, this has been made possible only in the summer and only for skiers and snowboarders - by means of the Plateau Rosa ski lifts, and then to the Gobba di Rollin (3899 m), which is opened only in the summer. In winter, on the other hand, to get to the summit, one had to go all the way down to Trockener Steg, where the cable car (and, as of last season, the new 3-S railroad) could reach the highest station in Europe. The full Trockener Steg (2923 m a.s.l.) - Klein Matterhorn (3821 m a.s.l.) - Testa Grigia (3458 m a.s.l.) connection is expected to be ready in the spring of 2021, and will allow travel without getting off the 28-person carriages - even for people with disabilities.

Stations and cabins

As in the case of the previous 3-S cable car, the stations will combine traditional wooden structures with modernity - walls covered with photovoltaic panels guarantee natural lighting inside and allow to generate part of the needed electricity from renewable resources. The lower station will be located right next to the station of Italy's Cime Bianche Laghi - Plateau Rosa cable car, but entirely on Swiss territory. The upper one, like the other two, will be hung from the top of the Klein Matterhorn and connected to a tunnel excavated inside the mountain. We checked - the tunnel already connects the site of the new platform.

The cabs will run on an uninterrupted route of more than 6 kilometers. As such, they will be the same structures as the Matterhorn Glacier Ride. To the existing 25 will be added 10 new 28-passenger cabins with heated seats, again designed by the Italian studio Pininfarina (known for its sports car designs for Ferrari and Maserati, among others). Two of them will again be decorated with thousands of Swarovski crystals and equipped with a glass floor, which will become translucent at the most spectacular heights ( upon purchase of a special Crystal Ride ticket). There is 363 meters of elevation difference to overcome.

3-S cable car

Once again, technology will be provided by the Italian company Leitner. The 3-S cable cars are hybrids between gondola lifts and classic cable cars. Large carriages are suspended from two suspension cables, which move at a speed of 7.5 m/s. Such a structure is high resistant to atmospheric conditions (high winds are common at these heights) while providing large throughput (up to even more than 2,000 people per hour). The connection to the previous cable car makes it possible to store and service the carriages at the lowest Trockener Steg station without having to build more facilities to maintain the cabins. The often-closed connection between Zermatt and Cervinia finally has a chance to be less vulnerable to harsh weather conditions.

Challenging construction

The heights at which construction is carried out are quite an engineering challenge. Mundane tasks become much more difficult - sub-zero temperatures for most of the year effectively hinder even the hardening of concrete. This is why the construction of this one-and-a-half kilometer section will take as long as two years. The construction will use construction facilities that were built on the Italian side during the Matterhorn Glacier Ride. A technical cable car has also been constructed from Cime Bianche Laghi to the summit of Klein Matterhorn to transport construction materials. Many of these, as in the past, will be transported by helicopters. Keep in mind that the Alpine Crossing runs right over a year-round section of the ski resort, the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.

What's next?

A few days ago we visited Zermatt and Cervinia. Taking advantage of the perfect weather, we had the pleasure of checking out the new 3-S cable car. The new carriages are extremely spacious and comfortable. The impressive views more than 150 meters above the ground are incredibly impressive and reassure us that Zermatt's winning of the best resort in the world award was justified. It's a highly invested resort, where the infrastructure is very modern and leaves most European ski resorts behind. According to information confirmed to us by Zermatt Bergbahnen, the construction of another lift connecting the Monterosa Ski resort with Valtournenche and Cervinia is under consideration. Together with Zermatt, it would form the largest connected ski resort in Europe.

Many thanks to Zermatt Bergbahnen AG for providing press materials about the Alpine Crossing project.

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