Four Season Skiing at Klein Matterhorn
Located in the spectacular Pennine Alps, the Klein Matterhorn is the second highest peak in Switzerland‘s Zermatt-Cervinia ski area and boasts Europe’s highest cable car – a fact which is advertised on a billboard at the 3,883 meter summit. The panoramic view from this summit is breathtaking, and with generous snow cover all year round, the Klein Matterhorn is a popular destination with snow sport enthusiasts. Promoted as the ‘Matterhorn Glacier Paradise’, the peak of the Klein Matterhorn is part of the Plateau Rosa glacier on the border of Italy and Switzerland.
Europe’s highest cable car had to overcome many obstacles before it was constructed. After negotiating with the Swiss Nature Conservation Society and the Swiss Alpine Club, two areas (Matterhorn and Monte Rosa) were designated as protected zones, with a third area being approved for tourism development. Objections by the citizens of Zermatt and environmentalists caused delays in granting the license for the cable car construction, with permission being granted in December 1973.
With the red-tape out of the way, the next challenge was to recruit workers who were willing and able to labor at the high altitudes of the three construction sites – the lower terminal, tower sites and mountain terminal. The construction eventually started in August 1976. The terminal at the peak proved to be the most challenging task, with up to 2,000 cubic meters of concrete being transported by helicopter to the site. To accommodate the below freezing temperatures, the concrete was mixed with warm water and anti-freeze before being ferried in insulated tanks to the site. Workers had to contend with temperatures that dropped below 40 degrees Celsius, and winds that reached a speed of more than 100 km/h. By the summer of 1977 the project was ready for the installation of the 35.8 kilometers of cables that would carry the two 100-passenger cabins.
In December 1979, the cable car carried its first passengers to the summit of Klein Matterhorn. Since then an average of 560,000 people visit the summit of Klein Matterhorn each year, many of whom make their way through the tunnel in the mountain to the ski slopes of one of Europe’s most beautiful ski areas. If you have the good fortune to be among the skiers enjoying this experience, give a thought to the workers who made this possible under very challenging circumstances.