by Travel writer and Lucy Aspden, The Daily Telegraph, December 8, 2016
The Austrian resort of Sölden in the Tirol region has opened a new state-of-the-art gondola which transports more people per hour in a faster time than any other lift system in the world.
Able to move 4,500 people per hour, the new Giggijoch Mountain Gondola travels from a base station in the centre of Sölden to the Giggijoch mountain, a popular meeting point for ski schools and a base for lunchtime gatherings. It also accesses lifts going to other parts of the mountain.
Passengers are whisked from the village up the mountain in a record time of eight minutes, a trip that used to take close to 15. By almost halving the journey time the new gondola has set a new record for capacity.
The new gondola in Sölden is just the latest in a line of ski resort innovations that are future-proofing the snow-sports industry. The French resort of Tignes recently announced it will be building a 400m indoor slopes at 2,000m to combat climate change. The Skyway Monte Bianco rotating lift in Courmayeur, heralded as “the eighth wonder of the world,” is also another example of how ski resorts are having to invest to satisfy a clientele who seek state-of-the-art infrastructure to iron out any inconveniences, including lack of snow and slow lifts, during a winter holiday.
The Bergbahnen Sölden Mountain Lift Company, which is responsible for the building and running of the lift, has built 26 new pilons to support the cable. All are set lower than before to help with the stability of the cabins, which move at six and a half metres per second, in strong winds and bad weather .
Keen to make a modern statement, the two new stations – one in the village (1,362m) and one on the mountain (2,283m) – have been designed by Johann Obermoser, the architect behind the resort’s Ice Q mountain restaurant, which rose to global fame as the setting for the Hofflier Clinic in the latest J ames Bond film Spectre .
The eye-catching base station is a mixture of concrete, steal and thin plastic, while the terminal itself sits upon a slim tower 13m above the ground, reducing the footprint of the building on the ground and creating an iconic structure in the centre of Sölden.
Holes drilled in the foil-coated steel wrapping around the station project a mountain landscape on the walls when the sun shines through them – a creative statement to compliment the system’s new technology.
Forget the early-morning rush – the lift introduces a new queuing system to avoid mass build-ups at busy periods. The cabins now move through both stations in a straight line, and a number of entrance gates parallel with the cabins mean that skiers and snowboarders are able to pass through and enter a cabin quicker than if they have to funnel through a single gate and wait for a cabin to travel around the station.
Gone too are the days of having to walk up flights of stairs to access the cabins. the new base station has a level walk-in entrance for skiers and snowboarders approaching from the slopes. At the top terminal it’s much the same, with the gondolas arrive parallel to the slopes, meaning a speedy exit for passengers.
In an attempt to put itself on the sustainable map, Sölden will be upcycling the old mountain gondola. The old lift system, which ran from 1998 until April 2016, will be transferred to Hochoetz further down the Otztal valley.
Need to know
Das Central Hotel, in the centre of Sölden, is just five minutes from the new Giggijoch gondola. Double rooms are available from €201 per person per night, based on two sharing on a half-board basis.
This article was written by Travel writer and Lucy Aspden from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.