Construction of the world’s highest 3S cableway involves building two new stations from scratch: the valley station will be built to the west of the Matterhorn Express mountain station, at an altitude of 2923 metres, and the mountain station will be on the western side of the Matterhorn glacier paradise (Klein Matterhorn) at 3821 metres.
The new valley station
The new valley station is to be built directly alongside the Matterhorn Express mountain station. Passengers arriving on the Matterhorn Express will be able to take an escalator or lift down to the boarding platform of the 3S station, which is five metres lower. Another entrance is to be built at the south-west corner of the building. This access will be around 11 metres below the level of the boarding platform and is intended primarily for the use of incoming skiers.
The station hall will be divided into a public section with the boarding/alighting area for passengers and an operational area for technical equipment and the gondola garage. A special lift will guarantee accessibility for wheelchair users. Passengers returning from Matterhorn glacier paradise will be able to get back down to the level of the Matterhorn Express via a separate escalator or the lift. The 3S cableway entrance will be reached from the ski resort by means of a two-lane escalator.
The façade of the new valley station will feature large areas of solar panels and glass sections in a repeating pattern rising from the lower edge of the garaging level up to the top of the roof. The materials of the building’s exterior will provide protection from the surrounding environment of rocks, scree, snow and glaciers, and the harsh forces of nature, at the same time giving visitors a close-up experience of these from a sheltered position.
The building will be a counterpoint to the gaunt-looking valley station of the old Klein Matterhorn cable car, which has dominated the location hitherto. Built 40 years ago for the highest cable car system in Europe, the old station building is representative of the architecture of its time: a sturdy fortress of reinforced steel. By contrast, the new facility will be constructed as a light glass body, which when viewed from the ski resort will appear to hover almost weightlessly above the rock.
The new mountain station
The new mountain station will be sited at an altitude of 3821 metres. The boarding and alighting areas will lead into a tunnel which runs along a north-south axis. The cableway machinery will be completely enclosed within the station hall. A gate will allow the front part of the station to be locked up outside operating hours. The technical areas such as the control room and a space to park a faulty gondola will be located on the lower level. If a gondola is prevented by a fault from returning to the garage at the valley station it can be lifted off the cable system by the crane in the hall and parked in the holdig area. During the construction period, a materials cableway will be located to the south of the station.
The design language of the new mountain station takes its cue from the existing buildings on Matterhorn glacier paradise (Klein Matterhorn). Like its 1970s predecessor, the building’s angular, crystalline form is reminiscent of a block of rock, with sharp edges softened by the forces of nature. This kinship with the structure of the rock combines with the architectural references to the shape of the mountain peak to integrate the new building nicely into the context of the mountain top.
The shell of the building will be made from metal and glass, with solar panels fitted where possible to harvest energy from the sun – similar to the design of the restaurant on the south face of the peak. The frame will be made of timber, as an ecological alternative to concrete and steel.
Garaging area for gondolas
The gondolas will be parked automatically at the valley station. The automatic system is designed to accommodate various permutations for positioning the gondolas. Of a total of 25 cabins, four will be in the station turnaround area, eight in an extension loop at the station and thirteen will be parked on a separate spur.