Gracefully Soaring into the Heights

On 25 November 2016, the Zermatt Bergbahnen AG (ZBAG) dedicated the new Gant-Blauherd chairlift, which is now called the Hublot-Express lift. Before the opening, there were months of construction under the site direction of Fabian Imboden.

Under the supervision of the construction manager of the Zermatt Bergbahnen AG (ZBAG), Anton Lauber, the technical manager Fabian Imboden made sure everything was done correctly on the construction sites at Gant and Blauherd. His coordination measures ensured a smooth running of the construction work. Environmental groups, civil engineers, construction companies, cableway builders and the ZBAG were involved during the planning and approval phase. Afterwards, countless experts swarmed to Zermatt: construction specialists, mast designers, mechanics, cable rigger, electricians, structural engineers and many more.

The Kamov Helicopter for Quick Work

Air Zermatt was responsible for the building site installation and constructing the cement foundations. "The helicopters transported the cement," explains Fabian Imboden. Fifteen tonnes were required for each foundation. "After pre-assembly at Riffelboden, the Kamov was used to anchor the steel support towers," he continued. The Kamov is a dual-motor helicopter for special transportation called the "heavyweight champion of Europe" by its fans. "The heavy payload helicopter can lift over 15 tonnes at this altitude and precisely place the load," explains Imboden. Without having to reflect, he rattles through the mission plan of the huge flying machine: "The Kamov flew here from France, worked from 7 am to 1:30 pm, and then continued to Italy for further heavy loads." In other words, the Kamov made it possible to mount seven steel support towers on their cement foundations in five and a half hours. But this also meas that Imboden previously organised the process for transportation to the site, the preassembly and preparation of the supporting elements. His many years of experience helped him with that – he has worked at ZBAG since 1993.

Protecting the Environment is an Important Aspect

Both during the planning phase as well as the execution, ZBAG pais close attention to all aspects of environmental protection. All building materials were transported by rail on the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn from Visp to Zermatt. Once there, it was reloaded on the Gornergrat Bahn to get to Riffelboden. There, the steel supports, chairs and the cable clamps of the chairs were partially assembled and prepared for flight. Then their journey continued by lorry to Gant and Blauherd. The same plan in reverse was chosen for the transportation of the old supports and materials so that everything reached the correct waste disposal site.

Cable Pulling by a Company Rich in Tradition

First is "pre-cabling." This means that a thinner cable is pulled over the towers and through the stations. With this cable, the large haul cable is pulled through. The cable is manufactured by the Fatzer Company. This enterprise was founded back in 1836 as a rope manufacturer and produces heavy-load cables for cableways, cables for architectural applications and winch cables. "The 43 mm thick cable for the new chairlift weighs around 15 tonnes," explains Fabian Imboden. The Garavanta company provides the expert cable installation. "Laying a cable is precision work. Whoever does that has a great deal of experience," according to Imboden. At the end, the cable is turned into a continuous loop with a splice. Employees from Fatzer and Garaventa along with workers from ZBAG carried out this work. Then the cable is placed on the supports once again. The cable is kept at its operating tension hydraulically while running.

And of course Imboden also knows everything else that needs to be done for the coordination and approval procedure: various test runs, staff training, acceptance by the Swiss Federal Office for Transportation, acceptance by SUVA.

And were there problems during the construction of the lift? "One time," says Imboden smiling. "When the fire-resistant glazing was delivered by a specialised transport from Germany, the huge pieces of glass fell off the lorry." This caused a delay in the delivery. The huge glazing was finally delivered just three days before the opening. "This meant there was another fire drill," says a smiling Imboden. But everything worked out, and the maiden trip took place right on time.

The New Hublot-Express

The new six-seat chairlift has been in operation since the end of November 2016 and threads the former eye of the needle between the Gornergrat and Rothorn pistes. The lift had to show what it is cable of doing already during the opening: wind and snowfall nearly prevented the opening ceremonies. But finally, the weather gods made sure that the maiden run offered an additional romantic highlight – a gorgeous colourful sunset in pink, yellow and orange. The chairlift is now called the Hublot-Express. The Swiss watch manufacturer Hublot has been a ZBAG partner for a long time. 

Technical Data 

Transportation capacity 1,800 persons per hour
Transportation type six-seat chairlift
Number of chairs 36
Speed 5 m/sec
Travelling time 3.6 minutes
Lower altitude at Gant 2,226 m
Upper altitude at Blauherd 2,604 m
Difference in altitude 378 m
Number of supports 8
Cable length 1‘965 m
Cable diameter 43 mm
Investment 8.2 million CHF
Chairlift company Garaventa / Doppelmayr
Cable company Fatzer, Romanshorn


Open lifts and pistes