Work starts on Mont Blanc lift

24th November 2011, by Chris Gill

Funivia Monte Bianco / Helbronner lift, Courmayeur

Funivia Monte Bianco / Helbronner lift, Courmayeur

According to sources in the Aosta Valley, a project expecting to span four years is now underway on Mont Blanc; not from the Chamonix side, but from Courmayeur.

The cranes are in place and work has started on a replacement for the ageing Helbronner cable cars, which get skiers on to Mont Blanc’s (Monte Bianco) slopes from the Italian side.

The lift will climb to Pointe Helbronner (3450m), on a new line to enable the old lift to continue service until completion. It is due to start from a new valley station about 700m from the current base at La Palud (a suburb of Courmayeur). And it will be in two stages, its panoramic glass and steel cabins capable of shifting over 300,000 people a year up the mountain – for both summer and winter activities.

Funivie Monte Bianco is investing 100million euros in the project, which is also expected to include a complete redevelopment of the area around the bottom lift station. Doppelmayr Garaventa has been awarded the contract to build the new cableway, in a ultra modern design and with a smart viewing terrace at the top and a mid-station at Pavillion Mont Frey (2175m).

The old Helbronner lift has a long history, dating back to the 1940’s and carrying many expert skiers to the challenging off-piste slopes below Mont Blanc. And it made the headlines in 1961 as a cable car disaster, when a low-flying military plane clipped a cable sending three cabins crashing to the valley floor; five people died in the accident.

Some classic off-piste routes are accessed from the top, such as the Vallée Blanche and Toula Glacier descents, and some lower routes from the first station above the valley, through the Mont Fréty forest down to La Palud.

If all goes to plan, the new lift is due to open for 2014/15.

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