Chairs, lifts & luxury: Europe’s ski areas are upgrading

In the competition for winter guests, new, more comfortable facilities can be a trump card for ski areas. Combination lifts or chairlifts are just a new luxury detail.

“First class” in Finland: The new six-seater chairlift in the Ylläs ski area has heated seats and special dampers so that the chairs vibrate less in strong winds. – Visit Ylläs/dpa-tmn


the essentials in brief

  • Chairlifts with more seats are among the top ten innovations in Europe’s ski resorts.
  • Gondola lifts are also being upgraded – in Tyrol they are even environmentally friendly with solar drives.
  • Villars – Gryon in the canton of Vaud attracts with capacity: 4000 gondola passengers per hour.

Getting up the mountain faster and skiing down more slopes: For skiers and snowboarders, these can be weighty arguments when deciding for or against a ski area.

Who’s upgraded for this winter season? We have looked around in European areas and, without claiming to be exhaustive, we have highlighted some notable innovations.

Austria: New mountain and combination railways

The new mountain railway in the Galsterberg ski area in the Schladming-Dachstein region (Styria) cost around eleven million euros.

The gondola replaces its 30-year-old predecessor and is intended to bring more guests up the mountain faster. The valley and mountain stations have been redesigned and now have wooden shingle facades typical of the region.

Mountain railway gondolas chair snow
The new Rittisbergbahn near Ramsau am Dachstein offers a combination of gondolas and chairs. – Rittisberg company Leitner AG/dpa-tmn

The predecessor train has not been scrapped. It is to be rebuilt in a ski resort in Alaska.

Also in the Dachstein region, there is a new combination lift on the Rittisberg near Ramsau instead of the old four-seater chairlift.

The term gives it away: there are gondolas and chairs (with six seats). Those who are out and about on skis or snowboards can climb into one of the armchairs and leave the boards strapped to their feet.

Tobogganers, cross-country skiers or hikers can get up the mountain more comfortably in the gondolas. There is also a cross-country ski run and a winter hiking trail.

image architecture clapboard snow people ski
The stations of the new mountain railway on Galsterberg in Styria have wooden shingle facades typical of the region. – kreiner architecture/dpa-tmn

The Axamer Lizum area near Innsbruck in Tyrol has been upgraded. A new gondola runs from the parking lot to the Hoadl Plateau, replacing the chairlifts that used to run there.

A new gondola lift also goes into operation in the See ski area in the Tyrolean Paznauntal. It relieves an existing chairlift.

The Pitztal is also in Tyrol, where the new Gletscherexpress, which went into operation in summer, is completing its first winter season.

Like its predecessor, the funicular runs through a nearly four-kilometer-long tunnel, but is only powered by solar power from systems on the glacier and energy generated during the journey. The new train should also be more spacious.

Italy: chairlift with boarding conveyor belt for children

In the South Tyrolean ski area of ​​Meran 2000, a new gondola lift is starting to operate. It replaces the 30-year-old Piffing chairlift.

There is also an exchange in the Rosskopf ski area near Vipiteno: the cable car built in 1987 has had its day, its successor should offer more comfort and more capacity.

The renewed Seenock chairlift on Speikboden in Ahrntal offers a special feature for children: a boarding conveyor belt that can be raised and lowered depending on the size of the child.

Zermatt is one of the most attractive ski areas in German-speaking countries. – Unsplash

In Valtournenche in the Aosta Valley, the connection to the Breuil/Cervinia and Zermatt ski areas is being improved. The Gran Sometta chairlift replaces the old drag light and, according to the mountain railway company, is intended to transport almost 2,500 people per hour.

Switzerland: chairlift with transport capacity for 4000 people per hour

A new six-seater chairlift is scheduled to open this winter in the small ski area of ​​Bellwald in Valais.

The old train was decommissioned in spring 2022 – and the discarded seats were for sale. So they may be in some gardens or living rooms now.

The Villars – Gryon ski area in the canton of Vaud near Lake Geneva is getting an eight-seater chairlift.

gondolas ski snow mountain
Two more, already four, a whole six or a great eight? Chair lifts and gondolas have more and more transport capacity. – Unsplash

According to the Swiss Cableways, this is only the fourth of its kind in the country. It will replace the old lift on the Lac Noir – Chaux Ronde route and will transport up to 4,000 people per hour.

According to «», new six-seater instead of three-seater chairlifts are also operating in the 4 Vallées and Les Portes de Soleil ski areas.

France: Huez Express provides better connections between the village and the ski area

There are two new combination lifts consisting of gondolas and chair lifts in the Les Deux Alpes ski area. According to the France Montagnes Tourist Association, the Vallée Blanche four-seater chairlift will be replaced by a “Telemix”.

The Le Diable lift will be completely renovated. In addition to chairs, gondolas are now driving on its route, reports “”.

Mountains Snow Panorama Forest Mountains France
Alpe d’Huez – Unsplash

A new gondola runs in Alpe d’Huez. The Huez Express is intended to improve the connection between the village of the same name and the ski area. In the area itself, the new Sures combined lift replaces the Sures chairlift going up towards the Col de Maronne.

There are drastic changes in the Pyrenees ski resort of Saint-Lary, where, according to France Montagnes, 23 million euros have been invested in new facilities in the Espiaube sector. A new gondola lift and chairlift will replace several old facilities there.

Scandinavia: Quiet lift ride even in strong winds

The largest Finnish ski resort Ylläs in Lapland reports news. A six-seater chairlift replaces the Alahissi drag lift.

The resort advertises that the system is “first class”: in addition to seat heating and protective hoods (equipment that many new lifts offer), special dampers are intended to ensure that the chairs hardly vibrate even in strong winds.

Glacier Express Finland Gondolas Ski
The final touches followed in the summer: the Glacier Express in the Finnish ski resort of Levi will go into operation this winter. – Visit Levi/dpa-tmn

Around 50 kilometers north of Ylläs, in the Levi ski area, two old T-bar lifts have become obsolete. There is also a six-seater chairlift with the Glacier Express.

There is also an increase to six chairs in Sweden’s largest ski area Åre with the Stjärnliften, which replaces its two-seater predecessor, as the operating company Skistar writes.

Eastern Europe: 3.5 kilometer runway opened in the Czech Republic

The Polish Tourist Board writes that investments are also being made in the Beskids. Here, too, there are mainly six-seater chairlifts.

One goes up to the snow park in the Jaworzyna Krynicka area instead of the old four-seater chairlift. Another runs in the Master-Ski area in Tylicz, where three new runs, each one kilometer long, are being built.

Klinovec Ore Mountains ski slopes
Klínovec is the highest mountain in the Ore Mountains – starting this winter, the longest slope in the Czech Republic will run in the ski area on the German border. – Tomáš Rucký/Czech Tourism/dpa-tmn

The longest descent in the Czech Republic is now right behind the German border.

According to the ski area association AHS, the approximately 3.5-kilometer-long piste on Klínovec (German: Keilberg) in the Ore Mountains was created by connecting previously unused detour routes and new snow-making systems.

Germany with traditional operation

In fact, there are no noteworthy innovations to announce from the German ski resorts for the coming season.

According to the Association of German Cable Cars and T-bar Lifts (VDS), the investments were very much postponed due to Corona. There are plans, but “no groundbreaking new buildings” will go into operation in the coming winter season.

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