The Furgenn Lift, on the boarder between Cervinia and Zermatt is probably one of the most iconic “lost lift”
The funicular was built in 1950 and kept functioning for over 40 years. The cabins had a capacity of 25 people each, linking Plan Maison with the Furgenn peak, at 3,486m.
You could reach the 1,000 meters of vertical in a completely suspended cable system, 2.5 km long. Making this lift one of most audacious ski transport projects of the time.
The top lift station, still visible today, included a traditional Italian style coffee bar. Here skiers could get what the Italians call “il goccio del coraggio” (the drop of bravery: coffee with a shot!). Back then a little espresso with grappa would go a long way.
The ski slope would drop pretty vertically from the lift station and follow the crest towards the beloved Matterhorn. This enabled skiers to be right on the border between the Switzerland and Italy.
Due to the slope’s exposure and the difficulties of bringing grooming machinery, the piste would often have bumps or heavy powder.
In 1993 Cervino Spa; the Cervinia lift company, decided to shut the Furgenn lift for good. This happened after the rupture of one of a cable due to large ice formations overnight. After the cable rupture, the Cervino lift company deemed the repairs too expensive to allow the lift to continue. Additionally, the difficult slope wasn’t attracting so many skiers and the top station needed a complete structural renovation.
Some people in Zermatt still tell stories of feeling the building vibrating (if not shaking) every time a gondola reached the top…
At the time the fashion for offpiste skiing wasn’t anywhere near what we see today. Significantly, the last 10 years have seen a constant growth in the market, prompting the question whether it might be a possiblity to reopen this amazing lift.
In the below video, dated 1968, it’s possible to see the bottom section of the same Furgenn black run and how close you could get to the Matterhorn.
And finally, here is the Furggen lift being turned into legend by Martini. The lift and the backdrop was so iconic that Martini (very much “the drink” of 70s) made an advert with the lift and the slope at the centre. Enjoy and Cheers!