270 tourists had to be rescued by helicopter from the top station of the gondola in the Glacier 3000 ski area near Les Diablerets, Switzerland. Around 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 20, 2023, the Glacier 3000 gondola got stuck mid-way to the summit, when electricity to the cable car seized to function. The cable car had to be whinged up to the top station with the emergency engine. Unfortunately a quick fix was not possible and it was decided to evacuate the 270 guests by helicopter to the mid-station, from where they were able to take the cable car down to the foot of the mountain.
Two helicopters by Air Glacier flew a total of 54 trips in 90 minutes to get the tourists back to the mid-station.
According to Glacier 3000 CEO Bernhard Tschannen, the unexpected helicopter trip was caused by the cable car’s frequency converter breaking down. A frequency converter is an electromechanical device that converts alternating current (‘AC’) of one frequency into AC of another frequency. Tschannen is hoping for mechanics to fix the converter fairly quickly, and to have the cable car operational again as soon as possible. Initially Tschannen was hoping for Friday, but currently the resort has confirmed, that the Glacier 3000 cable car will remain on hold until at least Saturday, July 22, 2023.
The resort Glacier 3000 is 20 minutes from the famous ski resort Gstaad, and 40 minutes from Monetreux. Unlike most other European resorts it does not have a village at its base. The closest village is Les Diablerets, which is in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, whereas the Glacier 3000 is in the German-speaking area.
The ski resort is owned by Gstaad local Marcel Bach and the billionaires Bernie Ecclestone and Jean-Claude Mimran. The billionaire trio bought Glacier 3000 in 2005 and successfully turned a bankrupt ski area into a year-round mountain playground. The group invested heavily into the infrastructure, adding many attractions, like a peak-to-peak suspension bridge, an ice cave, tobogganing, and dog sledding. Through these measures, they managed to give the resort a much-needed boost and extended the resort’s season to year-round operations.
Most recently, the Glacier 3000 resort opened a new double black diamond run in the 22/23 season, which features one of the steepest runs in the Alps with a 46° gradient. The run is accessed via a 870ft (265m) tunnel and is 1.875 miles (3km) long.
- Related: Construction Underway On Tunnel Through Mountain To Insane Double Black Diamond Run In Switzerland
Glacier 3000 was struck by a fire in September 2022, when the restaurant at the summit station of the Glacier 3000 gondola burst into flames. The restaurant Botta was located on the top two floors of the gondola station, situated at 9,747ft (2,971m). It was designed by world-renowned architect Mario Botta, who also designed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, NC. The construction took ten months to complete, cost $17.6 million (CHF 17 million), and opened in 2001. The fire destroyed the restaurant entirely while gondola operations resumed in November 2022. Reconstruction of the restaurant started in late June and architect Mario Botta is involved in the restoration project.
It is currently unclear if the September 2022 fire caused the failure of the frequency converter.