The route up to the Männlichen from the Alpine Hotel Wengen could hardly be more comfortable: the bottom station of the cable car is located directly opposite the hotel. The large cabin takes six minutes to reach the top station, which is 2,229.90 meters above sea level. We owe this luxury to the avalanche winter of 1999.
The avalanche winter of 1999 owes its name to the numerous avalanches that occurred in January and February of that year. A large part of the Alpine region was affected, from the French Hautes Alpes to Switzerland and the Tyrol. The consequences were sometimes so catastrophic that, for the first time, danger level 5 ("very high") on the European avalanche risk scale was declared for several days.
In the Alpine region, many traffic routes were blocked and entire valleys were cut off. In Switzerland alone, some 1,200 avalanches were recorded, with a total of 17 deaths in buildings and on roads. The bottom station of the Wengen-Männlichen cable car was also affected.
The Wengen-Männlichen aerial tramway went into operation on July 22, 1954. At the beginning, the cabins could accommodate 40 persons, but in 1963 they were replaced by cabins with a seating capacity of 50. In 1973, the 425 hp engine brought a further upgrade, increasing the transport capacity by about 12%. Waiting times at the bottom station began to decrease.
The third technical expansion took place in 1991 and 1992. With the exception of the top and bottom stations, the old ropeway was completely renovated and the existing cabins were replaced by two spacious 80-seat cabins. The travel time was reduced from 6 to 7 minutes to 4 to 5 minutes.
In the winter of 1999, an avalanche hit the bottom station of Wengen with full force. The platform was covered with snow, trees and stones over ten meters high. As a result, operations had to be interrupted for several months and the ropeway was no longer allowed to operate from its former location.
What happened next? In April 1999, the board of directors decided to move the bottom station out of the avalanche zone. No sooner said than done! Plans were drawn up at lightning speed, permits were obtained and construction work was carried out. At the beginning of December 1999, the first cabin took off from the new location in the direction of Männlichen.