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SWISS ALPS Story by Breanna Thackerson


the mountain to reach and a fresh foot of snow blankets their town every night. How do they travel to work and school ev- ery day? How do they receive groceries, medical care or gas to heat their home? How can this family live a normal life under these conditions? The Swiss make it look easy. They successfully transport


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people and goods from mountaintop to valley, town to town and peak to peak by using a complex system that is seen fre- quently throughout the Bernese Oberland. Everything about alpine life relates back to one component of living in the Alps: transportation. Anne-Marie Goetschi, product manager for Mürren, Swit-


zerland, said the city of Mürren and the Jungfrau region have an efficient interweaving transportation system that allows them to live a simple, car-free life. “It’s a car-free resort because it has always been car free,” she


said. “It’s a little more difficult than what I would say is so- called ‘normal life,’ but everything is organized.”


Cable Car For tourists looking to visit the alpine town of Mürren,


driving is not an option. Before their present mode of trans- portation up the mountain was built, a train car was attached to rails and pulled up the mountainside by a steel cable. This transportation system, known as a funicular, is still found throughout the Alps. Before cable cars were constructed, funiculars carried pas-


sengers up and down the mountain. Ruedi Zimmermann, en- gine driver and head of train and cable car maintenance, said transportation experts began to notice a change in the moun- tain’s patterns in the 1950s. “In 1952, they had a problem from the [downward] moving


of the hill, and they had to fix it,” he said. Because of the mountain’s shifting position, the steeply


angled tracks were no longer able to support the moving fu- niculars. It wasn’t until 2006 that they were able to complete construction on their more modern mode of transportation. The cable car hangs on 4,700 feet of 3-inch-thick steel ca-


bles that run up the side of the mountain. The cables are at- tached to steel posts for increased security. With extra cable, security locks and a back-up motor, the cable car safely carries passengers from the valley of Lauterbrunnen to Grütschalp several times a day. Not only is the cable car used for travelers, but it is also the


primary way to transport everything from luggage and furni- ture to groceries and gas. Zimmerman said transitioning to the cable car created a need for the effective transportation of goods. “In former times, [we] would unload the luggage with a small


82| ALPINE LIVING 2011


magine a family of four living in a small, secluded town nestled in the Alps, where no cars travel high enough up


Above: Many trains in the Alps are equipped with fl ats for transporting goods. Right: Though not a part of daily life, helicopters represent an important safety net for those living in the Alps. | Photos by Breanna Thackerson Opening page: The gondola from Grindelwald to First takes travelers to the zipline, to a trick area for snowboarders, and wide open trails for skiers. Buy a high elevation lift pass for use of this gondola. | Photo by Kailey Bissell


cable car to take it from the funicular coming up onto the train,” Zimmerman said. “T en later on, [we] had a crane on the side of the train that would liſt it from one place to the other. With the new construction, [we] had to fi nd another solution.” Their solution was a one-of-a-kind, $9 million loading ma-


chine specifically created for Grütschalp. At the bottom of the mountain, the cable car’s large, open crate — known as a flat — is filled with goods and attached to the bottom of the cable car with a small forklift. A unique loading machine at the top of the mountain detaches the flat and loads it onto a waiting train.


Train From Grütschalp, travelers and their merchandise are


transported to Winteregg and then to Mürren by only one mean: the train. Heinz Gertch, owner of the transportation system in Mürren, works at the train station to transport


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