It could hardly be easier to get up to the Männlichen from the Sunstar Wengen hotel: the valley station for the aerial cableway is right opposite the hotel. Climb aboard the big cabin there, and in six minutes you’ll be carried up to the top station at 2229.90 metres above sea level. We owe this convenient situation to the “avalanche winter” of 1999.
The “avalanche winter” of 1999 earned its name on account of the numerous avalanches during January and February. Large parts of the Alps were affected, from the High Alps in France, through Switzerland and as far as Tirol. In some areas the consequences were so catastrophic that, for the first time ever, the highest danger rating of 5 (“very high”) on the European Avalanche Danger Scale was in force for several days.
Many transport routes in the Alps were closed and whole valleys were cut off from the outside world. In Switzerland alone there were about 1200 destructive avalanches resulting in a total of 17 fatalities, in buildings and on the roads. The valley station of the Wengen-Männlichen aerial cableway was one of the buildings affected.
The Wengen-Männlichen aerial cableway went into service on 22 July 1954. The first cabins only had room for 40 people, then in 1963 they were replaced by 50-person cabins. Further modernisation in 1973 introduced a 425 hp engine which increased the lifting capacity by about 12%. The waiting times at the valley station became shorter.
The third technical upgrade took place in 1991 and 1992. The old aerial cableway system was completely overhauled, with the exception of the top and bottom stations, and the existing cabins were replaced by two roomy 80-seaters. The journey time was cut from 6 or 7 minutes to 4 or 5 minutes.
Then, in the wild winter of 1999, the valley station in Wengen was hit by the full force of an avalanche. The platform area was covered with snow, fallen trees and rocks to a depth of more than ten metres. Consequently operations had to cease for several months and the aerial cableway company was not give a licence to operate from the same location any more.
So what next? In April 1999 the Board of Directors decided to move the valley station to a site that was outside the avalanche zone. It was no sooner said than done. In next to no time, plans were drawn up, planning permission was obtained and the construction work was carried out. By the start of December 1999, the station was already ready for business and the first cabin lifted off from the new site towards the Männlichen.
The Männlichen offers wonderful views of the triple peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. It is a popular starting point for both alpine hikers and skiers.
Head for the Männlichen! The aerial cableway awaits you, right opposite the Sunstar Hotel Wengen.