Switzerland’s Laax ski area has unveiled what it is describing as “the world’s first on-demand gondola” the FlemXpress. The idea is that rather than continually operating, the cabins only leave the station when there’s at least one person on board, with none running empty. The resort says that this and other energy-reduction measures will save up to 50% in energy.
Due to open on 16th December, once launched, the CHF 80m (£72m) FlemXpress will be open year-round, providing easy access to ski slopes in winter and will also work as a direct route to biking and hiking trails in summer, as well as to the local UNESCO World Heritage site, the Tectonic Arena Sardona.
The gondola project has been 15 years in development and ties in with the high priority Laax has put on sustainability since 2010. As well as using far less energy than chairlifts it replaces, the gondolas travel at a slow 1m second in the stations using their own eMotion vehicle drive system which enables self-propelled, autonomous travel. To supply energy for this system, kinetic energy is converted into electric energy as the gondola decelerates when entering the station and accelerates when exiting. This energy is ultimately used to operate the gondolas in the station.
Additionally, all gondolas are equipped with two batteries that guarantee the completion of each journey, which are charged while the guests enter and exit the gondolas.
Guests select their desired destination with the click of a button before boarding, allowing for an uninterrupted journey without any stops. The integrated intelligent passenger allocation system with a display screen points guests to the correct stationary gondola. Guests no longer have to board a moving gondola and can do so with luggage, sports equipment, as a family, or as someone with limited mobility.
The FlemXpress has been created by the Laax lift company Weisse Arena Group working with manufacturer Bartholet Maschinenbau AG.
“With a conventional gondola lift, around 90% of the cabins travel empty. With FlemXpress, at least one person will be present in the cabin and the gondola goes wherever you want it to. That makes our gondola lift much more sustainable than it has ever been possible up until now,” said Roland Bartholet, CEO of Bartholet Maschinenbau AG
The section opening this winter is stage one, connecting Flims and Foppa and Foppa to Startgels. A second stage connecting Segnes, Nagens Sura and Cassons is due to open for winter 24-25.
Through this project, the gondola was designed for minimal interference with the landscape, allowing nature and the wildlife habitat to be expanded once more.
Reto Gurtner, Chairman and Delegate of the Board of Directors for the Weisse Arena Group says: “We have established mutual trust [with environmental conservation groups] by striving to find a solution that goes beyond the minimum legal requirements. Our goal was to create what is known as ‘non-architecture’ – architecture that does not interfere with the mountain or negatively impact the surrounding nature. The emphasis should be on the landscape and not the gondola systems.”
If you are looking for the perfect destination for your next trip, our Resort Guide has everything you need to know. You can check out our regular podcast here Apple | Spotify | Podcasts or search The White Out on your chosen podcast direc