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High Wire Act

Cold Front
posted: 12/13/2004

Split since inception into two separate halves (Hahnenkamm/Pengelstein and Jochberg/Resterhöhe), Kitzbühel, Austria, will finally be a resort united. And engineers seem every bit as giddy as skiers about the link in progress: a mega-gondola with room for 30 people in each of its 24 cabins, suspended a dizzying 1,300 feet above the floor of the Saukasergraben valley.

Built by the Doppelmayr lift company, the state-of-the-art 3S Bahn will combine gondola technology (the cabins are fixed to a cable running in a continuous loop) and old-fashioned tram engineering (the pulling is done by a third, independent cable). It'll span more than a mile and a half without a lift tower, run in 60-mile-per-hour winds (nearly twice what a normal gondola can endure), and turn the rugged Saukasergraben Valley—the impossible-to-span bane of lift builders for decades—into the scenic highlight of the ski safari between Hahnenkamm and Jochberg. Or, as Doppelmayr's Ekkehard Assman says, "It's an exceptional solution to an exceptional problem.

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