Ski lifts are as much a part of skiing as the snow is, carrying us up the mountains so we can easily get out on the slopes. There are all sorts of ski lifts — from chairs to gondolas — and most are around 30 feet up in the air. But have you ever wondered just how high a ski lift can go? Read on to discover which is the highest ski lift in the world and find out exactly how far up into the French mountains it can take you!
Chamonix Mont-Blanc Ski Area
The Chamonix Mont-Blanc ski area is one of the oldest resorts in France. It is located in the Northern Alps, just an hour from Geneva. Spread across five mountains — Grand Monets, L’Aiguille du Midi, La Flégère, Le Brévent, and Le Tour — Chamonix is classed as one of the world’s premier ski resorts. With a staggering vertical drop of 7,326 feet, there are 119 runs and miles of off-piste slopes to explore.
Chamonix Mont-Blanc offers something for everyone to enjoy. There are dedicated beginner areas as well as tough and challenging terrain for the more advanced skiers. There’s a ski and snowsports school that offers private and group lessons to all ages and abilities. There’s also the option of exploring the mountains with an expert tour guide.
Aiguille du Midi
Aiguille du Midi is home to the highest ski lift in the world. Standing an immense 12,605 feet tall, Aiguille du Midi is situated in the Mont-Blanc group of mountains in the French Alps. Aiguille de Midi is also known as the “Needle of the Mid-Day”. This is because when it is viewed from the front of the church in Chamonix, the sun is positioned right at the summit when it is mid day.
Aiguille du Midi is open all year round for skiing with the exception of two or three weeks during November for maintenance and during particularly bad weather. Receiving around half a million visitors per year it is extremely popular with skiers, rock climbers, hikers, and even paragliders. However, it is a particularly popular destination for those seeking an off-piste challenge. The Vallée Blanche ski run is an off-piste run of 12 miles. It has a vertical drop of 9,186 feet and begins on Aiguille du Midi before finishing back in Chamonix.
Aiguille du Midi is also a popular starting point for those wanting to access Mont-Blanc via the “Three Monts” route. This route consists of Aiguille du Midi, Mont Blanc du Tacul, and Mont Maudit. Aiguille du Midi is also the nearest that you can get to the summit of Mont-Blanc (15,771 feet) without needing to ski or hike. This is because of Aiguille du Midi’s world-famous ski lift.
The Highest Ski Lift in the World
The highest ski lift in the world is the Aiguille du Midi cable car, which rises to a final elevation of 12,395 feet and is a breathtaking 2.3 miles high. The cable car rises a total of 9,209 feet and there are two legs to the journey. It starts in Chamonix at an elevation of 3,396 feet and before rising to Plan de l’Aiguille at 7,602 feet. The second and final leg takes visitors to the upper station. This has a final elevation of 12,395 feet, making it the highest vertical climb by any ski lift in the world.
The idea for a ski lift that could undertake such a daunting journey was first planted in 1905. Two Swiss engineers came up with the idea to join the small village of Les Pelerins with the summit of Aiguille du Midi. Unfortunately, they stumbled upon several technical problems and the idea was eventually dropped.
However, in 1909 Funicular Railways — a French company — decided to resurrect the project. In 1924, the first section from Les Pelerins to La Para was opened. Three years later a further section of Les Glaciers was completed and opened. However, in 1951 the route was closed to due a lack of interest. Four years later it was finally completed and reopened due to the intervention of an Italian engineer.
Things to Do
The highest ski lift in the world isn’t just for skiers and is often used by tourists too. It has gained popularity thanks to the breathtaking panoramic views and the restaurants and terraces at the upper station. For a start, on the North Tower is a cafe which is regarded as being one of the highest restaurants in the world. There’s also an area dedicated to the history of the station and the lift. Plus, there’s a souvenir shop as well as a letterbox from which to send out postcards!
The Central Tower features the Espace Vertical which is the highest museum in the world. It consists of a cave carved into the rock which is filled with various climbing and mountaineering displays. Finally, the top terrace level offers stunning views of the entire mountain range. There’s also a room with a glass floor named “Step into the Void” where only the brave dare walk. Although completely safe it gives visitors the feeling of being suspended in mid-air 12,605 feet up and the opportunity to take in the stunning scenery. As amazing as the view is, it’s not for the faint-hearted or anyone with vertigo!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Vladone
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