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Espel-Stöfeli-Chäserrugg Gondola Lift
Toggenburg, Switzerland
Project 2014, realization 2015

The new 10-seater Espel-Stöfeli-Chäserrugg Gondola Lift in the Toggenburg region of eastern Switzerland came into service in the same year that the summit building on the Chäserrugg mountain opened. The main purpose of the new lift is to optimize conditions for skiers.
The installation replaces two existing drag lifts and provides a key link within the three parts of the Toggenburg skiing region (Wildhaus – Unterwasser – Alt. St. Johann). It reduces waiting times at the "bottleneck" Iltios station during the winter season and offers winter sports enthusiasts an alternative route onto the Chäserrugg.

The new lift has three stations. The Espel base station (1262.5 m above sea level) is favourably located for skiing activities, lying close to the Iltios station in a valley bottom. The Chäserrugg top station (2071.5 m above sea level) sits on the ridge of the Chäserrugg. The Stöfeli middle station (1681.5 m above sea level), which also accommodates the drive terminal and depot for parking the cabins, is at the same altitude as the existing Stöfeli mountain inn.

In contrast to normal mountain railway and ropeway infrastructure with its "techno-aesthetic" look, the stations of this lift system blend harmoniously with the landscape.
The architecture of the top and base stations is inspired by the form of local barn buildings. Sitting on a concrete base, the steelwork structure is enclosed by an Eternit-slate gable roof and facades clad with corrugated Eternit panels. The grey colour of the Eternit recalls the weathered timber of livestock sheds.
The building envelope shields the technical equipment from rain, snow and ice. The thermally insulated spaces for the ticketing and monitoring facilities are housed in a compact, timber-clad volume that affords the personnel an optimum view of lift operations. While the concrete ground slab at the base station is only slightly elevated due to the relatively flat topography, the steeper terrain at the top station has resulted in a building that juts more boldly out of the ground. The adopted solution serves to minimize the footprint of the station in its landscape setting while at the same time creating parking space below the ground slab for the snow groomers. Large doors on the southern front allow the station to be closed up overnight in case of strong southerly winds or snowfall while guarding against snow blockages.

Lying at the edge of an avalanche-prone slope, the middle station is reminiscent of mountain road galleries built to protect against rockfall and snow slips. This station also marks a turn in the direction of the lift, where passengers can board, alight or simply travel on to the mountain ridge. The concrete roof, supported by radially arranged concrete upstand beams and precast-concrete columns, is largely covered over by soil and scree, as a means of better integrating the station in the local topography. The roof spans the cabin depot area, the lift infrastructure and the boarding/alighting area. The facade, like that of the top and base stations, is clad with corrugated Eternit panels and fitted with doors to provide a full enclosure when the lift is not in operation.
The new gondola cabins are a standard model and, like all cabins and rail coaches on the Unterwasser-Chäserrugg axis, are painted red.
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