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Holidays to Switzerland Travel Podcast Episode 80 Transcript

May 18, 2024 Last Updated on May 18, 2024

Matterhorn Alpine Crossing – Connecting Switzerland and Italy by cable car

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Grüezi friends, welcome to episode 80 of the podcast.  

I hope you’ve left some room in your Swiss itinerary for another fantastic mountain excursion because after hearing from today’s guest, you’ll no doubt be very keen to experience the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing, which links Zermatt in Switzerland with Cervinia in Italy, for yourself. 

Back in episode 51, we learnt about the excursion from Zermatt to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise but with the recent opening of the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing, it’s now possible to travel all the way to Italy by cable car.

In fact, the new Glacier Ride II which connects Matterhorn Glacier Paradise with Testa Grigia on the Swiss Italian border, is the highest alpine crossing by cable car at an altitude of 3,480 metres above sea level.

There are plenty of reasons to include a stay in Zermatt in your travel plans and the new Matterhorn Alpine Crossing is one of them, as you’ll discover in my chat with Claudia Wyss from Zermatt Cableways.

Claudia was born and bred in Zermatt and has been travelling by cable car all her life.  She is the International Sales Manager for Zermatt Bergbahnen.

Before we hear from Claudia, I’d like to say a huge thank you to our podcast sponsor, Switzerland Tourism.  You’ll find loads of helpful information to help plan your trip on their website myswitzerland.com so do go and check it out.

If you need the train ride of a lifetime, you need Switzerland.

Now, let’s welcome Claudia.


Carolyn Schönafinger

Hello, Claudia. Thank you very much for coming on to the podcast today. I’m really looking forward to learning all about this fantastic new cableway that we can enjoy in Zermat.

Claudia Wyss

Well, thank you for inviting us, and I’m really excited to talk to you about the new Matterhorn Alpine Crossing.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Great. Okay, so the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing started on first of July this year, 2023. So for those listeners who don’t know what it is, can you tell us exactly what the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing is?

Claudia Wyss

Exactly. So on the first of July, the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing opened. This is a cable car connection between Zermatt in Switzerland and Cervinia in Italy. So basically, you can cross the Alps to travel from one country to the other country via cableways. So you can either use it as a day trip, so start in Zermatt and do a day trip to Cervinia, or start in Cervinia in Italy and do a day trip to Zermatt. What you could do as well is you can use it as an entry point to the other country. So include it into an itinerary if you’re traveling around Italy and Switzerland, use it to enter the other country.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Yeah, just as a regular form of transport. I imagine that would save a lot of time compared to travelling by train between Zermatt and Cervinia. So yeah, it’s a great alternative.

Claudia Wyss

Well, it definitely saves time, but it’s as well, it’s like a fun excursion. I mean, you go to the highest cable car station in Europe, which is something special. And the journey itself, it’s a fun excursion. Great.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Well, I’m looking forward to hearing more about it. But before we talk about that, can you tell us a little bit about the history of the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing? Has this been in the planning stages for a number of years?

Claudia Wyss

Yeah, actually, it’s been a dream in Zermatt from the Zermatter people for 80 years now that they’ve wanted to connect Cervinia with Zermatt. The opening of the Matterhorn Glacier Ride one from Trockener Steg to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise was opened in 2018, which was the first step. The building started actually in 2014, and now this year we could finish the project.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Yeah, fantastic. So 80 years in the making, and it’s finally in service, which is fantastic. Now, I read that a 3S cableway has been installed for the crossing. What exactly does that mean?

Claudia Wyss

So 3S basically means it’s on three cables. So there would be two fixed ropes where the gondolas are on and the support cables. And then there’s one hauling cable that pulls the cable cars up and down. The advantage of this system is that it’s a lot more resistant to the wind because you are up on very high altitude and we do get extreme winds and extreme wind up there.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, so that helps with the stability of the gondolas.

Claudia Wyss

Exactly. They are a lot more wind resistant, so they can still operate in a lot windier conditions.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, so if we were starting the journey in Zermatt, what does the ride or the entire trip to Cervinia involve?

Claudia Wyss

Okay, so you would get in hop on the gondola in Zermatt which seats eight people, and you stay on that until Trochener Steg. Then you change to the Matterhorn Glacier Ride I to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, which is the highest cableway station in Europe. From there, there’s the new connection, which just opened this year, the Matterhorn Glacier ride II from Matterhorn Glacier Paradise to Testa Grigia. Then from Testa Grigia, that’s where you cross the border. Then you go to Cime Bianchi. From Cime Bianchi, there’s another gondola to Plan Maison. And then from Plan Maison, you go to Cervinia. So in total, there are five stops. You have to change five times.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay. But I imagine that the waiting time at each stop is very minimal. Is that right?

Claudia Wyss

Yeah, that’s correct. I mean, the gondolas, they run all the time. I mean, you have to maybe wait 30 seconds and there’ll be the next gondola. And you do have to change, but I mean, the changes are very, very easy.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Yeah, great. All right. So if we’re not stopping off and looking around at any of those intermediate stations, how long does the journey from Zermatt to Cervinia take?

Claudia Wyss

It would take you about an hour and a half.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay. So I imagine that if people did want to break up the trip either on the way there or on the way back, if they’re doing a round trip, that they can get off at any of those intermediate stations?

Claudia Wyss

Exactly. With the ticket, they can hop off and on at every station, and I would definitely recommend doing that.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, so what are some of the highlights of the trip or some of the things that you recommend people see at those intermediate stations?

Claudia Wyss

So on Schwarzsee, there’s a beautiful little lake with a little chapel and you have an amazing view to the Matterhorn. I would definitely recommend stopping there. Then on the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, there’s a viewing platform where you can see the Alpine Mountains. There’s a Glacier Palace with ice sculptures. There’s a restaurant and even a souvenir shop. Then when you go further down on Testa Grigia, there’s a snow experience, which is opening today actually. Okay. Mid-august. So what you can do there, you can rent skis, you can rent all the equipment, all the clothes to try skiing. There will be coaches as well that will guide you for this experience.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay. Will that be available? Will people be able to rent skis and try out skiing all year round?

Claudia Wyss

No. So that’s only operating in the summer season. During the winter, it’s not open.

Claudia Wyss

Then at Cime Bianchi, there’s a huge dam which they use for hydroelectricity. I find this very impressive, seeing how big they’ve built this dam. Then when you get to Italy, you definitely have to have some Italian food and tiramisu for dessert.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Exactly. Okay, so I know that we’re talking about doing this trip as a day trip or an excursion, but I’m guessing that it’s going to be very popular with skiers as well.

Claudia Wyss

So you can already ski to Italy. That connection has been established for a long time. This new connection is definitely targeted more towards the excursion guests rather than the skiers. However, it is very valuable for the skiers as well, especially summer skiing, because it’s a lot easier getting back down to the village with this new cable car connection.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, great.

Claudia Wyss

And as well, we have in November, we have a World Cup race taking part in Zermatt. The start will be on the Zermatt side, on the Swiss side, and then finish in Italy. And this cable car will definitely help bringing the athletes up to the starting point.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Yeah, wonderful. You mentioned before that the Matterhorn Alpine crossing will be able… We can use it for transport getting between Switzerland and Italy. So if people are doing that as part of their vacation and they’ve got luggage, is it going to be possible for them to take their luggage on the cable car?

Claudia Wyss

Yes. So from next year on, so summer 2024, there will be a luggage transport. So it will be a bit like flying. You check in your luggage and you just travel with hand luggage, and your suitcase will be transported to the other side.

Carolyn Schönafinger

How easy is that? Excellent. Okay, so is the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing going to be open all year round?

Claudia Wyss

Yes, so it is open all year round. However, there are revision times where we have to do the maintenance. So the side from Cervinia to Testa Grigia will be in revision, usually in September, October. And then the Matterhorn Glacier Ride II, from Testa Grigia to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise will be in revision, usually end of November until mid-December.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, but the rest of the year, it’ll be operating every day.

Claudia Wyss

Exactly.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, well, let’s talk about something important, because I’m sure anyone listening will be wanting to know what does a ticket cost for a ride on the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing?

Claudia Wyss

So I will talk about the high-season prices, which are in July and August. So a return ticket is 240 Swiss francs, and a one way ticket, 156 francs.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, and if people are buying a return ticket, does that include anything else?

Claudia Wyss

Yes. So you return ticket is valid for 10 days. You have free entrance to the Glacier Palace, the viewing platform, and you can access the snow experience park where there’ll be snow tubing as well.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, great. So you mentioned there that the return ticket is valid for 10 days. So if someone wants to go and visit Italy for a couple of days, they can then use their return ticket as long as it’s within 10 days. Is that right?

Claudia Wyss

Exactly.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Yeah, wonderful. Are there any reductions available for our listeners who may have a Swiss Half Fare Card or a Swiss Travel Pass?

Claudia Wyss

Yes. So on the Swiss side, because it’s the Swiss product, so all the way from Zermatt to Testa Grigia, they get a 50 % discount.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, and obviously that doesn’t apply on the Italian side.

Claudia Wyss

No, unfortunately not.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, and what about reductions for children?

Claudia Wyss

So children, from three until nine are for free. I’m saying three because we do not allow children below three on this ride up to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise because of health and safety issues, because up in high altitude, they could get high altitude sickness. And then kids between nine and 16 get a 50 % discount.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, that’s great to know. Now, one thing that I’m interested in knowing is, we’re crossing between Switzerland and Italy. Are there any border checks or any passport checks at the border crossing?

Claudia Wyss

Yeah, it’s a common question we do get. Well, yeah, it is an official border. There’s a line on the floor that you can see. However, in Europe, the borders are quite easy. There is a border, but it’s not patrolled. However, you do have to have all your documents, all your passport, everything in place because there might be some random checks.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, so make sure you take that in your day pack if you’re doing a day excursion.

Claudia Wyss

Exactly.

Carolyn Schönafinger

How long would you recommend a visitors allow for their round trip excursion?

Claudia Wyss

Well, I would definitely recommend taking the whole day, like starting here in the morning and then having enough time in Cervinia to spend the whole day there and then come back, because when you go over, you have to catch the last gondola in Cervinia at three o’clock.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, well, that’s good to know. Okay, so you recommend leaving early. What time in the morning does the first cable car leave Zermatt?

Claudia Wyss

So the first cable car would be at seven o’clock.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Okay, so even if you try to leave around 8:00 to make sure you had plenty of time to stop along the way, have a look around and be back ready to board the last cable car from Cervinia at 3:00 PM.

Claudia Wyss

Exactly.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Great. Now, I’m assuming that you’ve done the ride already, maybe a few times. What do you love about it the most?

Claudia Wyss

I mean, just the gondola itself is spectacular. I always describe it, I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when they’re flying in this elevator, this glass elevator, and I feel sometimes it feels a bit like being in this glass elevator. For an extra 10 francs, you can use the Crystal Ride. You have a floor that get with a glass bottom, which is spectacular, just looking down over the glacier. Then I love the mountains. I love being up there. You really get a good feel for the mountains when you’re up there.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Yeah, and I bet you can just see for miles to mountain range after mountain range.

Claudia Wyss

Exactly. And then what’s a fun thing as well? It’s just a cable car ride over and you’re in a different country and it feels like a total different country, and it is a different country, although you’re actually quite close.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Yes, sounds great. So anyone who’s going to be visiting Zermatt in the future must definitely make time to take a ride on the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing.

Claudia Wyss

Yes, I agree.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Excellent. Well, thank you very much, Claudia, for telling us all about the great new ride that’s available from Zermatt. It’s been wonderful to learn more about it.

Claudia Wyss

Thank you very much for the interview. I hope you’ll be coming to Zermatt soon and all the listeners as well.

Carolyn Schönafinger

Thanks a lot.

What an amazing experience it must be to travel from Zermatt to Cervinia on the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing.  Now I can’t wait to return to Zermatt and try it out for myself.

Breakfast in Zermatt, lunch in Cervinia and back to Zermatt for dinner and with stunning Alpine scenery along the way – it sounds like the perfect day out.  Count me in!

If you’re ready to purchase your tickets for the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing, you’ll find a link to the Zermatt Bergbahnen website in the show notes.

I’ll also include links to previous podcast episodes about Zermatt, and some helpful articles about Zermatt that we have on the website. 

The show notes with all those links can be found at holidaystoswitzerland.com/episode80

Thanks very much for joining me today.  If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving us a 5 star rating or review wherever you listen to podcasts.  This helps us to reach and help even more travellers who, just like you, are planning a trip to Switzerland.

Until next time, tschuss!

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.