Europe travel

Record-breaking cable car to Zugspitze opens near military recreation center

A skier peers over a cliff on the Zugspitze, Germany's tallest mountain, near Garmisch, Germany, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017.


By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 20, 2017

GARMISCH, Germany — A world record-breaking gondola is set to open Friday on Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze, just outside the Armed Forces Recreation Center Edelweiss Lodge and Resort.

The cable car will break three world records. It will have the tallest steel tower, the longest cableway span, and greatest overall height difference from the valley to the mountain station.

“Oh, it’s going to be sweet. It’s going to be fast. It’s going to be high. There’s going to be nothing like it,” said Leigh Plowman, the leisure activities director at Edelweiss, which lies in the shadow of the imposing Zugspitze. “I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a crazy ride.”

Each year, an estimated 14,000 servicemembers and families from Edelweiss go skiing on the German Alps, at least 5,000 specifically headed to the Zugspitze. That’s not counting those who buy lift tickets outside the resort or the thousands of servicemembers who climb the mountain in the spring and summer.

“I think so many soldiers come here because, compared to anywhere else, this is a very inexpensive way to have a lot of fun, even if you’ve never skied before,” said Edelweiss spokesman Brad Hays.

Plowman believes one of the reasons so many servicemembers tackle the Zugspitze is to get the best view in Germany.

“It’s absolutely beautiful up there. The scenery is stunning. When the weather is right, you can see all the way to Italy from the top,” Plowman said.

The new cable car will cut at least 30 minutes from the current train ride up the mountain, and it transports four times as many people as the previous gondola, drastically decreasing wait times.

“When you’re on vacation, and all you want to do is go skiing, the last thing you want to do is be stuck waiting in line, and standing around,” Hays said. “This new gondola is going to mean a lot less of that, and a lot more skiing.”

When the cable car opens, it will give occupants superb views over the Eibsee lake, nestled at the foothills of the German Alps, as it transports them nearly 2,000 meters up the mountain. It will travel a distance of about 5,500 meters, with only a single 127-meter tower between the two stations.

Twitter: @Marty_Stripes

A skier atop the Zugspitze, Germany's tallest mountain, near Garmisch, Germany, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017.