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Riding the Televerbier
Verbier’s old-school ski lifts are so famous they’ve even been featured in a mountainside fashion shoot. After years of rumours, are they finally being upgraded?

It’s impossible to visit Verbier and not get caught up in the interminable debate about its ski lifts. Some adore the charm and nod to 1970s glamour of the old-school cable cars. Others (perhaps without such romantic sensibilities) bemoan their glacial pace and shaky ascent. While others simply enjoy a good après-ski gossip about exactly why new lifts haven’t been installed yet (think protracted legal battles between Swiss millionaires).

In a world where everything is about who can be the fastest, hardest, strongest, newest and shiniest, there is something undeniably charming and nostalgic about Verbier’s 1970s-built cable cars that, like all things Swiss, were made to last.

The cable car’s rugged and raw style is so suggestive of a glamorous history that Swiss luxury fashion brand Bally even chose to feature one in their autumn/winter 2012 campaign. It was shot by New York-based photographer Norman Jean Roy at Verbier’s prestigious Chalet d’Adrien. Bally chose the iconic mountain resort town in Switzerland’s Valais to directly reflect the Swiss brand’s own heritage. In a shoot reminiscent of an old Bond movie, and referencing great imagery of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, the Alpine background emphasised the classic Swiss elegance and craftsmanship of both its fashion and engineering.

So is the reality quite as glamorous as the photos would have us believe? Well, not quite. Televerbier ‘s quaint, wobbly, 4-(small)-person telecabin takes what would be considered by modern standards an interminably long 12 minutes to bring you back to the top from a day on the Verbier side. Inside the cabin, intimate might be a generous word to describe the somewhat cramped conditions. Perfect for honeymooners who don’t mind being squeezed together as the little glass-sided box swings and sways slowly up to the top of the Savoleyres, but perhaps not so good for a family of four. At least the view is epic. One thing is for sure though: what Verbier’s iconic old ski lifts lack in practicality, they more than make up for in nostalgic charm.

And what of rumours (years of them) of new ski lifts being installed? Well, we have news! After multiple attempts to win planning permission, Televerbier – the company that operates them – announced the shutdown of the current 6-seater gondola between Médran and Ruinettes at the end this season, to the start of work on the new 10-seater gondola which will be operational from winter 21/22.

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Polly Hancock

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