Follow the cable. The history of Skyway Monte Bianco: the construction site up in the clouds, the passion, and the challenge of creating a structure worthy of the mountain that plays host to it
Today’s system is only one part of a story that actually began in the 1930s, thanks to the genius of Count Dino Lora Totino, from a family of Biella-area wool industrialists. His passion for the mountains brought him to the Valle d’Aosta region to take on the high-altitude trails, and during these excursions he developed the visionary idea of creating a border-spanning connection up in the sky, via cableway.
The idea of the Glacier Cableway is born
His forward-looking vision was to connect two neighbouring countries, Italy and France, through the creation of a cableway between Courmayeur and Chamonix.
The project is approved
After the project’s approval to great satisfaction, Lora Totino’s industrial interests shifted rapidly from wool fibres to steel cables, metaphorically pointing to the new interests of the family business in the ski facility construction sector. In 1940 an agreement was signed with the Italian Military Property Department for the construction of what would become the Monte Bianco Cableway. In 1941, work thus began on the system’s first section from the Courmayeur suburb of La Palud (1,370 m) to Pavillon du Mont Fréty (2,173 m). Construction was, however, interrupted later in the same year due to the Second World War.
The war is over
With the end of the war the construction work burst back to life, continuing with the building of the first and second sections up to the Rifugio Torino at an altitude of 3,329 m.
The Monte Bianco Cableways were finally opened to the public. So began the true history of the system, capable of taking people to the highest point in Italy in just a few minutes.
A futuristic cableway that allowed everyone, and not just the most expert mountaineers, to admire Mont Blanc from up close. In the same year, thanks to the Count’s efforts and Italian engineering and skilled workers, the construction of the cableway systems on the French side from Chamonix to Plan de l’Aiguille got underway. In 1951 work began on the second section up to the Aiguille du Midi, which would be opened to the public in 1956.
The Trans Mont Blanc
In 1954 construction commenced on the last section of cableway on the Italian side, connecting the Rifugio Torino to Punta Helbronner. With it began the adventure of the Piccola (“Little One”), so called by employees of the Monte Bianco Cableway Company because it could only hold a maximum of 8 people. The same year witnessed the beginning of the construction of the gondola that crossed over the glacier, connecting Punta Helbronner to Aiguille du Midi in order to realise Count Lora Totino’s dream: the international connection was taking shape, Italy and France were now linked. The “Liaison” was inaugurated in 1957. In the same year, Count Lora Totino sold his shares in the company to Count Titta Gilberti, a great promotor of tourism in the Courmayeur area.
For over 60 years the Monte Bianco cableway welcomed people from all over the world: mountain enthusiasts, climbers, and tourists. Its cable cars made millions of trips. But on the threshold of the new millennium it was time to think about the future: the old system was beginning to show its age.
A project thus gained ground for the construction of a new system that could replace the one created in the 1940s. It was from this moment that the road towards Skyway Monte Bianco was gradually delineated.
Work begins to give life to the new system
Construction work on the current cableway began in late March 2011. The first excavations were carried out at the present location of the Courmayeur departure station. The reconstruction of Punta Helbronner station, however, began on 10 April 2012.
The dream becomes a reality
Skyway Monte Bianco opened to the public on 30 May 2015. And so the dream began: to rise up effortlessly to the top of the mountain, where the view truly seems to go on forever. Not just a cableway, then, but a place for admiring incomparable panoramas, for encountering vibrant nature, the highest point from which you can reach out your hand and touch the sky.