Demand in Zermatt for winter holidays and skiing grew steadily in the 1930s. Above all, Auguste Marguerat and the Board of Directors of Gornergrat Railway faced one challenge: How can access to the Gornergrat be made safe in winter?
Riffelbord as a challenge
Auguste Marguerat, Director of Operations of the Visp-Zermatt Railway and the Gornergrat Railway since 1921, recognised the potential of winter tourism in the early 1930s. The biggest obstacle to the start of year-round operation up to the summit was the section on the steep slope above Riffelboden. The Riffelbord was exposed to avalanches in the lower part and heavy snow drifts in the upper part. The clearing work here was particularly arduous, dangerous and costly.
Permission to build a gallery
Marguerat was pleased when the Board of Directors approved the construction of an avalanche protection gallery between Riffelboden and Riffelberg in 1938. The railway began the construction of the 800 m long protective gallery in 1939 and completed its entire length by the end of the war. From then on, regular, safe winter operations were also made possible in the higher regions. A year earlier, the railway had procured an additional ski carriage to meet the expected demand.
Job creation and support
Due to the difficult international situation in the 1940s, construction was a welcome opportunity for many people to work. Marguerat could also count on financial support: several partners helped cover the construction costs of CHF 450,000. The Confederation helped with job creation contributions amounting to CHF 130,000. The municipality of Zermatt, the canton of Valais and the Visp-Zermatt Railway also agreed to contribute subsidies.
In the winter of 1940/41, the Gornergrat Railway finally began winter operations to Riffelberg and was thus able to meet the increasing demand for winter holidays and skiing. Thanks to Marguerat’s efforts and the commitment of the partners, access to the Gornergrat in winter could be guaranteed.