Home Glaciers Fire engulfs the gondola station at the top of Glacier 3000, Switzerland

Fire engulfs the gondola station at the top of Glacier 3000, Switzerland

The summit station of the Glacier3000 gondola on fire on Monday September 19. Photo : Vaud police website

Heartbreaking images reach us from Switzerland, where on Monday September 19, 2022, the summit station of the Glacier 3000 gondola caught fire. Glacier 3000 is a ski resort in the Swiss canton of Vaud, about 20 minutes from Gstaad and 40 minutes from Montreux.

The fire appears to have started on the fourth floor of the “Botta” restaurant on the top floor of the gondola station. Luckily the gondola station and restaurant were empty at the time as the fire broke out around 4.30am, according to local police, hours before anyone was on the mountain.

The Glacier 3000 ski resort belongs to Gstaadois Marcel Bach and billionaires Bernie Ecclestone and Jean-Claude Mimran, who bought the resort in 2005. Since then they have invested heavily in infrastructure, successfully transforming a struggling resort into a year-round attraction in the mountains. The prosecution is investigating whether it could be arson. The police have appealed for witnesses.

Restaurant Botta
The 9,747ft Scex Rouge gondola station, which houses the Botta restaurant on the top two floors, pictured before the fire. Source: screenshot from video on Glacier3000.ch

The fire was difficult to contain, as helicopters from Air Glacier and Rega (Swiss emergency services) had to be used to extinguish the fire as it was not known at the time whether the operation from the gondola was safe. The structural integrity of the building and gondola was assessed and found to be sound yesterday. Forty firefighters were on duty in the early hours of Monday, and four firefighters remained on site overnight because the nacelle engines were still overheated.

The gondola will remain closed until further notice. Further testing and evaluation is needed, but Bernhard Tschannen, CEO of Glacier 3000, is confident the resort will be able to open November 5 as planned. The restaurant will not be able to reopen for the 22/23 season, so a temporary solution will be found. Tschannen further pointed out that there are more mountain dining options for winter sports enthusiasts.

Glacier 3000
Attractions in Glacier 3000, Switzerland, photo: Glacier3000.ch

Botta Restaurant is located on the top two floors of the gondola station, located at 9,747 feet (2,971 m). It was designed by world-renowned architect Mario Botta, who also designed the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, North Carolina. Construction took ten months, cost $17.6 million (17 million Swiss francs) and opened in 2001.

The Glacier 3000 resort was slated for a November 5 season opener and had its latest addition, a new double black diamond run, ready for the start of the 22/23 season. Since our last report on this project, another 328 feet (100 m) of the 870-foot (265 m) tunnel was dug. That means a total of 656 feet or 75% is complete, putting them on track for completion. The fire must not interfere with the construction, the Scex Rouge gondola being separate from the Cabane gondola. We hope that the fire will not delay the construction of the resort’s new “Cabane Pillon” track, but above all, it will be able to open as planned in less than seven weeks.

Glacier 3000
Glacier 3000 piste map, photo: Glacier3000.ch