Many of the world’s most dramatic alpine peaks tower above the traffic-free Swiss village of Zermatt. The highest Alp in Switzerland, Monte Rosa, rises to 15,203 feet while another, the world’s most photographed mountain, the Matterhorn, tops out at 14,692 feet. Also here, but lesser known, is the Klein Matterhorn (Little Matterhorn).
The Matterhorn (Mont Cervin)
The Klein Matterhorn is not only the highest summit in Europe that is currently served by a cable car, it is also the highly contested site of what may become the highest hotel in the Alps. The Zermatt Village Council awarded the project to local architect and artist, Heinz Julen, who plans to construct a 394-foot-tall steel and glass hotel on top of the mountain. The hotel will be pressurized so that guests won’t suffer from altitude sickness.
While the city of Zermatt hopes the new hotel will bring in additional revenue from tourism, the Swiss Alpine Club and other organizations have launched several complaints against the plans with local and regional authorities. They fear the area’s magnificent landscape and its unique alpine environment will be spoiled. They already view the cable cars reaching the mountain as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of Alpine tourism and now fear that the hotel, in addition to the cable cars, the ski lifts, and the mountain railways will ruin not only the alpine panorama but also our very attitude toward the mountains.
The plans for the hotel have been delayed several times in the past five years and it is not clear which side will have the last word. But visiting Zermatt and taking the Klein Matterhorn Cable Car to the “Top of Europe” — with its memorable view of the iconic Matterhorn as well as the Italian and French Alps — should be done before the arrival of a steel-and-glass-pressurized-ultra-modern hotel.
Part of a NileGuide Special Report: 25 Destinations to See Before They Change Forever.
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Photo credit: Dominique Schreckling