World's first high-altitude cable car roof terrace opens in France

Hikers, skiers and sightseers can now ride on top of the Grande Motte cable car, almost 3,500m above sea level, for even more spectacular views of the Alps

On top of France … Tignes has unveiled its upgraded Grande Motte glacier cable car cabins, which have space for 20 on its roof terrace. Photograph: SCande

At 3,034 metres, the Grande Motte cable car base station is higher than many Alpine resorts. From here cable cars climb almost 500 vertical metres over the Grand Motte glacier to the top station at 3,456 metres. It’s as “up there” as you get in terms of accessing the mountains with your trainers on – the second-highest cable car in France after the Aiguille de Midi in Chamonix.

To reach base station, passengers take a funicular which tunnels 1,000 metres up through the mountain from the village of Val Claret to the Grande Motte glacial plateau. Once on the cable car, I was one of the first people to climb the small metal staircase onto the roof. I was so busy taking my camera out of my backpack that I didn’t notice we’d started moving. The new car is astonishingly quiet, and smooth. The chest-high glass barrier surrounding the deck acted as a windbreaker, and with the sun shining there was no need for a jacket.

Anyone who has ridden a cable car before knows how opaque those ski-scratched Perspex windows can be. By contrast the views from this new cable car terrace are as clear as from a chairlift – although no chairlift I’m aware of flies you over swathes of glacial ice, dispatching the two-kilometre distance in a mere five minutes.

It is this bird’s-eye view of the rugged landscape offered by the cable car terrace that Tignes is hoping will help attract more summer visitors to the area. Historically, the resort’s summer tourism has been dominated by its glacier skiing, but faced with glacial retreat and a shortening summer/autumn ski season, it is keen to shift the emphasis to the surrounding ecology and fauna. This attraction, replacing the old 1975 cable car (which was notorious for breaking down), is stage one of a €17m investment which, over the next two years, will include the introduction of panoramic viewing platforms over the glacier and information boards detailing the unique ecosystem of the surrounding national park.

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