History of the Pizolbahnen
The history of Swiss tourism, which is closely linked to the discovery and development of the Alps, started almost 200 years ago. It was during this time that the English nobility undertook more or less adventurous educational journeys in stagecoaches, which came to be known as "Grand Tours". Their trips to Mediterranean countries often went through Switzerland, and Bad Ragaz was a regular stopover for travellers.
The main reasons why these first tourists came was the opening in 1840 of the “Bad zum Hof Ragaz”, a hotel with 33 rooms and six baths. The baths were filled with 37-degree thermal water, which flowed from the Bad Pfäfers into the valley in a five-kilometre-long wooden pipe.
At the beginning of the 1850s, the Südostbahn (SOB) was founded in the “Hof Ragaz” and on 30 July 1858, the first SOB train stopped in Ragaz on its way from St.Gallen to Chur. But it was only when the railroad line Zurich - Chur opened in 1859, that Bad Ragaz started its rise in fame as an internationally renowned spa resort.
By 1900, the Pizol was already a spectacular area for hiking
The region of the Grauen Hörner with the Pizol summit was already known then as a spectacular hiking area. By 1900, the Schwarzbüel-Berghütte (1,652 m above sea level) accommodated the first tourists and mountain climbers on the Alp with the same name.
In 1915 the SAC section Piz Sol built the SAC Klubhütte by the Wangsersee (2,206 m above sea level). After a five-hour climb from Wangs or Bad Ragaz, members of the SAC could spend the night at the SAC Klubhütte near the Wangsersee for 50 cents and non-members for two Swiss francs.
In 1917 the Pizol was the most famous Swiss ski mountain
At that time, visitors also skied on the Pizol. The locals were sceptical at first. The President of the SAC section Piz Sol was still not convinced in 1903: "There are three skiers in our section, and there will probably never be any more!”
But by 1917, there was the following entry in the Yearbook of the Swiss Ski Association: “If someone were to ask which of the three most visited and longest known Swiss skiing mountains have the biggest descent, we would answer: Parsenn – Weissfluh, Piz Sol and Titlis. But the Piz Sol is king of them all with its 2,400-metre descent.”
Every year up to 20,000 skiers with seal skins under their skis climbed the 1,700 metres difference in altitude up to the Wangsersee or even 2,300 metres up to the Pizol summit– to enjoy one of the most beautiful and longest downhill runs in Europe.
The cable cars of Bad Ragaz – Pardiel and Wangs – Furt are built
After the Second World War, Europe experienced a ski boom and the first plans for developing the Pizol area with a mountain railway were created in the Sargans region. However, it did not stop at just one mountain railway. In Wangs the municipality took the initiative and in Bad Ragaz private individuals planned a cable car.
On 6 July 1951, the Federal Council issued the concessions for each of the cable cars – Furt and Bad Ragaz – Pardiel on the same day. The cantonal government of St. Gallen wanted the Sargans region to capitalise on a cable car and tried to bring the already established public companies to the table. In vain.
The gondola lift Bad Ragaz – Pardiel was opened on New Year’s day in 1954. And in the summer of 1954, the second section Maienberg – Furt was commissioned on the Wangs side first. As a transitional measure, the tourists were taken up to Maienberg by jeep until the first section from Wangs was completed.
In the years that followed, various T-bar lifts were built on both sides, but from 1965 onwards they were replaced with the modern four-seater chairlifts.
The merger creating Pizolbahnen AG
The aerial cableway of Wangs – Pizol AG (LWP) and the sports railways of Bad Ragaz AG (SBR) worked together starting in the 1990s. The joint subsidiary PIZAG organised the advertising and a ticket network. In 2000, the connecting lift Pizolhütte – Laufböden was set up, linking the two sides of Wangs and Bad Ragaz together for the first time.
However, the cantonal government of St. Gallen insisted on creating an overall concept for the Pizol. The overall concept ProRegio was presented in 2004. It consisted of a main entry route for the entire Pizol resort from Bad Ragaz to the highest common point (2,275 m above sea level) and a secondary route Wang - Furt. The overall concept ProRegio was received favourably by the cantonal government, but met with broad opposition in the Sargans region. This approach was no longer pursued.
However, in December 2005, the board of directors of the LWP, the SBR and the joint subsidiary PIZAG agreed on the overall concept of PIZOL 2010. This consisted of one company with two entry routes and separate financing. The Joint Investment Aid application of the St. Gallen cantonal government was already submitted in February 2006.
On 20 September 2006, the board of directors of the LWP, the SBR and the PIZAG signed the contracts for the transfer of assets of the chair and ski lifts to the new Pizolbahnen AG. A historic moment.
Generous investors give Pizolbahnen AG new impetus
However, the entry route Bad Ragaz – Pardiel would have failed due to the lack of money and too many objections. On 26 February 2007, the persons responsible declared at a media conference that the Pizolbahnen AG chapter had to be completed in the Sargans region.
However, in the days that followed, generous investors, did not want to watch “their” Pizolbahnen disappear from the mountain. The entrepreneurial families of Looser, Lenherr and Schmidheiny also contributed equity capital.
There was an impressive rally for Pizolbahnen on 8 March 2007 in the town hall square in Bad Ragaz. Subsequently, Pizolbahnenn AG decided to raise an initial capital increase at an extraordinary general meeting.
The promised financing and the merger of the companies to form today's Pizolbahnen AG also paved the way for the renewal of the feeder lines. Under the slogan "One mountain - one company - two feeder lines with separate financing" the politically found compromise was implemented. The one-feeder variant was off the table. In the economic assessment by various experts, it became clear that the cash flow would just about suffice for the renewal of the nuclear facilities. However, it will not be sufficient to finance further necessary infrastructure (jobs, expansion of snow-making facilities, restoration, piste services, etc.). etc.). For this reason, a special financing through a surcharge on the visitor's tax has been provided for. This should bring in an additional TCHF 440 per year to finance the necessary additional infrastructure. The amount, which will be raised as a special fund of the municipality, was not reached and is not available to the Pizol cableways for the most part. This should lead to problems at a later date.
The renewal of the feeder lines
In autumn 2007, the new feeder lift Bad Ragaz (8-seater gondola lift from Doppelmayer) was put into operation. The bottom station was moved from the village to the Matells area. This provided sufficient parking space and an optimum link to the motorway. The Wildboden middle station was abandoned.
In the summer of 2009, the Wangs feeder line (8-seater gondola lift by Leitner) was also newly constructed and put into operation. The locations of the stations remained identical. From a tested variant from Tieflezi - Maienberg - Furt, had to be rejected due to the financing and unregulated easements for this variant.
uphill - downhill
After the renewal of the feeder lifts and various measures on the mountain, the number of guests and earnings improved considerably. In the 12/13 financial year, the "best result to date" was achieved. A master plan was drawn up for the summer, the implementation of which led to strong growth in turnover. This could be more than doubled by 2019. The expansion of the summer was substantially supported by the Pizol Foundation with heart. The winters 14/15, 15/16 and 16/17 brought to light what was already predicted in various studies. If the snow situation is not right at the start of the season or the weather is not optimal, it is not possible to generate sufficient cash flow. Countermeasures had to be taken. Thanks to the financial support of private individuals, municipalities and the canton, operations were secured for 6 years from 18/19 onwards.
In order to reduce the dependency on natural snow, plans were made to extend the snowmaking system and replace the old Schwamm ski lift with a modern 6-seater chairlift (Bartholet company).
Investments in the future
In the summer of 2015, work began on the snowmaking sponge. The heart of the project was the "Suntigweid storage lake" with 17'000m3. The completion of the new 6-seater Schwamm chairlift and the first stage of Schwamm snow-making followed in autumn 2016. The start of winter 16/17 once again showed how important it is to invest in snow-making. This was followed in subsequent years by further sections of snow-making on the Bad Ragaz and Wangs side. In winter 19/20, 23% of the ski run area was thus technically covered with snow.
Founding Assembly of the Luftsbahn Wangs - Pizol AG (LWP)
Founding Assembly of the mountain lifts Bad Ragaz - Piz Sol AG (later Sportbahnen Bad Ragaz SBR)
Construction of the cable cars Bad Ragaz – Pardiel and Wangs – Furt
Opening of the cable cars Bad Ragaz – Pardiel and Wangs – Furt
Construction of T-bar lifts on both sides
Renewal of the cable cars Wangs – Furt
Replacement of the Wangs ski lifts by two chair lifts
The four-seater chairlift on Pardiel replaces the Laufböden lift
Construction of the connecting lift Pizolhütte – Laufböden
Merger between LWP and SBR to become Pizolbahnen AG
New construction of the eight-seater gondola lift Bad Ragaz – Pardiel
New construction of the eight-seater gondola lift Wangs – Furt
Construction of the six-seater chairlift Schwamm
Commissioning of the new snowmaking machine Schwamm, 1st stage
Investments in snowmaking
Schwamm-Pardiel mountain station
Investment in snowmaking
Slope 9, Pardiel-Sponge
Acquisition of Panorama Restaurant Aurea (Aurea Pizol AG) and appointment of Pizol Gastro und Sport AG
Investment in snowmaking
Automation & renewal in Wangs with 10 new snow cannons