THE DAY WHEN EVERYTHING WAS AT STAKE

On March 16, 1963, something happened in Ischgl which should never have happened. The brand-new Silvretta cable car was beginning its trial run. Officials from the Federal Ministry of Transport were on the scene to carry out technical checks and acceptance testing for the brand-new system on which the future of tourism in Paznaun depended. And then the catastrophe happened.

The preparatory work had taken a long time and stretched the newly-established Silvrettaseilbahn AG cable car company to its limits. The entire summer of 1962 was taken up with the construction of the cable car up the Idalpe. Trisanna has summarised the complicated story here.

Now of all days, the day of the technical inspection, a serious incident occurred. The Silvretta cableway bearer cable broke due to a cable flashover. The elegant, freshly-painted gondola carrying cable car driver Johann Zangerl crashed to the ground from a height of over twenty metres and smashed. Zangerl was seriously injured. The site of the accident was visible with the naked eye from the village of Ischgl.

In another town, the accident might have marked the end of all ambitions for increasing tourism. Not in Ischgl. The Silvrettaseilbahn AG did indeed run into economic difficulties. It not only had to fund the heavy investments which had been made to date, but also had to go back to the beginning, as it were. The reserves were used up, and many people thought the dream of tourism flourishing in Paznaun was already shattered.

In this situation, the special set-up of the cable car company when it was founded proved its worth. It belonged to the people of Ischgl themselves. No external investors or rich cable car magnates were behind the project, just the village community itself. Even if everyone’s nerves were frayed by now.

In precisely this stressful situation, the people of Ischgl moved even closer together. It was Erwin Aloys, the pioneer of tourism, who resolutely led the way and motivated his colleagues not to throw in the towel now. Mobilising all forces was the only way to make the Silvretta cable car ready for use again over the course of the summer.

It was worth all the effort. On 15 December, 1963, despite all the adversities, the cable car finally went into operation. One week later the Idjochlift also started operating. The future of Paznaun could begin – a little scarred, but full of promise.

The rest of the story is legendary. But the journey there is worth remembering, too.