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The Sky is the Limit

Autonomous ropeway technology creates exciting opportunities for mountain resort operators

Creating innovation in unique transportation systems is what Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group does. Formed in 2002, when Doppelmayr of Wolfurt, Austria, merged with Garaventa AG of Switzerland, the Group has since become one of the world’s largest ropeway manufacturers. Today the Group is active in 96 countries with more than 15,100 installations to its credit. Core ropeway products include aerial tramways, funiculars, gondola lifts, detachable chairlifts, fixed-grip chairlifts and surface lifts.

The company recently introduced further innovation when its autonomous ropeway operation (AURO) system opened in 2020 in Zermatt, Switzerland. This type of operation is an area where Doppelmayr/Garaventa is thinking ahead and introducing a revolutionary concept. Autonomous ropeways are pointing the way for the future of rope-propelled mobility. They bring passengers safely and reliably to their destinations in tourist regions or urban environments.

The Zermatt Bergbahnen AURO system offers a Gondelbahn Kumme 10-passenger gondola. The lift features two sections in which the bottom and top stations are unattended. A single ropeway attendant, located in the intermediate station – the Ropeway Operations Center (ROC) – monitors the entire operation. Monitoring includes the three stations, a 3,192-meter line with a 965-meter rise and 56 OMEGA V cabins. The capacity on the system is rated at 1,500 passengers per hour and it travels at six-meters per second, with full travel time between the top and bottom stations of only 5.8 minutes.

Cutting-edge technology delivers a high level of safety. For example, the ROC is staffed by a trained technician that watches operations via a CCTV system. Monitoring can be expanded to include several installations. An emergency stop button and an intercom system for passengers are installed at each platform gate to enable direct communication with the ropeway operator in the ROC. Cabin comfort is greatly aided thanks to enhanced stabilization and a gap-free cabin step-in geometry.

Cabin boarding is completely barrier-free. For example, the geometry of the cabin entrance on the 56 Omega V carriers is designed for level walk-in from the platform. For enhanced comfort when boarding, passengers simply take their skis with them into the spacious cabins and stow them in the TWISTIN ski rack system embedded in the cabin floor.

“The first weeks since the opening of this engineering masterstroke and the positive development of the frequencies have proven the massive upgrade of the ski resort below the Rothorn,” said Markus Hasler, CEO of Zermatt Bergbahnen AG. He is confident that this AURO system will pave the way for technical innovation above and beyond the Zermatt destination.

According to Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group spokesperson, Julia Schwärzler, AURO systems are equipped with intelligent integrated technology and impress operators and passengers with the highest safety levels. Cameras and sensors ensure smooth processes and monitor the installation – particularly cabin loading and unloading. “

The system independently identifies situations that deviate from ‘normal operation.’ If, for instance, a passenger’s ski boot becomes caught in the cabin door, the system reacts immediately and the installation automatically shuts down. At this point, a ropeway operative who has an overview of operations from the ROC restarts the system. The perfect synergy of human and cutting-edge technology results in high availability of the ropeway.”

She says that the AURO concept harbors great potential.

“The level of automation with this system will progressively increase. That will open up interesting operating concepts, particularly for installations that operate for many hours a day. Pioneering innovations are the hallmark of a successful enterprise,” she said, mentioning that right-thinking and resultant innovations move capability in an exciting direction. One example is autonomous operation.

Citing efficiency as a major benefit, Schwärzler says that the AURO system is ideal for any venue where efficient mobility is needed, noting that growing urbanization calls for visionary transportation solutions.

The next AURO system is in construction in Vorarlberg, Austria. For more information on AURO systems visit