Bayerische Zugspitzbahn Bergbahn AG
History & milestones
An overview of the most important milestones in the fascinating history of Bayerische Zugspitzbahn Bergbahn AG.
The first ascent of the Zugspitze by Lieutenant Josef Naus in 1820 marked the beginning of the development of Germany’s highest mountain. The vision of making it possible for everyone to visit the Zugspitze took its starting point here.
As early as the end of the 19th century, the idea of a mountain railway leading up to the Zugspitze plateau was first deliberated. But it took another 30 years before this project could be implemented. The reason: a lack of financial backers and the turmoil of the First World War.
In 1930 the time had finally come: With the maiden voyage of the cogwheel train, the opening of the Schneefernerhaus hotel and the summit cable car a year later, the Zugspitze and the Zugspitze plateau were made accessible to guests.
Records & expansions
Little by little, the mountain world around the Zugspitze, the Garmisch-Classic area and Mount Wank were opened up to visitors. As early as 1926, the Kreuzeckbahn was opened as the first cable car in Bavaria. In 1928, Partenkirchen’s “panoramic mountain” was opened up with the construction of the first Wankbahn cable car. Even then, one or two records were broken: for example, the surface lift on the local mountain was the longest and steepest surface lift in all of Europe when it was opened.
However, the Second World War also marked a turning point for Bayerische Zugspitzbahn. It was not until 1949 that the Sonnenkar ski lift was put into operation and the further expansion and establishment of the Zugspitze ski area could begin.
In the 1960s, Germany’s highest mountain was finally made accessible from the valley with the Eibseebahn cable car.
Major projects were also implemented in the Garmisch-Classic area and on Mount Wank in the following years: for instance, the passenger cable car from the Kreuzeckbahn valley station to the Osterfelderkopf, the Olympic lift on the Olympic course, Kreuzwankl chairlift and the first surface lift on Mount Wank.
Expansion & innovations
The decision to host the Alpine World Ski Championships in 1978 meant a further boost to innovation. For example, the starting area for the Kandahar downhill run was extended with the new Kreuzjochbahn lift, and the ski area on Mount Wank was significantly expanded. In addition, the large single-track “Hangbahn” cable car between Schneefernerhaus and the Zugspitze plateau was completed. The electrical supply in the areas was expanded, and more culinary establishments could be opened.
In 1980, the foundation stone was laid for the Maria Heimsuchung chapel, which was consecrated by the then Archbishop of Munich, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later: Pope Benedict XVI). To this day, the chapel is the highest church in Germany.
Further extensions and conversions to the lifts and cable cars followed: The construction of the Rosi Tunnel meant that guests now could travel directly to the Zugspitze plateau by cogwheel train without having to change trains. The Gletscherbahn cable car was the first to connect the Zugspitze plateau with the Zugspitze summit and still serves as a convenient connection for the cogwheel train to this day.
Mountain railways today
The more recent history of Bayerische Zugspitzbahn Bergbahn AG is characterised by further expansion projects and modernisation work. However, there have also been some dismantling projects: Skiing operations on Mount Wank were discontinued in 2002, and the ski lifts were gradually dismantled in the following years.
Instead, investments were made in the expansion of the Zugspitze and Garmisch-Classic ski areas. In 2011, Garmisch-Partenkirchen was once again the venue for the World Ski Championships. In the course of the preparations, further investments were made – especially in the Kandahar downhill run.
In addition, attractions for the summer months were gradually created. Numerous hiking routes and via ferratas were built, and with the AlpspiX viewing platform, a unique scenic viewpoint was created in the Garmisch-Classic area.
In 2015, construction began on the Zugspitze cable car, which was to replace the Eibseebahn cable car. Within two years, a joint effort succeeded in building a modern world-record-holding cable car. It goes without saying that this pioneering feat and the construction of an innovative architectural and structural masterpiece also attracted great international interest.
Since 2018, visitors have been able to enjoy unique views of the mountain world of the Zugspitze at the Panorama 2962 summit restaurant.
In December 2020, the last major project to date was completed. With the new Zugspitzbahn station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it was not only possible to significantly improve comfort for guests of the cogwheel train. The management and administration of Bayerische Zugspitzbahn Bergbahn AG have also found a new, contemporary home here.
An overview of the most important milestones: