A Lost Ski Area with a 3S Gondola

Abandoned towers for a Doppelmayr detachable quad at the Vall Fosca Mountain Resort in Spain.   Photo Credit:  Alfonso Pedrero Muñoz on Panoramio.
Abandoned towers for a Doppelmayr detachable quad at the Vall Fosca Mountain Resort in Spain. Photo Credit: Alfonso Pedrero Muñoz on Panoramio.

There are closed ski resorts with old, abandoned lifts rotting away all over the world.  But a remote mountain in Spain takes the lost ski area to a new level with tens of millions of dollars of half-completed lifts (including a 3S gondola) that never opened.  Doppelmayr partially built three lifts at the Vall Fosca Mountain Resort and abandoned them after the developer went bankrupt at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.  It’s a fascinating story of boom and bust all too common in the ski industry.

An abandoned 3S gondola terminal on the side of the road at the Vall Fosca Mountain Resort in Spain.  Photo source: http://monaxmontagne.blogspot.fr/2012/08/du-tourmalet-la-vall-fosca.html
An abandoned 3S gondola terminal on the side of a road at the Vall Fosca Mountain Resort in Spain. Photo credit.

Construction began back in 2006 and the resort was scheduled to open for the 2008-09 ski season.  The plan included a €230 million pedestrian village with 965 homes at 4,000 feet.  A 3S gondola was to connect the village to a new ski resort with four chairlifts.  At the time, only Val d’Isere and Kitzbuhel had Doppelmayr’s tri-cable gondola technology and Vall Fosca was destined to have the first 3S outside of the Alps.  That title ended up going to Whistler-Blackcomb.

Towers for a detachable quad chair.  Photo credit: Sergio
Towers for a detachable quad. Photo credit: Sergio Macias on Panoramio.

The 3S was supposed to be 11,000 feet long with 40 CWA 30-passenger cabins, moving 4,000 passengers an hour at 7 m/s.  Vertical rise was 2,600 vertical feet with three intermediate towers.  Towers and footings for the 3S terminals  were completed in the spring of 2008.  A Uni-G detachable quad was nearly completed along with a fixed-grip chairlift.

One of three abandoned 3S towers.  Photo credit: Sergio Macias on Panoramio.
One of three abandoned 3S towers. Photo credit: Sergio Macias on Panoramio.

The developer, a company called Martinisa Fadesa, went bankrupt in July 2008 with debts of €5.2 billion from many projects.  The government had insisted ski and golf facilities be built before real estate and the company ran out of money before it could sell enough homes.  Martinisa Fadesa ended up being liquidated as part of the largest bankruptcy in the history of Spain.  Doppelmayr stopped work and left by the end of the summer, taking equipment that could be removed and abandoning the rest.  Towers and terminals for the lifts remain on the mountainside with little else around in a town of 54 people.

Shiny new Uni-G terminal that will never be used.  Photo credit: Sergio Macias on Panoramio.
Shiny new Uni-G terminal that will likely never be used. Photo credit: Sergio Macias on Panoramio.

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