|Mountain transport in Switzerland|
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It’s inevitable that at some point during your stay you’ll use transport to get to the top of a mountain. There are few areas or ranges that have no means of getting to the top of at least one local peak – the train timetable lists them all – and even relatively unsung Swiss summits can be breathtakingly beautiful. Few peaks that can be accessed by public transport don’t also feature at least one mountain-top restaurant or terrace café for refreshment and relaxation; if you need solitude and tranquillity you generally have to hike away from the summit station.
There are six principal means of transport in the mountains: funicular (Standseilbahn, funiculaire, funicolare); cable-car (Luftseilbahn, téléphérique, funivia) and the (more or less interchangeable) gondola (Gondelbahn, télécabine, cabinovia); chairlift (Sesselbahn, télésiège, seggiovia); and T-bar skilift or draglift (Schlepplift, téléski, sciovia). The lack of security on draglifts, as well as accidents caused by skiers letting go too soon or forgetting to let go at all, means that they’re being replaced almost everywhere. You’ll also come across mountain railways, also called rack, rack-and-pinion, or cog railways.
All of these various systems around the country are operated by small local transport companies, not the SBB. Fares – except on the flagship tourist routes such as to the Jungfraujoch or the Titlis – aren’t excessive, and are usually discounted a little (25 percent is common) if you hold a travel pass. Where timetables don’t show exact timings (often because departures may be continuous), they at least note the first ascent (Bergfahrt, montée, salita) of the day; the frequency of service in between; and the final descent (Talfahrt, descente, discesa) from the mountain in the evening. On the high peaks you may have to leave the top station in mid-afternoon, say 3–4pm, if you want to reach the valley without hiking or skiing part or all of the way down.
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