The "Funi" – Switzerland's first cable car.
The name "Funi" comes from the French word "funiculaire" and means a cable car. The native Lauenen Arnold Annen had the idea of transporting visitors up the mountain, something that, to date, has only been possible with horse-drawn sleighs. In 1934 he built Switzerland's first cable car on the Wispile, the "Funi".
In a report dated 1937, the "Schweizer Illustrierte magazine" described the "Funi" as the "benefactor of the "climbing-shy"" and "the new conqueror of the ski slopes". And it continued: "There is always business to be made from people's comfort. (...) We do not doubt that their cable car will conquer Switzerland's ski resorts."
Arnold Annen, inventor of the Funi
The native of Lauenen, Arnold Annen, was many things: farmer, merchant and landlord. But he became famous as a do-it-yourself enthusiast and visionary. In 1934 he was the first person in Switzerland to construct a funicular with two suspended skids – similar to cable cars –up to the Wispile. He found an influential business partner in Gstaad hotelier Oswald von Siebenthal.
1180 metres long, 320 metres of height difference, 12 passengers
What fun! The two steerable carriages "Röseli" and "Leni" could each carry 12 people in addition to the driver, a comfortable and cheerfully good-natured kilometre up the hill – a difference in height of 320 metres. This equated to a capacity of 85 people per hour at a maximum speed of 2.5 metres/second. Today the 4-person Bodme-Wispile gondola transports 750 guests an hour over 1135 metres. The 264-metre long Wispile-Stand button lift carries 425 skiers per hour up the mountain.
Innovative and cost-effective
As the skids made their own tracks in the snow, it was possible to avoid the construction of a costly, fixed track. The wire cable simply slid along in the snow along the route. Rollers were only needed where there were gaps in the incline. The "Funi" was such a success that a further one went into operation on the Eggli in 1938.
Conquest of the mountains in summer
By their very nature, the Funis could only be used in winter, and so they were soon lifted off the ground high up in the air. Gstaad believed in the tourism future of the region and in August 1945 it built Switzerland's first chairlift on the Wasserngrat. For the first time, the "telesiège" carried guests up the mountain in summer as well. The first gondola in the Saanenland was built on the Eggli in 1954.
From "Funi" to gondola
In 1944, the "Funi" on the Wispile is replaced by the Rütti ski lift. In 1963/64 a gondola is constructed up to the summit of the Wispile. The inventor of the "Funi" would most certainly have been pleased about this. In 1986, the last funicular on the Hornberg ceased operation. You can still admire two examples of "funis" from the Berghotel Hornberg and the Saanenmöser playground.