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Batch XXXVI. Schwarzwald, Sunday February 05, 2023 NO. 47
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Tales from the Black Forest - The Skilift

Schollach – Lift Me Up!

It is important to have ideas. The courage to implement your visions and the diligence to get the very best out of yourself and your product whilst meeting the highest standards of quality. What sounds like Monkey 47’s recipe for success also applies to the upper Black Forest town of Eisenbach. The residents here have been hitting the target for a long time, and not only because of their archery hotel. They’ve also been a big hit in the field of gear technology. In the style of Silicon Valley in the USA, Eisenbach earned itself the nickname “Gear Valley” because this is where the global market leaders in the industry are based. Currently enjoying great commercial success, these businesses often evolved from modest clockmaker’s workshops in the village. The people of Eisenbach have always been very mindful of how they dealt with their ideas and visions, which is reflected in the fact that there are far more jobs here than residents. And not many communities can make that kind of claim.

The special ingenuity of the Eisenbachers is also evident in the district of Schollach. For this is where the ski lift was invented. After the thrill of hurtling down a ski run, finally they no longer had the arduous task of getting back up to the top; they simply let themselves be dragged back up in total comfort.
1904 saw the first guests arrive for therapeutic treatment by taking in the healthy Black Forest air of Schollach. Robert Winterhalder’s inn, Gasthaus Schneckenhof, also accommodated visitors who – especially if they were asthmatic – found it difficult climbing uphill in winter while they were skiing. Since he already used the hydropower of his mill, transferring the energy by means of a cable, he had a brilliant idea. He attached a second belt drive and guided a circular cable around five girders fitted with wheels to another wheel at the top and then back down again. To this he attached further cables, which the skiers could use to allow themselves to be pulled up the 280-meter-long and 32-meter-high incline. The same principle that is still used today was a total success when it was inaugurated in 1908.

Robert Winterhalder registered his “continuous cable railway with coupling device for tobogganists and skiers” for patent protection and was even awarded a gold medal for a second funicular at the International Winter Sports Exhibition in Triberg. However, he never achieved a major breakthrough as this man of simple means was unable to find an investment partner. The Schollach lift was closed down during the First World War, and in 1917, the metal girders were dismantled due to a shortage of materials and the steel was used for military equipment. Sadly, Robert Winterhalder didn’t live to see the success of his invention and the enormous popularity of skiing in the Black Forest. An Austrian company took over the patent and still makes good money with it to this day.

Hardly anybody skis on the slopes of the Winterhalders’ Schneckenhof any more. However, the community still wanted to celebrate the 100th birthday of the ski lift in February 2008 in traditional winter sport style. Unfortunately, in the anniversary year – of all years – there was no snow in Schollach. But the resourceful locals didn’t let this deter them. They had 160 truckloads of the cold, white stuff brought down from areas higher up and transformed Winterberg into a downhill slope. In place of Robert Winterhalder’s original ski lift, a descendant pulled its weight: a mobile ski lift that a group of people wearing traditional costumes from 100 years ago had brought up the mountain.

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