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Mountaintop Healthcare

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Queenie: And here we are! Here's the cable car station, and there, up above it...
The Doctor: What's so extraordinary about Holbruk Sanatorium?
Queenie: Well, it's the finest recuperative center in Davos. Tip-top for anything pulmonary.
The Doctor: Never heard of it.
Queenie: Oh, it's famous! If you need to expectorate into a kidney dish, Holbruk is the place to do it.

Due to the belief in Healthy Country Air, especially cold high-altitude air, specialized healthcare facilities in fiction are often built on snowy, picturesque mountains where their patients can recover in a beautiful natural environment, Switzerland being a popular locale of choice.

Including hospitals, clinics, health resorts or even asylums, places like these are isolated from major population centers, and sometimes only accessible by cable cars, snowmobiles and other specialized vehicles. Because of this lack of regular access and the fragility of the patients, it's not uncommon for them and the medical staff to live up in the mountains for years on end, with all the Cabin Fever such a thing would entail.

Given that the sanatorium movement lasted from the 1800s to the early 1900s, towering gothic-style architecture was preferred. After the sanatorium movement ended, when scientists proved that bed rest and meditation in a city hospital were just as effective, many of the huge facilities in these remote regions were abandoned, though a few examples linger on in both the real world and in modern fiction. Given the creepy old buildings and the rumors about their use as asylums, it's no surprise that alpine sanatoriums became a popular venue for horror stories, thrillers, and murder mysteries, the sense of distance and confinement inherent in the scenery guaranteeing tension. Much like the classic Abandoned Hospital, it can also be played for a different brand of horror if this mountaintop facility's been shut down and you're the first visitor to trespass in years. For good measure, Snow Means Death may be involved at some point.

Compare Eerie Arctic Research Station for a different kind of icy, isolated setting and Flower from the Mountaintop for a different source of medical power hidden away in an alpine region.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece: In the "Drum Island Arc," Nami falls sick and forces the Straw Hats to make a detour to the titular island to find her a doctor. However, Luffy is told the only doctor of the island is a "witch" who lives in a castle at the highest mountain peak of the island. So he, along with Sanji, go to take Nami there having to brave monster rabbits called Laphan, an avalanche (which knocks out Sanji), direct attacks by the Big Bad Wapol and his subordinates and finally having to scale the mountain with his bare hands and feet. Luckily said doctor was home and indeed manages to heal the three. After the arc and the disposal of Wapol, the newly crowned Dalton re-dubs the island as Sakura Kingdom and the castle becomes the main HQ for medical practice.
  • In The Wind Rises, Jiro Horikoshi's love interest Naoko contracts tuberculosis halfway through the movie and spends time in a mountain sanatorium, in one scene lying outside cocooned in thick blankets for the air. It doesn't help, and she dies shortly after leaving to marry Jiro.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: "The Magic Mousetrap" is set in an exclusive sanatorium hidden away in the Swiss Alps and accessible only by cable car. The patients, visitors and staff seem eccentric to the point of insanity, there's a mysterious couple running everything from an isolation ward, and the Doctor appears stricken by amnesia. It turns out that everyone at the sanatorium is carrying a piece of the defeated Celestial Toymaker's essence inside their minds; the Doctor is keeping them confined to the mountain until the essence fades away and the Toymaker dies. The mystery couple are Ace and Hex, who the Doctor's entrusted with running the show and keeping the patients from remembering the Toymaker via the ECT machine. And then the finale flips the whole thing on its head: it's really taking place in the Celestial Toymaker's realm, and the game was rigged in his favor all along.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Brief Vacation, a 1973 film, features the protagonist being sent to a sanatorium in the Italian Alps for tuberculosis treatment, falling in love with a mechanic, and eventually considering the whole experience a respite from her miserable home life.
  • A Cure for Wellness: The bulk of the movie takes place at an isolated "wellness center" deep in the Swiss Alps: initially, protagonist Lockhart is visiting because his company's CEO hasn't returned from a stay at the spa, but after being wounded in a car accident, he's forced to stay for an extended period — and discovers that immoral human experimentation is taking place there. This particular movie was notable for being filmed in a real sanatorium in Beelitz, itself notable for receiving Adolf Hitler as a patient during World War I!
  • Face/Off: The Walsh Institute, where Sean Archer undergoes the surgery that transforms him into Castor Troy, is up in the mountains just outside Los Angeles.
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in an alpine spa town steep enough to require funiculars to access parts of it, particularly the eponymous hotel, which seems to have been built at the highest point in town. Along with its luxury, one of the main attractions of the building is apparently its health spa; indeed, the only reason why the Author visits at all is due to a case of neurasthenia, and can actually be seen availing himself to hydrotherapy in an early scene. It turns out that the hotel has become unprofitable under the new collectivist government and is actually going the same way as the TB sanatoriums, ultimately being demolished following the Author's visit.
  • Inception: The third level of Robert Fischer's dream is a heavily-guarded hospital complex atop a snowy mountain, created by the heist team to get their mark to think about his recently-deceased father. The goal of this last mission is to escort Fischer to the heart of the complex and allow him to discover what lies behind the vault doors: a recreation of Maurice Fischer on his deathbed, exactly as Robert last saw him; it's here that the team are finally able to plant the idea they need. It's also a homage to On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
  • James Bond
    • The majority of the action in On Her Majesty's Secret Service takes place in an allergy clinic, Piz Gloria, in Switzerland; as it turns out, the patients are actually being hypnotised into serving as carriers in bacteriological warfare.
    • Spectre does a nearly identical set-up shot for Madeleine Swann's Hoffler Klinik in Austria.
  • Villmark 2, a Norwegian film, is set primarily in a largely-abandoned sanatorium somewhere in the mountains, where five contract workers have been charged with surveying the decommissioned building for hazardous waste before it can be demolished. This being a horror movie, it all goes wrong when the workers soon uncover evidence of the sanatorium's sordid past...
  • Youth, a 2015 dramatic film starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Rachel Weisz, takes place at an alpine resort. Caine and Keitel play two friends, one of them retired, contemplating their lives, careers, and families while on vacation.

  • Discworld: In Guards! Guards!, Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler is selling health tonics he claims came from a mountain monastery who specialise in healing. The epilogue reveals this is actually true, although they're a bit bemused as to why anyone would buy them.
  • Dr. Greta Helsing: Oasis Natrun is a private medical facility high in the mountains outside Marseilles. Literally "in"; the patients are all mummies, rooms carved into a mountain are close enough to their original tombs to make them feel comfortable.
  • The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann, is set primarily in a sanatorium in Davos, Switzerland, where the main character's cousin is staying in the hopes of curing his tuberculosis. Only intending to stay for a short visit, the hero is diagnosed with a bronchial infection that could be TB and has to remain there for seven years.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Farscape: In "Die Me Dichotomy," the crew seek out the services of a highly-skilled Diagnosan to treat Moya's burns and Crichton's Enemy Within; as it turns out, Diagnosan Tocot works at a medical facility situated atop a mountain - on an otherwise uninhabited ice world. For added creepiness, Tocot's business partner is in the habit of cryogenically preserving dead or dying patients as potential organ donors. It also turns out to be the place where Scorpius was outfitted with his coolant system, presumably because the climate made it ideal for treating his Heat Delirium.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: Lands of Creation describes the Pentarch Pyramid, one of many wonders built by the Exalted. The dedication of those patients strong enough to climb the ziggurat's many steps magically speeds up their healing in the hospital they reach; weaker patients can be carried up by their friends or pay for transportation. Even in the First Age, there's no such thing as a free lunch.

    Video Games 
  • Hitman (2016): The last episode, "Situs Invertus," is set at the high-tech GAMA clinic in the mountains of Hokkaido. It features an Auto Doc, a Master Computer that can fix Agent 47's sabotage, and a really nice sushi restaurant.
  • Mass Effect 3 features the alpine planet of Lessus; largely uninhabited due to the uncomfortable conditions, the only settlement is a mountainside facility for housing Asari with latent or active Ardat-Yakshi genes. It's described as a monastery, but in practice, it's more akin to a rehabilitation center: individuals with the condition are isolated and taught how to resist their urges, with the best-behaved among them being allowed to visit other planets — albeit under strict supervision. By the time Shepard gets there, it's been attacked by the Reapers and most of the residents have been converted into Banshees - except for Samara's daughters.
  • Outlast takes place at Mount Massive Asylum, an institution situated in an alpine region of Lake County, Colorado. As it turns out, it's actually a research facility for the Murkoff Corporation, with the patients being deliberately driven deeper into insanity by their "therapy" in order to serve as candidates in Project WALRIDER. Ultimately, the Asylum's isolation works against it, allowing the tortured subjects to massacre the staff long before backup can arrive on the mountain.
  • Wing Commander: Privateer: Parodied in Privateer 2: The Darkening. Crius is an entire planet built around this trope, being composed of nothing but snowy mountains, scenic glaciers and "the cleanest, whitest hospitals you've ever seen." This isn't because of healthy alpine air (though it does have that) but because the newly-colonized planet was found to be harboring several virulent strains of deadly bacteria, forcing the settlers to work overtime on advancing medical technology in order to protect themselves. As a result, the place has become known as the best place in the galaxy for both winter sports and expert healthcare: Lev Arris spends most of the game's intro recuperating on Crius after being revived from cryosleep and cured of the illness that had him frozen in the first place.
  • Sunless Skies: One of the many ports you can visit is Carillon, an isolated complex built around a series of mountain-like landmasses floating in one of the colder regions of the Reach. Described by the guidebooks as cross between a spa, a sanatorium and purgatory, it's run by devils and built specifically for the improvement of souls — making it equal parts beneficial and terrifying.
  • Until Dawn is set on an isolated mountain in Canada that once housed an exclusive sanatorium and hotel complex; however, the place was abandoned in the 1950s following a disaster involving the nearby mining facility. As it turns out, the sanatorium was experimenting on rescued miners who'd begun to exhibit unusual traits following a cave-in - only for the entire staff to end up getting massacred after the cannibalistic miners began turning into Wendigos. Naturally, some of the most dangerous chapters of the game feature Mike having to investigate the ruins of the sanatorium.

    Web Original 
  • Neopets: The faerie Taelia lives up at the top of the mountain and while she can't heal your pets or sell healing potions like Marina, she is known for having good healing abilities.

    Western Animation 
  • Shhhhhh: Parodied with the Hush Hush Lodge, an exclusive health retreat perched atop a remote crag in the Swiss Alps, where its guests can enjoy unbroken silence. In theory.
  • VeggieTales: Played for Laughs in a Silly Song where Larry (playing the Yodeling Veterinarian of the Alps) runs a veterinary shack up in the mountains and his yodeling supposedly cures animals of all ailments (it's actually his nurse and said nurse's more practical aids).

    Real Life 
  • Sanatoriums were a common form of tuberculosis treatment in the late 19th-early 20th century, as it was believed rest, sunlight and crisp cold mountain air would be better for the patient's lungs. They faded away with the discovery of antibiotics, but modern reviews have noted that they at least seemed to help, likely in part by simply being a low-stress environment with comparatively good hygiene practices for the era. The air of the countryside being less polluted than in the city may also have contributed.
  • In a few countries (usually with highly centralized medicine) remote mountain hospitals are still used to treat patients with communicable diseases. This is mostly to ensure the patient can't leave until it's believed they are more or less cured or understand how to prevent spreading their affliction. Many of these hospitals are former sanatoriums.
  • A few drug and substance rehab centers fit the bill today. Nearly all rehab centers are either isolated or gated, and a mountaintop location is rather effective at preventing a breakout while at the same time not giving the patients the impression that they are trapped.