I like skiing but I’m no powder hound. I find being in the mountains surrounded by beautiful scenery invigorating and mind clearing. I love the freedom of cruising blue and red runs. Then after a day on the slopes I like nothing better than pootling around a quaint village, indulging in some spa treatment and cosying up in front of a roaring fire in a rather nice hotel. But, I hate the endless queues for lifts, struggling with my skis and being cut up by boarders and skiers who don’t seem to appreciate I like to take skiing at my own pace. So, could Andermatt be the answer to my skiing prayers?
Where I hear you ask? Andermatt: A pretty, little known Swiss resort about 90 minutes’ drive from Zurich Airport. Although technically a ski resort, it’s only been on the radar for local skiers who pop up at the weekend to sample the snow sure terrain. In the village itself there are two mountains: beginners and cruisers head for gentle Nätschen, whilst more ambitious skiers take the 2 stage cable car up Gemsstock (top station 2,963m), with its north-facing bowl and off-piste descent. The blue and red runs of a third mountain, Sedrun (included the in ski pas), are an easy 20 minute train ride away - with Swiss efficiency and stunning views this is no less inconvenient than a shuttle bus.
So why am I talking about Andermatt? Previously an army garrison town, the Army have long since moved out, the developers have moved in and this once slumbering town is going through a big transformation, spearheaded by the opening of the gorgeously chic Chedi Hotel. This is one of my favourite small hotel brands and their first foray into Europe, which I have to say doesn’t disappoint. In my view the hotel trumps most of the other luxury ski hotels in the more chintzy well established resorts, and at a less eye watering price.
The Chedi is something wonderful, a kind of Alpine chic meets Asian zen: lots of natural wood and stone, open fireplaces and fur throws mixed with masses of orchids and delicate latticed lamps; it’s stylish but still relaxed and incredibly cosy. The bedrooms all have fire places and balconies and even the smallest category is huge with all the mod cons operated from your own room mini i-Pad. There’s an intimate Japanese restaurant, a main restaurant offering lots of variety with food from around the world and a very inviting cocktail bar. For those wanting alpine adventures, the ski butlers in their Nordic sweaters will take care of everything, whilst you relax on the oversized sofas in the ski lounge, which is definitely a step up from the usual boot room. Weary limbs can be soothed in the spa or worked out even further in one of two enormous swimming pools, one indoor and one out, which come with stunning views of the dramatic mountain landscape.
What makes the Chedi Andermatt special is that it's subtle and not at all blingy with discreet service. It’s a truly fabulous place to stay. But, it’s a bit off piste. If you’re looking for the kind of big, easy-skiing area offered by the Italian Dolomites or the Three Valleys, you’re going to be disappointed with Andermatt. However, if you’re not a high mileage skier and want to opt for a more relaxed holiday, maybe combining skiing with other alpine activities (skinning, snow shoeing, cross country skiing), as well as being pampered, then I would whole heartedly recommend the Chedi Andermatt. Plus, with easy access from Zurich airport it’s perfect for a short break at any time of the year.
But a word of warning: If you want to experience Andermatt in its more traditional form, I would certainly visit sooner rather than later as the ski area looks set to develop quickly. Winter 2016 will see a chairlift linking Nätschen and Sedrun, opening up the 78 miles of (currently) uncrowded slopes, whilst there are plans afoot for major new lifts and more pistes. These developments are sure to bring more skiers to the slopes.
If you're interested in the Chedi Andermatt, please do get in touchsoon as any bookings made before 14 November 2014 receive a free ski pass for the duration of your stay (limited to two ski passes per room/suite) for any period during the upcoming ski season, ending 26 April 2015.
[Images - Hotel's own]