Switzerland Skiing Resorts

Skiing Destinations in Switzerland: Andermatt

Approach Andermatt from the east and you will be treated to one of the most dramatic arrivals in any ski resort: you place your car on the train at Sedrun and then travel over the snowbound Oberalp pass prior to the steep descent into Andermatt. This marvel of engineering is matched to the west by the Furka rail tunnel and the north-south Gotthard road and rail tunnels, which pass underneath Andermatt and have left this once major Alpine crossroads in a state of isolation. This picture isn't helped by the austere army buildings that occupy the outskirts of this barracks town, but the old centre is a far more attractive place having cobbled streets and ancient chalets.

In spite of Andermatt being left behind, weekenders still flock here from Zurich to experience something no bypass can take away - the steep Gemsstock mountain towering 1,500m above the town.

Andermatt SkiingCredit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Andermatt_Winter.jpg

Having 14 lifts and plenty of weekend traffic, queues can rapidly build up on Gemsstock, especially for the two-stage cable-car, which opens as early as November and continues going until May. There are in fact three unconnected ski areas - Gemsstock, Natschen and Winterhorn - linked by bus or train, and the lift pass also covers a couple of other ski places on the train line over the Oberalp pass. If you go here for a week then you'd possibly visit them all, as on-piste options are seriously limited on shady Gemsstock, with just two runs down from the top station - red or black -plus a single black piste back down to town. Not the best terrain for beginners, but judging by the number of people wearing helmets in the cable-car, Andermatt's skiers are an extreme crew. The off-piste possibilities from the top are superb, with descents down to Andermatt or Hospental, as well as a myriad of routes down the main bowl itself.  For non-extremists, there are afew blues around the mid-station, but sun-drenched Natschen is a far better bet for novices and early intermediates, despite being accessed by one of the slowest chairlifts known to man. When you're up, things start to get going and a fast chair leads to a few short reds and a long blue all the way back down to town.

Winterhorn, a few miles along the valley from Andermatt, offers 1,000m of vertical, while beyond that is a one-lift baby nursery area at Realp.

For lunch in the sun, head for Natschen, this offers a sun terrace and easy post-lunch skiing. The crowds on Gemsstock stop at Gurschen for lunch, which serves up low-altitude prices and standard self-service staples.

There's a super-pipe and snow-rail park near the cable-car mid-station on Gemsstock, but the real fun rests 800m of vertical freeriding paradise below the top station.

Skiing is king in Andermatt and off-piste activities are restricted. There is a 7km toboggan run from Natschen to the village, while langlaufers will like the 20km loop along the valley floor.

The Spycher Pizzeria is the liveliest place in this unliveliest of towns, serving delicious pizza and panini in cozy surroundings, having decent music and a young snowboarding crowd. Directly opposite is the less appealing City Bar & Restaurant, a local haunt for fans of cheap burgers and beer. For something a bit more formal, the Hotel Kronen's Tre Passi restaurant aspires to higher things.

Three stars is as high as it comes in unglamorous Andermatt, and even some of these are a little rough on the edges. Hotel Kronen has a cute lobby and decent food, but upstairs things take a turn for the worse with gloomy corridors and rooms. The handsome Hotel Sonne, in an old chalet on the main street, is a better bet or try the plain but spacious Monopol-Metropol.