- The Hills Are Alive
Forget Verbier and Zermatt. Andermatt, population 1,400, is Switzerland’s best kept secret for homeowners and holidayers alike.
Every year, the Supercar Owners Circle descends upon a small town in the Alps, bringing with them a deluge of Paganis, Koenigseggs, and an extensive genealogy of Ferraris alike.
They’ll proceed to spend the rest of the weekend roaring through some of the best driving roads in the country, whipping through smooth, flowing roads against the backdrop of furling mountains and a clear blue sky, and at the end of the day, they’ll return to the ultra-luxe Chedi Andermatt to schmooze over its two-Michelin starred restaurant.
But there’s one area that the coterie won’t be allowed to let loose in, and that’s within the town of Andermatt itself.
That’s because the small Swiss town has a staunch car-free policy. Aside from the fact that the town is so storybook that ripping through the cobbled streets with a car would be nothing short of a travesty, Andermatt is very much in the heart of the countryside, and the friendly locals would like to keep it that way.
Andermatt, population 1,400, is undergoing something of a revival. Think Sound of Music, but with world-class hotels and a slick new philharmonic theatre.
The development is powered by a billion-dollar infusion from Egyptian-born businessman Samih Sawiris. He’s been helping to steadily build up the town over the past decade—not to become the next St Moritz, but to provide a world-class destination to the most discerning of visitors. But they too are aware that Andermatt’s charm lies in its simplicity.
“We consider ourselves to be town builders, rather than just developers,” says Russell Collins, who heads up the sales department of the Andermatt Swiss Alps AG.
“It’s a beautiful part of the world here, so we really need to consider the impact that we have from an environmental standpoint.”
Annual gas-guzzling visitors aside, Andermatt prides itself on being entirely carbon-neutral. Wind turbines power the ski-area, including the lifts. Apartment buildings and hotels are built to the Swiss Minergie standard, an energy-efficient ventilation system that cools buildings naturally, ensuring that no air-conditioning is needed.
Even the 18-hole par 72 championship golf course—thrice voted best in the country at the World Golf Awards— doubles up as a breeding and nesting ground for certain bird species in the region.
The locals take pride in their ‘zero kilometre’ menus, a Swinglish term affectionately used to describe locally-sourced ingredients. Most restaurants even have their own taps that deliver fresh, filtered water straight from the Alps.
Andermatt’s sustainable efforts are as much a demonstration of Swiss practicality as they are a sentimental one. There’s much that the locals love about their town, which draws as many Swiss tourists as it does international ones.
To get to either of its two main ski areas, guests need only hop onto the ski lifts that run directly from the village. And these are no ordinary ski areas. Gemmstock is something of a cult-favourite for pro-skiers, thanks to its steep slopes and perfectly deep snow. It boasts one of the best off-piste areas for free riders to show off, and provides a panoramic view across half of Switzerland.
And The Chedi Andermatt is a landmark in itself. It’s all dark woods and glass in this Asian-inspired mountain lodge, but a wealth of fireplaces and low lights help create an air of intimacy. Ski butlers help arrange your day out on the slopes, while the decadent spa offers up warm pools and complimentary yoga classes to help you wind down after a long day.
But Andermatt isn’t a place where one needs to fret about what needs to be seen or done next. Sometimes, it’s simply enough to be able to step out into the mountains, breathe in the air, and listen to the faint sound of cow bells tinkling off in the distance.