Eric Zeller | Ski Butlers | The Chedi Andermatt

Ski Butlers: Bringing Ease Back to Skiing

25 September 2015

As we edge towards ski season in Switzerland, sportsmen and women are chomping at the bit to hit the slopes once again. But for those who take a more recreational approach to the season, the prospect of dealing with gear is always a thorn in the side of happiness, luckily, with The Chedi Andermatt’s Ski Butler service, a day on the slopes has never been easier.

A team member whose sole purpose is to make your day on the runs as easy as possible, the Ski Butler is as close to Superman in the snow as you’ll get.

Skiing has never been much my thing. Frankly, I prefer whiling away my afternoons doing a whole lot of nothing on the beaches that dot the equatorial islands of the globe. It’s not that I don’t find any joy in carving through blankets of chalky white powder, on the contrary, I find the adrenaline rush and surge of intensity addicting, but there’s all that other stuff that has always turned me off to a day on the slopes. Trying everything on, getting the equipment hashed out and prepared, lugging around bags and maps trying to figure out where the hell I can get away from the pizza-stopping lunatics that thought it might be a good idea to push their luck on some of the steeper runs, you know, snow sports stuff. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way, and though perhaps the amount of falling I do also pushes me away from becoming the next Shaun White a bit more than others, there is a place I would love to give it all another go: Andermatt, Switzerland.

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Mount Gemmstock (left) and Mount Nätschen (right) are two of the most prominent mountains in the Andermatt area. Gemsstock, which comes it at nearly 3,000 metres, is a fantastic mountain for challenging off-piste ski runs for the most experienced of skiers.

Forget for a moment that Andermatt sits within the furrows of some of the best slopes in the world in the Swiss Alps, and forget also that it doesn’t have the hordes of mountain hogs that migrate north in the winters to most other mountains; no, that’s not what’s important – rather, that’s not who is important. For me it’s having a dedicated ski butler, or so they are called at The Chedi Andermatt, on hand. A team member whose sole purpose is to make your day on the runs as easy as possible, the ski butler is as close to Superman in the snow as you’ll get. And for me, Eric Zeller, the head ski butler at The Chedi Andermatt, and professional free-skier, is making it sound as though skiing were a sport made for the gods, but only because it seems as though I’ll be treated as one when I lace up for a day out at The Chedi Andermatt.

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Eric Zeller, who has been skiing since he was three years old, has become the head ski butler at The Chedi Andermatt as a way to both continue, and grow the sport of skiing in Andermatt. Responsible for a skier’s needs for a day on the slope, Zeller makes any trip one of immense ease.

Perhaps the most attractive of draws to grabbing yourself one of these ski saints is breezing through the technical process. Renting your gear (all official HEAD gear), lugging it from place to place and making sure it’s going on and coming off at the right time throughout the day is all in a day’s work, what’s more, is that this is all done in the warmth of a dedicated skiing “living room.” “We don’t have a foul-smelling boot room like most other places. And that’s because we’re usually up at around 6:30 in the morning preparing warmed boots for those who are ready to ski,” says Zeller. “We drop the boots in the living room and when you’re ready, you pop in and we personally kit you up. You’ve really got nothing to worry about in the mornings, just show up and go. And of course it’s the same at the end of the day.”

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The Ski Livingroom is The Chedi Andermatt’s way to ease skiers into a day on the slopes. Instead of kitting up in a foul-smelling boot room, skiers are taken to the ski living room where their dried boots and ski gear is set up and waiting in luxury.

But the ski butlers aren’t there just to help you with your gear. Zeller says a typical day for a ski butler is about nine hours, but can get anywhere up to 15, and contains giving food recommendations, slope recommendations, and even weather forecasts throughout the day. And there are few people more qualified to trust your day on the slopes. Zeller, who has been skiing since he was three, says that Andermatt is a place that he has been skiing seasonally for five years, and first skied back in 2007. An experienced on- and off-piste skier, Zeller is as familiar with the slopes of this central Swiss retreat as he is his own skis, and has a number of reasons that he has made Andermatt his go-to ski haunt. 

So before you begin your first lessons on the magic-carpet-ornamented nursery slopes, or head up for some killer off-piste runs on the 2,961-metre-high monster that is Gemstock, be sure to get yourself set up with The Chedi Andermatt’s Ski Butler service for some truly halcyon winter days.

“One thing that is great is the diversity of slopes here,” he says. “We have 160 kilometres of on-piste skiing and 240 kilometres of off-piste, and within that, we have a fantastic range of slopes for anyone from first timers to seasoned veterans. Something I promise is that I can find anyone a challenging run, even if you are used to running in the Alaskan spines.” And while I know I won’t be skiing those types of slopes anytime soon, the range in terrain is something that any avid skier won’t take for granted in Andermatt.

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Eric Zeller has skied far and wide, and here is shown skiing in Canada. Pursuing a career in free skiing when not working at The Chedi Andermatt, Zeller is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable and experienced guides available, and promises to find the appropriate run for any level skier who makes their way to Andermatt.

What’s more is that Andermatt offers visitors a location that hasn’t yet been crowded with scenes that look more like music festivals than a quiet day in the Alps. “We haven’t been bombarded with skiers yet, so you get really free and open runs,” says Zeller. “We’re quiet here, but not dead, and because it is still a traditionally Alpine village, you get a great taste of culture here as well.” And after a day out on the slopes, there is perhaps no place better to get a taste of this local culture than at the Pinte Pub, a local watering hole that fills with those looking for a sundowner after a long day of powdery fun. However, if something a bit more upscale is more your persuasion, there is also the Apres Ski Bar where Zeller says you can find some of the most vibrant and unique cocktails in the Alps. And while mixing with snowboarders (Andermatt features the first snowboarding school in Switzerland and one of the best in the country) at the bar is strictly up to you, you can be sure to find a good crowd of folks who have all seemingly found ski paradise in the central Alps.

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A number of runs in Andermatt present craggy rock faces and steep grades, luckily for those who are experienced enough to handle off-piste skiing, Andermatt offers a good range of it. Zeller says that either he or another guide is recommended for off-piste skiing, and with professional experience, there is no harm in having Zeller accompany you on the world-class powder.

So before you begin your first lessons on the magic-carpet-ornamented nursery slopes, or head up for some killer off-piste runs on the 2,961-metre-high monster that is Gemsstock, be sure to get yourself set up with The Chedi Andermatt’s ski butler service for some truly halcyon winter days. They might not actually be Superman, but for a guy like me, these winter warriors, and especially Zeller, get pretty close – plus, no one ever complained about being helped out of their gear at the end of the day did they?

(Featured image: Eric Zeller is not only one of the head ski butlers at The Chedi Andermatt, but also spends his time away from the resort pursuing a professional free-skiing career. Having been skiing Andermatt for five consecutive years now, there is perhaps no better person to guide you through this central Swiss winter paradise.)

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Ski Butlers: Bringing Ease Back to Skiing
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As we edge towards ski season in Switzerland, sportsmen and women are chomping at the bit to hit the slopes once again. But for those who take a more recreational approach to the season, the prospect of dealing with gear is always a thorn in the side of happiness, luckily, with The Chedi Andermatt’s Ski Butler service, a day on the slopes has never been easier.
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