While skiing and snowboarding are the big draws to the Swiss Alps, we had a chance to sit down with the team at The Chedi Andermatt to discuss activities away from the slopes—and in the small town of Andermatt, there are quite a few.
Ninety minutes away from Zurich by train and situated at the bottom of a glacial valley deep in the Swiss Alps, Andermatt hums. Overshadowed by the giant peaks of the near-3,000-metre summits of Gemsstock and Nätschen, the ski haven usually plays host to those who are there to hit the slopes, but with the increasing development of the town itself, more and more guests are turning up that aren’t interested in a full day on the mountain. Luckily for those who are searching for other winter activities, and even for those who might venture into the valley during the warmer months, there are plenty of things to be done and places to be seen off the runs in this small Swiss town.
While snow skiing and snowboarding are Andermatt’s biggest draws, there are a number of wintertime options for visitors to check out in their time away from the slopes.
- The valley in which Andermatt lies was shaped by a glacier, leaving unpredictable and indescribable geological formations along the imposing borders of the valley village. Walk through the east-west facing valley and catch some of the aesthetically pleasing rock patterns and combinations as the sun is either rising or setting at one end of the valley or the other. In the fleeting and coming hours of light, the glacial formations are as beautiful as they are geologically fascinating.
- Sledding, or sledging, as those in the Alps call it, is another popular way to enjoy the snow. A great activity for kids and adults alike, sledding offers a safe, easy and quick way to get your feet wet without hopping on the lifts. For something more novel, head out on a full-moon night and experience the joy of sledding in the moonlight.
- There are any number of winter trails available for snowshoers in the Andermatt valley. Whether visitors choose to venture out independently or with a guide, hiking with snowshoes is an intimate way to explore the natural surroundings.
- Whether you’ve skated before, or you’re more prone to look like Bambi on ice, be sure to lace a pair of ice skates up and give a ice skating a go at the local ice rink. Easily accessible and with rentable gear, anyone from beginners to experts are invited to carve the ice on Andermatt’s open-air skating rink. And for those who are more injury prone, sit yourself down at the bar and grab a drink while watching others struggle to balance.
For all that Andermatt is a winter wonderland, it also serves as a fantastic summer getaway. While it may be a stretch to call the weather warm, snow abates from the valley floor and temperatures are crisp and offer a fresh mountain air that is hard to find elsewhere in the world. But what is there to do in a snow sports destination in the summer? Plenty.
- Historically known as a mountain pass, and in the centre of the Swiss Alps, Andermatt offers a great hub for summer drives. Just two hours from Milan and close to Zurich, Lake Lucerne and Lake Zug, the town has favorable road conditions and a central location that make it hard to pass up tripping through the Alps on a nice summer afternoon.
- Particularly green in the summer months, Andermatt offers a great location for outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking. Known as “the water castle of Europe,” Switzerland is a major fresh water supplier for the rest of continental Europe, and much of that water comes from the four rivers that start not far from Andermatt. A hike can be organised through a guide or hotel in Andermatt, which takes you through the four springs of the Reuss, Rhône, Rhine and Ticino rivers. A particularly notable journey, it is a bit on the longer side, so if you are planning to enjoy the scenery be sure to pack proper gear.
- The mountains surrounding Andermatt are also filled with military bunkers that date back to the 1880s. Revamped during World War II, these bunkers, which lie like caves and caverns within the mountains, were built with the intention of acting as a refuge for the Swiss army and government if things got badly out of hand during war. Though they were barely touched, the bunkers can be visited and toured for those who have a fascination with the more historical aspect of Andermatt.
- Lastly, watching the sun set from the top of Gemsstock is an unforgettable experience. Carried to the summit via gondola, visitors can admire views of the valley below and the mountain ranges beyond as the sky takes on a palette of fiery oranges and yellows. It’s sure to leave you gasping for the cool Swiss air.
For more information regarding any of the activities listed here, or for other options available to guests visiting Andermatt, please visit The Chedi Andermatt at www.ghmhotels.com/en/andermatt/destination/
(Featured image: Summer scape in Andermatt)