Super AlpineSuper Alpine


The lodestar of mountain passes

Andermatt lies at the heart of Switzerland's most famous Alpine passes. It forms an intersection of mountain passes from north to south and from east to west. The area is fed by four water sources that spring from the Gotthard massif, home to the famous Gotthard and Tremola passes. Andermatt is also on a circular route of the Furka, Grimsel and Susten passes, making it the ideal location to explore the most famous mountain roads in Switzerland.

Andermatt was a small village until World War II broke out when it was chosen as the Swiss Federal Army's high command with at one point, 80,000 Swiss soldiers stationed there. So in 1999, the town suffered a shock when the Swiss army decided to close its artillery firing range and scale back operations. By 2005 the army was ready to leave Andermatt for good. The leader of Canton Uri realised that a major hole was about to appear in the economic future of the town. Through a friend of a friend, a plan was devised to develop Andermatt as a luxury ski location. That plan was funded by Egyptian-born developer Samih Sawiris, who invested a billion Swiss francs to develop one million square metres of former military land and double the size of Andermatt. This new development, Andermatt Reuss, sits on the opposite side of the main road from the old town.

In March 2022 the American company Vail Resorts purchased a 55 per cent stake in Andermatt-Sedrun Sport AG, which controls and operates all of the resort's mountain and ski-related assets, including lifts, most of the restaurants and a ski school operation. The plan to invest more in the resort, in addition to the 1.3 billion Sawiris has already put in, must mean the newer part will come to dominate the old town. Construction continues at a pace in Reuss.

Getting from Reuss to the old village (Dorf) on foot involves walking across a car park, through the remains of the army's location and the train station - or down the old main road. Hopefully, better integration is planned as it looks like the two don't get on. Dorf is a very old town with not a lot going on for visitors. It has a pleasant centre with a supermarket and the River house restaurant and a handful of shops. Some of the money has found its way into the old village though like the Chedi luxury hotel, which has been built right in the centre of Dorf. It is well hidden though and more modern developments in the old town have followed without impacting the look of the old buildings. A peaceful walk down the river towards the train station and around the back of the Chedi reveals more of the old village.

The train station has undergone a major revamp and looks like it could handle three times the foot traffic it has in high summer. Reuss on the other hand looks a bit out of place across the road. The multi-storey buildings are all similar and seem too close together, blocking out each other's view. Most are luxury apartments are sold as second homes to foreigners and Zurich-its. The Radisson Blu hotel sits on the piazza square and has the prime spot. A very nice hotel with attached residences, it's also quiet in August. Reuss is pedestrianised thanks to a large underground car park complex. I imagine once Reuss is complete and a few shops and restaurants move in, no one will need to walk over to Dorf.

Further reading

Andermatt Dorf