Flying round Andermatt with Switzerland’s David Beckham

20th February 2013, by Abi Butcher

Web editor Abi Butcher skis Andermatt with Swiss national hero Bernhard Russi

Web editor Abi Butcher skis Andermatt with Swiss national hero Bernhard Russi

Today was a special day. I skied the Swiss resort of Andermatt with its local (and national) hero, Olympic downhiller Bernhard Russi. 

Bernhard is an ambassador for the resort that is known for its expert and off-piste terrain and, more recently, its collaboration with Egyptian property tycoon Samih Sawiris. He is backing a major development in the resort — more of which I will report in a news story — but part of this involves linking Andermatt’s ski area with nearby Sedrun.

Bernhard Russi has designed Olympic downhill courses since his retirement in 1978, and is working as an advisor on the project, which will increase Andermatt’s ski terrain though by how much the resort, bizarrely, seems unsure. I spent the day, along with other journalists from Britain, Italy, Austria and Germany, skiing around the area looking at where the new link-ups will be.

The first thing that hits you about Andermatt is that this is a serious skiers’ place. Everyone wandering around the town looks like an expert — their kit, their skis, their backpacks, their helmets…they completely ooze “cool”. After an afternoon skiing the long blacks down from Gemsstock (2,693m), I can see why. I am itching to come back here to do some more serious stuff.

But this morning we caught the train over to Oberalppass, and skied the more “family friendly” runs down from Calmut (2,050m), Cuolm Val (2,215m) and down to Dienl at 1,500m. The conditions were amazing — it snowed last night so we had fresh tracks in 20cm of light, fluffy powder on top of beautifully groomed pistes. Flying along after Bernhard, having caught the 8.30am train to Oberalppass we cheesily had grins from ear to ear.

The T-bar from the train station from Oberalppass up to Calmut will be replaced this summer, so long as the development project gets the final nod in time. In its place will be a high-speed, six-man covered chairlift with heated seats. I’m pleased about the heated element — Andermatt is high and the only imperfect thing today (apart from not really getting off-piste) is that I got very cold on the chair lifts.

But Bernhard Russi is a gentleman, and made a great tour guide, and it was amusing to watch the reactions from skiers recognising this national hero. The Swiss are fanatical about skiing, and Bernhard presents racing on national TV, so it was the UK equivalent of being guided around the resort by David Beckham, though admittedly a slightly older version!

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