Andermatt expansion begins this spring

26th February 2013, by Abi Butcher

Skiers paradise: Andermatt is linking up with Sedrun in a massive development project

Skiers paradise: Andermatt is linking up with Sedrun in a massive development project

The Swiss ski resort of Andermatt has received the second stage of approval for the expansion of its ski area, and is expecting the final sign-off sometime during May or June.

Andermatt is linking up with nearby Sedrun as part of a massive CHF1.8 billion development project by Egyptian property tycoon Samih Sawiris. The plans will radically transform the resort, creating around 37km of new pistes, 490 apartments, 25 luxury chalets, six hotels and an 18-hole golf course.

The ski area is expanding, but final numbers make interesting reading, because Andermatt has always maintained that it has 125km of runs. But the latest figures released by the tourist office admit the resort currently has only about 86km, so with the added 37km made on the links over Schneehüenerstock, Schijenstock and Calmut, Andermatt and Sedrun will have a combined 123km of pistes once all the work is complete.

But whether Andermatt has been stretching the truth is almost immaterial, because the resort is a mecca for off-piste skiers — one of the reasons why the development is taking place in the first place. Experts who head for Andermatt to ski its steep, snow-sure terrain make up only 15% of the overall ski holiday market. The resort used to rely on 1,400 soldiers based there with the Swiss army, but when the military was scaled down massively in 2003, the majority of the town’s income was removed almost overnight.

Bänz Simmen, a former mountain guide and snowboard school owner, who now runs an internet café in the village said: “People had been leaving Andermatt, they had no faith in its future until this development. I hope now they will be coming back.”

At a budget of CHF135million, the ski area and lift system is being built by Scandinavian company SkiStar, under the direction of Andermatt resident and Swiss Olympic champion skier Bernhard Russi. The developers hope the new runs — mainly reds and blues but with some blacks, too — will attract more family and recreational skiers.

“We’re expanding the sunnier slopes between Andermatt and Sedrun, Gemsstock will not be changed,” said Russi. “We hope the link-up will dramatically increase the number of visitors, who will have different tastes. There will be a new restaurant at Gütsch and another at Lutersee, by the lake.”

A new valley ski station will be integrated into a new railway station at Andermatt, with a cablecar up to Nätschenplateau, with new lifts over Schneehüenerstock, Schijenstock and Calmut. Snowmaking will be added on the main slopes from the Nätschen/Gütsch/Stöckli area down to the village.

Despite the fact that the plans do not have final approval, SkiStar is already in final negotiations with lift companies, and work will begin this spring to replace the T-bar from the train station from Oberalppass up to Calmut. In its place will be a high-speed, six-man covered chairlift with heated seats.

Also opening for the start of the 2013/14 season is the five-star Chedi Andermatt hotel, being built to the tune of CHF299million. The rest of the project will be built over the next three years.

The development has been controversial among environmentalists and traditionalists in Switzerland and beyond, who believe it will ruin one of the oldest and most quaint villages in the Alps. But Bänz Simmen insists the whole town is behind it.

“In the first meeting with Samih Sawiris in 2007, 78% of villagers voted for the project — now more than 90% are in favour,” he said.

The development is expected to increase Andermatt’s population from 1,200 to just over 3,000.



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