When you approach Andermatt from the east and you’re in for a treat to one of the most spectacular arrivals in any ski resort: you put your car on the train at Sedrun, then travel above the snowbound Oberalp pass before the steep descent into Andermatt. This engineering feat is matched to the west via the Furka rail tunnel and the north-south Gotthard road and rail tunnels, which go underneath Andermatt and have abandoned this former major Alpine crossroads in isolation. This picture isn’t aided by the stark army buildings that inhabit the outskirts of this barracks town, but the old center is way more attractive place with cobbled streets and ancient chalets.
Despite being left behind, Andermatt is still flocked by weekenders from Zurich to experience the steep Gemsstock mountain towering 1,500m above the town.
Served with 14 lifts and a great deal of weekend traffic, queues can quickly build up on Gemsstock, particularly for the two-stage cable-car, which opens as early as November up to May. There are actually three unconnected ski areas – Gemsstock, Natschen and Winterhorn – connected by bus or train, and the lift pass likewise covers a few other ski places on the train line over the Oberalp pass. When you go here for a week then you would probably get to visit them all, as on-piste choices are gravely limited on shady Gemsstock, with only two runs down from the top station – red or black -and a sole black piste going back down to town. Not the greatest terrain for beginners, but estimating on the number of people donning helmets in the cable-car, Andermatt’s skiers are an extreme bunch. The off-piste possibilities from the top are superb, having descents down to Andermatt or Hospental, and countless of routes down the main bowl itself. For non-extremists, there are a couple of blues around the mid-station, but the sun-drenched Natschen is way better bet for beginners and early intermediates, in spite of being accessed by one of the slowest chairlifts. When you are up there, things start to get exciting and a fast chair goes to a few short reds and a long blue that goes all the way back down to town.