I have been visiting Andermatt on a regular basis for the last 10 years, and it is without a doubt one of my favourite resorts in Europe. With accessible back-country, unusually large snowfalls and a cosy village feel that I personally love, it's a place that just keeps me coming back!
The main mountain, Gemstock, really has two runs:
- the black "Russi Run" (named after local Olympic downhill champ, Bernhard Russi) which is the whole north face of the mountain, and aside from a small pisted run-out, basically an in-bounds off-piste bowl. This descends below the mid cable car station, so you have to get the chair up afterwards. You can get great turns in here after a snowfall, and it's well worth doing so while it's still not tracked out.
- the red "Sonnenpiste" winds round the mountain and back to the mid station. On the way, there are accessible off-piste turns possible, and this is also the way to access the "Felsental", one of the great back-country descents to the valley.
There is also the Lütersee drag lift (a bit of a mare for snowboarders...) that gives access to another red, but also some nice off-piste. You have to be careful how low you descend here, or you'll be the wrong side of a gully and have to fight through bushes to get to the valley! Btw, the Gadä bar at the bottom of this drag is a nice alternative spot for lunch.
From the mid station there are also a couple of shortish blues that run to the chair lift, an OK fun park and an Avalanche Training Centre (ATC) where you can practice searching for avalanche burial victims.
The main reason to come to Andermatt is, however, the back-country and it attracts free-riders from all over the world (especially Swedes for some reason...).
- From a little way down the Sonnenpiste a traverse will take you to the "Felsental", a roller-coaster ride that ends in the valley. There's a gully near the bottom and you have to decide which side of it to go. This will determine whether you are deposited in Hospental (the next village up the valley) where you can get the train (or sometimes bus) back, or on the road leading back to the Gemstock lift.
- Drop off the back of the Gemstock, then boot-pack up to the saddle on the right and you get into the "Guspis" valley, another awesome descent that takes you back to Hospental. The last bit is on the rather flat Gotthard pass road which can be a bit of a push if the snow is soft. If on my board I usually take collapsable poles with me just in case...
- From the top of Winterhorn (the mountain above Hospental) a short walk (30-60 mins depending on where you want to drop in) will set you up for guaranteed fresh tracks. You may want touring gear for this i.e. skins for skis or snowshoes and poles if on a board.
- If you can organise the transport, the tour from the Oberalp pass through the "Fellilücke" and down the "Fellital" is stunning both summer and winter, and a must. You will need touring gear for this. You can get the train to the Oberalp pass but need to get back from Gurtnellen at the end (this is where it helps to have a friend with a car to pick you up...). You can also get the bus/train back though (via Göschenen), just check the www.sbb.ch time table.
And this is just a small selection to whet your appetite!
Andermatt is not a resort to recommend to beginners, however. Although the south-facing slopes over on Nätschen offer some less challenging blues and reds that are more suitable for learning on, they aren't ideal as they do not run straight down the mountain, providing nice, wide pistes, but rather curve round making it more awkward for novices to practice their turns. Intermediates may find the terrain a bit limited for more than a weekend trip too.
Andermatt is not a typical package tour destination. However, because of its location it tends to attract weekend visitors from Luzern and surrounding areas. This means that it is usually much busier at weekends than during the week. If you can be there during the week you will be guaranteed uncrowded pistes and after a snowfall, fresh untracked all day! :-)
OK, so Andermatt is not a party resort like Ischgl or St. Anton, but then not everyone likes thumping German "Schlager" music! The Spycher is the place most people meet up after a day on the mountain. They also do great pizza there! You can enjoy a beer in the sun outside the Aurora (opposite the Gemstock lift) or on the terrace of the 3 Könige hotel. If you fancy a hand-picked herbal tea and home-made cake, visit Kevin and Sarah at the Alte Apotheke. The restaurant at the Schweizerhof does great steaks and meat fondue and zum Sternen and the Ochsen do a good cheese fondue.
In the evening, the Spycher is still popular until around 11pm, then we usually head to the Pinte (downstairs at the Picadilly) where there is an open fire and often live music on Saturdays. If you really want a late night or Pinte is closed (Thursdays I think), the Gotthard bar is open late. So you can party in Andermatt if you want to!
Well, it's snowing now and I'm off to Andermatt for the weekend :-)
Respect the mountains and enjoy your turns!