Tourism began in the pretty Swiss town of Andermatt in 1872 with the debut of the Grand Hotel Bellevue, which attracted visitors to central Switzerland with the promise of clean, invigorating Alpine air during summer and sleigh rides through the snow in winter. When the nine-mile Gotthard rail tunnel opened in 1881, connecting Göschenen with Airolo, Andermatt was linked to the wider world and flourished until World War I brought its first golden age to a sudden end.
As a result of the deep powder created by notably reliable snowfalls, and the Urseren Valley’s web of trails, Andermatt reemerged as a ski resort, albeit an appealingly low-key one. Until now, it has been more a hot chocolate than a Champagne destination, but that looks set to change. Last December, the 105-room Chedi hotel opened on the site once occupied by the Bellevue.
Until now, it has been more a hot chocolate than a Champagne destination, but that looks set to change.
The new property is the first part of a huge investment by the family-owned Egyptian conglomerate Orascom — telecommunications, hotels, construction — which is intended to transform Andermatt into a high-profile ski station, a 21st-century Gstaad. Designed by the Belgian architect Jean-Michel Gathy, The Chedi hotel itself is a joint venture between the Singapore-based GHM hotel group, which runs Chedi properties in Vietnam, Thailand and Oman (among other locations), and Amanresorts.
Just a five-minute walk from the train station, the sleek resort is a complex of four interconnected buildings that offer a postmodern, Asian-accented riff on traditional Swiss chalet architecture. Arriving on a snowy Sunday afternoon, I found that the elegant hybrid structure recognizably bore Gathy’s signature and reminded me of his design for Amanoi, the new Aman hotel in Vietnam that I had visited the year before.
As visually pleasing as Gathy’s décors may be, they can seem rather theatrical, and it was difficult to imagine actually sitting in one of the oversize brown velvet chaises longues on the ground floor. The chairs and sofas grouped around the glassed-in woodburning fireplaces were more inviting, though, and the cowhide patchwork throw rugs provided good-looking rustic accessories. (There are more than 200 fireplaces in the hotel, including gas-fired ones in all of the bedrooms.) Nearby, The Wine and Cigar Library proved to be a handsome space with a fine selection of books about Switzerland.
Alas, our visit did not get off to an auspicious start. Although it was 2:30 p.m., the young woman at the front desk said she would have to check with housekeeping to see whether our room was ready. Since we’d had a long journey, I replied that I hoped it was. At this, she tapped her watch and said, “Official check-in is not until 3 p.m.” With no further welcome, we were set adrift in the lobby, without an offer of a coffee or any other refreshment.
Where The Chedi succeeds is in making the charming town of Andermatt a viable luxury destination for serious skiers.
In the end, our Deluxe Room proved to be well-designed, with wide oak-plank floors, electrically operated blackout curtains in expansive windows, and doors leading to a spacious balcony. It was explained to us that almost all room features could be operated from an in-room iPad, including the dimmer switches, the blinds, the built-in Bose sound system and the gas fireplace (cleverly designed so as to be visible from both the room and the balcony). The extremely comfortable bed was made up with good Italian cotton sheets and a duvet. The room lacked a desk, however, and I would have preferred a pair of proper armchairs to the oversize velvet throw pillows on the floor. The granite bath was a pleasure, though, with a soaking tub, a pair of black enameled vanities and a walk-in shower. Acqua di Parma toiletries and comfortable heavy chenille bathrobes with hoods were welcome amenities.
At dinner that night, we were underwhelmed by the food that emerged from the display kitchens that animate the two dining rooms in The Restaurant. One space serves Western and Asian food, while the other has an all-Asian menu, with dishes from India, Indonesia and Vietnam. (The resort also offers Japanese cuisine.) In addition, it seemed a shame that despite the glass-walled cheese storage cave that divides the two rooms, there were no cheese specialties on the menu. During the remainder of our stay, we often went out for meals and found the local restaurants convivial and reasonably priced.
Returning from the slopes, we would invariably head to the hotel’s spa, which includes a spectacular 100-foot pool with loungers in private niches, a sauna and steam room, and a spacious fitness center. A full range of therapies using REN and alpienne products is offered in 10 treatment cabins.
Overall, the service at The Chedi needs polishing. The ski butlers were efficient, but the managers in the restaurants were disorganized, as were the waiters they were supposedly supervising. (It took almost half an hour for a glass of wine to be served at dinner one night.) These may have been the teething problems to be expected at a new property, but a warmer style of hospitality needs to be a priority. Where The Chedi succeeds, however, is in making the charming town of Andermatt a viable luxury destination for serious skiers.
AT A GLANCE
LIKE: Gas fireplaces in the very comfortable and attractive rooms; the indoor pool and spa; the convenient location in the village of Andermatt.
DISLIKE: A service style more concerned with following rules than making guests happy; miserly room-service portions; the absence of Swiss specialties in the hotel’s expensive restaurants.
GOOD TO KNOW: Andermatt is a great weekend ski destination from Lucerne or Zurich. The town is easily reached by train, and a car is not required, since the hotel provides transport to the ski slopes.
The Chedi 90 Deluxe Room, $840; Grand Deluxe Room, $1,055; Deluxe Suite, $1,495. Gotthardstrasse 4, ch-6490, Andermatt. Tel. (41) 41-888-7488.
This article appeared in the October 2014 print edition of Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report under the headline “Andermatt Joins Switzerland's Ski Resort Elite."