Zak Smith visits a town in Switzerland being redeveloped in utmost luxury as a rival to Verbier and the rest
Andermatt is without question the most ambitious tourist project undertaken in Europe for decades: a sleepy Alpine community and former military town is in the process of being regenerated and Botoxed up into what will be the newest and most luxurious ski and spa resort in Switzerland.
Far removed from the mountains that, rumour has it, open up to reveal secret Swiss military instillations, this historic and relatively unknown town two hours from Zurich will, in the next few years, will be littered with dozens of condominiums and penthouses, luxury hotels and boutiques, and cement itself permanently on the map for high flying skiers, hikers and spa aficionados.
This grand project is in its early phases, and on arrival following a beautiful train journey through the mountains (Boeing has a private strip for those jetting in), Andermatt felt somewhat like a cross between the Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shining, picturesque but empty of people. Given the phase of development and the fact I was arriving out of season, this was hardly a surprise.
First to pitch their luxury tent is The Chedi, an outpost of the GHM Group, their first property in Europe. Built in the centre of town, it felt like its own world, a microcosm of luxury, rich in warm woods, soft furnishings and fantastic chandeliers, as if a high end Balinese spa and traditional Alpine chalet had a tryst and, as a result, created a one-off hybrid.
As I wound my way around the lobby, bar, library, cigar room and the beautiful contemporary outside courtyard, the hotel offered endless inviting corners to curl up into after a hard day either skiing, hiking in the picturesque mountains, or a long drive.
Andermatt is a popular staging post for those racing classics through the Alps, the occasional roar of an Aston a reminder that this is probably the nicest pit stop on earth. Each room is a mix of chalet and eastern decor, and comes with an amazing inside/outside fireplace (one of nearly 200: I wouldn't want to be paying the heating bill!).
The restaurant and bar were nothing short of a triumph: an open kitchen to watch the chefs at work, impeccable service and a mesmerisingly unique floor-to-ceiling glass temple of cheese in the middle of the dining room, displaying the region's finest Formaggini and Mutschli. The food was fantastic, the menu offering up a mix of local fishes and exotic fruits, as well as a variety of Swiss wines, which were surprisingly tasty.
At the moment, the hotel itself is the destination. Offering a private eighteen-hole golf course to its residents, The Chedi also provides a sport butler in the summer and a ski butler in the winter, offering a range of activities for the adventurous, luxury orientated tourist, and for the more docile and relaxed, a beautiful spa to unknot, unwind and vegetate. Try the Balinese massage followed by one of the three steam rooms, and then a dip into the ice cold plunge pool for full effect.
Andermatt and The Chedi are a bit off piste, but take the challenge directly to St Moritz, Verbier and Gstaad. Get there before the crowds realise just how good it is.