Ski Touring in Andermatt: Information, Guides, Cost, Season

Andrew LyleOctober 01, 2018

Tucked into the venerable Alps within the Saint-Gotthard Massif, Andermatt has made a name for itself as a high-altitude getaway at the center of Switzerland. This one-of-a-kind mountain village plays to the strengths of the Urseren Valley, including the deep snow runs that make it a world-class ski touring destination. It is one of the main attractions within the canton of Uri.

This classic Alpine country knows top tier skiing better than anyone, and Andermatt does not disappoint. Don’t let its sleepy demeanor fool you. It caters effortlessly to every wanderer and traveler who happens to find themselves ascending and descending its slopes. Discover the perfect ski touring program for you and find out how Andermatt can give you the adventure of a lifetime!

 

Some of the adrenaline-pumping ridges surrounding Andermatt. Photo: Paul Degonda.

History and Setting

 

What started as a tiny settlement between the north-south and east-west crossroads of the country, Andermatt has slowly evolved into a sleek ski resort. The village is met by three passes: the Oberalp Pass to the east, the St. Gotthard Pass to the south, and the Furka Pass to the west. The impressive landscape to the north includes the notorious Devil’s Bridge and other tunnels to accommodate the roads and railways. It is roughly two hours south of Zurich, with other major city options like Milan (two hours) in proximity to the resort.

In the 19th century, Andermatt flourished from its mineral spas and its location as the final stop before many passes. Its fortune rose and fell as transportation improved, changing its identity from wartime garrison to peacetime tourist attraction. It is currently undergoing another identity shift as it heads forcefully into the modern era. A redevelopment effort will increase the capacity of this already remarkable hub of activity and provide an even wider array of winter wonders.

For now, it remains as a mostly-modest resort with equal parts luxury and adventure. This makes every level of skier feel at home in the valley. Whether you are looking for a freeride weekend in a hotel or a hut-to-hut ski tour immersion, Andermatt has what you need. Decisions, decisions!

 

Cruising down the mountain in the sun. Photo: Paul Degonda.

Objectives

 

The most alluring part of an Andermatt trip is the powder. Deep, vast, and virtually untouched, it would be tough not to enjoy a few days out scouring the snow. Its unimposing size also leaves the backcountry nearly forgotten, so the pristine powder is just waiting to be skied. It sits at 1,437 meters above sea level, providing it with ample snowfall and predominantly comfortable temperatures.

The overall runs surrounding Andermatt reach almost 100 in number. Combining it with the unending supply of compelling backcountry, and you have a ski touring vacation that can last the better part of a week without laying eyes on the same inch of snow. The longest run in the region is 4.5 kilometers, which isn’t too shabby for one of the best-kept secrets of the Alps.

Gemsstock

 

The terrain is immutable and exquisite. The steep, narrow ridges of Gemsstock, the 2,961-meter peak supplemented by a cable car, are a great way to start a never-ending freeride into town. It has suitable lines for beginner off-piste skiers, though much of its landscape is most appropriate for intermediate and advanced ski tourists. The best part of Gemsstock isn’t necessarily its wilderness appeal – the panoramas from the easily-accessed peak will leave you speechless. The slight glacier just past the idlee of the mountain provides both aesthetic beauty and retains the snow and terrain for ideal ski touring conditions.

 

One of the incredible panoramas from the top. Photo: Leo Infanger.

For experienced and high-level ski tourists, Gemsstock is your best bet for an exhilarating backcountry trek. With up to 900 meters of vertical to tackle and tons of great runs on- and off-piste, you can seek out obstacles and hazards for a more fulfilling tour. Giraff and Felsental are just a couple of the thrilling runs on the mountain, perfect lines to segue into the immense backcountry. Along with the airy ridges of the mountain, there are some large alpine bowls in the Hansimgluck that funnel through steep gullies and spit you out on a lengthy return trip.

Natschen

 

Natschen is another popular mountain, albeit more unassuming than its counterpart on the other side of town, with runs of varying difficulty, though beginning ski tour programs are most common here. Served by a few lifts, the off-piste runs from the middle and top will satisfy any need for adventure. For anyone squirrelly enough to blaze their own trail, there is a vast backcountry to keep you busy and remind you of some of the more infamous and high profile locations in the Alps. The sunlight does tend to shorten the season and can make your trip turn a little slushy.

Other Activities

 

For anyone with a desire to be pampered, Andermatt is rife with spa accommodations for a luxurious stay. Hiking, golfing, and dining can enrich any ski touring trip and round out an all-inclusive adventure. The landscape surrounding the village makes its old-fashioned charm a genuine attraction and thus itself a destination.

 

Deep and relentless backcountry snow. Photo: Stefan Joller.

For those tourists with an eye for culture, there is an almost-250-year-old folk museum, the Talmuseum Ursern, that covers the illustrious history of Andermatt. The prices are reasonable (maxing out at seven or eight euros for adults), so you almost have to check it out.

Even if you are having trouble finding what you’re looking for, Sedrun lies just 25-minutes outside of town and has seemingly limitless space for cross-country skiing. If you were worried about running into bad weather, Disentis and Airolo are just a train ride away with fantastic tree skiing.

Guides

 

Andermatt and its challenging terrain is a great spot for expert skiers and seasoned veterans. For beginners to the world off-piste, or for anyone interested in taking safety and training courses, there is ample opportunity to find a guide and get the instruction you need.

 

The untouched Swiss Alps. Photo: Switzerland Mountain Guides.

Many of the off-piste runs and freeriding lines should be accompanied by a guide. The Gemsstock backcountry routes are great examples of unforgettable terrain and captivating obstacles. Avalanche risk is a factor in Andermatt, so having a properly trained participant heading out will allow you to focus on the joys of ski touring and not worrying about what might happen.

Even for the most experienced ski tour programs, it is a great option to hire a guide. The area has such an extensive reach that taking an expert along for the ride may introduce you to the tips and tricks of the locals. Each direction boasts infinite freeride options, so having a knowledgeable partner in crime can help you hit the right run at the right time while ensuring your safety and overall level of fun.

Cost

 

Depending on what type of vacation you are looking for, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to ski tour Andermatt. Some programs will send you off on a six-day adventure – or more! – so you can definitely expect to pay more for sustained journeys into the wilderness.

The cable car up to Gemsstock. Photo: Paul Degonda.

Most ski touring programs cover two days or possibly a lengthy four-day excursion. For a basic two-day trip, it is reasonable to spend about 100 euros a day (roughly 90 Swiss francs) with some inclusions, and around 250 euros for a four-day expedition. For the longer hut-to-hut tours and week long programs, you can spend 200 euros a day with accommodation and meals.

Making your way from the airport – either Zurich or Milan – can cost from 200 to 300 euros, depending on car, train, and necessary level of comfort.

Season

 

Without a doubt, the best season to head to Andermatt is the winter. December through March provide the best snowfall, though the season can begin and end just outside of these months. Keep in mind that it can be busy during peak season and on weekends. The fact that you can reach the slopes within a couple hours from Zurich means that it isn’t uncommon to find yourself waiting to head up the mountains.

 

Tree skiing is just outside the village. Photo: Paul Degonda.

Relative to its altitude and central European location, Andermatt has a moderate climate with cool winters and summers. There is precipitation year round with a minimal dry season, so some of the objectives around the mountain village, like Gemsstock, are reliably snowy. It is the perfect storm of ski touring conditions – without the storm.

 

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Andermatt is the charming Alpine town of your ski touring dreams, and it’s time you discovered why your next trip into Switzerland needs to start here! From Gemsstock and beyond, there’s nothing this sleepy mountain village can’t do!

Check out some of the amazing trips to Andermatt and book your next ski touring trip into the Swiss Alps!

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