Cocooned in matching fleece robes, couples doze on cushioned loungers, drinking in the warm mist of the spa around them. I tread carefully past them until I’m in the dim chamber of the coldest plunge pool – a chilly 65 degrees. Holding my breath, I dunk myself in, before hotfooting it to a steaming pool nearby, welcoming the flush of warmth through my body.
I’m making the most of the spa at the Chedi Andermatt, an alpine resort in Switzerland’s Urseren valley. Over the weekend, I’ve popped down at least twice a day, be it to roast in a sauna, loll on a daybed or swim a few lengths in one of its many pools. Spanning 26,000 square feet, no one could blame you for losing a few days here.
Chief among the spa’s attractions is the hydrotherapy wing, home to two steam rooms, a biosauna, a Finnish sauna and three plunge pools of graduating heat. At reception, a therapist encourages me to alternate between the hot rooms and cold pools – a technique designed to assault the body’s thermostat, improving circulation, releasing endorphins and rumored to burn fat. After a few sessions, and several pints of water, I flop in a daze onto one of the loungers. The process is exhausting, but also invigorating – like the feeling after a long run, without any of the pain or exertion.
Surrounded by lush bottle-green mountains, guests seeking a few more endorphins can try the 12-meter outdoor pool or the 35-meter indoor pool on the spa’s upper level. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer stunning vistas of the valley, while in winter the glass roof can be heated to melt off any snow that might hamper a clear view of the sky.
If it’s not already obvious, the Chedi is a paragon of luxury – designed by architect Jean-Michel Gathy, who has also worked with Aman Resorts, One and Only Resorts and Cheval Blanc. My Deluxe room measures a vast 560 square feet and features so many varieties of wood that the hotel won’t allow in-room irons because of the risk of fire.
The central living area is littered with floor pillows, while on the far wall, a giant monochrome silk screen of a ski slope does a good job of reminding you where you are. The bed – which I’m told will “change my life” – is made by Scandinavian brand Hastens, which also supplies the Royal Court of Sweden.
Each of the 105 rooms has an electric fireplace, which is controlled at the touch of an iPad, as are the lights, blinds and temperature. All come with Amici coffee machines, and wine lovers will appreciate the Chedi’s bespoke cabinet service (available for guests of Deluxe suites), which fills their in-room wine store with bottles of their choice.
The Chedi’s main draw is the premium powder coveted by skiers every winter. Its après ski offering and personalized services – which include a “ski butler” to take care of your equipment – aid its appeal. Outside of peak season, when I am here, the hotel has curated a range of guest experiences that tap into the vertiginous landscape and local culture.
One of my favorites revolves around local gastronomy. At dinner one day, I’m distracted by the 16-foot-tall cheese humidor at the restaurant’s center, inside of which sits a table overflowing with gruyère, Tête de Moine and local soft and blue cheeses along with chutneys, jams, grapes and apricots. By the next day, I’d booked myself in for a lunchtime tasting, which featured pairings with local wines, cured meats and the option of a half-day tour at a local cheese dairy.
Sense of Adventure
Beyond the luxurious hotel, the village is as quaint as it might have been 200 years ago, when the first traces of tourism began to appear on its slopes. Away from the industrializing Europe and its bustle, Andermatt was a favorite with the urban elite, who believed the alpine air was good for the lungs.
During a walking tour of the village, local guide Banz Simmen tells me that earlier still, in the 18th century, Goethe was a regular visitor, declaring it one of the most beautiful places he had ever seen. Word of the writer’s fascination spread quickly, and the village soon became a popular hideaway for those who could afford to get there. Not long after, the British arrived, taking on exploits that Simmen says “not even the Swiss were crazy enough to,” such as the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865.
About a century later, the Brits made a triumphant return when Andermatt was chosen as the backdrop for a car chase in the Bond film Goldfinger, in which Sean Connery’s 007 careered through the Furka Pass in an Aston Martin DB5. For any guests in search of a similar thrill, the Chedi’s classic car experience allows them to test the region’s hairpin turns behind the wheel of a new Morgan Plus 4, the two-door British roadster originally produced in the fifties. The package (CHF895/$882 per person) includes a four-course dinner, a bottle of champagne, a map book of the area and a cap, to avoid any unwanted windswept dos.
I opt for something a little less high-octane – a session of meditation and yoga with the Chedi’s resident Tibetan guru, Loten Dahortsang. Sitting cross-legged, we are led through a series of slow breathing exercises. The chime of Tibetan cymbals breaks the quiet and we rise from our mats, stretching into challenging poses that seem to elongate my spine. After class, we drink tea with Loten, who describes his journey from Tibet to Nepal and, finally, to Zurich. As we say goodbye, he tells us we should spend the rest of the day in the spa, it’s very beautiful. He’s not wrong.
Rates start from CHF500 ($483) per night for a Deluxe room with breakfast. ghmhotels.com/en/andermatt
For more information visit myswitzerland.com