Real estate mogul Samih Sawiris is turning one of the Alps’ last rugged ski areas into a luxury playground.
In an overnight transition that has drawn parallels to Telluride, the sleepy Swiss enclave of Andermatt has become the newest luxury playground for the jet-setting elite.
As recently as 2004, this secluded hamlet — a former Swiss military base located 90 minutes outside Zurich — primarily attracted freeskiers and riders more comfortable earning their turns than taking a heated gondola. After 15 years and roughly $1.2 billion, the resort has become a veritable luxury destination, complete with a 169-room, five-star hotel: The Chedi Amdermatt boasts a 250-person dining room, Michelin-starred restaurant, 6,000-bottle wine cellar, and luxurious spa with an indoor pool. A 650-seat classical music hall opened this fall.
The feeling of luxury is reflected across the entirety of the resort. An 8-person gondola replaces the rickety lifts that once dotted the surrounding slopes, and Adermatt now connects to the neighboring Sedrun resort, comprising the largest ski area in Central Switzerland with 112 miles and 33 lifts.
Behind the growth is Egyptian-born businessman Samih Sawiris, a real estate developer known for identifying and building up underdeveloped tourist destinations. As Stefan Kern, spokesman for Andermatt Swiss Alps AG, recently told Bloomberg, “Mr. Sawiris doesn’t only create tourism destinations, he creates towns.”
Indeed, part of Sawaris’ success stems from his ability to work with local governments. A key part of the the project’s financial success rested on securing the rights to develop private apartments and chalets, despite a Swiss law preventing foreigners from buying second homes. Sawiris received an exemption for economic development.
Although not every skier in the region has rejoiced in the overnight growth, many have lauded Sawaris, who revitalized an economy that had become a ghost town after the Swiss military left. Andermatt’s Mystic Mountains series follows the evolution of Andermatt, focusing on the town’s local people:
Andermatt marks Sawiris’ first venture into Switzerland, and his first in ski resorts after building a portfolio of waterfront developments in Egypt, Montenegro, Oman, Morocco, the UAE and the UK. Given the destination’s rapid ascent among leisure skiers, we doubt it will be his last.
Read more at Bloomberg.