Welcome to Andermatt, an isolated village in central Switzerland previously known to troops doing compulsory military service and ancient Britons addicted to time-warped adventure-skiing. Not any more. As visitors arrive at the tiny railway station, they are confronted by a glittering peaked façade towering over the traditional wood-shingled buildings.
The Chedi, which opened just before Christmas to "oohs" and "aahs" from an astonished farming community, has no need of an identifying plate on its steely glass-and-wood portals. Limousines glide on to the glass-covered turning circle, where guests from Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and India, many wrapped in furs, are whisked into its cocoon of luxury. Plenty of Brits too, but more city-slicker than squirearchy.
Chedi, a Thai word for a Buddhist stupa, is the brand name for luxury resorts operated by the Singapore-based GHM group. Its tiny Chedi portfolio is currently beach led, with new resorts to open in India, Japan, the Emirates and Morocco in the next three years. The Andermatt hotel, its first mountain project, is a joint venture with Amanresorts, who as owners of Amangani in Jackson Hole, are equipped to fuse oriental tranquillity with Alpine skiing.
The renowned Belgian architect, Jean-Michel Gathy, based in Kuala Lumpur, is responsible for the overall design, and what Gathy likes, he likes a lot of. There are more than 200 log fireplaces, many in the numerous public seating areas; there's a wine bar with 7,000 vintages; a cigar library with a walk-in humidor; and nooks with books – just take your pick and settle in. Log piles to fuel the glass-shielded flames add a rustic touch, but the emphasis is on lustrous slatted wood screens, local stone floors, chequered cow-hide carpets and elaborate ceiling and floor lighting. The 35-metre swimming pool, off the lobby overlooking the ice rink, is a centrepiece where tropical air is offset by invigoratingly cool water.
The restaurant, with its spectacular walk-in cheese room, serves classy global gourmet dishes, including excellent Chinese and Indian, and the Japanese restaurant is outstanding. The spa does amazing massages, in my case Tibetan. Currently the service is excessive, as staff forever ask "are you happy?" – superfluous and disconcerting ... but these are early days.
Andermatt's ski slopes are on two sides of a high white valley. Beginners and cruisers head for the area off the Nätschen train from the station opposite the hotel. The Chedi shuttle takes more ambitious guests to the two-stage cablecar up the Gemsstock, a mountain with three ways down the front, two seriously steep blacks and one lovely rolling red. A well-charted route leads to the Hotel St Gotthard, built in 1722 by an old mule bridge on the edge of Hospental, a lovely village. Adventurers with guides have a choice of classic off-piste descents down the back of the Gemsstock.
Back in Andermatt, the atmospheric village streets make for a rewarding stroll, with plenty of pit-stops: the Sternum still has a locals' table where old timers drink beer and play cards. Getting here from Zurich, the nearest international airport, takes around two hours by train or 90 minutes by car.
The Chedi has 104 rooms in four connected buildings, the pinnacle of which is the magnificent Gemsstock penthouse under the mansard roof. Gathy's declared game plan is Asian zen mixed with Alpine chic, a blend that delivers spectacular comfort. In my grand deluxe room, the main features were a huge double bed and a low marble table surrounded by plump lounging cushions. From the bed, I enjoyed the yesteryear sepia photograph of the Nätschen train puffing up the valley that covers whole wall at the far end of the room.
My bathroom had a heated stone floor, a well appointed black double basin unit and a wet room with a monsoon shower. I could watch television in the bedroom from the free-standing bath tub or draw the oriental screen across the opening for greater privacy. A pre-programmed iPad Mini controlled lights, blinds, television and phone charging with varying levels of success, but manual overrides provided the right result. The device should also control the fire that faces both the room and the balcony, but essential safety checks hadn't been completed on my visit. Still, there were at least 200 more to choose from downstairs.
The Chedi, Gotthardstrasse 4, Andermatt, Switzerland (0041 559 252 4848; thechedi-andermatt.com)
Doubles start at Sfr660 (£445), room only
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies