Biking in Switzerland

Around Andermatt

It doesn't look like you think it should. After all, Andermatt is virtually surrounded by high mountains and tough, high-road climbs. But there it is: a quiet little town in a little flat valley squatting in a low zone at the edge of a bunch of mountain systems (the Berner and Walisser Alps to the west, the Ticinese Alps to the south, and the Glarner Alps to the east). It's almost as if the earth conspired to create a hub, an Alpine bellybutton of sorts.

There are no fewer than six major easily accessed and paved mountain passes less than 50 kilometers (31 miles) away. Thirty-one kilometers (19 miles) to the west is the village of Gletsch, a low point in between the Furka and Grimsel Passes. Twelve kilometers (7.5 miles) due south is the cobbled St. Gotthard Pass. Farther along, on a connecting road between St. Gotthard (38 kilometers [23.5 miles] away) and Gletsch (24 kilometers [15 miles] to the north), is the bleak Nufenen Pass, the highest through-road in Switzerland. A short, direct 11.5 kilometers (7 miles) east of Andermatt is the easy Oberalp Pass, and some 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) all by itself to the north is the spectacular Susten Pass.

Because of the short distance between these passes, many strong riders tackle more than one in a day. In fact, the six mentioned here plus the Lukmanier (on a connecting road between the eastern slope of the Oberalp and the southern climb to St. Gotthard) constitute a seven-pointed Alpine Star. The Touring Club of Switzerland even awards cyclists who complete a set of three one-day loop rides, each one of which takes in three of the passes. For the strong and ambitious, the acknowledgment is worn like a true badge of honor.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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