Andermatt

Coordinates:  46°37’55″ N    8°35’20″ E   1436m ASL

Andermatt has no “official” landing field, but XCs from Fiesch to the east can end here, and the conditions are often tricky.

Valleys around Andermatt and location of Gütsch wind turbines (not to scale!), viewed approaching from the west

Valleys around Andermatt and location of Gütsch wind turbines (not to scale!), viewed approaching from the west

Five valleys meet up around the village like the spokes of a wheel. On most flyable days, the dominant ground-level breeze is a northerly of around 20-30km/hr, which begins to blow into Andermatt from the Swiss flatlands up the Schöllenen gorge from late morning until late afternoon, turning north-easterly to flow up the Urserntal towards the Furka Pass. With even slight north overpressure, this flow tends to strengthen to 40km/hr or more in the afternoon. But even a mild south overpressure (which is often associated with good conditions to fly here from Fiesch) may produce a southerly flow down from the Gotthardpass, which manifests itself as a south-westerly in Andermatt. It’s not unusual for both these valley winds to be blowing at the same time, producing convergence and/or wind shears. In a stronger southerly regime, i.e. anything over 2 hPa, the risk of föhn is substantial; when greater than 4 hPa, it’s more or less guaranteed. Also, particularly in easterly or southerly conditions, a south-easterly breeze can blow down the Unteralp valley, producing a few easterly gusts around the village.

Winds which can blow into Andermatt, viewed from the west

Winds which can blow into Andermatt, viewed from the west

Another complication is the effect of large-scale features here.  The Gotthard Pass acts as a relief valve for air being pushed over the Alps along the north-south axis, and the main valley provides a conduit for east-west flows.  So both the pressure difference across the Alps and the prevailing meteo wind can funnel substantial movements of air through this region in any direction.  The strength of these flows increases with height, and they can interact with each other and the valley winds in unpredictable ways.

All this need not put you off the idea of landing in Andermatt completely, but you should be alert and ready to deal with the unexpected. Although I have landed here uneventfully many times, I have occasionally had my active flying skills taxed to the limit, and wouldn’t recommend it as a part of a flight plan.  There are a number of indicators to help you assess the conditions.  The wind turbines at Gütsch (see the Andermatt and Oberalppass page for a detailed explanation) show you the situation above the village to the north-east at 2300m, but this may be completely different from what’s happening lower down.  At ground level, the flag on the barracks at the mouth of the Schöllenen gorge will usually indicate a vigorous northerly there; if it doesn’t, then beware of the risk of föhn instead. Finally, there are usually some flags at the entrance of the Unteralp valley, and around the cable car station campsite on the southern border of the village (where there may even sometimes be a windsock).

The wind arrows in the picture below depict a scenario which is not uncommon when the general meteo flow is from the south; however, as already explained, there is no “standard” wind pattern here, more a range of possibilities.  “1” is the established landing field, for a historical reason: the convenience of tandem pilots wishing to land close by the cable car station in the (usually!) much calmer winter air.  Unfortunately, if there are any valley winds other than the normally dominant northerly blowing up the Schöllenen, this is where they often fight it out, producing dangerous turbulence at ground level, so I generally avoid this option.  Also, it may even be difficult to get down here at all, as the northerly from the Schöllenen (made turbulent by its path over the village) can produce plenty of lift in front of the slope next to the cables (often enough to enable launching here and soaring up).  “2” is the area which many pilots choose in the summer, as the wind is much more likely to be laminar here; the coordinates at the head of this page refer to this option.  I often land at “3”, next to where I live in Andermatt, but in windier conditions this is unwise, as the air flow is often stronger and rougher than at “2”, due to its proximity to the Schöllenen.  Although “2” and “3” are both completely unofficial, no-one has ever objected to me landing in either, though obviously they are not an option when containing long grass or livestock.

Andermatt landing options

Andermatt landing options, approaching the village from the west

You can see a short video clip shot from a helicopter flying from Andermatt over “2” (and then a short distance beyond).