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Andermatt Swiss Alps

A foil-wrapped glacier, safe for the summer

We’re used to telling people to wrap up warm throughout winter here in Andermatt. But, come summer, it’s a different story.

Since 2005, Andermatt has been pioneering an innovative technique designed to protect our Gurschen glacier from the summer warmth, and reduce the amount that it melts.  It’s a very simple idea, but it works: we wrap our glacier… in foil.

A surface area of 3,000 sq km of glacier is carefully wrapped at the start of every summer in a thin, white foil, which bounces the sun’s rays back off the ice and protects it from the warmth.

Wrapping the Gurschen Glacier in foil

The team of eight workers who undertake this task must do so under challenging conditions, at an altitude of up to approximately 3,000m, in thin air. Under the careful guidance of Carlo Danioth, slope manager at Andermatt Gotthard Sportbahnen, it takes the team between four and five days to wrap the glacier securely in thin, brilliant white foil, specially designed to reflect back as close to 100% of the sun’s rays as possible.

Wrapping the Gurschen Glacier in foil, Andermatt, Switzerland

The Gurschen glacier at Gemmstock is central to the landscape of the Andermatt-Sedrun ski area that skiers and snowboarders value so highly.  It’s also of global environmental importance. At the annual press conference given this April by the University of Zurich ETH’s Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape, researchers concluded that, in the face of climate change, technology will need to play an ever-greater part in preserving the alpine landscape. The average temperature in this region of Switzerland, for instance, has increased by 1-2 degrees Celsius over the last century.

We’ve been leading the way in introducing innovative steps to protect our own glacier, and it’s working: the glacier tables show that around two feet of snow and ice have been saved from melting every year since foil-wrapping was introduced.

To read more about sustainability and how it sits at the heart of the Andermatt Swiss Alps project, click here.

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