The Audi TT RS tackling the Swiss Alps' terrain with Audi Cold Weather Tyres.

King of the mountains


We set off for a secluded luxury hotel in the heart of the snow-covered Swiss Alps,
at the wheel of the all-new TT RS fitted with Audi Cold Weather Tyres

The dramatic scenery of the Swiss Alps.

The Grimsel Pass in the picturesque southern Swiss Alps is a popular destination for car fans. During the summer months
they flock here in droves to navigate their machines around the thrilling bends and switchbacks of roads that wind up to the summit. But as soon as the first snow falls, the busy pass is closed and the surrounding area becomes a deserted frozen haven. It is enjoyed exclusively by local residents and a handful of visitors who come to bathe in the peace and quiet of the splendid whitewashed landscape.

The Audi TT RS driving past local residencies on the Grimsel Pass.

A tunnel in the Grimsel Pass.

When we visit in early January, the region is deep in the grip of winter and everything is wrapped in a blanket of snow. Road conditions are treacherous as the tarmac is covered in a mixture of ice and slush, often disguised under a thick layer of the white stuff. Our Ara Blue Audi TT RS raises a few eyebrows as we pass through small villages, where the preferred mode of transport is a 4x4 equipped with chains. However, we have a small trick up our sleeves: Audi Cold Weather Tyres.

These pneumatics can enhance both grip and stopping power, thanks to a special tread compound that doesn’t harden when the temperature falls below 7C. They also feature a tread with smaller grooves than conventional tyres, increasing the surface area that bites into the road. Yet even such fantastic grip can’t help us get around road blocks installed by the Swiss government, so we park the car for the night and take a shuttle mini-bus through a tunnel carved into the mountain, which is the only way to reach the hotel.

The Hotel Grimsel Hospiz in Switzerland.

Up at the summit, the light is fading and a blizzard is setting in. As we emerge from the tunnel, we brace ourselves and walk the last few metres of our journey across the exposed mountaintop. The wind whips at our cheeks and the cold bites at our bones, making the warm orange glow emanating from the windows of the solidly built hotel seem very attractive. Once inside we are not disappointed: the staff welcome us and take our luggage and jackets. All that is left for us to do is thaw out next to the giant wood fire in the day room with a cup of hot chocolate and a slice of apple strudel. Then we are invited down into the wine cellar to test some vintages. This helps us select wines to accompany our dinner of Swiss specialities made from locally sourced products, which is served later on.

 

 Inside the wine cellar of the Hotel Grimsel Hospiz.

The interior of one of the Hotel Grimsel Hospiz's rooms.

 

The Hotel Grimsel Hospiz was built in the 1930s but replaced another establishment bearing the same name, said to be Switzerland’s first ever hotel. The ruins of this old building can still be found at the bottom of a man-made reservoir that the current one now overlooks. In 2010 the management company invested in the hotel’s future and extensively renovated the whole place. The result is understated sophistication, blending contemporary elements and stylish vintage design. Custom-built furniture and lights are both functional and aesthetically pleasing, and feature in both the communal and private areas. The rooms are large and boast a number of exciting features including natural feather bedding, en-suite facilities and spectacular views over the surrounding mountainside.

The view of the man-made reservoir from the Hotel Grimsel Hospiz.

The rear end of the Audi TT RS equipped with Audi Cold Weather Tyres.

The Audi TT RS continuing its journey along the Grimsel Pass.

 

After a restful night we head back to the car and set off to discover the surrounding roads. Visibility has improved but the tarmac is nearly invisible under a thick coat of snow. To start with we head off very carefully and feather the accelerator for fear of losing traction, but the wheels stick to the road and soon we feel confident enough to start using more of the 400PS engine’s power to have some fun. On these empty roads the combination of the Audi’s fantastic engineering and the winter tyres deliver incredible sensations, and enable us to stay in complete control. True to its racing heritage, the TT RS remains glued to the road, even when braking and negotiating sharp corners, and before it’s time to head home, we are under no illusion that we have found this vehicle’s spiritual home.

Written by John Silcox. Photographs by John Wycherley

 

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