For ten years there was no ski tourism in San Bernardino GR. The place sank into a slumber. A project worth millions is now supposed to bring it back to its former glory.
Myrtle MuellerOutside Reporter News
San Bernardino GR shows its sunny side. cloudless. With snow. And stunning scenery. Satisfied, Stefano Artioli (62) strolls through town along the main street. “Ciao Stefano,” someone calls from a passing pickup. A lady waves at the man with the glossy folder under his arm. The Ticino businessman greets back in a friendly manner. A handshake here, a chat there. For the last two weeks, everyone in southern Graubünden has known the entrepreneur from Lugano TI.
On November 25, 2022, Stefano Artioli invited to the information evening in the Misox community center to present his ambitious project. “I was hoping some people would come. In fact, the room was full.” He expected skepticism, Artioli continued. But the Ticino’s vision was well received. Because the ski lifts in San Bernardino have been standing still for ten years and with them all tourist operations.
From grand hotel to winter sports paradise
A year ago, Stefano Artioli bought the historic Grand Hotel in Locarno TI for 21 million francs, now the new real estate king of southern Switzerland is tackling the next mega project. In the next three years, he wants to conjure up a winter sports paradise out of the deficit ski resort on the A13. Abandoned historic hotels are to shine in new splendor, new accommodations are to be built, and the renovated cable car and ski lifts will once again take thousands of guests onto the slopes every day. Artioli promises San Bernardino 1,500 warm beds and 900 new parking spaces in three underground garages.
Samih Sawiris (65) demonstrated it in Andermatt UR. In 15 years, his company “Andermatt Swiss Alps” transformed the cold hole on the Gotthard, feared by many Swiss ex-conscripts, into a fashionable winter sports resort. Stefano Artioli also calls his new company “San Bernardino Swiss Alps”. But when compared to the pioneering work of the Egyptian billionaire, the Ticino modestly dismisses the idea. “Our project is much smaller. It will cost 200 to 300 million francs. One and a half billion went to Andermatt.”
Don’t spill, but clog
On a walk through San Bernardino, however, it quickly becomes clear: Stefano Artioli doesn’t want to make a mess either. He wants to bounce. He bought almost every historic house on the square. The old Hotel Ravizza, the Brocco e Posta, the Hotel Suisse, the Central and the Casa Montana. He still wants to acquire the other villas and turn them into noble hostels with three and four stars. The mountain character should be preserved, the tradition should be cultivated. “Quality yes, chicimicki no,” says Artioli.
The outstretched finger points to the old mineral water bottling plant. “There we will build a wellness resort with thermal baths on 18,000 square meters,” says the new real estate king. It will probably be one of the largest spa hotels in Switzerland. Then he points to the depression on the right of the road. “There will be a covered sports center – with an Olympic-size swimming pool, an ice rink and tennis courts”. Also a dream of the future: a wood-fired district heating plant for the entire town.
Further financial partners wanted
Condominiums and so-called Smart Alpine Apartments, which are managed via a smartphone app, are being built on the slope. The entrepreneur has been making a fortune with digitized city pop apartments all over Europe for several years. San Bernardino’s new mountain pop apartments will add to the product lineup.
Stefano Artioli bought the ski facilities. He wants to expand it and renew the gondolas of the cable car. He plans to build a connecting road from the village center to the slopes higher up. He doesn’t want to do it all alone. The basic financing for the major project is guaranteed, “but it still needs money from outside. I’m still looking for partners and would like to offer the citizens and communities in the valley shares,” says Stefano Artioli, “in return they receive discounts on ski lifts and other facilities”.
San Bernardino creates 400 new jobs
Artioli finds the financial solidarity appropriate. Because, as the insider predicts, “thanks to our project, real estate prices will rise by at least 30 percent. In addition, more than 400 new jobs will be created in San Bernardino. That brings in additional taxpayers’ money.” The entrepreneur wants to open the slopes and the first hotels by Christmas 2023. Artiolis “Little Andermatt” should be up and running by 2025, “at least most of it,” says the visionary from Lugano – unless objections block the coming building applications.
However, the project is not a rush job. When the ski operations closed in 2012, the community started looking for new investors. “They knocked on my door too,” Stefano Artioli recalls, “but at the time I thought it wasn’t for us.” Reason: no clear zone plan. It came in 2021. And then the real estate king grabbed it. “San Bernardino has everything you need to be a top ski destination,” says Stefano Artioli and lists: the proximity to Ticino, Central Switzerland and Lombardy, the direct connection to the A13, snow guarantee, great slopes, lots of nature and a beautiful one Location. All that was missing was an investor and a 360-degree project.