Verbier ski resort
The iconic Swiss resort of Verbier, with its world-class terrain and legendary après-ski, remains among the top ski destinations in the Alps.
Aside for its reputation as a ski resort for the rich and famous – Richard Branson owns a chalet here, available to rent through his Virgin brand – Verbier’s main attraction, in a similar way to Chamonix and St Anton, is for its steep and exciting off-piste terrain. Expert skiers are spoilt for choice, with numerous challenging runs including an impressive lift-served vertical, one of the world’s largest, crowned by the Mont Fort glacier.
Groomed runs for beginners and intermediates are available, but they are less of a feature than at most big resorts. However all level of skiers will find some form of run to suit them, thanks to the resorts location at one end of the 4 Vallées (the 4 Valleys), Switzerland’s largest ski area, with a claimed 410km (255 miles) of piste.
Off the slopes, Verbier’s well-heeled skiers like to party and a plethora of bars and clubs keep the convivial atmosphere going into the early hours.
Verbier is situated on the eastern side of the Val de Bagnes, within the Valais canton. This French-speaking part of Switzerland is in the southwest of the country, close to the borders with France and Italy.
On the slopes
Verbier is the main gateway to Les 4 Vallées ski area that features a sophisticated network of cable cars and gondolas providing easy access to 410km (255 miles) of marked runs, as well as some of Europe’s best lift-served off-piste skiing. Queues for these lifts are normally minimal, although there can be bottlenecks in busy areas.
The resort’s high altitude and extensive snowmaking facilities means snow cover is not normally a problem throughout the season, especially on the Mont-Fort Glacier. As such, the ski season in Verbier – and Les 4 Vallées as a whole – runs from mid-November until late April.
Beginners and intermediates are fairly well catered for in Les 4 Vallées with various schools, including the Swiss Ski School (tel: +41 27 775 3363; www.verbierbooking.ch) that offers introductory courses in skiing and snowboarding. There are nursery slopes for beginners and some easy runs at Savoleyres, La Chaux and Lac des Vaux to explore once they have mastered the basics.
Experienced skiers and boarders will enjoy some of Europe’s steepest descents, including the infamous Mont-Fort and the World Cup downhill run in neighbouring Nendaz. There are also the demanding mogul fields, powder bowls and couloirs of vertiginous Tortin, Chassoure and Mont Gelé (classified as unpatrolled ‘itinerary routes’, though technically off-piste).
Some of the ski schools offer advanced freeride clinics and heli-skiing. There is also a superb terrain park for boarders to enjoy.