Verbier is renowned for being one of the top ski resorts in the world, some might say the number one, and for good reason. Situated in the wider area of The Four Valleys, which also includes Nendaz, Veysonnaz, La Tzoumaz, and Thyon, the ski area is both huge and very varied, offering lots in the way of intermediate to advanced skiing and some outstanding off-piste.
The wide network of lifts in the resort gives access to a wonderful expanse of slopes, and although the resort itself is at 1500m and not as high as some other resorts, the lift systems allow access to some much higher areas where snow is guaranteed; at 3330m the highest point in the resort is the towering and suitably titled Mont Fort, giving breathtaking views of Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and the Grand Combin.
How to get there:
The easiest and most cost-effective way to get to Verbier is by flying to Geneva and then continuing to the resort by taxi or bus.
Flying to Geneva is quick and easy, and there are a number of low-cost airlines such as Bmibaby as well as more expensive carriers such as British Airways. Easyjet offer numerous flights to Geneva every day from as little as just £50 return. They travel from many of the major UK airports and accept skis or snowboards, although they do levy an extra surcharge.
Once at the airport the drive is around two hours and there are some reasonable transfers available (around fifty euros for a return journey).
It is possible to take the train from Geneva but this is highly impractical as it involves two different trains as well as some walking and a bus, and takes up to three-and-a-half hours (the service also stops in the late afternoon).
Taking the train all the way from England involves the same difficulties mentioned above, plus the journey across France by Eurostar. The closest major station to Verbier is Martigny at around 17 miles away, and from there it is necessary to take the local train (the Saint Bernard Express) to Le Chable and then the direct cable car, bus (in winter) or taxi transfer into Verbier itself.
Just as there are few situations where the train is a practical mode of transport to Verbier, so it is with the car. If you enjoy Alpine driving and can put up with a ten hour drive from Dover then you may be happy to do it, but unless you need to bring lots of gear with you then the plane is definitely the best option.
Who the resort caters for:
Not the place for a budget holiday, Verbier attracts a stylish and often rather wealthy crowd, including more than a few celebrities. The mix of great terrain, good night-life and attractive surroundings makes it quite a centre for such types, and the remaining visitors tend to be families, groups on luxury holidays and serious skiers and boarders.
The resort is fairly international in terms of the crowds it attracts, with neighbouring French, Swiss, Italians and Germans all joining the healthy British contingent. Many people return to the resort year-on-year or choose to buy an apartment or chalet for their own use as well as for rental purposes, while the quality of the nightlife at spots such as The Farm and Kings keeps the age range quite well-balanced.
Explored as a ski resort almost a century ago, Verbier itself is a traditional alpine ski resort and a far cry from some of the modern, purpose-built resorts in the Alps. The wooden chalets and apartments that make up the village sit on a plateau amongst pine trees, and there is a cosy, authentic feel to the resort.
With accommodation for around 15,000 visitors, there is a mix of hotels, chalets and apartments. However, most of these are 3* or above and there are only a few budget options. In terms of hotels, for luxury try King’s Parc Hotel and for something a little less extravagant the Hotel Rhodania.
More suitable for experienced skiers and boarders, with a high percentage of red and black runs, there is enough to keep beginners occupied and some gentle learning areas for children. Conveniently, these learning slopes are for the most part located around the main village and near the accommodation.
More advanced slopes are to be found higher in the resort, at Col des Gentianes, where some excellent black runs lead back to more mixed pistes. Off-piste highlights include Valon D’Arby, Mont Fort, Mont Gele and Stairway to Heaven, and there are numerous companies which will take you on guided excursions to explore these areas.
Black Runs: 10
Red Runs: 55
Blue Runs: 17
Green Runs: 17
Cross Country: 20km
Ski Lifts: 92
Max Vertical: 1830m
Highest Lift: 3330m
Lowest Piste: 1500m
Resort Altitude: 1500m