The beautiful Swiss Alpine resort offers creature comforts in the evenings and thrilling skiing during the day.
A trip to Verbier ski resort is best described as comfortable discomfort.
In the evenings you’re in the stunning surroundings of the Swiss mountains with as much melted cheese and wine as your heart desires.
During the day you have the opportunity to explore 400km of slopes, a paradise for skiers of all levels from thrill seekers to those taking their first trip to the slopes.
What is skiing like in Verbier?
Nearly 100 years since the start of skiing in Verbier, it is now seen as the glam spot of the Swiss Alps. Located in the southwest of the country it attracts a slew of high-profile guests, including British billionaire Richard Branson who owns a luxury chalet in the resort.
Verbier is part of the 4 Vallées ski area alongside Bruson, La Tzoumaz, Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon. They are all connected and together make up the largest ski area in Switzerland.
It’s been dubbed the home of freeride, an infinite playground, pure energy.
Fittingly, my stay coincided with Xtreme Verbier, the final stop of the Freeride World Tour, one of the world’s toughest snow sports competitions. From chatting with the athletes taking part and other experienced skiers in town it’s clear that Verbier lives up to its reputation.
And with ski passes setting you back CHF82 (€83) for a day and CHF389 (€393) for six days, you certainly want it to.
Do you have to be a good skier to enjoy Verbier?
As I discovered, you don’t have to be a ski champion to enjoy its famous slopes.
I visited Verbier in March for four days. Despite snow shortages in other resorts, Verbier has had a strong winter season this year and there was plenty of snow during my stay.
Sadly the sun never made an appearance, but this is a rarity for a resort that has 300 days of sunshine per year.
I was nervous before the trip as I was skiing with a group who were much more experienced. But with some guidance and their patience I was zipping along the piste in no time.
For those looking for some ski lessons, Element ski school was a great experience. I spent a morning with their instructor Noah as I have not skied much in recent years. He immediately put me at ease and was the perfect mix of knowledgeable and relaxed.
Once I got my ski legs back there were loads of challenging red runs to test myself and build up my level. And for the more advanced skiers, there are tons of opportunities for off-piste adventures and ski touring.
I particularly enjoyed the 10km run from Les Attelas ski station. Starting at an altitude of 2,733m, it brings you all the way down to Verbier village.
It was this trail that I chose for one unforgettable run of my holiday. I wish I could say it was unforgettable for the spectacular views or the thrilling feeling of gliding down the slope. Sadly this was not the case.
In short: I urge my fellow glasses-wearers to buy contact lenses before going on a ski holiday.
When we got to the top of the mountain it had started snowing and a wind had whipped up creating whiteout conditions.
My glasses kept fogging up under my goggles so I couldn’t see anything, but I was still feeling confident. I was with a group of advanced skiers with decades of experience between them. We had formed a bond over the last few days by eating, drinking and skiing together. They will be my eyes, I thought.
Well, my eyes immediately skied away from me into the white abyss. One of them mistook another skier in a black jacket for me and off they went leaving me stranded mid-slope.
No need to panic, I thought, I will simply stop and wipe clean my glasses.
I was on a side slope, exposed to the elements and no one seemed to be skiing past. After a couple of seconds of wiping I realised I was cleaning thin air - the lens of my glasses had popped out.
Shockingly my rabid search for clear glass in a white haze was unsuccessful.
Hours must have passed (it was two minutes) when a middle-aged man dressed all in black finally skied by and I waved him down to ask for help.
I gratefully followed my mysterious rescuer’s outline and rejoined my group cool as can be, pretending that I hadn’t just had my life flash before my eyes minutes earlier.
What is apres ski like in Verbier?
After an experience like that, a good drink is always welcome and thankfully Verbier had me covered.
Its lively apres ski scene has something for everyone, including those still half in shock. ‘Apres-ski’ literally translates from French to ‘after skiing’ and it’s basically the entertainment and party side of a resort once you’ve finished on the slopes for the day.
Bars like Farinet and Le Fer au Cheval are great if you want a party atmosphere and to get chatting with new people. One of my favourite things about Verbier is the real mix of people you get. It has a glamorous reputation so you get the richer clientele looking for a good time, then the amazing skiing attracts younger snowsports enthusiasts and athletes. Workers come from all over to work the winter season at a hotel or behind a bar.
I recommend trying to coincide your trip with the Freeride World Tour. There was a great buzz in the resort and I went to lots of events, like a live outdoor DJ set where the street was full of people dancing.
Swiss cheese fondue and mountain top meat: where to eat in Verbier?
If you’re having a few drinks it’s always a good idea to line your stomach and in Verbier the food offerings do much more than just that.
I recommend living out your Swiss fantasies and checking out Au Vieux Verbier in Verbier village. It’s a traditional Swiss restaurant and they have dreamy fondue.
It’s always a novelty to dip bread into a vat of melted cheese and after a day outdoors I found it really comforting. The service was lovely as well and they indulged in us having one last late-night glass of wine before they closed.
If you’re looking for a mid-ski day boost, the Black Tap is a really cool (in more than one way) burger bar at the top of the mountain. I recommend the crispy chicken burger.
I was there on a snowy day and the circular building and the snow-covered windows made it feel like I was in an igloo.
An apartment on the slopes or a hostel in Le Chable: where to stay in Verbier?
When your belly is full of fondue and beer a comfortable place to sleep is a must.
I stayed at apartment Flaminia, a five minute walk from the centre of Verbier. It was ideal for three of us to share and had space for three more if you’re happy to share bedrooms.
I loved the balcony with a perfect view of the mountains and I sent multiple pictures back home to make my friends jealous. The open-plan living room/kitchen area is great to have a cup of tea and plan out your days and evenings. And if you don’t feel like eating out in a restaurant every evening, the kitchen is fully equipped.
If you are a more budget-conscious solo traveller or looking to meet new people, there is a hostel in the nearby village of Le Chable.
A bed in a dorm costs about €49 per night during the season. Le Chable is at the foot of Verbier and there’s a cable car that brings you to the slopes in 15 minutes. They run until midnight so you can still soak up the apres-ski scene in Verbier village and make your trip back in good time.
How to get to Verbier: train vs plane
Many ski resorts have been trying to cut down on emissions related to ski holidays in recent years.
In Verbier 100 per cent of the electricity powering the ski lifts is from zero-carbon hydroelectric sources. But one of the biggest ways we can cut down our ski holiday emissions is how we get to the mountains.
Train travel is a great more environmentally-friendly alternative to flying. Verbier is 160km from Geneva and high-speed trains go from the Swiss city to Le Chable.
A concern people often have about train travel is the time it takes to get to a destination compared to flying.
While it’s true trains do often take longer, I always find it’s a much more enjoyable journey. On my way to Verbier from Lyon where I live, I didn’t have to deal with airport security or stress, I could take as much luggage as I wanted (particularly useful for people with their own skis) and I got beautiful views of the French and Swiss countryside. Plus the seating is much more generous - and it’s better for the planet.
If train travel is not a viable alternative or you’re under time pressure, Geneva Airport has transfers to Verbier, so flying is an easy way to get to the resort too.
Overall Verbier offers an excellent ski holiday that mixes testing your boundaries on the mountains with comfort and fun during apres ski. It has some of the best runs in Europe for advanced skiers and ample opportunity to improve for beginners and intermediates.
Ian Smith was a guest of the Freeride World Tour and the Verbier Tourism Board