- Snow Reports
At the centre of the Four Valleys, one of the largest ski areas in Europe, Verbier has everything a top-class winter-sports resort should have. The chalet-style village perches atop a sunwashed plateau and provides views of the majestic mountain peaks. It's a veritable eldorado for any snowsport fan, and the skiing area stretches from 1,500 to 3,330m. Thanks to the height and fine snow conditions, 93 lifts let you access 412 km of runs. Mont-Fort or Mont-Gelé and other legendary routes make every ski ace drool. Novices and experts alike will find exactly the kind of skiing they are looking for here. Verbier offers a rich variety of restaurants, shops, bars and discos.
With 410 kilometres of runs and 89 lifts covered by a single lift pass, Les 4 Vallées ski area is big. Its wealth of activities, reliable snow cover and sunny slopes make it an exceptional place to ski. From the top of the Mont-Fort glacier (3,330 m) to the kindest blue run the ski area is a paradise for all whether expert or beginner. Open from early November until the end of April, it links the resorts of Verbier, La Tzoumaz and Bruson, as well as Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon. Verbier is now officially the Verbier-St Bernard ski region.
Although the possibilities for skiing and snowboarding are endless it is not quite the seamless web of ski areas that you find in Les 3 Vallées in France. A guide is a good investment to avoid queues and tracked out off piste runs.
Take the opportunity whilst you are in the resort, if you don't get vertigo, to clamber up the last few metres to the top of the Mont Fort from the cable car and enjoy the amazing views. Not for nothing has Verbier attracted film makers and photographers over the years. You can get up there by cable car without skis if necessary.
Verbier is famous for off-piste skiing. The better your skiing, the more the resort comes into its own. Easier blue and red skiing can be found in the central valley area but on the whole this is an intermediate/expert rather than beginner resort.
Of the many steep runs, you'll remember skiing from the top of Mont Fort forever. It starts as a precipitous mogul field, the challenge is how early you get into your tuck as it begins to flatten into a very smooth glacier motorway run where even the worst skiers can look stylish. It is one of the steepest runs in the Alps and you need to know what you are doing. The other signature ski run for the hardy is Tortin, a cold north-facing mogul field which eventually turns into an easy undulating ride down to another sector of the 4 Vallées. Over on the Mount Gelé at 3030m is another vertiginous run that rewards the skilful and is apt to paralyse the inexperienced.
Heli-skiing is a great option in this resort famous for its freeriding. Just because you get there by helicopter does not mean that the skiing available is only for experts. Trips can be arranged to provide ‘a gentle powder smoothie' for all the family.
Groomers and Families
There is a dedicated children's area in Verbier at Les Esserts with a magic carpet. There's also a separate area for children at Les Moulins with gentle nursery slopes. There are good runs for beginners - Savoleyres and La Tzoumaz through the trees. To be sure of better snow it pays to pluck up courage and go up to La Chaux where you'll find plenty of blue runs.
Once you have made a bit of progress it all becomes a lot more enjoyable as the occasional red sections that link the blue runs seem less daunting. The long run from Attelas to Verbier (1224m) is particularly enjoyable for groomers but it can get a bit hectic at the end of the day with experienced skiers zooming home. Bruson, a short (free) bus ride form Verbier is a quiet area away from the crowds and good for families.
There are no less than eight ski schools and no shortage of instruction in English. Warren Smith, the founder of the famous annual Verbier Ride free ski event, runs his innovative Warren Smith Ski Academy here and has a reputation for bringing on hesitant intermediate skiers. He also runs special off piste lessons for those that really want to progress.
There is now only one snowpark in the La Chaux area of the Four Valleys. It is here that the annual Verbier Ride event is held every year. A number of competitions are held throughout the season. There is an express ski lift to give maximum time in the park.
Four different points of access, each one taking a different line give access to a total of 20 modules. The first entrance with nine modules is for experts only. The second is black and has thirteen modules . The third entrance is blue. The fourth entrance gives access to the whole lower blue area of the park. There is a giant Big Air Bag available to everyone over the age of 12. This enables beginners to experience the really big sensations without serious injury and the more experienced to try out different moves in complete safety. Each jump is filmed and can be accessed immediately on Swatch shoot my ride.
Verbier has an excellent reputation for the quality and range of cuisine available through its 60 or so restaurants.
The Mont Fort Igloo is the highest igloo bar in Europe at 3,300 metres. For the breakfast of a lifetime take the cable cars to the summit of the Mont Fort and have coffee while you take in the 110 different peaks from Wildhorn, via the Diableret, the Jungfrau, the Weisshorn, the Matterhorn and of course Mont Blanc.
The Cristal offers an excellent brunch from 8 a.m until 10 a.m at a mere 2,200 metres. This is the much revamped Les Runiettes restaurant.
In the resort itself non-residents can breakfast on the rather smart terrace of the Chalet Adrien where they serve breakfast from a very business-like 7.30 a.m until a more leisurely 10.30 a.m.
Chez Dany offers the best authentic mountain cabin restaurant with a fine terrace. Dogs, children and vegetarians welcome and well catered for. Specialities pumpkin soup with cream and country bread, fondue, fillet steak with morel mushrooms. Chemin de Clambin, 1936 Verbier +41(0)27-771-2524
The King's Restaurant in the King's hotel in the village centre. Recommended by Gault Millau. Specialities include a delicious Burratta - a mozzarella case round a soft cream cheese centre - or the risotto with truffles and mushroom sauce. Rue de la Poste, 1936 Verbier +41(0)27-775-2035
La Table d'Adrien with a Michelin star, where Marco Bassi has recently won the final of the Taitenger culinary competition. It is the ultimate Verbier dining experience. The menus have a strong Italian flavour with eight different ways of eating sardines and venison with sangria.
Le Carrefour is not to be confused with the supermarket chain of the same name. The Carrefour is perfect for lunch while on the slopes and when you want an evening fine-dining experience. Known for its range of cheese fondues and traditional Valasian specialties. You can hire a room for a private party if you want. Route du Golf 95, 1936 Verbier +41(0)277-715-555.
There is a more relaxed atmosphere at the Fer a Cheval pizza restaurant and bar in the centre of town with a terrace in the sun by day and a lively atmosphere at night. Rue Medran, 1936 Verbier +41(0)277-712-669.
Harold's Burger Bar, also in the centre, is the ultimate refuge from the expensive Swiss Franc whilst at the same time eating well. Fine hamburgers are cooked to order for around CHF 10. At the same time you can use the internet connection and watch important sporting occasions on the wide screen.
If it is celebrity spotting that concerns you and money is no object then try the genuinely world famous and seriously expensive Farm Club.
Otherwise the best dancing is at the Casbah nightclub. Located at the Hotel Farinet. Open every night, it is decorated to look like a Bedouin tent, with the award-winning Rock-Bar (hosted by DJ de Douche) next door.
The Pub Mont-Fort (named after the local peak) is a short trudge towards the top of the resort and is probably the best 'sessioning' venue for the younger set (under 30s). Party goers have been known to try to ski down the short flight of stairs to basement area which requires a very sharp parallel turn before the wall beckons.
As you leave the Mont-Fort at 4 a.m you can stop by at the side window of the local bakery and buy a croissant or fresh bread on your way home.
There are two spectacular skiing events held at Verbier: XSpeed and Verbier Ride. The XSpeed ski races where top speed skiers go from 3330m on the Mont Fort hitting speeds of 200km an hour are held in April. Verbier Ride, one of the top freeskiing competitions in the world, is held in the La Chaux snow park in January.
Not to be missed is the 10-kilometre-long toboggan run at La Tzoumaz with a drop of 848 metres - crash helmets required and children accompanied.
A must-do is a visit to the top of the Mont Fort with its unforgettable view so even if you are a beginner get up there before you leave and enjoy it. If you have a Four Valleys ski pass you will not have to pay extra for the cable car. For competent skiers there is the possibility of staying in the somewhat Spartan Cabane Mont Fort at 2457 metres. The only access is on skis. Julien, who has been staying there for years told us "Amazing, you're on top of the world, sunset and sun rise over the clouds, the world of the everyday are little specks of light far below. You should come and see for yourself".
Phone: 027 775 38 88
A fine dining experience in the Alps makes for a truly memorable ski holiday.... More