News from the snow
Verbier is one of the world's greatest ski resorts and is ranked by many experienced skiers in their top 10, or top 5, or even number one. The resort has it all; a huge ski area with a vast vertical, topped with a glacier ; an authentic Swiss village with chalet-style architecture and great mountain scenery above and action-packed night life with excellent off-slope facilities. These combined attractions draw skiers from all over the world, but with a far better and wider international mix than many other international resorts with British, North American, German, French, Benelux, Dutch and Scandinavian guests all figuring prominently. Verbier is something of a 'purpose-built' resort, although not in the way most people think today. Before 1925 there were no skiers here, and very few people, what is now the ski area only being used as summer pasture for cattle. The first hotel was built and ski lessons were given two years later and in 1928 Verbier's first baby was born and the resort's population reached three. By the end of World War II, the year-round population was still only 27. Then Government experts declared that Verbier's south-west facing plateau location in the French speaking part of the country was "...one of the sunniest in Switzerland, its climate is dry, with hardly any fog and of great biological and therapeutic value." The first lift, in 1946, was a rather dangerous mechanised sledge-on-a-rope and the resort didn't finally explode onto the international scene until ten years after that. The famous church with its 40 metre (130 foot ) spire that dominates the resort to this day was completed in 1962 and the resort was one of the first to offer a skier uplift of 10,000 per hour by the mid '60s. Today the local figure is over 40,000 sph, greater for the full 4 Vallées pass.
A world class resort, ranked by many in their global top ten. Capital of the 4 Valleys ski circus. Wide ranging facilities for skiers and non-skiers of all kinds.
Verbier has a good percentage of high-tech lifts able to shift large numbers of skiers quickly, most famously 'Le Jumbo' cable car, which carries 150 people at a time up to the Mont Fort glacier . In addition the Funispace lift contains giant gondola cabins on twin wires each capable of carrying 30 passengers. Other recent additions are the Chaux Express and Les Attelas lifts, increasing capacity and speed of access on key routes
Experts will be especially enraptured by what's on offer around Verbier. Highlights include the legendary Tortin snow bowl with its huge bumps, the extreme couloirs down from Les Attelas, the steep skiing around Mont Gele and the notorious Gentianes run below the cable car. Ski safaris are organised by the ski schools to French and Italian resorts in the area and heli-skiing is another popular option.
Ski mountaineering is yet another of the Verbier's strengths, lying as it does on the legendary 'Haute Route' between Chamonix and Zermatt (6 days). Intermediates inevitably have the greatest choice with hundreds of miles/kilometres of trails in the blue/red category. The huge Lac des Vaux bowl with lifts rising in every direction is one of the many options. Beginners may feel daunted by the skiing mecca all around them, but nonetheless have sunny nursery slopes just above the village centre.
Cross country skiers have half a dozen 4 and 5km (2.5- 3 mile) loops to choose from starting in the various Vallées villages, and there is a eight kilometre (five mile ) route through Val de Bagnes.
Children pay for lift tickets from age 8, a little better than in most French resorts. However the Televerbier lift company have tried hard with older children and families.
The children's day care at Chez les Schtroumpfs has an unfortunate 'Smurfs' theme, but the kids love it so who cares, and it takes even the very youngest tots, unlike most of the other establishments in the Alps. It opens at 8.30am week days and 9.30am on Sundays, through to 5.30pm. The ski school's ski kindergarten and kids' club takes children from age four up for half a day or full day including lunch.
French food is also widely served with various styles offered including modern at the bistro. The range of international cuisine is among the best in the Alps, high quality American burgers at Harold's and numerous Italian pizza and pasta eateries including the Pergolas.
Vegetarians again are better served than in most European ski resorts, the Relais des Neiges being one of many offering a vegetarian menu.
Virtually all of the establishments serve the wines of the local Valais canton, including the classic white Fendant ( Chasselas ).
There are four night clubs in Verbier open up to 4am, the Coco Club is the 1st Luxury Vip members' club in the Alps. Le Farm Club has no dress code but normally has queues if you arrive late. Casbah is a late, late lounge bar and night club which opens just as the other bars are winding down and the fourth choice ius The Coup d'Etat.
Teenagers tend to gather at the fast-food and games room Big Ben club near the Medran lift.