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Ski Resort Test Verbier (CH)

The Unknown Animal

Aspen, Kitzbühel, Zermatt, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Chamonix - just about every winter sports enthusiast knows these places. When I am asked where I prefer to ski, I like to answer 'Entremont'. Where? 'Val de Bagnes'. Not many people really know what to do with it. An unknown animal.

It's wonderful that one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the Alps is still what it used to be - an alpine mountain village. Although Verbier today has a good number of overnight accommodations for over 25,000 guests, you won't find huge hotels buildings. There was also no need to bless the ski area with ever more gigantic lifts and large ski huts. Verbier has always been oriented towards the sport itself and fortunately this has remained the case to this day. Again the question, where do you ski? At Verbier. And it's not unusual to earn recognition and respect with this answer, because whether you're a boarder or a skier - if you're good here, you're good everywhere.

As far as the official pistes are concerned, Verbier/4 Vallées has at least partially conformed to the international standard. Today, blue slopes are usually really blue or easy to ski and red slopes are of medium difficulty. This was not always the case. And so it is not surprising that those who learned to ski/board in Verbier are usually really good at their sport. What was red in Verbier was considered black elsewhere. And flat-rolled blue snow-highways didn't exist anyway; except for the pull-ways.

In the black area, however, the slope classification in Verbier is still reminiscent of the open-ended Richter scale with everything that goes with it. If you try your hand at Mont-Fort, you should have the appropriate skiing skills, otherwise the day will end faster than you think in the 'Centre Médical de Verbier'.

The first part from Mont-Fort (3,330 m) to the Col des Gentianes (2,950m) is really something special. On the official black track you have two possibilities: Stay left on the not so steep 'girl's side' or check out the black 'boy's side' - it's really steep. For many, however, true fun only begins where the groomed slopes end. And Verbier and the Val de Bagnes offer everything a freerider's heart desires. It is not without reason that the big season final of the world's best freeriders takes place year after year in Verbier. It takes your breath away when the boys and girls plunge from the Bec des Rosses into the depths.

Travel & Accomodation

Verbier has excellent transport links. But although there is a good local train connection from Martigny to Le Châble, most guests still arrive by car. I admit that the last kilometres from Le Châble (850 m) to Verbier (1,500 m) are also a special experience by car. The 13 hairpin bends are a lot of fun. One could almost think that Trailbuider Marius had personally driven the curves into the granite to have more fun on the way to work.

Who wants can take from Le Châble directly the cable car to Médran. Or the bus. Or the taxi. Or the plane. Read correctly, Verbier has an airfield at Croix de Coeur at 2,000 metres altitude. But very few of them make use of this possibility; and this is also quite good, as Verbier already has a traffic problem. Especially on the arrival and departure days, there are often traffic jams in the village. As a typical self-catering chalet village the distances are long - a car is very helpful. Although the buses in Verbier are free of charge, many chalets and apartment houses are inevitably far away from the bus stops. Many shops therefore also offer delivery; just ask.

The undoubtedly most beautiful way to spend the night in Verbier is in your own chalet. The second best is for me in the mountain hats of the Swiss Alpine Club at the base of the Mont-Gelé at almost 2,500 m (Cabane du Mont-Fort). Of course there are also a lot of great and super great hotels in Verbier. Especially in the premium segment, a lot has happened. Luxury as luxury can with 5-star plus. But the Place Centrale is still the epicentre of the village and right there is also the legendary Hotel Farinet. Who needs the full package is here exactly right - the parties have world fame. But the 60ies charm of the past days is passé - since 2015 the Farinet is a hip boutique hotel.

If you cannot call a chalet your own, you can rent one (from one week upwards). In the last years a lot has been built. So you should think about where to rent. Top area is still the area between Médran and Le Rouge and best a chalet, from which one reaches the cable car station with ski and board. Unfortunately, this is no longer possible from all chalets due to the dense construction. The area between Le Rouge and Les Esserts is fashionable and probably has the highest celebrity density in the village. Those who like skiing at the Savoleyres should rent a chalet above the Savoleyres cable car. Here, too, really great chalets with every imaginable comfort have been built in recent years.

Apartments in larger residential units are considerably cheaper than the rental chalets. But there are only very few real bargains. Verbier has its price and is in no way inferior to other elite ski resorts. It is expensive. But it is incredibly beautiful.

Food & Shopping in Verbier

Chez Dany, Cabane du Mont-Fort, 'Cuisine Valaisanne', Bec des Rosses, Le Sonalon, Au Vieux Verbier (by courtesy of Vieux Verbier)

There is no question that Verbier offers excellent food. The level offered is high and the predominantly regional products are absolutely first-class. But you have to get used to the prices. It doesn't really make sense to list all the restaurants here - but I'd like to recommend a few 'classics' to you.

Let's start with the 'Fer à Cheval' at the Rue de Médran. Since 1969 an institution for pizza, après-ski and stars. Whether an English royal family member or a Hollywood celebrity - you can find everything and everyone here.
The 'Le Caveau' is over 50 years old. For me the best location to enjoy Raclette. The cheese is excellent, the wine as well. If you weren't at the Caveau you really missed something.

At the end of the Route du Golf, above the top station of Le Rouge is the restaurant 'Carrefour'. Vailaisanne Bistronomy at its best. The meat dishes are excellent and come with three homemade sauces. Delicious!

You can also eat very well on the Savoleyres side in the 'Sonalon'. Free of charge is one of the best views of Verbier's night lights.

The restaurant with the greatest romantic factor is 'Chez Dany'. The best way to reach it during the day is by ski/board from Ruinettes. The area near 'Chez Dany' is a microcosm, a time machine: the area from the Le Hattey/Hameau du Hatay junction down to Chez Dany - that's what Verbier used to look like everywhere. Before the big compaction. I ate the best Croûtes au Fromage ever here.
My special recommendation is the 'Au Vieux Verbier' right next to the Médran station. The restaurant opened in October 1977 and has been owned by the de Torrenté family for over 35 years. The daily menus are convincing all along the line: compositions, quality and price - everything is just right here.

Verbier was and is mainly sport oriented. And so you can find everything you need to practice your sport in the numerous sports shops in Verbier. Of course, there are several supermarkets for the self-caterers, first of all the big Migros with underground parking at the entrance of the village. In addition, there are bakers, butchers, delicatessens, pharmacies and more. The Depeche Mode Boutique in the Rue de Médran is definitely worth a visit. Boho chic and rock mountain style.

Slopes, Huts, Après-Ski

Ski Area Map above: By courtesy of Televerbier S.a.

I have already written above about the slopes and the levels of difficulty. The ski area of Verbier / 4 Vallées is simply huge with over 400 km of pistes: 80 lifts and over 90 different pistes are available. Plus the unbelievable many possibilities to be away from the pistes. Concerning the off-piste adventures there is only one thing to say: Off-piste there is no guarantee that someone will save you in no time! Unfortunately there are always tragic accidents - mostly because the warnings of avalanches are not taken seriously.
One of my favourite descents leads from Attelas (2,700 m) over the Lac des Vaux to the Col des Mines and then down to Verbier. Best of all, of course, without stopping. That's a real 1,200 meters of altitude difference and a great mix of piste and off-piste. A refreshing drink in the 'Offshore' at the Médran Station is especially good.
There are also wonderful ski runs at the Savoleyres, for example the various downhill runs to 'La Tzoumaz'. Also a trip to 'Bruson' should not be missed - especially if it is very crowded in Verbier.

In the whole ski area there are many ski huts and restaurants. There is everything from self-service restaurants to upscale restaurants. Fortunately, there are no huts with a thousand or more seats. Thank you!
Après-Ski is, however, also an important part of Verbier and takes place in good weather mainly 'sur la terrasse'. Whether in 'Fer à Cheval', 'Farinet' (live music!) or 'Pub Mont Fort' - everywhere people celebrate with good music and alcoholic beverages.
If you still have strength in your legs, you can party in the various clubs from midnight until the early hours of the morning. But before going to the clubs, the party people move from bar to bar. It's quite funny, because somehow there seems to be a fixed schedule for it. I am really glad that I have that behind me. Sometimes it was very exhausting ;-)

Verbier Après-Ski (both pictures left by courtesy of Farinet Hotel)

Summary

No question about it, Verbier's changed. Structural compaction in particular has increased considerably. Fortunately, only the 'chalet style' can be used and the idyllic mountain village character has essentially been retained to this day. When it comes to skiing and snowboarding, Verbier is certainly one of the best spots on the planet. The unique location on the sun terrace at an altitude of 1,500 m, the great hotels, the pretty chalets and the ultra-modern lifts - all this has its price, of course. Not convinced yet? Then have a look at 'RideValais - Team Freeride'. The guys have great clips of the really best descents.
Where do I prefer to ski? In the Entremont. Where please? In the 'Val de Bagnes'. Still a rather unknown animal. And luckily my article won't change that.

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