- Highest Point: 3,300m
- Descent: 1,800m
- No. lifts: 84
- Lift Pass: 1 Day - €69 / 6 Days - €373
Verbier has made a name for itself as a hedonistic retreat for millionaires, even featuring on reality cringe-fest Made in Chelsea. But while you won’t have any difficulty emptying your and everyone else’s wallet, this place has some serious substance as a shred destination as well. In fact, Verbier is the Swiss version of Chamonix, with some of the most hardcore descents in the country. But in true Swiss style (and unlike Chamonix) it’s a fully polished resort with a massive, modern interlinked lift system and perfectly groomed pistes.
All the Swiss politeness goes right out of the window when there is a powder day, however. If you want to get fresh tracks you had best sharpen your elbows for the queues and not wait too long surveying your line, as one moment’s hesitation will mean some nutter leaping over your head from a rock above, and stealing it. There is plenty of fine off-piste only a short traverse from the lifts however, and once the obvious stuff is tracked out, hire a guide or a heli and head off into the awesome backcountry.
Verbier is in fact just one part of the massive 4 Vallées area, which joins Nendaz, Veysonnaz, La Tzoumaz and Val de Bagnas. It has 94 lifts and over 400km of piste. It's a fantastic playground and a must for all serious snowboarder's bucket lists. It's not cheap, but if you're on a budget you can save some money by staying in Nendaz or one of the other villages. There's also the MAP Hostel, just 15 minutes' walk from the Verbier lifts.
The Parks - 3/5
Terrain parks have never really been Verbier’s focus, and it shows in the terrain park at La Chaux. It has a few jib and kicker features, but for a resort of this size it is definitely an afterthought. If it was at school it would get a 'C' and a “could do better". The park does improve as the season goes on, and if you head there in March you can usually find around 20 features along with the obligatory airbag.
"It goes without saying that you must have the kit and know how to freeride in Verbier"
Nendaz goes to the top of the class though, with its WoodPark and the beginner Burton Progression Park, which are both accessible from the Tracouet area. The WoodPark opened in 2010 and is a similar idea to the Burton Stash, with lots of obvious and hidden wooden jibs to hunt out.
Really though, natural is the way to go for freestyle in Verbier – the mountain is littered with rock drops ranging from a few feet to insane cliffs, so you should head out and test your moves against Mother Nature.
The Powder - 5/5
The Verbier Xtreme competition held here every winter on the Bec des Rosses, is part of the Freeride World Tour, and probably the most prestigious freeride contest in the world. Google ‘Bec des Rosses’ and you’ll see why – the terrain on this face is pretty much the definition of gnar!
It goes without saying that you must have the kit and know how to freeride in Verbier - avalanches are common, so check local conditions before attempting anything. One advantage is that there are no fewer than 11 patrolled areas that are great for learning the ropes, before venturing further afield with a guide once you're up to speed. If you're feeling really adventurous, you could try and recreate our Igloo Adventure...
A good starter is to head to the Mont Gele cable-car. This serves no pistes, just a stack of off-piste runs and couloirs of varying difficulty. The Col des Mines, and Vallon d’Arbi are classic routes which steer you towards wide open powder fields, and are a must do.
A short walk from the Les Attelas chairlift or the Funispace cable-car will give you a fine long run down to the Mayentzet chairlift, and if trees are your thing, head to the Bruson area. When you’ve fully exhausted what is on offer and if you’ve still got some money to burn, then look into getting some heli time. But remember this is Richard Branson’s playground, so you’re looking at the wrong side of 700CHF for a day.
The Pistes - 4/5
There really is something for everyone here, and you couldn’t get bored even if you were here for the whole season. The best run is undoubtedly the long, wide, red piste that goes from the top of Attelas all the way back to the Medran lifts.
There are plenty more excellent runs on Savoleyres and Ruinettes, and if you need lessons check out Vivid or ES Ride. this year there's a new chairlift connecting to Bruson. Currently a 'hidden gem' accessible from Verbier by a combination of buses, draglifts and old chairs, Bruson is well-stocked with both groomers and tree runs.
If you're not a fan of T-bars, be aware that many of the links between Veysonnaz, Thyon and Siviez require a bit of draglift prowess. There's also a terrible bottleneck when you're going in and out of Nendaz.
How To Get There
Verbier has easy rail links to both Geneva and Zurich Airports.
The Parties - 4/5
Verbier is awash with cash and a drink in the town will match the price of slope side beer in any flash French resort. The Pub Mont Fort is a legendary après and evening haunt, especially among seasonnaires, and it’s worth heading to their shots bar if you’re playing catch-up. The T-Bar (in the Central Hotel) and the Loft are more popular with the locals, and offer a more low-key vibe.
"The Pub Mont Fort is a legendary après and evening haunt"
The après-ski bar in the Hotel Farinet kicks off late afternoon with a happy hour and has a band playing every day. And if you need a club the Casbah underneath is open until 4am. Just avoid the Farm Club if you’re on a budget – a bottle of vodka will set you back a minimum of 100CHF!