Skiing in Verbier, Switzerland

Skiing in December is a risky business, unless you go high you ran the risk of finding very little or no snow and while I love mountains in any weather… going skiing without then skiing can be a little disappointing.

Verbier traditionally has a good record for early snow. The village is at a respectable 1500m of altitude and then you go higher from there; the highest station Mont Fort is 3,300m. A reassuring height.

Armed with optimism and all the gear we landed at Geneva airport… in the rain. We had left England in the grip of polar temperatures (-8C at Heathrow airport) and landed to a mild 8C… 18 degrees difference! Crazy.

It never feels real till you spot mountains capped in the white stuff, and mercifully the disparaging rain gave way to snow as we climbed to the village,

… and the smell of fresh snow was exhilarating. Now we’re talking!

We stayed at the W Verbier, a very nice, modern hotel on the inside, but built in the traditional wood chalet style sported by any other buildings in the town. Keeping such a tight control on the architecture makes you believe you’re in an old style Alpine village, rather than a modern one full of hotels and bars and plenty of tempting shops. It’s welcoming and pretty.

The rooms were modern but well appointed. There are three restaurant (great food, but expensive), lobby bar was buzzing, the indoor-outdoor swimming pool (plus sauna, steam room and jacuzzi and full spa service) was the perfect place to relax after a day on the piste.

It snowed during out first night there and the village was still wrapped up in clouds when we got up on the first morning. One could sense the presence of the mountains surrounding us, but we certainly couldn’t see them! We had decided to hire a ski guide for a couple of hours to give us the lay of the land and it was a great move. There are a few off piste areas/unplowed piste in Verbier and we didn’t want to run the risk of taking ‘the wrong turn’! Andy was great, super knowleadgeable of the area, super patient when my glasses broke and all the time we asked to stop for yet another photo!

Because it had kept snowing after the nightly grooming session, and the visibility was still pretty terrible, the first hour was a little uncomfortable… (yes ok I might have wiped out…)

Slowly though the sun burnt through the mist… and the full beauty of the Alpine landscape exploded in front of our eyes.

We skied about the clouds for the rest of the day… and it was magnificent.

The following day the village itself was about the clouds, but the valley below was still buried.

I took the opportunity to take the highest gondola all the way to the top of Mont Fort. Las summer they had built a new viewing platform and I was really keen to check out the panorama from the highest point. (While you can ski down from there, the only way down is via the hardest piste in Verbier, a black run/moguls field I wasn’t keen to experience, so I left my skis at the bottom… you’re welcome)

Oh wow. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to tell how majestic the Alps looked from such a height (3330m to be exact). Ridge after ridge capped in snow as far as the eyes could see, ice fields and lakes… On one side the Matterhorn, on the other the massif of the Mont Blanc… the sky dark blue and the air so so clean… And nothing above you. I totally understand how people become obsessed with climbing, for wanting to go higher and higher. It’s exhilarating to be up there.

and the view going back down was pretty darn good too!

Don’t let the photo fool you, those moguls on the bottom left of the photo were practically vertical!

The view though… I could have stayed up there all day!

I rejoined my tribe and we had a wonderful time for the few days we were there. Eating lunch on the slopes wasn’t a problem either, I can recommend two restaurants because we only tried two of them: Le Dahu (amazing ravioli and raclette) and Le Carrefour (have a steak or the soup with the melted cheese or the rösti), both of them are piste-side and fabulous. Nice rose’ wine too… or so I heard… ahem.

Of course it wasn’t ski ski ski all day… reading in the sun is a delightful activity, especially if one uses hot chocolate as a mean of keeping warm! Swiss hot chocolate… need I say more?

Our favourite way to return back to the village (and our hotel was basically ski-in), was to take the really leisurely blu run all the way down. When the legs are tired nothing beats effortless (lazy) skiing through the trees, coupled with amazing views.

On the last morning I opted to take a walk to the old part of Verbier instead of heading to the mountains. Hidden amongst the new chalets, the disguised supermarket and so on, down the valley a little, there is a little corner that it is still ‘old school’. It is beautiful. Blink and you miss it, but you shouldn’t, because it is a glimpse in the past of the area and I am so glad that places like this still exist.

The verdict on Verbier?

A big yes. Good skiing for all abilities, a nice village, not far from Geneva airport. Must look amazing in the summer too. We were told they’re very keen on cycling and the ski-lift are converted to carry bikes up the top, if one so chooses.

Skiing before Christmas gets a big thumbs up too. Less people than during half term and a nice start to the holidays!

We’ll most likely go again. See you there!

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