The real reason to go is for the off-piste but this is not dark blue/black kind of stuff - in my mind significantly more challenging than that. There is a lot of hassle about Verbier that can be justified for the amazing off piste but just to ski around makes it a poor proposition in my opinion.
You need a guide and proper avi kit to do the best stuff, but Verbier, like a few of the other Swiss resorts has off-piste itinerary routes, which are marked on the piste map in yellow (the ones down to the Tortin were my favourite and easily accessible). Anyone who can competently ski bumps on black run type pitch will be fine on those runs in the correct conditions. Exposure is minimal unless you look for it so most people (even without much off-piste experience) will feel comfortable.
Mt Gele gets horrific queues though - I've queued there for an hour more than once. That is the problem generally with Verbier, particularly at peak times. The lift system is old and overworked and the pistes, whilst covering a huge area, are also crowded and in a way quite limited.
I don't recall much tree skiing but could be just selective memory. The main skiing is all pretty high though (and snow all the way to the village is not at all certain - have had to download there in February before) so significant tree skiing would suprise me.
Regarding the village, it can be a bit of a sh.t if you're not in the right place. See the below "Accommodation" section for details on where to stay to really make the most of the location. The main 1936 Verbier village is nice enough with fun bars, decent restaurants and cafes. However the rest of the resort it is sprawling and on the side of the hill rather than in a valley. Moving around the village is a bit of a pain. for that reason you want to be staying as close as possible to the main 2 gondolas that take you up from the village (these gondolas are known as the Medran lift/s). There are buses that go around town, but again its a hassle I'd rather not deal with.
Many people head to Verbier for the apres ski - the village has a great reputation for being a party town, with lots of busy bars.
When looking at the village map, the highest points are where the lifts run from. Carrefour though is a long way out of the main town with the bars and shops etc (not walkable).
The bottom of town (eg where the road from Geneva brings you to) is a long way from the lifts and a long way uphill.
Having said all that - a couple of days of fresh powder and a great guide gave me some of the best ski days in my life (until I snapped my medial being lazy and missed the third epic day). Just be aware of the kind of resort it is - just because pro's rave about it in magazine interviews does not mean it will necessarily be as much fun for a mere mortal. In my opinion, there are much better high intermediate/low advanced resorts out there.
If a big resort is important, have you considered Zermatt? Val D'Isere? Three Valleys? Cliched and popular with Brits but for very good reasons.
Or if you can go a bit smaller what about Engleberg? La Clusaz? Alagna (if you want a more affordable way to enter into the off-piste world)? Ischgl has great nightlife and fun, uncrowded pistes.
Also, have you thought about doing a 2 or 3 resorts (depends on how long you have a little)? It is easy to constuct a mini-safari in Europe - it's nto far between resorts! (Thanks to Lazo+8 with some minor edits)
- 1 Location
- 2 Pros
- 3 Cons
- 4 Contacts
- 5 Planning
- 6 Resort Facilities
- 7 Ride Guide
- 8 Other
- 9 Resources
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Most flights go into Geneva, but the closest airport to Verbier is Sion. Try to get into Sion if possible to avoid the 2 hour transfer from Geneva.
If you're coming via the UK and want to stay a full week, booking one of the package tours from a UK agent seems (to me) to be unbeatable value. We did this two years in a row, once with Crystal and once with SkiWorld. Thomson also offer the same type of packages. The packages include return flights from London and transfers direct to your chalet/hotel, plus all accommodation for the week. You can choose different levels of accommodation and different packages regarding included meals, etc. If you want the hands-on advice/support of the tour rep, they are always available, but if you want to do your own thing you can just ignore the rep and they'll fade into the background. Booking through the package companies does make it esy if things go awry - eg. if flights are delayed they'll automatically rearrange your transfers and vice versa. You can just switch off your brain and they'll make sure your transport is sorted out.
As mentioned above, the resort of Verbier is a series of small hamlets along the winding road up the mountain. All hamlets are linked by the free shuttle bus, but to really make the most of your stay, the best place to be is the main village at 1936 Verbier (the 1936 refers to its elevation above sea level). The main gondola lifts are known as the Medran, so if being within walking distance to the lifts is important, always query "how far is the accommodation from the Medran?" Some of the other hamlets have lifts at/near them, however these lifts tend to access more limited areas of the resort which are not really linked into the rest of the runs.
Most of the bars, restaurants and shops (with the exception, sadly, of the supermarket) are within 500m or so of the Medran.
Accommodation is a mix of chalets and hotels.
For week-long (or more) passes you will need a photo - take a spare passport photo with you. Tickets are the plastic card type that you swipe on the card readers to access the lifts.
Verbier is part of the 4 Vallees system, meaning that you have the option of purchasing a linked ticket which is valid at all four resorts. For pisted (groomed) runs, the linking between the resorts is poor, and getting from one resort to another can be time consuming. If you plan to visit a linked resort, the best option is to plan to spend the whole day there, to justify the effort of getting back and forth. However, there is a lot of groomed terrain just within Verbier itself, so unless you are staying more than a week a Verbier-only ticket will probably suffice.
That said, I believe that in many cases a linked ticket is necessary if you plan to venture off-piste as the the best off-piste locations tend to be between the resorts and you'll need the linked ticket to get home again. The runs and backcountry areas have signposts to let you know that you're leaving the Verbier boundary and that a linked ticket is required past this point.
Should you accidentally (or on purpose) find yourself in a neighbouring resort without a linked ticket, you can buy a one-day linked pass enabling you to get on the lifts to make your way back to Verbier.
Note: if booking one of the package tours mentioned in the Transport section above, do not purchase your lift pass through the tour company. Although they will quote you the standard price in CHF (Swiss Francs), they will charge you in GBP (sterling) and give you a terrible exchange rate. Either insist on paying in CHF or just buy the passes yourself at the ticket outlets.
Loads of options right at the base of the lifts and throughout the rest of the resort hamlets.
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Bars & Entertainment
Verbier has a well-deserved reputation for a great apres ski scene. The night really gets going at 4pm with dancing on the tables at the Farinet, or a quieter drink at the Mont Fort (the pub, not be be confused with the mountain of the same name) followed by further fun that seems to culminate at the Casbah in the wee small hours.
Given the sprawling layout of the resort, if apres is your scene you will want to make sure your accommodation is close to the village centre, not in one of the small hamlets further up (or down) the hill. The shuttle bus does not run late at night, so unless your bed is in the village centre, you will have to locate a taxi, a helpful ski-lodge host with a car, or a warm jacket to see you all the way home. Rather than going via the road, there are pedestrian shortcuts that provide a quicker route between some of the hamlets, however if you emerge from the bar to find there has been a heavy snowfall, some of the shortcuts can be hard work. Some paths also cut across the lower pistes, so watch out for the groomers!
As mentioned in the Ticketing section above, Verbier is part of the 4 Vallees system, meaning that you have the option of purchasing a linked ticket which is valid at all four resorts. For pisted (groomed) runs, the linking between the resorts is poor, and getting from one resort to another can be time consuming. If you plan to visit a linked resort, the best option is to plan to spend the whole day there, to justify the effort of getting back and forth. However, there is a lot of groomed terrain just within Verbier itself, so unless you are staying more than a week a Verbier-only ticket will probably suffice.
The lower slopes, particularly under the Medran lifts where most people funnel back into the village from across the resort, can get skied out and become slushy if it hasn't snowed in a while. To avoid the slushiness simply take the gondola back down (and enjoy the views while you relax at the end of the day) if the snow at the base is less than ideal.
Out of Bounds
Parks & Pipes
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