Verbier is part of Switzerland’s largest ski area, 4 Vallees, and it goes big on just about everything; big skiing, big scenery, big après… and big prices.
- Some of Europe’s most challenging extreme terrain and off-piste skiing (within or near a resort).
- Mind-blowingly spectacular mountain views that go on and on and on.
- The après scene – it’s hard not to have fun in Verbier.
- People watching.
- Sitting at one of the sunny restaurant terraces, admiring the views and eating great food.
- Bring all your spare credit cards.
- Some of the slopes can be very crowded and lift queues form at key lifts, especially on weekends.
- Some of the best advanced skiing is on the “itineraries” which is code for “ungroomed, unpatrolled and not very well marked”. They are great but best enjoyed with a guide.
- The village is vast and spread out and has busy roads all the way through it.
On Scout we’re very honest in our reviews. You can tell the resorts that we like, but aren’t personally rushing back to. Verbier, we are happy to say, is definitely not one of those. The faster we can get back there the better! If there is one word we would use to sum it up, it would be “awesome”. It’s a horribly overused word, but everything at Verbier really is awesome.
Let’s start with the skiing. If you’re an advanced or extreme skier, Verbier should be high on your bucket list. It’s not surprising that it’s the last stop on the Freeride World Tour, and every day you can watch hard-core skiers dropping some pretty serious lines. But you don’t have to be a professional skier to enjoy the benefits. For the strong advanced skier there is a ton of terrain around the resort to get the heart pumping and legs burning. Throughout the resort there are also marked “itineraries” (in yellow on the piste map), runs that go off-piste and link back to the main runs. You’ll want to take a guide for at least the first time you do these, as they can be a little tricky to navigate. Of course the resort isn’t just for advanced skiers - intermediates and beginners will also have a ball at Verbier.
Then there’s the scenery. There are so many incredible views from all over Verbier. At the top of Mont Fort (3330m/10,925ft) look one direction to Italy and the Matterhorn, look to the other and you can see Mont Blanc and practically the entire French Alps stretching as far as they eye can see. It is jaw-dropping stuff, so much so that you’ll pray for sunny weather every day you’re there.
But what forms so much of the Verbier personality is the village itself. Perched on a natural bench above a valley at 1500m, it fills a natural amphitheater with the ski area spreading up behind it. When you come to Verbier for the first time the first thing that sticks out is how big this village is. Hundreds of authentically Swiss-style chalets are taking up what seems to be every inch of space, such that it would be hard to imagine any more could be built. The village has busy roads winding their way around, making it feel a bit hectic, particularly in the main street and particularly during morning and afternoon rush hours. It’s also not the most convenient place to get around – most hotels or chalets will require a free shuttle to get to the lifts. But arguably the main feature of the village is the notorious après and nightlife. There are a couple of key bars (and plenty of smaller ones) that see hundreds dancing in ski boots and well-lubricated groups of party-goers (mostly British) doing shotskis and dancing till all hours. Some of the key bars bring in guest DJs from Ibiza and it’s hard not to think you are in some major metropolis at some of the clubs where table reservations are a must. Be warned: Drinks and food, like everything else in Verbier, are very expensive. At one of the main bars we shelled out CHF17 for an Aperol Spritz (which sets you back about EUR4 in some Italian resorts) and CHF20 for a very medium-sized burger… and it didn’t even come with chips. The best thing to do is go with the flow, enjoy it while you’re there and worry about your credit card bill when you get home. Because, like it has been for us, it may be a while before you get to come back to Verbier again.
Verbier is a part of the 4 Vallees ski area that connects several resorts and features more than 80 lifts and 400km of ski runs. It’s a huge area, home to 11 villages and is not dissimilar to France’s 3 Vallees. The ski map just doesn’t do it justice because in reality it feels so much bigger, with so many more runs than are shown. In parts the ski areas can feel a little disconnected and key bottleneck runs and connecting lifts can get crowded. But it’s worth making an effort to discover the different areas, because there are many great parts that don’t see much traffic (such as the Savoleyres area above the village). Almost all of the 4 Vallees is above the tree line, and the only times you really ski through trees are on the runs home at the end of the day. Some of the lower runs can get quite sun-affected, though they do have snowmaking.
We’ve already talked about the extreme and advanced skiing above, but we’ll stress again that we highly recommend advanced skiers get a guide and explore some of the itineraries and further off-piste areas – if you don’t do this you’re missing out on so much of what Verbier has to offer. We loved the runs off the back of Mont Fort that looped right back around to the resort without too much effort. But you really need to know where you’re going and some areas can be avalanche prone.
Verbier is great for intermediate skiers as well, though sadly they are the ones that will suffer the most with crowds on weekends. Fortunately, the runs are well groomed and wide and the lifts are good so it usually doesn’t cause too much of a problem. It’s worth making an effort to explore the whole area, because there are some great runs in the other areas beyond the main Verbier slopes. One day it’s worth taking the gondola across the valley to the little area of Bruson, which is where many of the locals ski and no one else.
Verbier ski resort is a little disconnected for beginners. There are two small bunny slopes in the middle of the village, called Les Moulins and Les Esserts, that aren’t connected to any other part of the resort. A separate pass can be bought just for these areas. In the main resort there are a couple of blue runs at La Chaux and Savoleyres but in general beginners might struggle as the progression to intermediate runs is pretty quick.
Verbier has a variety of other features, including a ski cross course, a “fun slope” for young kids to learn some skills and a more advanced Snow Park (or terrain park) that has all the usual features, including an airbag for practising bigger jumps. You can even hire a drone with auto-follow features if you’re that way inclined – though the areas you can fly drones in are restricted. There are several good ski schools and guides. Some of the schools offer week-long camps to push your skiing to the next level.
Not bad but not the best – that’s how we would summarize Verbier’s suitability for families. The high cost of things would be enough to put off most families but the quite intense party scene, inconvenient village layout and disconnected (albeit central) beginner areas also detract from the appeal. Fortunately, there are some good discounts for families on lift passes and of course there are all the services you would expect, including babysitters, nurseries and Kid’s Club ski school for children aged three and above.Search Hotels
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Verbier has more chalets – private and group packaged – than probably any other ski resort in Europe. Typically, most of them are all-inclusive. However, Verbier also has a surprisingly good selection and range of hotels, from 2-star B&Bs to luxury, full-service 5-star hotels and everything in-between. Location is key when choosing a hotel. Generally speaking, those close to the lifts and center are noisy, while those a bit further out are a bit quieter but will require a shuttle to get to the slopes. Unusually for a ski resort, some of the better value 3-star hotels are some of the more conveniently located. There are only a few ski-in ski-out hotels in Verbier.
If you aren’t after the village scene or prices you may be better off in one of the other smaller villages of the 4 Vallees, such as Nendaz or Veysonnaz.Search Hotels and Deals Get your
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If you aren’t partaking in après, there are a handful of other activities to do while staying in Verbier. It has an excellent sport center with pool, saunas, hot tubs and a large indoor ice rink. There is also a fantastic sled run from Savoleyres to La Tzoumaz, winter hiking, snowshoe trekking, a small cross-country ski area and dog sledding. Motor heads can also try their hand at ice-karting. Those looking for something more relaxing might enjoy one of Verbier’s spas or some time out at the cinema.
Geneva is the closest main airport, about a two-hour drive. Zurich and Milan are also close, each between three to four hours’ drive away. Bus transfers are available from all airports. It’s also possible to catch the train to Le Chable at the bottom of the valley and transfer up to Verbier by bus or gondola. Parking in Verbier can be a bit of a pain as the number of spots in hotels is usually pretty restricted. There is free public parking at the sports center or you can pay for more convenient parking.
Getting around Verbier is usually by foot or free shuttle, which is fairly reliable and frequent.
Verbier and the 4 Vallees is open from the end of November until April. Given the altitude at the top of the resort, most of the slopes have a pretty reliable coverage of good snow. However, most of the lower slopes face south or west and are at lower elevation (below 2500m) so can get a bit sloppy and thin towards the end of the season. Verbier can be busy on weekends with an influx of guests from Geneva, London and Europe’s other main centers.
|Base Elevation (Verbier village)||4921ft / 1500m||Beginner||29%|
|Summit Elevation||10,925ft / 3330m||Intermediates||43%|
|Vertical Drop||6332ft / 1930m||Advanced||28%|
|Length of Pistes||254m/410km|
|Operating Hours||8.30am –4.30pm|
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