How to ski Verbier on the cheap

Will Robson asks Verbier local Melody Sky how thrifty punters like us can explore the heady slopes of her home patch without taking a second mortgage

Verbier has a deserved reputation as pricey, and it’s truer than ever in these days of grisly exchange rates. But the Swiss resort’s epic terrain and the buzzing town are too good to leave to the fur-coat brigade. So what are the secrets to planning a good value trip if you really, really want to go there?

I tracked down a savvy local, photographer and artist Melody Sky (melodyskyphotography.com), to blag some tips. A resident in Verbier for 15 years, she knows many more ways to have fun and save money than someone visiting
for a week or two.

Where to stay

A hefty chunk of your holiday budget will get eaten up by your accommodation. But staying in Le Châble, a 10-minute gondola ride down from Verbier, or only a little longer by bus (both are included free of charge with your
lift pass) will save you heaps. Le Châble is fast becoming the place to live for locals and families, and has plenty of character and atmosphere. New lodgings are popping up all over the place – and they don’t charge Verbier prices.

Raclette, anyone? La Ruinette apartments in Le Châble

Raclette, anyone? La Ruinette apartments in Le Châble

La Ruinette apartments, for example, a few minutes’ walk from the lift station, are beautiful and modern. Melody says the apartments cost half the price of the equivalent space in Verbier – and are of a better standard. From £96 per night for two people (verbier-lechable.com). Hotel A Lârze in Le Châble offers a high standard for far less cost than Verbier, too. From £112 per double room per night, including breakfast (alarze.ch). Airbnb also has a good line up of reasonably priced apartments in the district.

For skiers on a super-tight budget there are a couple of hostels in Le Châble. Dzardy’s Bar & Backpacker has seven dormitories in an old bomb shelter. A bed in a six- to eight-bedded dorm costs £32 (dzardys-bar.ch). Televerbier’s Base Camp Bed & Breakfast is a hostel with rooms for as little as £20 a night if you’re travelling as a group (tinyurl.com/z84jnkr).

A word of warning: if you’re partying hard in Verbier and miss the last (12.30am) bus, you’ll pay almost £50 for a taxi home to Le Châble. The bus runs every hour throughout the day and, being Swiss, it’s always on time.

Le Châble is just 10 minutes from Verbier by gondola, but a world away in terms of cost | Melody Sky

Le Châble is just 10 minutes from Verbier by gondola, but a world away in terms of cost | Melody Sky

Having said that, there are several buzzing (and good value) bars and restaurants in Le Châble. Try Le Couloir, a locals’ and seasonnaires’ haunt with good beers on tap; or Chez Numa, a cellar bar.

Finally, this sounds obvious but avoid holiday periods. Everyone knows this, but it needs repeating when it comes to saving money – this is the big one. If you book when most people aren’t there you’ll reap the rewards of lower accommodation costs and fewer crowds. If only you could also book the snow…

The skiing

Thrifty you may be, but no one goes to Verbier and doesn’t ski its legendary terrain – the acres of lift-served and hike-to freeride routes for which it has become famous, plus of course the big, long, steep mogul fields.

But don’t limit yourself to the well-known leg-burners such as Tortin, Gentianes and Mont Fort, or the busy, hard-packed central pistes: seek out the quieter stuff at the edge, too, and vary your skiing locations to include day passes in other areas. Across the valley from Verbier is Bruson, which has great tree skiing and is less busy than Verbier.

A day pass costs £38, compared with £51 for Verbier, or £58 for Verbier 4 Vallées. Usefully, even if you opt for the cheapie day pass, it still includes passage on the free post bus to Verbier for the nightlife. 

Bruson, Verbier’s go-to spot for crowd-free tree skiing – and cheap lift passes | Melody Sky

Bruson, Verbier’s go-to spot for crowd-free tree skiing – and cheap lift passes | Melody Sky

If you haven’t yet, try ski touring. We’re not talking about venturing into gnarly, avalanche-prone areas where you would absolutely need a guide. Instead, hire or bring your own touring gear and catch the free bus to access some tame and beautiful terrain. Try beginning your tour at Carrefour, or skin up to Bruson and ski back through fields and gardens.

There are plenty of amazing ski touring routes for all levels to check out online: some will get you right up into the heart of the pistes of Verbier. You can also buy a ski touring
lift pass that gets you up the mountain with your equipment.

Eating out

Melody admits there are no genuine budget restaurants in Verbier. The cheapest option is to cook at home in your self-catering apartment, buying groceries at Denner, Verbier’s good-value supermarket, or in Le Châble if that’s where you’re staying. If you’re happy to eat on the fly, visit the sandwich kiosk at the bus station/post office in Verbier. It has enormous paninis and sandwiches for less money than anywhere else in town, plus great chips.

Chicken in a basket (£18) at Al Capone (alcapone-verbier.com) is Melody’s favourite reasonably priced feed in Verbier. “It’s the best chicken dish ever and you get to eat it in really nice surroundings,” she says.

Borsalino, Chez Martin, Pergola, Al Capone and Le Fer à Cheval – a favourite of Verbier locals and regulars – all offer pizzas from about £15.

With terrain like this

Bruson’s epci freeride terrain | Melody Sky

Melody’s tip in Le Châble is to head to Le Couloir on a Wednesday, when there’s a burger and beer night (£12). “The restaurateur, who is Greek, really caters to the locals, and being a working local herself, she knows what people want,” says Melody. “Actually I’ve eaten there so often that I’ve had a burger named after me!”

The key to eating cheaply on the slopes is to carry a picnic. You’re allowed to eat your own food in the canteen run by Téléverbier at the Ruinettes lift station – a great bonus if it’s too chilly to picnic outside. Nearby at Ruinettes you’ll also find the pricey and popular Mouton Noir. Steer clear of that, but head to its more affordable café, which also has a crêpe bar on the ground floor, Le Self. It’s a similar set-up downstairs in the Dahu ‘Break’ Restaurant, where you can get sandwiches, salads and crêpes at a lower price than in the smarter upstairs restaurant.

Essentials

  • Visit verbier.ch and verbinet.com for resort info and televerbier.ch for lift pass details and prices.
  • Return flights from Heathrow to Geneva are available with Swiss from £87 (swiss.com); the airport is
    well served by various airlines from regional and other London airports.
  • A return rail transfer from Geneva airport to Verbier or Le Châble takes 2hr 30mins and costs CHF114.80.
  • For more information on travel to and within Switzerland visit myswitzerland.com or call 00 800 100 200 30. 

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