A local’s guide to… Verbier

a beautiful powder skier in paradise

Warren Smith takes us on a tour of the iconic Swiss resort in a local’s guide to Verbier, where easy-access freshies mix with epic terrain and some of the world’s best off-piste runs.


Name Warren Smith
Profession Pro freeskier, Level 4 coach and examiner, and director of the Ski Academy
Years lived in Verbier 28

warren smith

Why I chose to live in Verbier…

It’s a freeride mecca. There’s endless epic terrain and some of the world’s best off-piste runs. I ended up in Verbier in search of great freeride terrain and to pursue a dream of becoming a pro freeskier. Because of the nature of the environment, and the people occupying it, it took my skiing to another level, allowing me to join the Völkl Freeski Team (I’m still skiing for the brand) and also set up our Academy for training people to become better all-mountain skiers.

Best run for a warm-up…

A classic warm-up is the M25. Take the Funispace lift up from Ruinettes and have a good blast from the top of Attelas back down to Ruinettes. A great way to get the legs pumping, check your kit is ok and get your confidence in the right place.

For easy-access off-piste…

There are so many options! From the top of the Mont-Gelé cable car you can access the front face of Mont-Gelé. For those intimidated by its steepness, there’s a more mellow itinerary route on the back face. You can also often find easy-access freshies from the top of the Lac des Vaux 3 chair; it’s your entry point to the classic run to Tortin. From the top of this run it’s also just a short traverse into Col des Mouche, a great off-piste area. Be careful when traversing in here; best take a guide or experienced Level 4 instructor with you.

To find freshies days after a storm…

You’re spoilt for choice. Usually by traversing a bit further along the Col des Mouche you can bag a few fresh lines. Also by hiking up the infamous Stairway to Heaven (a steep bootpack that leads up a wide, steep couloir). If you head skier’s right off the side of Mont Fort and keep far right, you’ll reach a traverse track and can drop into a bowl next to the old Cabane Tortin; over the other side of the bowl is a nice little couloir most people miss.

There are also loads of virgin lines to search for in Vallon d’Arbi and Rock Garden.

Raphael Surmont image

For a backcountry adventure…

The classic tour up to Rosablanche makes for a great backcountry foray. For this you head up to the top of Mont-Fort, aim skier’s right, and head to Glacier du Petit Mont-Fort. A nice ski down Phantom Couloir and then it’s on with the skins for a 90-minute (give or take) tour to the summit of Rosablanche (3,336m). Pause for a picnic and then set off on another great ski back down to Siviez, where you’ll find the connecting lift back up to Col des Gentianes or Lac Des Vaux.

The best thing about living in Verbier is…

The energy of the people in town. Because of the nature of the place, and so many people’s desire to freeski, there is a constant buzz throughout the whole winter season. It gives the town such a positive feel. Also, off the back of that positive energy, everyone is always keen to help one another and that’s essential when trying to find out about snow conditions and safety info.

Don’t leave Verbier without…

Skiing the backside of Mont-Fort. Obviously that depends on your level and the snow conditions, but it’s an amazing wilderness back there and the feeling of freedom is immense. The options and choices of what to ski and where are endless. You can reach steep couloirs or open powder fields, and then tour, hike and climb back to Verbier quite easily. Stopping at the dam you’ll always find like-minded freeriders buzzing off the descent they’ve just had.

Snowy Verbier village shot
Raphael Surmont image

For a mountain meal…

My favourite on-slope restaurant has to be Cabane Mont-Fort. It has the best views, with Petit Combin, Trient and Mont Blanc all on display, and you can watch skiers getting tasty lines on Barry’s Bowl just opposite. No reservations, so it’s first come, first served, but no matter how busy it is I always seem to find a table. The atmosphere is great and the food (local mountain fare) high quality.

For après-ski vibes…

Farinet on the main square is known as one of the best après-ski spots in the Alps, and if you get sucked into the vortex it’s difficult to get out. The bands are amazing, drinks affordable and the place is always buzzing. You can also witness the carnage unfold from the luxury of the Farinet lounge, sitting on the comfy sofa with an espresso martini in hand watching the revellers outside through the huge glass window. Other places to visit are Pub Mont Fort, Lumi, No8 and Alp &Horn (the latter serves the best Guinness in town).

For food down in town…

You’ll find some of the best local Swiss food – especially the meats – at Le Grange. Au Vieux Verbier and L’Ecurie are amazing too. L’Ecurie often has a lunch menu at great value. If you find yourself still in Farinet come dinner time, they do great sushi too.

For late drinks and music…

I would head to Hotel Farinet (again) for the atmosphere, cocktails, and they often have guest DJs flying in.

Pistes: 410kms
Lifts: 80
Beginner: 34%
Intermediate: 47%
Advanced: 19%
Lift passes: from CHF83 per day