Battle of the ski resorts: Verbier

Will Verbier’s big mountains win our Battle of the Ski Resorts?

Nominated by Will

Ease of access 7/10

A couple hours’ drive from Geneva airport or 10 hours from the UK. Or use the excellent Swiss transport system.

Sense of scale and epicness 8/10

Across the Val de Bagnes below the village are awesome views of the Grand Combin Massif and up behind Verbier are an array of peaks such Mont-Gélé (3023m) and the famous Bec des Rosses (3222m) face where a freeride competition began 20 years ago known as ‘Verbier Extreme’. It’s still hosts the Swatch Xtreme Verbier by The North Face, part of the Freeride World Tour.

Variety and quality of the pistes 7/10

Verbier is popular and at peak times it’s busy. Its 34 lifts are part of the 4 Valleys’ 92-lift system but it’s not that easy heading across. The best terrain is above Verbier, and you’ll get the most fun out of it if you’re a competent rider.

Off-piste potential 7/10

The lifts open up a world of freeride possibilities around the Attelas, Mont-Gélé and Mont Fort peaks, although guides or local knowledge are the best ways to open up the finest couloirs and stashes of untracked powder.

Verbier, Switzerland | Felix Tanguay
Verbier, Switzerland | Felix Tanguay

Lapability 9/10

The range of freeride options means that when the snow’s right, you’ll not need to ride the same routes twice. So from the back routes off the top of the Mont Fort to the less demanding ‘Stairway to Heaven’ you can choose what best matches conditions, aspects and abilities. And because so many people are in Verbier for the ‘scene’, filling the groomers and bars, it leaves the off-piste terrain for Fall-Line readers to play with ad infinitum.

On-hill grub 7/10

Verbier is not cheap. If you’re stashed and relish the furry boot podium dancer experience that Val d’Isère’s Folie Douce seems to have spawned, then head to Le Mouton Noir, new last season, but you have been warned. Namaste and Marmotte restaurants are fine and more straightforward up-the-mountain options, especially if you add the suddenly sobering sledge down when darkness falls. The Dahu by the Chaux lift has great food and fine views.

Après scene 7/10

Not for beginners. At the local-knowledge end of the spectrum, track down Chez Martin and ‘The Yurt’ with its wood burner and stereo – so quiet you’ll think you’ve booked the whole place. At the other is the Farinet – ideal for bar dancing in beer-sodden underwear. For proper clubbing, Etoile Rouge is the new hotspot.

Base suitability 6/10

Verbier lodgings are pricey – a better option is to stay in Le Châble, a cablecar down the valley. The 4 Valleys are more easily accessed from below too. The Mont Fort hut is a stopover on the classic Haute Route tour and there are plenty of epic day tours to get your teeth into, too.

Family friendly? 5/10

It’s not ideal for beginners or little ones even though there are good ski schools and nursery slopes. Verbier’s a place you should try, but probably with like-minded mates who want to check out why it’s been called the freeride capital of Europe.

RANK: 26