A week in the Swiss Alps is a pretty special experience for anyone, and although there wasn’t any fresh powder whilst we were there, Verbier was a beautiful place to be for a week. Known for it’s off piste tracks and vast lands for adventuring, as an amateur snowboarder, I’m a little out of my depth. But hey, learning is learning, and a holiday is a holiday!
So as is our habit, we booked a cheap flight to Geneva (using Avios points) and then later decided on the resort to get our boots and boards on. With the snowfall looking pretty sad in most places, we ended up gambling on Verbier and it was a great decision!
After much research, we decided to stay at La Ruinette Chalets + Apartments in Le Chable, a small town on the border of the main town action in Verbier. I can’t rate the apartments enough! With only a 6 minute walk to the gondola that takes you up to Verbier town in under 10 minutes, and the option to continue up to the main runs in another 6 minutes, you’re often the first in the mountains. Guy, who runs the self-catered apartments and chalets, is a brilliant host and the clever luxury and boutique barn conversions mean you do feel wonderfully Swiss and at home scarily quickly.
Staying in Le Chable has further benefits; you get much more for your money (again, check out La Ruinette Apartments) in comparison to staying in Verbier, and the comfortable train from Geneva Airport, with a change at Martigny, delivers you directly into Le Chable - c’est parfait! Verbier also has a pretty good local bus service so should you miss the last gondola down at 7.30pm, you can get the bus back home for 6.50CHF after all the apres and dinner.
Now, for the mountains themselves. We were lucky enough to have got a metre of snow the week before we arrived but if you are there during some fresh powder days, you’re laughing. As an amateur, I instantly recognised the wide, long runs (blue and red for the colour conscious) all over the place which would nicely lead into some scenic and atmospheric narrower slopes. This said, the borders of the wide pistes weren’t always that clear because there are SO MANY completely accessible and un-intimidating off-piste areas. You really notice the magnitude and the potential for off-piste adventures when you’re on the chair lifts and start scoping out the area and possible routes. We didn’t check out the cost of the guides but if we were to return and the snow was all the fluffy great stuff, it’d definitely be well worth it.
In the week we were there, we managed to cover most of the 4 Vallees and go through the snow parks (I went through them, Michael actually used them). The area of Bruson is next to Le Chable and is a lovely tree-filled area where we spent an afternoon. It’s quite popular with young families because it’s generally quieter but this doesn’t take away from the varied runs there. I will point out now that in order to get out of the area, you must get a drag lift to the gondola back to Le Chable. I point this out because it was here that I had my melt down at not being able to get up the lift having tried about 8 times! (We ended up walking UP the steep piste to the gondola - a yoga post on this will follow soon) So, if like me, the drag lift isn’t your fave, I’d keep this in mind so that it’s not left right at the end of the day when you’re legs and own will are tired and unresponsive.
From Le Chable, getting over to Thyon is a bit of a trek so head over early. It’s a series of gondolas and chair lifts, with only two short runs in between so your legs don’t really get much of a warm up on the way. Thyon is a good little area to explore but again, be warned, it’s drag lift heavy so make sure you’re up for a day practicing this leg cramping skill (cramping for me anyway!) With all the drags, some of which are pretty long, it felt a bit like an afterthought for the resort but despite this, it’s got a fun, wide area and the snow was really good here most likely because it is a bit out of the way for most.
My favourite area was around Siviez and Nendaz. Both have some good areas to practice riding switch and learning some new tricks - I managed a few clunky jumps this time! There are also some runs where you can really pick up some speed and get that exhilarating, “I’m unstoppable” feeling. A huge plus for me too is that neither were all mogul’ed up, allowing me to ride pretty much side to side throughout. Varied, challenging, scenic and perfectly high, these areas for me, have it all.
As for the après scene, we had just one night of this. As mentioned before, Verbier is an expensive place for a few big nights out and to be honest, our little home was just too snug to not be there more than once. The place to go is La Farinet, a bar on the side of a hotel which sees a live band play from 6pm. Before heading here, we had a few drinks (and a snack of free pizza) at La Cheval Fera, another very popular, straight off the gondola bar. Our week was a quiet week for Verbier, chosen purposely to avoid the half terms, so the bars weren’t entirely crazy but still had a really fun, lively vibe about them. You can only imagine what they’d be like in peak season.
So in short, Verbier is completely accessible for all if you’re wanting a huge patch to explore and practice some new skills. Spending wise, it caters to all too - you can do it more sensibly or go crazy lavish, either are very welcome all over. And as I said, if the fresh snow is there for you, you’ll have a truly incredible time.