The Verbier Experience
Verbier. You must have heard of Verbier. Commonly pronounced “Verb-ee-yay” by the anglophone crowd, it has become one of the most exclusive and luxurious ski resorts in the Swiss Alps, a VIP village that, over the years, has seen its indigenous population dramatically decrease, replaced by hoards of rich foreigners.
Verbier has become a winter social hub for London yuppies, Russian models and Scandinavian golden boys and girls to name but a few – and has made a name for itself in the people pages thanks to the likes of James Blunt, Prince William or Richard Branson. In fact, Prince Harry has been spotted on the slopes and in several bars and restaurants with his girlfriend, celebrating Prince Andrew’s birthday with Fergie and their two daughters. Verbier has undoubtedly managed to position itself as a select VIP-approved leisure location of choice.
To my utmost surprise, the village was mentioned in the last season of the renowned american TV series: Gossip Girl (which of course I just happened to stumble upon by mistake!). Appearing in a casual conversation amongst some Manhattan upper east side elite, without any context or explanation as to where/what Verbier actually is – but simply : “…after my divorce, I had gone skiing in Verbier, hurt my knee…”. Surely this is the pinnacle of recognition!
It is very easy to criticize Verbier. As it is easy to criticize the rich and famous. In Verbier the housing prices have exploded, the appearance of private banks and designer shops contrast with what the cosy, laid-back, genuine and authentic swiss ski resort once was. Verbier is an experience in itself. Only 2 hours from Geneva, it is worth discovering and the intricate mixture of people, places and activities are worth exploring.
Constantly evolving, new bars and restaurants seem to surface every season. If you’re on the slopes, stop at the newly-opened restaurant La Vache (see our previous article), co-owned by James Blunt and situated at 2730m on Attelas. It offers great local produce and an exceptional panoramic view with cool music. Further down, on the slope from Ruinettes at 1740m, the 1936 Bar consists of two yourts and is a great place to make a pit stop, soak up the sun on a deck chair, or warm up cosily by the fire in one of the yourts. They serve grilled meat, snacks, and in the evening even offer Mongolian fondue! Another option, at the bottom of the Le Rouge piste is Le Rouge Restaurant & Club, a trendy venue which has a 400sq.m terrasse, great restaurant, and resident DJs that adapt their music to the mood.
“Après-ski”, on the slopes or in the village, is definitely an established feature in Verbier. Forget about changing into more comfortable clothes before getting the party started. Après-ski at le Farinet is emblematic – the bar was voted the best après-ski bar worldwide in 2004 by “Which” magazine. Happy hour and live music right above the central square – it is not to be missed. Other après-ski venues would be the T-Bar also on the central square, or the Pub Montfort situated near Médran, which is a staple of Verbier and has been going strong for ages.
If you have lived out your crazy years and are seeking a less frenetic setting for your evening, Verbier has a range of different, top-quality, restaurants from which to choose. Fer A Cheval Bar & Restaurant, located on the road to Medran, has a lively atmosphere, a large terrasse and is a favourite for lunch or after-ski drinks – but it also has a cosy downstairs dining setting and the food varies from pizzas to traditional Swiss dishes. Other great restaurant options with reliable pizzas are La Pergola, an elegant Italian restaurant, Al Capone, a laid back pizzeria and grill restaurant, or Borsalino, an Italian restaurant situated above the central square. Chez Martin offers a nice family-style atmosphere with seasonal cooking, and if you are looking for something else, why not try the Nevai Sushi Bar located in one of Verbier’s most beautiful hotels (Nevai Hotel).
If you are still standing by midnight (therefore not a true “après-skier”), a long list of bars and clubs awaits you…
Needless to say the sport and social possibilities of Verbier are endless. And – at the end of the day – it deserves recognition for what made its name in the first place: some of the most outstanding – and potentially incredibly challenging – downhill skiing in the world…
Verbier – you either love it or hate it. But form your own opinion. It is definitely worth checking out!