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An armchair guide to Verbier

How to talk about Verbier when you’ve never been

An armchair traveller’s guide to the family-friendly ski resort

An armchair traveller’s guide to the family-friendly ski resort

Jason Goodwin | October/November 2019

Getting there Be sure to exit on the Swiss side of Geneva airport. You learned the hard way: on the French side you hired a car with snow chains but the Swiss will give you snow tyres. Otherwise, you hear it’s best to get there by AlpyBus.

Go It may be the obvious choice, but sometimes they are the best. The skiing in Verbier only abides by one clear rule, the higher up the better. You have a choice of mountains, slopes and directions: you always get snow here. There’s a nice atmosphere, too. A little bit young, a little bit grand, but never stuffy or snooty. Families like it. The Swiss have managed to keep it cosy and looking pretty – wooden chalets and not too much concrete. But if you are not the sporty type, there’s just as much fun to be had at the après ski with pubs, bars and DJs.

stay The Chalet Orsini sleeps ten, has heated boot warmers, a cinema and is, quite simply, beautiful. But when you want to snatch piste time with your lover/partner/parent/child, there’s the W Hotel. It’s what New Yorkers think the Alps should be like, and who’s to say they’re wrong? But at the last minute, anything goes: there’s nothing too ghastly anywhere and you’re there for the pillowy slopes, not snowy pillows.

See From the top of Mont Gelé you can see the full panorama – and choose between three pistes, which lets you pick the right snow every time, depending on the sun and the latest snowfall. Tortin is the run everyone talks about: hair-raising and bumpy at the start, a full kilometre downhill from the Col de Gentianes to the Tortin lift hub. You did it with your eyes shut. Screaming. And again.

Eat You’ve always chosen apple crumble at La Marlenaz, on one of the two outdoor terraces overlooking Verbier and the surrounding peaks. At the top of the Attelas chairlift there’s a corrugated iron shed which contains La Vache, good for burgers en piste. Chez Dany catches the last of the sun, the food’s good, and when you’re feeling bold you love to sledge home in the dark.

Say Tell your best friends about the Cabane du Mont-Fort, a proper mountain hut still owned by the Swiss Alpine Club: night comes down over Mont Blanc, the wind blows, but you’re well fed and tucked up in a simple bed, looking at the stars. Heaven.