Verbier lays claim to the largest ski area in Switzerland and technically it is. It is part of the Four Valleys ski area with 104 lifts and 485km of pistes that stretch from Bruson and Verbier at one end, through to Veysonnaz and Thyon at the other. However if you are expecting an area like the Trois Vallees, Les Portes du Soleil or the Milky Way then you will be disappointed. The links are awkward and people tend to come to Verbier and remain in the main ski area above the village. It is not a resort for clocking up mile after mile of piste skiing all accessed by comfortable 4-person chairlifts with weather hoods and soft seats. So why is it talked about in such revered tones then? Quite simply it has some of the best lift-accessible off piste in the world and if you like steep mogul fields and testing black itinerary runs then this is the place for you. The skiing is tough and challenging.
Verbier also has a sophisticated après ski scene with the jet set of Europe flocking to its clubs, bars and restaurants. This is where the Geneva, Moscow and Paris elite come to party. You will see royalty, pop stars, Saudi Arabian billionaires and young entrepreneurs. There is little discreet old money here like in St Moritz, Villars or Gstaad; people come here to spend and be seen. Amoung the celebrities who visit are James Blunt, Sir Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver, Hugh Grant, Jemima Khan, Prince Andrew, Jason Strathan and not forgetting Posh and Becks. Victoria Beckham infamously came to Verbier after allegations about David’s private life and sat in the Garbo restaurant. She was photographed by the tabloid press through the window sitting quietly on her own.
At lunch some people eat lobster at Le Cristal restaurant at Ruinettes, while a few paces away you will see ski bums sitting out side on the steps in the cold munching on sandwiches they hastily made at breakfast. The two groups happily exist side by side. Verbier has a vibrant seasonaires scene and the resort is a magnet for the ski bums of Europe who come to shred the powder and party like it is going out of fashion. There is a large British clientele, though it is shrinking, and the resort is now actively targeting other nationalities.
The lift system has been upgraded in recent years though expect long queues at the bottom of the main lift, The Medran, during high season. Up the mountain it is very efficient with new cable cars and high-speed chairlifts installed in recent years. The accommodation in Verbier consists mainly of chalets that are spread out on the south-facing plateau starting at an altitude of 1,490m and, despite its rapid growth in recent decades, the resort still retains a village feel and atmosphere.