As far back as I can remember the little Swiss village of Verbier has been associated with the rich and famous. It is like the winter version of St Tropez or Monaco. However, the difference is that the people who go to Monaco and St Tropez, are there to watch or be watched, unlike its winter partner, Verbier, which has a sort of understated style.
In Verbier you are aware that people are wealthy. A standard chalet in Verbier can set you back £8 million, the average pint of beer will cost you around £6, and meal out for a small group, well lets just say you can easily get up to £500 +. There are then the more obvious signs of wealth, from the black Mercedes G wagons slowly rumbling through the Place Centrale (village square to the non Verbieites), to the recently added Moncler shop, not to mention the watch shops that would be better suited to Bond Street rather than a small Swiss village.
The difference, however, between Verbier or Verbs (as the Chelsea set would have you call it) is the wealth is glamorous, stylish and tasteful. People are there for the reasons you should go to a ski resort, for the skiing.
In Monaco and St Tropez you are considered poor if you are not in an Italian sports car, Bugatti Veyron, or Rolls Royce, and Aston Martins are considered Volkswagen Golf’s. It is all a show like a never ending film, and during the winter you only have to look at the Monegasque’s high rise apartments to see how many of them actually live there all year round, I would make a guess of about 10% of its 60,000 population.
This is the key and success of Verbier. The powers that be, in this case the Bagnes (or the council to you and I) don’t want flashy Russian Oligarchs, ‘boy done good’ city traders bragging how much money they made this year, and how they love recessions, (by the way if this is you, then Courchevel will be better suited). They want tasteful people who enjoy Verbier for what it is, but just what is it?
There is no doubt that Verbier has expanded hugely since the 1950’s; however, this has been done so organically. There has been tight regulations on what you can and can’t build, unlike it’s French counterparts who have built – or should I say “dumped” – large concrete flats to cope with the demand, and have not had a thought about what it will look like in years to come. The Swiss care about these things and this is probably why Prince Charles prefers Klosters. The Swiss take huge pride in everything they do and this shows in the quality of the buildings.
Verbier has some of the most luxurious chalets in the world, two which are considered the best are Chalet Septieme Ciel and Richard Branson’s mountain retreat, “The Lodge” , both of which can be all yours for a week. If you don’t fancy chalet living then they have some great hotels, my favorite being the Chalet-Adrien. If this doesn’t take your fancy, there is the modern Hotel Nevai, and if you are a W hotel fan, you’ll be pleased to know there are plans to erect one in two years time, adding to their already impressive portfolio.
As well as their fantastic accommodation, Verbier is host to some amazing Restaurants. For Lunch I would recommend La Rouge, which serves great food, from sliced meats to homemade burgers, crepes and mountain salads. It has a large terrace outside for those sunny days, and if there is a group of you I would recommend you buy a magnum of Chateau Minuty Rose, which is reasonably priced and wonderfully drinkable. My only criticism would be the view, due to it being at the bottom of the mountain, you get the rooftops of the village, which obstructs the otherwise beautiful view.
Further up the mountain, there is the l’Olympique at the top of the Funispace lift, which has a seriously good formal restaurant with stunning views. Further up the mountain more, there is Cabane Mont Fort, on the Gentianes run to La Chaux, which has great views over the Colombe Massiv. This is actually a ski refuge with showers and 2-bed dormitory rooms and is used by the Swiss Alpine Club for ski touring. The cozy interior gets crowded in bad weather; otherwise the sun terrace has some of the best views. The food is good, honest and fare with a wide varity from the mountain favorites of ‘spag bol’ to good salads.
Back down the mountain, left of the Medran lift you have Chez Danny. This is my favorite, with a lovely forest ski to get there (suitable for all levels) it has a feeling of seclusion. Chez Danny is the restaurant that gets the most airtime. It has it all, great views, fantastic food and a wonderful large terrace both upstairs and down. Due to its popularity they don’t take bookings at lunch, so it is best to get there early.
Back across the other side you have Carrefour, which is placed just above the La Rouge run. This is great for a quick drink stop on your way down the mountain. However, being so close to the bottom, it is not ideally situated for a mid-day stop. However, I would strongly recommend it for dinner. You can order a filet steak on the hot stone or ‘Pierre Chaude’ if you are feeling Swiss, this comes with great sauces and a choice of rosti or chips. The puddings there are also great, with crème brulee coming in a bowl instead of a small ramekin – Why not? – You’re on holiday! The other option would be to book Chez Danny for dinner. You get taken up to the restaurant by snow cat and after your fondue or meat, you can blow all the calories off by tobogganing down to town to continue the party.
On to après ski, THIS is what Verbier is known for and it is said you haven’t experienced Après Ski until you have been to Verbier. In my view there are three places to go: La Rouge, Pub Mont Fort and Farinet.
La Rouge is great for après ski and has to be experienced at least once. They have great DJ’s and the music is not too loud, so you can hear each other speak. Grab a bottle of rose and party the evening away, whilst watching the sun descend behind the mountains.
Pub Mont Fort is a favorite of the seasonaires. From 4 o’clock it gets jam-packed, as happy hour is untill 5pm. They serve popular “shakers” and it’s a great place to start off before moving on to Farinet. It is fairly rowdy and loud, hated by some, but others say its all part of the fun.
Farinet is really where the party gets going, in the après ski bar be expected to get beer splashed and end up dancing on the tables and bar. The likes of Richard Branson have been known to pour shots down skis and dance on the bar. Farinet is a place where everyone can let their hair down.
There is no doubt after a few hours at Farinet you will be fast asleep by 10pm, happily exhausted, ready to be up bright and early the next day. However, if you have the stamina then Verbier doesn’t stop here!
A stumble down the steps of Farinet and you will find Casbar, a little cave like nightclub and probably the cheapest out of the three clubs (I didn’t say ‘cheap though’).
Round the corner and you find the recently refurbished Public Verbier, owned by Price Harry’s pal, Guy Pelly. The club that used to occupy this site was called Coco’s and there is no doubt that Mr Pelly has made a great improvement, especially in terms of the prices, which although they are not Public London prices, are reasonable for Verbier. Public Verbier is bound to attract young Royals on their ski holidays as well as the West London set. If Mr Pelly plays his cards right Public could be there for many years, like its competitors over the road at the Farm Club, which is not so much a club, more an institution.
The Farm Club. Where to begin? Everyone I speak to has a story about the Farm Club. It has been in Verbier since 1971 and has become famous world wide. It has a sort of glamorous 70’s feel, and still has a great reputation, however, with the launch of Public Verbier, could the good times become memories? We don’t think so. They cater for a different type of client, and its name, the Farm Club, goes hand in hand with the name ‘Verbier’. As the saying goes “if the walls could talk………”
Whilst other ski resorts might be great at some things, Verbier has it all: Royals, Celebrities, Restaurants, après ski and last, but by no means least, some of the best off-piste skiing in Europe, that is if you can get out of bed in the morning!