Traditionally, the Christmas holidays are the start of the winter sports season. Although a lot of people head for Austria or explore the French Alps, Switzerland also has a lot to offer for skiers and snowboarders. Read on to find out more about Verbier, known as the Swiss mecca for winter sports enthusiasts… with over than 410 kilometers of slopes, you will definitely stay busy during your stay here!
Verbier, a village located in Les 4 Vallées, is one of the most famous ski resorts in the country. This village takes its winter sports seriously. For example, during the past, several alpine skiing championships took place here.
Attention to the climate
Ski tourism indeed has an impact on the climate, no one can deny that. Just think of all the ski lifts that have to operate, the mass consumption along the slopes, and the pollution from the snowcats and snow cannons. Yet, Verbier officials try their best to reduce climate pollution and make tourists more aware of sustainable solutions during ski trips.
Under the heading Greening Verbier, there are currently numerous ecological initiatives that are trying to find transport, energy and waste solutions. A good example is Téléverbier, the facilitator of the ski lifts. They have opted for 100% renewable energy with high efficiency. At low occupancy, they reduce the speed of the ski lifts to save as much energy as possible. Additionally, research is being conducted about several other things: what can wind turbines mean within the ski area, how can the use of ski cannons be limited, and how can public transport be electrified. There is currently a direct train from Geneva to Le Châble, from where you can immediately take the cable car to the ski area.
Of course, you can also drive your electric car to Verbier.
Making an effort to go green
Verbier’s slogan is: Pure Energy. Visitors are really able to experience nature and discover the mountains in their purest form. That is why they find it extremely important that their mountain landscape (and everything around it) is handled consciously. They support Protect Our Winters, a community of dedicated ambassadors who create sustainable partnerships. Furthermore, there are also collaborations with Faction and Sungod. The latter is a young company that produces ski masks and sunglasses that come with a lifetime warranty. If your glasses are broken, rest assured that they will be repaired for free — a great initiative to counteract that throwaway mentality!
(We see the same vision at Patagonia. With their label Worn Wear, this brand gives used clothing a new life. This saves raw material and reduces mountain waste by reusing old clothing.)
Curious about more sustainable travel tips during your ski holiday? Then be sure to read our blog posts about Hochkönig in Austria and Les Arcs in France.
Skiing outside the high season
I went to Verbier a few weeks before the Christmas holidays. I left the gray, autumnal weather in Belgium behind to get a taste of the white-covered Swiss mountain landscape. Verbier is located 1,400 meters above sea level and the slopes go up to an altitude of 3,330 meters. This means that Verbier almost always has snow certainty, even if it is still early in the season.
When I got there, the mountains were already covered with a thick layer of snow and most of the slopes were already open. No queues at the ski lifts, no crowds of people skiing down the mountain together. I could comfortably get on the elevator and slide down again and again like a frolicking deer.
Oh and let’s not forget: the cost is also a lot cheaper. The prices of hotels and apartments increase significantly as soon as the Christmas holidays begin. You will not easily find big, wild après-ski parties, but that should not be the main reason for coming to Verbier anyway. Ski fun and good food, those are the keywords for this beautiful ski resort.
Unique overnight stay high in the mountains
After a beautiful day of skiing and many challenging slopes, we made a stop at Cabane Mont-Fort, which would also be our overnight stay. It is a large cabin between the ski slopes and in the middle of the mountains, at an altitude of no less than 2,457 meters.
The view here was simply breathtaking. It was getting darker, so people left the slopes and shimmering lights in the distance came on. An oasis of peace was created high in the mountains, cut off from all the hustle and bustle. It was really unique to be able to experience this. To add to this perfection, we were served a typical cheese fondue for dinner. Daniel, the manager of the cabin, told us more about the unique life so high up during the meal. It has many charms, but the isolation and dependence on the weather are not always easy. After all, in a snowstorm or avalanche , the lifts don’t work and you really are cut off from the outside world.
But spending a night here as a tourist is really fantastic! After a pleasant evening, it was time for a relaxing night, surrounded by tranquility and pointed peaks. Bliss!
Ski touring in Verbier
Skiing in Verbier is more than just exploring the slopes. Les 4 Vallées is so vast and so beautiful that it would be a shame to stay within the marked routes.
A unique challenge was therefore waiting for us: a ski tour through the mountains. You can compare it to a hike, but with skis on your feet — up and down mountains without using ski lifts! The bindings of these skis are different from regular skis. The shoes can be unclipped at the back so that you can easily move your feet when going up a mountain. For this you also use climbing skins that tie to your skis at the bottom.
It is strongly recommended that you only go with a guide and with all the necessary protection. For example, among other things, a reinforced backpack (with an ice ax and an avalanche transceiver) is an absolute must. The guides can provide all this for you. Sufficiently warm equipment and a helmet are also recommended. I myself opted for durable wind-proof and water-proof equipment from Peak Performance.
The mountains in all their purity
After a hearty breakfast and a long drink of coffee, it was time to leave. It was still pitch black outside because we left very early and we had to attach the skis with a lamp on our heads. No one on the slopes, just the lights on our heads and those of the village in the distance. Gradually it became light out, but the moon was still watching over the snowy landscape. A view to remember!
After skiing a long way down it was time to put on the climbing skins. I knew it would be a tough effort because the goal was to reach the top of the Six Blanc, which is located at 2,445 meters, but after a while we got into rhythm. You climb up the mountains in a long row (in a slalom-like manner) following the guide’s trail. As the height increases, the pieces heavier and more challenging. The, there’s more difficulty as accessible passages become narrower. Your stamina will be put to the test, but by noon, you will be rewarded. We were on top of the Six Blanc! Wow.
After an exhausting climb, the peak was an immense pleasure. Untouched nature covered with a thick layer of snow, waiting for us. Adrenaline ran through our veins. Everything in my body screamed: “I want to go down that mountain”! This is exactly what Verbier’s slogan wants to convey to us. Pure energy, indeed. Push your limits, experience nature to the fullest. A crazy descent through the deep snow followed. Needless to say, it was great.
If you find ski touring a bit too intense or have no experience on the skis, you can always go hiking with snowshoes. You can read more about this in our blog posts on Kitzbühel, Savoie Mont Blanc and Val Di Fassa.
After a long day of skiing, you will undoubtedly crave a hearty meal. Cheese is a real Swiss specialty and you can find it in just about every form at a restaurant. Raclette, tartiflette, croûte, cheese fondue… you will be spoilt for choice. Check out Laiterie de Verbier, an artisan cheese factory. Cozy restaurants where you can order cheese fondue include Au Vieux Verbier and Fer à Cheval. Next to the slopes you will often find fast food set-ups, but often also cheese specialties. If you prefer refined meals, Le Rouge, just outside the center of Verbier, is highly recommended. You can choose between tasty meat and fish dishes, but there are also worthy veggie alternatives.
Those who like their beer should definitely try the brews of the local Whitefrontier in Verbier. This brewery was founded by two young Belgians and they have already launched 42 beers on the market. There are many surprising flavors with ingredients from all over the world. The beers stand out with flashy labels and unique names, such as Pillows, Confetti Western and Moroccan Goose.
Lodging in Verbier
There are plenty of places to stay in Verbier, both for the luxury horses among us and for the more adventurous types. You can choose a hotel, chalet, apartment, hostel or guest house. All can be found in the center of the ski village. I stayed overnight at Hotel Mirabeau, a modest and cozy place within walking distance of the cable car and many restaurants and bars. Here, I was spoiled with a traditional Swiss breakfast n the morning, a cellar for my ski equipment and an awesome sauna.
In summary, why Verbier?
-It is a ski resort that is committed to the environment in various ways, hooray!
-It is off the beaten track. Dive into the beautiful mountain scenery off the slopes. Go ski touring and have an experience you will never forget.
-The food is divine. Give me cheese!
-You get to do something different. Yes, there are ski areas other than just Ischgl or Val Thorens.