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Verbier is a village located in south-western Switzerland in the canton of Valais. It is a holiday resort and ski area in the Swiss Alps and is recognized as one of the premiere "off-piste" resorts in the world. Some areas are covered with snow all year. Many top skiers have settled in the Verbier area in order to take advantage of the steep slopes, varied conditions and resort culture.
Verbier is located in the municipality of Bagnes, in the Swiss canton of Valais. The village lies on a south oriented terrace at around 1,500 metres facing the Grand Combin massif. The terrace lies on the east side of the Val de Bagnes, a valley located south of Martigny.
Verbier had 2767 permanent residents in 2006. The number of residents can rise to 35,000 in the winter season. There is a noticeable population of Scandinavian and British residents.
The town has a public school system for its residents up until high school level, when locals must travel down into the valley for schooling. In September 2010 the Verbier campus of St George’s (now called Verbier International school), a private international school, was founded and opened its doors in the Chalet Mascotte at the entrance of the village.
Artists and Photographers
There is a vibrant community of photographers and artists in Verbier, most born out of winter sports action photography.
Verbier can be accessed by road or by train. From Martigny a regional train (known as the Saint-Bernard Express) leads to Le Châble. From Le Châble a cable car (or a post bus) goes up to Verbier. Martigny is located 1hr45m from Geneva and 20m from Sion with the Swiss Federal Railways.
Verbier has only one access road, which starts in the town of Le Châble. From Sembrancher (near Le Châble) a road leads to the Great St. Bernard Pass and another to Martigny or to the Col de la Forclaz. Verbier is around 2 hours’ drive from Geneva, 1 hour from Chamonix (Col de la Forclaz) and 1 hour from Aosta (Great St. Bernard Pass).
The nearest international airport to Verbier is Geneva Airport. Minibus transfers are available from the airport to Verbier center during the winter ski season.
The town itself is small enough to be explored on foot, but free buses run throughout the resort regularly during the day.
Verbier’s ski domain ranges from 1500m (Verbier Village) up to 3330m (Mont Fort) from which there is a panoramic view of the Alps encompassing the Matterhorn Cervin, Dom, Dent Blanche, Dent d'Hérens, Grand Combin and Mont Blanc massif. It is part of the "Four Valleys" ("4 Vallées") ski area, which includes the ski resorts of Verbier, Nendaz, Veysonnaz, La Tzoumaz, and Thyon with a total of 410 km marked runs.
The ski area is divided into four sectors: Medran, Les Savoleyres, Mont Fort and Bruson. Verbier forms the western section of the 4 Valleys ski area. A 4 Valley pass allows a tour all the way from Verbier to La Tzoumaz, Nendaz, Veysonnaz, Les Masses, Thyon and back.
The Verbier section of the 4 Valleys ski area has recent lifts made by Leitner, CWA, Poma and Garaventa AG; they are operated by Téléverbier SA. In Verbier alone, there are 35 lifts (within the Verbier, Savoleyeres/La Tzoumaz and Bruson sector). A standard Verbier pass gives access to this entire sector, 33 standard ski runs, two snowparks, one "Jardin de Neige" (a relatively flat area that is used for small children learning to ski), four cross-country pistes and two walking areas.
Verbier is known for its off-piste and itinerary runs. Amongst these are popular mogul fields Tortin, Gentianes, Mont Fort and Plan du Fou as well as more advanced itineraries Vallon D'Arbi and Mont Gelé (which are often closed). Notable off-piste runs are the Backside of Mont Fort, Bec des Etagnes, Stairway to Heaven, Highway, Marlenaz, Croix de Coeur, Bacombe, Col des Mines, Creblets, Couloir de la Banane, Col de la Mouche, The Rocky Garden, The Hidden Valley (down to Auddes-sur-Riddes), Couloir des Dix, Col de la Banane, and the less accessible Bec des Rosses, annual host for the finals of the Freeride World Tour. Off-pistes skiing can be dangerous, and sometimes lethal, due to the risk of avalanches, hidden obstacles, crevices, extremely steep runs, and other hazards. In the 2012-13 season a skier was killed by an avalanche on the Col de la Mouche and two others died at the Bec des Etagnes.
Verbier is one of only a few resorts to contain a mountain with no pistes coming down it (Mont Gelé). On rare occasions it is also possible to ski 700 vertical metres from Verbier Village (1500m) to Le Châble (800m) in the valley below. Though such a run now entails going through terrain with felled trees and other obstacles. The off-piste run from Col des Gentiannes (2,950m) down to Le Chable is a better option, but it's important to check that snow conditions are good and that there is no avalanche risk. Also, some of the trails from Col des Gentiannes to Le Châble lead to dead-ends and dangerous rockfaces, so it's essential to be familiar with the terrain before attempting to ski down to Le Châble from Gentiannes.
Ski and snowboard schools
Verbier has seven snowsport schools, three companies that organize mountain guides plus a few independent mountain guides. The snowsport schools offer private lessons, group lessons, specialised clinics and courses, and performance coaching. There are 7 main ski schools in Verbier three offering a full range of group and private lessons. Competition has improved quality and kept prices realistic. Resulting in one of the most competitive ski school environments in the world. However, one should take to check the credentials of instructors, as many are not fully qualified and some of the newer ski schools employ instructors who do not ski well and know little about the risks involved in off-piste skiing. Making sure that the instructor has a patente suisse (i.e. a Swiss ski instructor's license), knows the area well, has good contacts with the ski patrol, is fluent in French (which is vital to develop good networks with the Televerbier staff, mountain guides, and the broader ski community in the area), and is safety-conscious is a good idea.
Summer in Verbier
In the summertime there are 400 km of hiking trails and hikers can follow the tracks of the chamois and ibex through the mountains, some of them covered with snow all year round. There are 200 km of mountain bike piste. Other activities include climbing, paragliding, swimming, golf, badminton, Ice karting, trips aboard the mountain railways in the area, and an annual music festival.
Verbier is also a popular holiday destination for celebrities, including The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, Sarah, Duchess of York and her daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, James Blunt, Diana Ross, Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Branson, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark. The Swedish Royal Family also come here. It caters to British customers, but also receives many visitors from Germany, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Italy, Belgium, France, Austria, America and South Africa.
Recurring events in Verbier include:
- the most prestigious extreme skiing and snowboarding contest, the Xtreme Verbier which the final of the FWT
- the XSpeedski, FIS World Championship + Pro Race
- the Patrouille des Glaciers, ski mountaineering race every second year at the end of the ski season
- the Verbier Festival, Appraised international music festival
- the Grand Raid Cristalp, Mountain bike race Verbier - Grimentz
- the Grand Concours Hippique, a horse show featuring Grand Prix show jumping qualifiers
- 8 stage, 2005 Tour de Suisse - Pablo Lastras
- 6 stage, 2008 Tour de Suisse - Kim Kirchen
- 15 stage, 2009 Tour de France - Alberto Contador
- Verbier worldtravelguide.net. Retrieved on 2009-07-17
- Rich Brits invest in "St Tropez of the Alps" swissinfo.ch. Retrieved on 2009-07-17
- Celebrities flock to the Alps for New Year swissinfo.ch. Retrieved on 2009-07-17
- From swedish newspaper Expressen 2009
- Verbier's Official site
- Official piste condition and lift opening information
- Verbier music festival
- Grand Raid Cristalp
- Grand Concours Hippique