Nestled in southwestern Switzerland is the village of Verbier, a hidden gem that is considered one of the premiere backcountry skiing areas in the world. Verbier has something for everyone, skier and non-skier alike. Skiers can challenge themselves to the steep and scenic slopes, while non-skiers can spend their days enjoying the eclectic culture and numerous events that go on in Verbier.
Something for Everyone
With its preserved culture, panoramic views of the Alps and the perfect combination of charm and swank, Verbier appeals to people from all walks of life. With a variety of bunker hostels, devoted skiers can spend the majority of their days and evenings on the slopes and have a place to crash at night. Those who want a celeb-worthy experience have a wide range of ritzy VIP lounges, divine restaurants and classy shopping to choose from. Rubbing arms with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is not unheard of, as it has been a popular holiday destination for them and many of the richest in the world.
A Year-Round Hotspot
Think winter is the prime time to come to Verbier? Think again. Summer offers just as many activities as the winter months, if not more. You can find 400 km of picturesque hiking trails, both with snow and without. There are also 200 km of mountain biking trails if you love a good challenge. Other activities include climbing, paragliding, swimming, golf, badminton, ice karting, ski and snowboard school and a popular annual music festival.
During the winter season Verbier has earned the nickname “skiers paradise.” You don’t have to be an avid skier for it to live up to this name. There are a whole slew of ski and winter-related events to keep you entertained. For those who do enjoy skiing, slopes range from beginner to advanced and secluded to more crowded.
When Skiing Began
Less than 100 years ago, in 1925, Verbier was nothing more than a village inhabited by cows and herdsmen. During this year, a group of mountaineers decided to climb up 15km from Sembrancher (a town in the canton of Valais in Switzerland), with the intentions of skiing the whole way down. This was the first time skiing down Verbier and it remained a hidden secret until 1946. During this time, the Swiss government conducted a study that determined Verbier was a prime location for a ski resort and the first lift system was installed on the mountain. What launched Verbier from a hidden gem to a diamond in the heart of the Valaisan alps was the ski boom in the 60s. After this, Verbier became so much more than a small farming village.
Keeping the Past Alive
Verbier’s past remains an important part of its current culture. The majority of its original architecture still remains, which includes old windmills, intricate chapels and quaint hamlets. A highlight of Verbier history is the Verbier Castle overlooking the Val De Bagnes valley. The remains of this castle allow tourists to look back into the 12th Century, when this castle was built by the Count of Savoy and then destroyed in 1475 in the battle of La Planta. Because of this battle, Verbier has a variety of museums, galleries and old churches to visit. One of the most prominent is the Verbier Village chapel which was built in 1686 and is still standing today.
Development of the Lift System
Over the years, Verbier’s lift system has continued to develop and improve. After the ski boom in the 60’s, the Savoleyres gondola was created in the 1970s, as were six chairlifts and one ski-tow. These lead to the expansion of Verbier into the 4th valley. Finally, in 1981, the cable-car “Tortin-Col” was created, and from this moment forward the Televerbier Company has invested over 250 million Swiss Francs toward the maintenance and building of its lifts. This propelled Verbier to become one of the most iconic and prestigious ski areas in the world.
Valais International Rally
Taking place in the final week of October, the Rallye International du Valais was first organized in September 1960 as part of a regional fair. His founder Philippe Simonetta called it the ‘Rally of Wine’ with the purpose and philosophy of discovering the region and making the wines. The tourism aspect left place to a pure sporting event. Today, the 830 km race has joined many championships and challenges. It is one of the most prestigious races in the world.
Freeride World Tour Qualifier
In mid-January, a week of freeride competitions where amateur riders enter as many events as they like to hopefully enter the FWQ ranking and seeding list. The competitions takes place across the whole Verbier St-Bernard region and features a big freeride ski and snowboard test, with over 10 brands participating. Last but not least, there will be parties every night to ensure a great atmosphere over the whole week.
Verbier High Five
On April 5, 2014, the world’s top skiers gather to compete alongside members of the public in giant slalom, mini-speed ski and ski cross. Challenge yourself against some of the world’s greatest or sit back and watch what’s sure to be an exhilarating competition.
From April 19-26, this event is a celebration of speed skating. It’s held on the Glacier de Tortin on the Mont-Fort and speed-skating masters or the general public are welcome to compete. Speeds of up to 150 km/h are often achieved, so be ready to feel like you’re flying across the ice!
Chateau de Chillion, Montreux
This is known as one of the most beautiful historic buildings in Switzerland. It was erected in the 13th century and has gone through multiple restorations to suit the desires of those who lived in the castle during each time period. Past guests of the old fortress included emperors, popes and princesses.
This chapel was created in 1866 and features preserved paintings from the 17th century. The chapel also holds various activities for children and teenagers. You can feel comfortable enrolling your child in a kid workshop, where they get insight on pottery, cooking and handiwork, or have them partake in activities like pony riding, rock climbing and fishing.
The bisses (suonen) are ancient water irrigation channels which provide an opportunity to have a refreshing excursion alongside water. The bisse du Levron and the Sentier des bisses in La Tzoumaz (the vieux bisse and the bisse de Saxon) are particularly good examples of the original use. Enjoy those old buildings while hiking.
Bagnes museum is located in the parish presbytery of Le Châble. A part of the building dates back from the 13th century but most of it was built in the 17th century. Over the years it has been enlarged and in 1984 it was made an art exhibition place, featuring local artists and themed exhibitions. An outstanding mural painting of a bedroom from 1627 and fabulous painted ceilings from the 18th century make the place ideal for hosting works of art.