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From the top of Verbier’s 10,900-foot Mont Font, the highest point at the ski area, you can access some of the steepest, hairest terrain you’ll find anywhere on the planet. At the end of the season, they host speed skiing competitions on the groomer from the top of the Mont Font tram—and it’s steep gradient made it the fastest ski run in Switzerland when Italian skier Simone Origone got going over 134 miles per hour there in 2007.
There’s fondue, raclette, and entire shops filled so many types of cheeses, you can eat a different kind of blue cheese or gruyère every day for a month. One tip: When you order the raclette, it comes with a plate of meat, side dishes of pickled vegetables, baked potatoes, and all-you-can raclette cheese, melted onto your plate. Pace yourself—the cheese is filling. Also, they recommend not drinking water while eating raclette—only wine.
There is no “out of bounds” in Verbier. Everything you can see, you can ski. Just go prepared—once you leave the piste, you’re in uncontrolled terrain, so bring a beacon, shovel, probe, and partner. This staircase leaves from the top of the Mont Fort tram and heads into some extremely steep, rocky terrain. Choose your line carefully. And remember: Just because you see tracks heading somewhere, that doesn’t mean you should it.
Only in Europe will you find ski resorts this expansive. Verbier is made up of what is essentially five joined resorts (picture five Breckenridges linked together). It includes 89 lifts (including some of the highest trams you’ll ever ride) and a whopping 255 miles of runs. There’s something for every level of skier, from beginner to pro. All that, and a lift ticket costs just $62 US.
The Pub Mont Fort might just be the best apres ski bar in the world. Located right near the base of the Medran gondola in the Verbier village, it has all the fixings of a great pub: a large deck that gets sun in the afternoon, Carlsberg and Guinness on tap, cheap food (try the Asian calamari if you want something more upscale; or the mini burger platter if you want to feed you and your eight buddies), and late night, the whole place becomes one big dance party. Local’s tip: Happy hour is from 4 to 5 p.m., and beers are half-priced then. Ski till 4:30 and then order two beers for yourself before the clock hits 5.
On a clear day, a view of the Swiss Alps covered in snow is enough to make anyone want to give up everything and move there. OK, maybe that was just us, but still, it’s a breath-taking scene. It’d be worth riding the tram to the top of the mountain for a view even if you’re not planning to ski back down.
Sure, you can find powder skiing without flying all the way to Switzerland. But there’s something extra delightful about Swiss powder. Shown here, by skier Darcee Mond, is our favorite secret stash at Verbier, which seems to hold fresh snow long after a storm and well into the springtime. Here’s how to find it: Make your way to the Le Chaux tram. From the top, skate across the flats and head left on a traverse under the T-bar that never seems to run. You’ll see a skin track and/or bootpack heading up to a saddle on looker’s right. It’s a 20-minute climb to the top. From there, sidestep up to the next ridge to access the north-facing slope that drops over 2,000 vertical feet down to the Lac de Cleuson, a lake with a massive dam. Enjoy the ride. From the bottom, ski across the lake, bootpack up to the traverse track, and ski down to Siviez.
Visit Verbier and you’ll stay in a hotel that has a ski locker with boot dryers, a friendly English-speaking staff, cozy down comforters, and a breakfast spread that includes croissants, cheese, meat, yogurt, Nutella, fruit, and the best honey you’ve ever tasted. We like the Central Hotel, a modern and charming place located right downtown—you can walk to the Medran gondola.
You may only do three runs in a full day at Verbier—and that’ll be quite all right with you. It takes multiple trams to reach the top of the mountain, and then to access some of the best terrain, it requires a short hike. So it could be an hour into the day before you actually make your first turn. But then you’ll sop up 2,000-plus vertical feet, milking each face shot all the way down. Then you’ll need to ride a few more lifts to get back to where you started. This photo was taken at the bottom of the Lac de Cleuson.
Leave it to Verbier to have a surf-themed cafe. The Offshore Cafe is the nearest breakfast and lunch spot to the Medran gondola. Go there if you’re craving an English breakfast (like the one scene here, complete with a pad of butter shaped like a Volkswagen bug) or American-style pancakes or milkshakes. Or go for fast wireless Internet and a beer at the end of your ski day.