Verbier is located on a truly sunny south-westerly shelf high high up the Rhone valley in the middle of the vast 'Four Valleys' ski area; it's a reasonably attractive place (particularly if you can afford to steer clear of the traffic-jammed Place Centraie). Despite a drop in UK visitors during recent years to merely over ten per cent, many of these chalets are British-owned and English is still very much the first language in a resort that is filled with fellow countrymen who are out to ski all day and party all night.
The Four Valleys ski area claims an impressive410km of pistes and 94 lifts, everything accessed by a fancy electronic hands-free smartcard, but you'll perhaps just ski a small portion as the different valleys are scattered far and wide. And as the piste map helpfully suggests: 'Once you get stranded in a different resort, you must to pay for your own return' - with or without your smartcard.
Two gondolas go up from Verbier's main lift station at Medran and leads to Les Ruinettes, just above Verbier's limited tree-line. From here the fancy Funispace whisks away skiers up to Les Attelas at a snowsure 2,700m. The choice then depends on your skill. For experts, a small cable-car goes further up to free ride-friendly Mont Gele for off-piste runs exclusively, while the majorityof the on-piste holiday traffic exits downwards, either right to Lac des Vaux, left to La Chaux or directly down to Les Ruinettes and Verbier. All of these runs are perfect for intermediates, although the area can be truly crowded, especially during the weekends.
From La Chaux, the once largest ski resort in Switzerland, 150-person Jumbo cable-car, goes up to Col des Gentianes and another queue-prone cable-car goes on up to the highest point in the Four Valleys, Mont Fort, at 3,330m. Once you get to the top, relax and enjoy the magnificent view for a couple of minutes since it's strictly red, black or off-piste from here on down, having 1,300m vertical of moguls down to Tortin and the connection to the rest of the Four Valleys.
© 2012 Athena Goodlight
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