The idea of giving a particular ski resort the label of the “Best in the World” seems like a very subjective notion.
Each resort has its own particular advantages: Some are old-fashioned villages like you often find in Austria, and others are more modern and purpose-built, but they’re right on the slopes.
Then there are the conditions. If you arrive and the place looks like a winter wonderland that you normally only see in your dreams, then you’ll fall in love with the place. If you arrive in the rain, it’s a completely different picture.
I arrived in Verbier after a scenic train ride the whole way around Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman as it is known locally).
After the change at Martigny, it gets rapidly Alpine, with mountains towering over you on both sides, the lower reaches carpeted with vineyards.
The much-reported mild temperatures this winter affected a relatively small number of resorts and lasted about 10 days until winter returned with a vengeance. Verbier wasn’t affected at all and even the spring-like temperatures and drizzle on the day our train pulled into the station at Le Châble didn’t seem to have much effect on the thick snow lying about.
The little town of Le Châble is at the bottom of a deep and beautiful valley, with Verbier on the northern side and the village of Bruson on the south. From here (and located right beside the railway station), you can get a comfortable gondola either up to Verbier or to Bruson, giving you the best of both worlds. The gondolas keep going until midnight too, so if you’re based down in the more affordable Le Châble, you can spend the entire day and well into the night in Verbier if you so wish.
Bruson, however, offers the perfect foil to fancy Verbier. It’s a traditional mountain village, where streets wind between centuries-old timber and stone dwellings, barns, and storehouses.
Here, one feels very much in touch with a traditional side of life that one would readily assume had long disappeared from modern-day jet-set Switzerland, yet with a clear view across the valley to the snow-laden rooftops of Verbier.
In recent years, community-led initiatives have led to the reopening of the local shop, local bar/restaurant, and community centre. Over a couple of very affordable beers with Michel from the Carrefour du Village bar in Bruson, he explained how these small businesses are bringing life back to the village — taking advantage of the area’s stunning beauty in the most gentle and sustainable manner.
Another example of this kind of forward-thinking tourism is the development of the Palp Festival. Strung out over a number of months and in beautiful out-of-the-way venues in the Val de Bagnes, it’s essentially a musical festival like no other; one that combines music with rewarding physical effort in green Swiss valleys in the spring and summer, with stunning landscapes against magical backgrounds.
It’s here too that you can witness the famous black Herens cows that fight for supremacy to be the queen of the herd.
In the winter, however, the ski area around Bruson is simply incredible. With the most modern facilities and well-groomed slopes, it offers some of the most top-class skiing you can get, combined with quiet slopes. Very often, the presence of too many people hurtling down the blue runs at the same time can turn what should be a serene experience into one filled with anxiety. Not so in Bruson, and long may it last.
Across the valley in the Verbier ski area, meanwhile, everything is all go. The Quatre Vallées surrounding and towering over the town have a wide variety of superbly scenic skiing and even though people continue to flock to the ‘World’s Best Ski Resort’, it rarely gets too hectic, absorbing the masses with a shrug and smile.
In the evening, you do see the people congregate at the many après-ski spots in this uniformly pretty town. The W is the kind of place where you can bump into all manner of celebrity, for example.
This is another consistent award-winning luxury hotel (officially, the World’s Best Ski Hotel) and you’ll find that they charge an appropriate price for the privilege.
An altogether more affable atmosphere is to be found in the likes of Le Pub Montfort — a large and busy pub with a jaunty atmosphere and a meeting point for ski clubs, gangs of ski instructors, and a wide variety of ski tourists — all congregating to clink glasses, dip potatoes into melted cheese (Switzerland is the home of the fondue), and chatter after an invigorating day on the mountains.
So is Verbier really the best in the world? I don’t honestly know, but it is hard to argue against its awarded title.
Verbier has a lot of charm and the combination of Le Châble-Bruson-Verbier in the one large ski area is really good — offering you the best kind of variety you can imagine. The buzz in Verbier is also quite special, with multiple atmospheres to suit everyone. There’s no doubting the quality of the skiing and it’s an area well rooted in tradition.
Source : IrishExaminer