Weekend warrior in Verbier

by Mark.McGettigan

The short ski break is becoming more and more popular - and the Swiss resort of Verbier should be on top of everyone’s weekend wishlist

The basic premise behind a skiing weekend is simple – it should be measured in number of hours spent on the mountain versus number of hours spent in total on the trip. And the number of skiable hours should obviously make up a large percentage of the total trip time. That’s why many of the resorts that are touted as good for weekend trips fail – they might be great ski resorts but if they entail a transfer of anything more than a couple of hours, forget it. You want to ski as much as possible on both Friday and Sunday.

Not only is Verbier a great ski resort, with enough to entertain you for a full season, never mind three days (both on and off the slopes), it is also little more than an hour from Geneva airport (55 miles). Personally, I recommend a flight after work on Thursday. The short transfer at the other end, coupled with the efficiency of Swiss baggage-handlers, means that you’ll be at your hotel with plenty of time for a wind-down drink and a good night’s kip before a full Friday on the slopes. However, a Friday morning flight will still have you on the slopes for Friday afternoon, no bother.

As befits a ski resort with over 300kms of piste (in the Four Valleys area), not to mention some of the finest off-piste skiing available should you get the nod from the snow gods during your brief sojourn, Verbier has plenty to offer all abilities and ages – and disciplines. In fact, the hardest part of visiting for a weekend will be getting the most out of the available terrain; slow lifts and flat runs can be costly if you’re keen to keep your piste count high and your speed up.

For that reason, it’s probably best to stick to the main areas – straight up the Medran gondola out of the heart of the town, before venturing up around the Attelas chairlift. This provides the perfect area for getting your snow legs back – essential on the ski weekend to ensure that you don’t push yourself too hard on that first day. Wide, cruisy reds and blues allow everyone from the confident beginner and above to seamlessly adjust to the fact that it’s a Friday morning and you’re riding around one of the world’s premier ski resorts (fingers crossed, under blue skies) instead of drinking dishwater-grey tea while staring out of an office window at a car park.

The rest of the weekend can be used for really exploring. Those who are keen to keep up the mileage count can take the opportunity to try and ski the Four Valleys area in its entirety, while the more adventurous may fancy the idea of the terrain park’s jumps, bumps and obstacles. But believe me,  a hospital is no place to spend your Sunday afternoon , so try to resist the lure of ‘Kodak Courage’ by knowing your limits.

If you strike gold (white gold, naturally) and manage to coincide your three day sojourn with a dump of fresh powder, then Verbier will become an awesome playground for the off-piste skier or snowboarder. Its terrain is highly regarded enough for several notable ‘Big Mountain’ contests to be held here – but take care and even hire a guide. You’ve got limited enough time without floundering around out of your depth or scratching about while the really good stuff is elsewhere.

Whatever the conditions, whatever your ski or snowboard level, every ride home at the end of the day should be punctuated with a stop for refreshments (of the vin chaud kind, preferably) at the legendary on-the-piste Bar 1936. On first impression, this bar might not look like the likeliest place to kickstart your night, but when the barbecue is going and the sun is shining, Bar 1936 transforms into the definitive après-ski venue. Just remember that there is still some piste to negotiate...

And finally, although the main focus of your trip is skiing, you shouldn’t forget that it’s the weekend and you’ll still want to get stuck into some partying on Friday and Saturday nights. Well, Verbier doesn’t disappoint. In fact, those with willpower issues might find they struggle to make first lift (or even any lift in the morning) during their stay, such is the range of nightlife on offer. From cosy Swiss cottage bars where intimacy is king to no-holds-barred clubs where being topless at four in the morning with a whole new groups of ‘friends’ is the norm, Verbier has it all and doesn’t mind flaunting it. The decision, as ‘Our Graham’ used to say, is yours...