x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

My Kind of Place: Verbier, Switzerland

Verbier is one of the best-known Swiss ski resorts thanks to its heady mix of off-piste terrain, an extensive ski area, great nightlife and luxurious accommodation.

Switzerland, Four Valleys region, Valais, Verbier
Switzerland, Four Valleys region, Valais, Verbier

Why Verbier?

Verbier is part of the massive Four Valleys region with more than 400 kilometres of pistes but what makes it really special is its extensive off-piste and freeride terrain - widely tipped as some of the best in the world. It's effortlessly glamorous and the ski destination of choice of many celebrities including Prince Harry, Al Pacino and Jamie Oliver. James Blunt and Richard Branson also have homes there. Its great nightlife (everything from brash nightclubs to sophisticated cocktail bars) and a young, cosmopolitan feel make Verbier a must-try destination for just about anyone who loves to ski or snowboard. It's also easily accessible - around two hours' drive from Geneva.

A comfortable bed

If you're travelling with a small group and don't mind blowing the budget, it would be hard to beat Chalet Blanche with its stunning views and spacious, stylish interior with natural wood, stone, fur throws and rugs. The chalet has four en suite bedrooms, a home cinema, billiards room, a spa, outdoor Jacuzzi and comes with a chef and chauffeur (from £21,995 (Dh129,675 for seven nights; www.thewowhousecompany.co.uk; 00 44 1242 220 006).

Chalet Mont Fort (www.vip-chalets.com; 00 44 208 875 19 57) is a more affordable option in an excellent location, only three minutes' walk to the main lift and a few minutes more to the centre of the village. Its vaulted ceiling, open fireplace and three bedrooms make it a cosy base for a holiday; it also has a large, sunny terrace with spectacular views. A seven-night stay, half board, costs from £979 (Dh5,772) per person, based on two sharing.

If you'd prefer to stay in a hotel, try the brand new Cordée des Alpes (www.hotelcordee.com; 00 41 27 775 45 45). Built using local wood and granite, it has wooden skis on the walls and hand-knotted carpets from Nepal on the floor. The spa boasts a 14-metre swimming pool with a view of the mountains, and the steam and sauna rooms are centred on a cold shower for the brave. There's even a boot-room concierge to help make sure your equipment is on top form before heading out for the day. Double rooms cost from £250 (Dh1,474) per night.

Find your feet

Verbier is a sprawl of chalet-style buildings with most of the shops and hotels set around the Place Centrale and the Médran lift - these areas and the street between them are also the places to come at the end of the day for après-ski. Piste skiers might like to start out by taking the Savoleyres lift and trying out the slopes down to La Tzoumaz but if you are a more adventurous type, hire a guide and head for the north face of Mont Fort - it's not for the faint-hearted.

Meet the locals

They'll be on the slopes - perhaps the steep, mogulled Tortin or the unpisted Stairway to Heaven and Hidden Valley. When they want to get away from the crowds they head to Col de Mines and, on days when the visibility isn't good, Vallon d'Arby to ski among the trees. Afterwards they might meet for tea and cakes at La Boulangerie Michellod (www.boulangerie-michellod.com; 00 41 27 775 30 75), a popular tea room.

Book a table

La Table d'Adrien (www.chalet-adrien.com; 00 41 27 771 62 00) is one of Verbier's best fine-dining restaurants, serving beautifully presented food in a stylish, chalet-style restaurant. Highlights of the starters (from 42 francs; Dh179) include foie gras and a warm lobster salad. Main courses (from 58 francs; Dh230) include steamed sea bass with shellfish, and an entire roast poulard (chicken specially reared for succulence) with truffles. A tasting menu with drinks is available for 185 francs (Dh735).

Restaurant l'Ecurie on the ground floor of the Ermitage Hotel (www.hotel-verbier.ch; 00 41 27 771 64 77), run by husband and wife team Lisette and Jean-Marc, is a Verbier institution where the atmosphere changes throughout the day: lunch is casual, with paper placemats on the wooden tables; during the afternoon the restaurant acts as a cafe; in the evening, tables are candlelit and linen-covered. The menu is simple and traditional: the poussin with fries (16 francs; Dh64), in an area where chicken can be hard to find, is a real treat.

Le Caveau (www.caveauverbier.ch; 00 41 771 22 26) is the place to go for fondue. It serves a wide range - from plain cheese to various types of mushrooms, peppers, chillies or tomatoes (27 francs to 33 francs; Dh108 to Dh132). They also do a meat fondue that comes with chips, salad and homemade sauces (from 45 francs; Dh180) as well as a wide range of salads (15 francs; Dh60).

Shopper's paradise

Verbier has a wider range of shopping than many other ski resorts, with butchers, bakers and grocers alongside the usual sports shops and expensive boutiques. AmanKay on Rue de Médran, a quirky shop selling handmade beanies, is worth a visit. For fabulous food, try Le Chalet Gourmand (www.lechaletgourmand.ch; 00 41 27 771 19 46) - an artisanal grocer, butcher and traiteur all in one.

What to avoid

Don't bring a car - the narrow streets can become clogged with traffic and parking can be difficult.

Don't miss

The region's longest sledge run. Located on the north side of the mountain, the 10km run has great snow cover and a hair-raising height difference of 848 metres (tickets from 12 francs [Dh48] per person; sledge hire costs from 15 francs [Dh60]. Visit www.verbierbooking.ch/en/).

Go there

A return flight with Emirates (www.emirates.com) from Dubai to Geneva, seven hours away, costs from Dh3,460, including taxes.