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VERBIER: A DECADE ON - James Cove, Verbier
Friday April 26, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

In 2008/09 PlanetSKI lived in the Swiss resort. It closed at the weekend & we've just been back - seeing the changes.

Strolling along the Rue de Medran brought the memories flooding back.

Dancing on tables in the Farinet, stumbling out for a burger at Harold's to soak up the alcohol and partying like it was going out of fashion.

Today the Farinet is a more subdued and sophisticated affair and Harold's is no more.

Verbier, like me, is 10 years older.

It hasn't so much undergone a transformation as accelerated towards its apparent natural destiny.

An exclusive and upmarket resort for the international well-heeled who like to work hard, ski hard, play hard and party hard.

And be seen to be doing it.

It's new marketing slogan is ‘Pure Energy Lives Here".

It was here in the winter of 2008/09 that PlanetSKI started.

An idea to post a web site to reflect and report what happens in the mountains - it is 10-years older but pretty much doing the same thing.

Along with the small matter of the explosion of social media and digital content.

We have been at the cutting edge for a decade as the way people get their news (ski related or otherwise) has been revolutionised.

But more of that later.

What about Verbier?

In my book it is the resort with the greatest lift-accessible off piste in the world.

And in the past 10 years since PlanetSKI launched I have seen a few as I average around 50 different ski resorts a year in my travels.

This winter I have been to 75+.

Verbier retains its No 1 spot for accessible off piste.

And with a bit more effort....

Off piste paradiseOff piste paradise
















Off piste in VerbierOff piste in Verbier
















On my recent visit, 10 years on, I put it through its paces.

First stop Mont Fort at 3,300m.

The view over the 'back side' remains one of the best in the mountains.

The view from Mont FortThe view from Mont Fort
















The narrow and icy path at the top is now wide and bashed.

Top of Mont FortTop of Mont Fort















The bump run itself is much longer as the bottom section remained un-groomed on my visit.

It is now a longer and tougher challenge.

I was impressed and wished more slopes could be left alone for those that like bumps and a challenge.

We went straight on to Gentiane which remains one of the greatest itinerary runs in the Alps whether you go skiers right into the bumps or skiers left into the off piste.

Next we took the gondola from Tortin and the run (named Chassoure, not Tortin, by the way) remains as good as ever.

Again a proper challenge.

Many resorts are grooming the difficult slopes so more people can access them - a decade on Verbier still leaves them as they are.

Hats off.

It remains a playground for expert skiers and those seeking a challenge.

And then it was another of my absolute favourite runs - the Vallon D'Arbi.

The path into it demonstrates the huge amount of snow that has fallen in the resort this winter.

Start of the Vallon d'ArbiStart of the Vallon d'Arbi
















And then the run itself where you really feel you are getting off the beaten track and away from the crowds.

From Tzoumaz we took the gondola up to Savolyeres - perhaps the most under-rated ski areas of Verbier.

But not by me.

It doesn't have the steep slopes of Verbier's world famous itinerary runs, but it is one of my favourite areas.

When I worked here as an instructor this is where I spent most of my time with clients - whether beginners or advanced skiers.

It has some fabulous terrain with huge variety.

And less crowds.

The old gondola up from Verbier remains and that continues to put people off coming - it should be in a museum by now, but long may it continue to run I say.

And talking of working in Verbier as an instructor, after living here a decade ago it became a family affair.

Father and sonFather and son
















Son, daughter and DadSon, daughter and Dad
















And for old-times sake I passed by where I used to live at the bottom of the Rouge run.

PlanetSKI occupied the bottom floor - it is probably the best place I ever lived.

The memories came flooding back:

Going down memory laneGoing down memory lane















A decade agoA decade ago
















And I popped into a friend's garage where a decade ago I left a bunch of skis, snowboards and toboggans that I have never quite managed to collect.

I have used them a few times over the last decade when I passed through the resort without gear.

I had also left a full set of ski clothes and I tried on the trousers that strangely seemed to have shrunk round the waist.

Ski gear 10-years onSki gear 10-years on















And I popped into THE best rental shop in Verbier.

Philippe Roux on the Place Central that is part of the Intersport group.

"Hi James welcome back. We haven't seen you in a while, guess you have been skiing all over the place again," was the greeting.

"What ski do you want?".

Now that is what I call customer service.

We chatted for a while about snow, the season and mountain life in general as my piste skis were sorted.

Accept no substitute:

Good timesGood times














As I continued my stroll around town I passed another place I had stayed on many occasions - the Alba Appartments with the Wonderbar below.

It was where all the ski bums lived and the Wonderbar, after the North Wall bar in Zermatt, remains one of my favourite ever bars in the mountains.

Now it is 5* residences with Audis and BMWs outside.

Times moves onTime moves on













I noted that the average age of people in Verbier seemed to have risen.

The ski bums and seasonaires that used to be here have certainly dwindled in number.

Those remaining are also 10 years older and many now live down the valley in Le Chable, with their young families, where rent is cheaper.

The town itself has got smarter.

The Fer au Cheval may have upgraded its chairs but it is exactly the same inside - it remains the heart of the resort.

And who should I bump into inside?

My old friend Warren Smith from the Warren Smith Ski Academy.

Some things never change.

Talking about the old times...Talking about the old times...
















Regular readers will know that PlanetSKI is based in Innsbruck this winter and we are absolutely loving it.

But as I sipped a farewell beer in Le Fer au Cheval I couldn't help but miss Verbier.

Big time.

One day I will be back.

Hopefully to live here again for a while.

Verbier, SwitzerlandVerbier, Switzerland
















Views from Verbier, SwitzerlandViews from Verbier, Switzerland
















Looking forward and backwardsLooking forward and backwards
















And let's not forget the summer months.

Verbier is hosting what it claims to be the world's biggest 100% e-bike event and even beginners can take part...

And if you want to see the adrenalin action on offer here are reports from my summer visit a couple of years back.

Pure energy lives in Verbier in the summer too:

I hit the zip wires, climbed Mont Fort, went on a high-altitude glacier hike and then tried my hand in the Verbier Bike Park.
Verbier, SwitzerlandVerbier, Switzerland

Mont Fort, VerbierMont Fort, Verbier


Verbier, SwitzerlandVerbier, Switzerland

Verbier, SwitzerlandVerbier, Switzerland

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