Sarah Heron shares the low down on Verbier, the popular family ski destination
Glamourous Verbier may be known for its great nightlife and royal visitors but there’s much more to this beautiful Alpine resort. Less than two hours from Geneva Airport, it’s a great choice for families. We took our 5 and 7 year olds for a week this Easter and discovered a peaceful, well run and pretty town with masses to do for children and a good selection of family friendly restaurants.
Verbier is the epicentre of the huge four valleys region of Switzerland. Whatever the weather, there’s always snow on the Mont Fort Glacier and if you’re keen to explore, from Verbier you can reach Thyon, Veysonnaz and Nendaz, giving you over 410 kilometres of ski runs.
There’s also plenty to do for non-skiers, or children ‘skied-out’ after a hard morning on the Les Esserts nursery slopes. Throughout the season there’s a packed calendar of events, including the Free-riding championships, usually held the first weekend in April, where Extreme skiers from all over the world converge to hurl themselves down the highest, steepest mountains. Over the weekend Verbier’s rue de Medran turns into a festival with street food, face-painting and live bands.
Here’s our guide to a fantastic holiday in Verbier:
Ski School in Verbier
We booked in with Adrenaline Ski School who sent Daisy and Martha off with a friendly South African instructor called Nick who not only taught them to turn beautifully, but also understood the importance of snowball fights and maltesers. By day 4 even Martha (aged 5) was ready to leave the nursery slopes, take chairlifts and ski on the blue and easy red runs of Savoleyre. Like most other ski schools, we met our teacher the Medran lifts, and the children were whisked off by free bus to the gently sloping piste of Les Esserts. By summer it’s part of Verbier’s golf course. The club house remains open all year and is a good place for lunch once your children have finished their morning lessons.
Ski rental in Verbier
Next to the Medran lifts and in the same building as the swanky W Hotel (Mountain Air supply all their glamourous guests), the ski hire is in a cavernous, well-lit basement where friendly staff kit you out with the latest skis and boots. They also supply toboggans in grown-up and child sizes.
Childcare: On the ground floor of Mountain Air, next to the W café, is Petit Verbier’s crèche where you can drop your children for 2 hours or arrange for their nannies to babysit.
Where to Eat
Most restaurants in Verbier are family friendly and have ready supplies of colouring pens. Our favourites are:
Relais de Neige, rue de Medran
Traditional, cosy restaurant just below the Medran lifts where super friendly staff took our order quickly and rustled up fresh chicken nuggets within minutes. The lovely owner brought over toys and colouring for the children while we tucked into a delicious fondue.
Al Capones, Route des Creux 53
+41 27 771 67 74
The best pizzas in town and very family friendly – we ate at 6pm alongside lots of other families having early supper with their children. Al Capones has great views of the valley so book a table next to the windows.
Off Shore, rue de Medran 27
+41 27 565 21 37
Cool surfer-dude hang out serving huge breakfasts and delicious, diner-style lunches next to the Medran bubble. Their bright pink VW Beetle parked in the middle of the restaurant was particularly popular with our children!
On the mountain:
At the top of the Saroleyre bubble, Verbier’s answer to cheap and cheerful with good, self-service food: think chicken nuggets and spag bol.
Le Mouton Noir, Les Ruinettes
At the Ruinettes station at the top of the Medran Bubble, with a huge terrace overlooking Verbier with self service or smarter a la carte. It’s also just above the famous ‘Verbier’ wooden letters overlooking the valley – great for photos.
Easily reached on skis from Ruinettes through pretty tree-lined paths, the much-loved Chez Dany is traditional, romantic and family friendly. Top notch swiss favourites are served on the sun terrace or inside the cosy, chalet-style restaurant. After a delicious lunch you can ski straight down to the Medran station below.
Grown up eating
Olympique, top of Attelas chairlift
Panoramic, 360 views of the mountains and a great place to stop for a quick hot chocolate, sophisticated mountain cuisine or good options from their self-service counters.
Le Vache, James Blunt chairlift
James Blunt’s mountain restaurant serves upmarket steaks, burgers, pizzas and local fare and is reached by non-other than the James Blunt chairlift. There’s a big terrace with deckchairs and sun-hats perfect for a lazy afternoon in the sun.
Verbier Apres Ski for kids
Swimming and Skating
Verbier’s sports centre , route de centre-sportif, has a clean pool with huge jacuzzi, and Ice Rink.
Dog Sledding: Husky sledding through the mountains is utterly thrilling and a fantastic afternoon activity earlier in the season when the snow is still fresh. Take the Medran bubble to Ruinettes and you’ll find the furry four-legged team behind the Mouton Noir.
Meet a St Bernard at Barryland
Wonderfully named BarryLand is a St Bernard rescue centre and museum in nearby Martigny. There have been St Bernards in these mountains for centuries and they still breed them for search and rescue. Our children couldn’t believe the size of the enormous and very docile residents of the well-run centre and loved seeing them playing. ‘BarryLand’ also has a beautifully designed kids’ area within their museum with Wendy house, son et lumieres telling the story of the St Bernard and dressing up. CHF 25 for a family of 4.
Away Spa at W, rue de Medran 70
Recharge your batteries while the children are at ski school at the W Spa, with Hammam, Jacuzzi, pool and saunas, and indulgent treatments by La Prairie.
At 10km, Verbier’s tobogganing run from the top of Savoleyres to Tzoumaz is the longest run in Switzerland. Toboggans available at the top of Savoleyres bubble. For very little children, there’s a tiny run next to Les Esserts nursery slope.
Trampolino – route de Verbier
This season, we discovered 5 trampolines with harnesses on Verbier’s tennis courts. Children (and gutsy adults) are strapped in and bounce for hours, overlooking a stunning valley and views of the mountains. Next to the courts are some swings and a climbing wall.
Who goes to Verbier?
Inghams: from £2995 for a family of four in a family room at Chalet Hotel de Verbier half board, inc. wine and flights.
Scott Dunn: from £2,400 per person for a family of four for 7 nights at Hotel Le Vanessa, Verbier, half board inc. flights and private transfers.
Original Travel: from £9,540 for 7 nights in a self-catered chalet for a family of four, inc. flights and transfers
By Sarah Heron 2017
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