In the glamorous Swiss resort of Verbier you will indeed find plenty of expensive champagne and delicious, hand-made chocolate, but in this case I'm referring to the gloriously soft, light, powdery snow that the canton of Valais has recently been blessed with, and the cosy 'chocolate box' style chalets that give the resort its romantic appeal.
Verbier boasts stunning views of the valley with a plethora of rustic wooden chalets nestled into the mountainside in the distance, which exemplify traditional alpine charm and make the resort a truly beautiful winter destination, absolutely ideal for those looking for superb skiing combined with warm and welcoming surroundings.
Beautiful views of the valley from Chalet La Siesta
Luxury chalet operator Ski Armadillo invited Iglu Ski out to Verbier, to experience the delights of this idyllic Swiss town and take a look at some of the charming and luxurious properties that set the resort apart from other mainstream European ski destinations. Ski Armadillo run a modest yet impressive portfolio of standalone chalets and block apartments across the resort, offering guest concierge services and a high standard of catering, with expertly prepared food and excellent house wines. They are also partnered with Project Ski, which operates a number of similarly high end properties in Val d'Isere and offers the same, exemplary service.
Many of Ski Armadillo's properties are located around the centre of the resort with easy access to the main Mèdran lift and the bars, shops and restaurants of Place Centrale. Those properties which are further out of town provide an on-call driver service between the hours of 08.00 - 23.00.
The chalet/apartment where we were put up for the few days, La Siesta, is one such property, but it's actually only a very manageable and pleasant 10 minute walk to Place Centrale, and there is a regular free resort shuttle service that stops at the end of the access road to the complex.
Wonderful 'Chocolate box' style chalets in Verbier
As you'd expect in any ski resort there are numerous equipment hire shops dotted around. Of these, the preferred outlet utilised by Ski Armadillo is Mountain Air. Ideally situated at the bottom of a run that leads right back into town, you can ski almost back to the door of Mountain Air, where you can store your hired equipment overnight. As well as a rental shop, Mountain Air's large, glass-fronted building also houses an impressive retail shop and a cafe/restaurant, which serves the most amazing Swedish meatballs. The staff are a mixture of English and French/Swiss French, but the language skills of the latter are impeccable.
Just outside is a small café-bar with sheltered outdoor seating, run by the chic W Hotel; a 5-star hotel located directly opposite, where Ski Armadillo can arrange spa days for guests who don't ski or just want to take a bit of time off the slopes.
The skiing here is perhaps secondary for some of Verbier's visitors, who are drawn by the resort's beauty and perceived exclusivity, but it is, nonetheless, absolutely awesome and not to be missed. The 2017/18 season has seen an especially good start, with an abundance of fine, ultra-soft and super-forgiving powder, akin to the much sought after Champagne powder typically found in North America. One chalet owner remarked that, in 30 years of skiing, she had just experienced her best ever day on the slopes.
Pete above the clouds in Verbier
Ski Armadillo use European Snowsports (ES) as their preferred ski tuition supplier. They operate out of a building that adjoins Mountain Air, and have schools in Zermatt, St Moritz, Nendaz and Chamonix. Their services include regular ski and snowboard lessons, off-piste, Nordic and telemark skiing, and they cater for children and corporate groups alike. Their 'ES Adaptive Programme' also allows those with disabilities to enjoy the freedom of the mountains. Utilising state of the art tracking technology, European Snowsport's 'Snowflake' system enables them to monitor the locations of their groups in live time, which gives parents extra peace of mind when leaving their children in the capable hands of the ES instructors, and also allows for competitions when used with a corporate group.
ES were kind enough generously to supply three of their guides to accompany us on the mountain for the following day. Or rather, the owner, Julian, had a day out with us, and brought along John, on skis, and Petra on her snowboard. All three of them were exceptional.
Fantastic start of season conditions in Verbier
The snow conditions lived up to expectations, albeit the clouds had closed in and reduced visibility to almost nil at times. But the forgiving powder made life much easier, and took away a lot of the fear of falling, meaning that we were still able to ski hard.
After nailing a whole day up on the hill and with legs burning from riding for the first time since the close of last season, we returned to the chalet for afternoon tea, lovingly prepared by our Ski Armadillo hosts, Joss and Adam.
An amazing ski day in Verbier
The après in Verbier during main season is plenty lively, but during the first week of the season and with the resort being nowhere near capacity it was a little more subdued. The pub, Relais des Neiges, opposite the Mèdran lift is a great starting point. 'T Bar', in Place Centrale, and very near to Inghams' Chalet Hotel de Verbier, has a very welcoming atmosphere, and the pub Mont Fort is very popular with the seasonaires.
Obviously Verbier isn't always going to be coated in champagne powder but, sitting at a respectable 1,500 m, and with the skiable domain reaching as high as 3,330m at the top of Mont Fort, it will always be an excellent choice for early season skiing. Regarded as one of the world's premier resorts for off-piste, Verbier offers an excellent range of skiing for all abilities, but particularly for intermediate to advanced riders and skiers who want to push themselves and develop their skills.
Words and photos by Peter Fleckney, Iglu Ski Senior Sales Expert
Browse Ski Armadillo chalets in Verbier:
Chalet Plein Soleil
Chalet La Siesta
Chalet Marais Rouge