Mention Verbier in Switzerland and immediate visions of luxury, celebrities and magnificent mountains will appear.
And yes, in Vebier, you will tumble in to regulars such as Jude Law, Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Timberlake, the Beckhams, Jason Statham, Bono, Diana Ross and James Blunt. The latter even has a chairlift named after him.
A friend recently experienced a close Verbier encounter with Prince Andrew, when he accidently fell in her arms, slipping while taking off his skis outside the ski restaurant Mouton Noir, by the way hosting a tremendous collection of swiss cuckoo clocks and cow bells.
The Prince and his ex-wife Sarah, Duchess of York, ski regularly in Verbier along with Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark and Prince Harry.
Still, I found much of Verbier to be fairly OK priced – if you know where to look – during my visit. There are nevertheless some golden rules to be followed. Using those budget luxury tips, you may enjoy the Verbier glamour and still keep a fairly tight budget.
1. Timing is crucial; The popularity of Verbier with families makes it a place to avoid during the expensive school holidays. Early or late seasons are on the other hand both good from a budget and skiing perspective. January and late March provide some ski holiday bargains. All summer season apart from late July and August is just wonderful and ok priced in the Alps, coming back to summer treats later.
2. Don’t worry too much about the flight cost: there are several low cost carriers going to Geneva, so that will not affect your budget too much. Look for Easyjet, for instance, or all the regular airline offers.
3. Skip any rental car: There are trains and direct transfer buses from Geneva to Verbier that will cost around 65 CHF one way (~60 €).
4. Safely arrived in Verbier, you’ll find that more affordable accommodation is cropping up all over Verbier and the nearby settlements. You may go for a privately rented appartment or have a closer look at Hotel Montpelier; reasonably priced from 150 CHF (~140 €) per night – good beds, lovely breakfast, a pool and a garden with playing area for kids. Alp views guaranteed. http://www.montpelierverbier.ch
5. From July this year, the Verbier, Val de Bagnes Tourist Office and all hotels in the area will be launching the Summer Activity Card, with free access to attractions, cable cars and local buses. You just go climbing the mountains, walking, trecking, mountainbiking or flower watching.
With the new card, you will also have free acces to the Verbier sports center and it’s outside swimming pool, the Museum of Bagnes and Maisons du Patrimoine as well as a free brunch on a mountain pasture, a visit to the dairy at the Mille mountain etc http://www.verbier.ch
6. There are many fairly well priced restaurants, but why not eat “at home” in your room or apartment after having visited La Chaumière in order to buy some really lovely, local mountain cheese combined with local wines, bought directly from Grégory Sola at Macbirch Vins. And, of course, enjoy bread from Patisserie La Poste, where you may buy warm breakfast croissants from the famous shutter/window going home from a late celebrity spotting night in Verbier. Not expensive either. The croissants, that is.