V16N07 – Spot Check: Verbier, Switzerland

By Ed Leigh

Verbier is the original James Bond-style European resort-there are fur coats on every street, extortionate hotels, and Porsches with eighteen-inch snow alloys on every corner. Luckily, the mountains are just as sumptuous and top-quality as the town. Rising up to the Mont Fort glacier at nearly 10,000 feet, the mountain has it all-and if you know where and when to look, it’s one of the best freeride/backcountry kicker spots in the world.


Tucked into the southwestern tip of Switzerland between the French and Italian borders, Verbier offers the most expansive riding in all of Switzerland. Such is the size of the place that it’s possible to ride for over three hours in one direction taking lift after lift and still not reach the edge of the resort-but as you get farther away from the town of Verbier, the quality of the lifts drop. Classic European rules for backcountry riding mean it is purely up to individual ability and judgement to make the call on where to go. Basically, you can drop in wherever you want, but if you get into trouble, you’re on your own … and don’t forget that the Verbier Extreme is held here for good reason.

The town itself is long and sprawling, and although it has a rich man’s reputation, there are alternatives. There’s a youth hostel at the bottom of the hill that has very reasonable rates and communal living. A week’s lift pass for the whole area will set you back 236 dollars, but that’s the all-singing all-dancing job-cheaper ones are available for smaller areas.

The area does have a park-it’s good fun but not a world-record beater or really enough reason alone to come here. Saas Fee or Zermatt an hour round the corner would be a much better choice if that’s what you’re after. As far as rails go, there isn’t an awful lot on offer, but if you don’t mind blaspheming, the church rail is a very inviting eighteen-stair affair. The secret to Verbier is that it’s for the weekend warriors. If you make it there in January and hide in one of the more secluded resorts over the weekends, you’ll find the weekdays provide world-class freeriding without the crowds.

Average annual snowfall: 250 inches
Summit elevation: 9,918 feet
Vertical drop: 8,232 feet
Number of lifts: 48
Shreddable acres:
Pipes: Yes
Parks: Yes
Snowskate parks: Nope
Lights: Yes
Nearby skateparks: Centre Sportif in Verbier

“Verbier is a really good place to freeride! If there’s enough snow, we can ride from the top at 9,000 feet all the way down to a small town at 5,000 feet. This makes one long run”.-Pauline Richon