Prince William, Madonna and David Bowie all skied in Verbier – Justine Gosling hit the slopes to get the lowdown
“I can take you off the jump I taught Prince Harry to backflip off,” Warren told me with a grin. Warren Smith, the legendary Verbier ski instructor, had taken me out for a day to follow in the footsteps of some of Verbier’s most esteemed visitors. The ski destination is the Swiss adventure playground for the world’s royals and A-list celebrities.
Warren has taught them all, from the British and Danish Royals, pop star James Blunt, ex international rugby stars such as Lawrence Dallaglio, and chef Heston Blumethal. With a core focus on biomechanics and technique, Warren was also the ski instructor to the stars on the popular reality TV show “The Jump”. The resort of Verbier sits on a south facing terrace village located in the canton of Valais at an altitude of 1,500m. Part of the Four Vallées ski area with more than 400 km of slopes for all levels, Verbier’s highest lift takes skiers to a spectacular altitude of 3,300m on the peak of Mont Fort, one of the Alps’ highest slopes.
There’s also endless opportunities for off piste skiing in the vast resorts area, and Verbier is notorious for its wild après parties. Just a two-hour drive from Geneva airport, the village has an understated and discreet vibe. These are just some of the reasons why in 2022 Verbier was yet again awarded the accolade as the ‘world’s best ski resort’.
Further to Verbier’s appeal for those wanting to go unnoticed, it lacks the overly flashy main street lined with astronomically priced designer fashion and watch shops that other high-end resorts flaunt. Instead, the village is renowned for adventure and freestyle skiing. Even Mr Adventure himself, Bear Grylls, owns a chalet in the resort and loves to ski and paraglide around the area’s mountains. Warren explains: “The mountain environment and skiing gives those who are easily recognised and often chased by the paparazzi a sense of freedom and privacy they can’t find elsewhere.”
For those seeking greater privacy and adventure, Warren guides his clients to some of the resort’s most handsome quieter areas and if they are keen, teaches them the skills to safely go off piste. He told me that “the mountains don’t care how much you earn or how famous you are, you can’t go off piste safely and get away from the crowds without good ski technique and ability.”
It’s true, the mountains can make us feel humble: at some point we’ve all had to be scooped up by a kind soul from a face planted-upside-down-starfish position in the snow, and probably had to crawl to retrieve our skis. The resort is so full of celebs, even when they take off their skis and helmets to party, they are mostly unbothered for selfies.
Farm Club is a legendary night party spot where Madonna, David Bowie, Diana Ross and Ed Sheeran have cut shapes on the dancefloor
So where are the best spots in Verbier to get the A-List experience? Many celebs, such as Virgin tycoon Richard Branson, have their own chalets in Verbier. However, the resort’s high end hotels offer stylish central bases with ski concierge to taxi you to and from the lifts. La Cordée des Alpes is a fourstar boutique spot with 32 rooms and suites with terrace views overlooking the surrounding alpine peaks and the jagged Mont Combin. It has a relaxing pool area and jacuzzi to help soothe ski-tired legs, while a selection from the eight-choice pillow menu ensures a good night’s sleep.
The hotel’s restaurant, La Cordée, with its menu inspired by many different cuisines, arguably serves the most delicious food in the village. Refreshingly, anyone with dietary requirements can eat almost every dish on the menu without needing too many changes to dishes, a rare delight indeed. Alternatively, the Experimental chalet is a stylish alpine retreat with 39 rooms. The chalet’s restaurant ‘Frenchie’ is another Verbier favourite for locals with its modern take on traditional mountain food. The chalet houses the iconic Farm Club, a legendary night club venue where the dancing goes on until 4am. Worldwide superstars such as Bono, Madonna, David Bowie, Diana Ross and more recently Ed Sheeran have partied there.
Farinet is another venue to dance your boots off – it’s where in 2017 Prince William was seen dad dancing. For something more sophisticated, the Verbier branch of London’s 67 Pall Mall private members club has a nonmembers area, where visitors can choose a bottle from the impressive wine list of more than 6,000 wines from around 40 countries. (Stick with French, obviously.)
After all the skiing, dancing, dining and celeb spotting, you’ll need a visit to Arctic Juice & Café before catching the train back to the airport. It’s where everyone heads after a little overindulging or for those in need of a pick-me-up organic coffee or green juice for the journey home.
After four days of partying I certainly needed it.
VISIT VERBIER YOURSELF
A seven-night stay at Hôtel Cordée des Alpes in Verbier costs from £1,104pp based on two sharing. Breakfast is included. A seven-night stay at Experimental Chalet in Verbier costs from £1,212pp based on two sharing. Breakfast is included. Flights from Heathrow to Geneva Airport cost from £90 with Swiss. For more information about Verbier visit the official website; to book a guide from the Warren Smith Ski academy go to warrensmith-skiacademy.com. For 67 Pall Mall Verbier visit 67pallmall.com.