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Travel

Summer in Verbier: travel review

by Lorna Parkes
Summer in Verbier: travel review
Image: Melody Sky

On a trip to the Alps, Lorna Parkes visits Switzerland’s first slow-food community, and discovers restorative hikes and bike rides that prove you don’t need to ski to enjoy time in the mountains

Where is it?

From Geneva Airport, tracing the shores of Lake Geneva by train into the corner of southwest Switzerland, the foothills of Val de Bagnes can be reached in just over two hours. At 1,500m, Verbier is the valley’s major ski resort and a convenient base for exploration. It’s connected to the hub town of La Châble below and the mountain passes above by cable car and postal bus.

What’s the accommodation like? 

Old-timer Hotel Verbier has recently been gutted from the ground up and refurbished by new owners to create a Scandi-styled four-star boutique chalet hotel. The cable car, mountain trails, restaurants and bars are all on its doorstep.

There’s a spa for weary legs, and 31 rooms textured with Swiss products and natural stone accent walls, some with cedar-scented wooden balconies overlooking the mountains. The terrace bar, which doubles as the breakfast room, has the same outlook and is a scenic spot to unwind before and after a day hiking.

hotel-verbier

What did you eat and drink?

Every day in the Val de Bagnes involves cheese in some form. Le Caveau restaurant in central Verbier is famous for gooey, heaped platefuls of all-you-can-eat raclette served the traditional way with potatoes in a wooden barrel.

 

At Verbier’s secret-door, mystery-menu restaurant, ‘22’, garden flowers and mountain herbs are laced throughout a refined five-course set menu with local produce such as Bagnes sheep curds and torched beef fillet from the local Val d’Herens cows.

 

In the mountain huts and villages, things are more rustic. I found ribbons of matured Bagnes cheese on the Pieds dans le Plats gourmet hike, nettle tagliatelle and zero-mile cloudy apple juice in the Sarreyer slow-food village, and a comforting traditional rosti loaded with lardons and stringy cheese at the Chanrion mountain hut.

 

Foraging walks with local guide Cherries are another highlight for the unusual taste sensation of alpine plants dipped in Swiss chocolate.

What is there to do?

The Verbier region cradles more than 800kms of mountain bike trails and 950kms of footpaths – but it’s equally a place for open-air yoga, gourmet hops and summer concerts.

 

Between June and October, the Verbier VIP Pass is distributed to visitors staying a minimum of one night in the region and paying the tourist tax. It makes more than 25 of Verbier’s top activities either discounted or free and gives unlimited use of a selection of cable cars and valley postal bus transport.

What do I need to pack?

Hiking boots, sun cream and all-weather layers are advisable. The mountains control the weather; prepare for anything.

pieds-dans-le-plats

Lasting memory

Watching marmots – small alpine mammals about the size of hares – chase their tails over the mountain plateau from the terrace of the Chanrion mountain hut at 2,462m. Accessible only by Alps trails, the hut has recently been strikingly modernised, extending the traditional stone-and-wood chalet with a gleaming, 21st-century metal-box dining space.

Sainsbury’s magazine insider tip

Leave space in your suitcase for local produce. Bagnes charcuterie and raclette, Valais wines, and Sarreyer’s Raphael Thoos chocolate and village apple juice all make excellent souvenirs – if you can get them safely in your hold bag.

How to book

SWISS flies from various UK airports to Geneva from £59 one way. A ‘Transfer Ticket’ covers the round-trip train between the airport and Verbier and costs from £31.50. Hotel Verbier costs from £149 per night for a double room on a B&B basis.

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