Verbier is one of the most famous ski resorts in Switzerland. It’s not particularly well known as a kid-friendly mecca, but plenty of families choose to ski and vacation here to experience the tremendous on and off-piste ski terrain. This post is part of my navigating European ski resorts with kids’ series. I’ve covered Grindelwald and Zermatt in depth as well. For a full report on family ski holidays in Switzerland, head to our Switzerland landing page.
Verbier is part of the French-speaking “4 Vallees” ski area — an immense, connected network of 410 km of runs and 89 lifts covered under a single lift ticket. It can be gloriously sunny here with stunning views of the surrounding peaks.
The resort is an extremely popular British ski destination and you are likely to hear more English than French on the slopes. Although this fact makes the experience slightly “less Swiss,” the reality is that this makes navigating the resort with kids less intimidating than a resort where you never hear English.
Verbier is very easy to access as you don’t have to drive over a pass to get there from Geneva (160 km away). We take day drips from Lausanne whenever we are in town. The hour and fifteen minute drive is a breeze on well-maintained roads. The convenient and central location means that you can choose from a wide range of places to stay and not feel like you have to pay premium resort pricing for accommodations in Verbier.
Moreover, you can turn the vacation into a multi-faceted one where you ski but also explore other area attractions with kids. Otherwise, you can take the train right from the airport and organize final luggage transport from the train station (located 20-minutes away in the adjacent village of Le Châble) with your accommodation provider.
There is a gondola with parking next to the train station in Le Châble that saves time and aggravation on day trips. If you are staying overnight and plan on driving to Verbier village, note the road is short but steep and windy. Chains are recommended during or immediately after snowstorms (even with 4-wheel drive).
There is a network of parking lots in town with varying price points. During the ski season, there is a parking shuttle available, as well as the village bus that comes every 10 minutes which gives you flexibility to park where you want. Parking d l’Hermitage is very convenient and just a 5-minute walk from Médran, the center of the ski village and main goldola point for skiing in Verbier. Parking de Perrin is free for the first day and only five francs per day after that point so a good option for extended stays.
Like most Swiss resorts, there are several ski schools from which to choose. The largest is the official Ecole Suisse de Ski . They offer kids programming which is cost effective for group lessons for week-long stays. Standalone weekend group lessons are challenging unless they are part of an extended program; they say they are offered but I’ve never had luck booking a lesson this way.
We opted for Altitude Ski and Snowboard School this season and have had an outstanding experience. Instructors are from all over the world and friendly and knowledgeable. Our instructor, Alex, understands exactly how to engage kids and keep lessons entertaining. We’ve experienced many ski schools and I’ve never seen our son Devon more excited for lessons.
Verbier is so big that there is terrain for every age and ability. 43% of the resort is rated as blue or easy, 20% is red or intermediate, and 28% is black or advanced. That said, Verbier is set up so a few of the main runs down the hill funnel in skiers with all abilities, i.e. some are going quite fast.
Parents skiing with really young kids or beginners should consider taking the gondola down instead on busy days. The tourist board recommends either Les Esserts or Les Moulins for true beginners who need a magic carpet and to be in a setting away from skiers of other abilities. Les Esserts is sunny and a favorite; Les Moulins has a children’s snow garden. Savoleyres and La Tzoumaz both have a plethora of easier terrain, however, the links to Verbier takes a bit of time.
Some resorts have extensive sledding options like Grindelwald. They are more limited in Verbier for very young kids. There is, however, a special toboggan run from the top of Savoleyres that is 10km long! It is dedicated to sledding and the longest run like this in Western Switzerland. Helmets are definitely recommended and this activity is for ages 7 and up.
Always ask about family lift pricing when skiing in Switzerland as it is sometimes available but not readily offered by ticket agents in a rush. In Verbier, the family rate applies to three paying individuals fro the same family circle (one parent must be paying full price). See the lift pricing guide on Verbinet for details. Children ski at a 50% discount. If you are skiing 2 or more days, it’s always best to buy a multi-day pass.
Verbier is also included in Vail Resorts’ Epic Ski Pass program. A huge perk for passholders!
Verbier is higher than many resorts in Switzerland and as a result, even in years of light snowfall the skiing can be decent. Otherwise, peak periods when you are likely to experience the most crowds include the Christmas holidays and the second half of February during half-term holidays.
Verbier seems to have less on-piste patrols than other ski areas. However, the information available is comprehensive and they are very diligent about avalanche patrols, closures, and details. Always carry local emergency numbers with you (they are printed on all ski maps) and put an ID card or bracelet on children.
Normally Après Ski is not a big part of the family ski experience but at Verbier, it’s a bit different. This is a social place so it’s nice to be able to take part in the action … even with kids in tow. The Milk Bar is highly recommended as a good, kid-friendly stop for hot chocolate and milkshakes. It’s just in the center of town near Medran.
The tourist board recommends Farinet as an alternative during the early after ski hours with a sofa, fireplace, and it’s not as loud as other venues. We like Offshore for a bit of Americana (they even have nachos!).
I don’t like writing about things we haven’t experienced on Ciao Bambino and our trips to Verbier have always been about skiing. That said, other things to do in the area include the Sports Center with an indoor swimming pool, dog-sledding near Les Ruinettes, and a special kids’ kinder care in town. The library is rumored to be a nice place for kids to read and play – and they have English books.
The Angleterre & Residence in Lausanne is in our portfolio and wonderful for families who want to mix skiing with other activities. They are also opening a W Hotel in December, 2013. We don’t currently have a Verbier hotel in the CB! Hotel Collection, but we can still help you book the best family-friendly accommodations. Visit My Trip Planner to request assistance.
Photos courtesy of Amie O’Shaughnessy
Ciao Bambino recommended Switzerland family hotels
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