MARCH 23, 2010 12:45 PM
A soul-stirring weekend in Verbier, the resort town in the Swiss Alps, left me blown away. It’s upscale but unflashy and sophisticated yet down to earth. With a W hotel landing there in a couple of seasons — the first of this Starwood brand in a ski resort — it’s sure to be the next mecca of the ski world. So go now, while it’s still all about renting a little chalet of your own. And yes, there’s still tons of snow: ski season ends in late April.
STAY If you crave traditional but insist on luxury, Bella Coola is a chalet the holds ten,. It’s Swiss on the outside, with a whiff of Morocco and India inside. The house comes with a private chef to whip up breakfast and dinner, and not just the usual chalet-issue spaghetti bolognese fare. There are freshly baked treats for afternoon tea, and wine and whatever you can lay your hand on in the well-stocked bar are included in the price. Another plus is the artwork: real Matisse sketches and prehistoric elk antlers adorned with Svarowski crystals and a pearl necklace. A bit bonkers, in a good way.
Cheaper chic comes care of the just-opened Sagittaire, a six-floor property that includes a hip apartment sleeping 4 to 6 (from about $6,500 a week) and two other sprawling split-floor stays accommodating up to 12 people each (from about $16,700 a week). It promises the same top-notch service and a sleek indoor pool and sauna.
SKI The best slope? The celebrated Mont Fort is indeed a challenging run, and it rewards you with the most incredible Matterhorn view. To rent equipment, enlist Mountain Air. Skis cost from about $80 for a three-day hire.
SNOWSHOE It’s not just about the downhill thrills. Strap on some raquettes de neige at Le Sonalon restaurant (011-41-27-771-72-71), the highest point reachable by car in Verbier, and take a cool hour-long hike. Follow the path up to Buvette de la Marlenaz (011-41-27-771-54-41) and pause for a hot chocolate before breezing back down. Snowshoes are about $17 a day from Mountain Air.
SPA No need to venture anywhere – let an experienced sports therapist come to you. Rosie from the Pilates experts Chilali (011-41-79-621-14-99) reaches parts other masseuses have never reached; a one-hour deep-tissue full-body rubdown is about $130. For some sprucing up, Beauty and the Piste (011-41-79-838-93-14) can dispatch someone to prettify you at the drop of a balaclava. Manicures cost about $60 and up.
SHOP Vinabagnes is an excellent wine merchant; if you want to pay your respects to the local producers, sidestep the white wines and try the reds – the Humagne Rouge was particularly good. Cheeseophiles, set your compasses for La Chaumière: the gruyères and roqueforts are not to be missed. (011-41-27-771-25-30).
EAT A lunch of grilled meat or fish, washed down with a crisp rosé on the sun-drenched piste-side terrace at Le Cristal at Les Ruinettes (011-41-27-771-42-44), is hard to beat. For supper on the slopes, hit the cozy but elegant Chez Dany (011-41-27-771-25-24): make sure it’s a meal to remember by sledging back down.
SWISS SPECIALTY Forget fondue and ask your chef to bust out the raclette one night in your chalet. Scrape this melted half-moon of cheese onto hunks of fresh bread while you simultaneously feast from a spread of cold cuts.
APRES-SKI If you want to see and be seen, Coco Club (011-41-27-771-66-66) is the club du nuit, as is the cocktailerie Coup d’Etat (011-41-27-78-652-97-60). Or, if a quite night is your thing, snuggle up with a mulled wine at the wood-paneled pizzeria Le Fer à Cheval (011-41-27-771-26-69).