Find out why royal families flock to Verbier for ski season... an article from HELLO! magazine.
Although countless people plan their holidays around ski trips every year, I have never been one of them. I always thought skiing looked like a lot of fun and yet the idea of taking a ski trip and finding it not quite to my taste gave me pause. So when HELLO! Online was invited to head to not just any slopes, but to one of the most exclusive ski resorts in the world, Verbier, Switzerland, I jumped at the chance. So from having absolutely no idea how to ski, googling the word 'Salopettes' and thinking that Raclette was a type of old fashioned tennis, here's what happened on the trip…
Loved by celebrities and the royal family alike, Verbier is a world-class resort. James Blunt owns a ski chalet there, as does the Duchess of York. Georgia 'Toff' Toffolo went to visit after winning I'm a Celebrity. Even Prince William took a break there last year (and was seen dad-dancing in one of the top clubs in the area). On my arrival, I was told by several people that it was the best snow the resort had seen in 19 years! In December! Apparently this was just about unheard of, and so the group and I were keen to hit the slopes as soon as possible.
Queen Mathilde and King Philippe of Belgium on a family ski trip in Verbier (Hello Magazine)
Visiting one of the many excellent ski hire stores, Mountain Air, a very helpful staff member helped me select a pair of heavy ski boots and skis. To find the perfect fit for both, they needed to know my weight and my shoe size, and it was only then that I realised how entirely clueless I was about this sport that they had committed their lives to for the winter season. Luckily for me, everyone I met couldn't have been nicer about it, and seemed eager to hear about the sport they loved so much from a first-timer. With my instructor from Element Ski School, Guy, we headed out so that I could practise sliding along with two long wooden planks strapped to my feet. The private instruction, which usually cost from £226 for three hours, was incredibly helpful, and at the end of our session I could balance confidently on the skis. I also learned the most important thing about sliding down the mountain – how to stop!
Georgia 'Toff' Toffolo recently visited Verbier
The next day another top instructor from the school, Georgia, took over to help me out. With her encouragement, I finished my second lesson confidently being able to turn from left to right down a slope before sliding to a halt, and spent the rest of my afternoon quite happily people watching the other incredible skiers from the comfort of the restaurant in the mountains, Le Mouton Noir.
While enjoying my time in Verbier, I learned more about its history, and its royal connections. Because of its secluded chalets, the resort is the perfect place for royals to enjoy time away from the cameras, and would explain why members of European royal families including Prince Frederick and Princess Mary of Denmark and King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium love to visit. It is also, incidentally, where Princess Eugenie met her current boyfriend, Jack Brooksbank. The experience was truly a brilliant one, and have booked another two sets of lessons while in the UK so I can get down the slopes in style for my next trip. You could say that I am most definitely converted.
It is a hot spot for British royals
WHERE TO EAT
For lunch, mountaintop restaurant Cuckoo's Nest was a great way to enjoy some grub for spending the afternoon skiing. For dinner, the recently opened restaurant Vie Montagne was simultaneously cosy and sophisticated, and offered artistic, clever cocktails as well as a truly delicious menu that uses locally sourced produce, highlights including the wild mushroom and white beer cream grilled pork neck with white onion purée, and the fantastic raspberry juice and peppermint jelly dessert.
WHERE TO STAY
Stand out hotels in the area include the Hotel Farinet, a stylish hotel knitted out in cow print and leather with snug central heating that will keep you feeling cosy as the snow falls outside. It is also home to one of the most popular bar and clubs in the area, and is known to have been frequented by Princes William and Harry. Of course, this is perfect is you're ready to party on holiday! If not, the hotel has several pairs of earplugs tucked away from you in your bedside table, just in case.
The Virgin Lodge is Richard Branson's place, and immediately feels like coming home. Even if it is a multi-million pound exclusive chalet, the staff, are always there to help you feel right at home. The rooms range from a stunning master suite, complete with a working fireplace, to a snug room filled with bunkbeds for the children to have sleepovers.
The front door of The Lodge
The W Verbier Hotel is certainly the most chic and stylish option, and one of the hotel's highlights is a beautiful, quiet spa where you can kick back after a long day on the slopes. During my time there, I couldn't help but escape to the spa for a few hours of downtime, and found the half indoor, half outdoor pool, Jacuzzi, saunas and steam room to be the idyllic seating for some much needed rest and relaxation.
The outdoor pool at the W Hotel
HOW TO TRAVEL
Flights can be booked with Swiss Airlines, and direct return flights from Sunday to Sunday from London City to Geneva cost from £141. Upon arrival, return train transfers from the airport or border railway station directly to destination are available with the Swiss Transfer Ticket which is priced at 141 CHF.