Verbier: the Royal skiing destination

Gorgeous alpine scenery, thrilling ski slopes, winter sports and heliskiing. But it all comes at a price, says Josh Jackman


Verbier does not cater to most people, Pierre-André Gremaud, director of the company which promotes the resort in south-west Switzerland's famous four valleys region, admits proudly.

"We are not cheap, and we don't want to be. It is the Royal destination. Prince Harry and royalty from Belgium and Denmark visited last season.

"Richard Branson has a chalet and has been up here for the past five or seven years. The British Army has come here every winter for 30 years. Supertramp were invited to play at a birthday party, and Bono and James Blunt also holiday here."

But if money is no object, or if you want to blow your pension proceeds on one last glorious splurge, Verbier is a wonderful place to stay - and the snow sports aren't bad either.

The resort is perfect for skiers and snowboarders wanting a challenge. It is known as "the Mecca of free-riding" for a reason and has a plethora of mogul-ridden red and black slopes for thrill seekers.

An absolute must is Mont Fort, which looms over the region at 3,300m. Catch a bubble up to the magnificent summit and enjoy the only spot from which you can see the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc at the same time.

The adrenalin rush you'll get from your controlled fall down the mountain is worth the trip alone, but be warned: this slope is for experienced riders only.

If you'd rather fly than fall, there are jumps-a-plenty lower down, while heliskiing, which involves being transported via helicopter to one of Verbier's legendary off-piste locations, is also an attractive option for your inner daredevil.

After a tough morning of carving your way through fresh powder while surrounded on all sides by the startlingly beautiful Alps, stop off halfway down at the esteemed restaurant Le Mouton Noir.

Alongside a ski lift named after Mr Blunt, 2,200m above sea level and the lower echelons of society, visitors can enjoy the breathtaking view without risking serious injury.

The food is a decadent, upper-class dream. Throw in a glass of wine as you summon up the courage to convince yourself that £50-£60 is a reasonable amount for lunch. Once you've finished whizzing up and down fairytale mountains for the day - most people clock off somewhere between 4 and 5pm - the world of apres-ski is your oyster, served with champagne of course.

Sashay into the chic Hotel W whose design philosophy is based on the first "S" carved by a skier on a pristine mountain, and with an experimental £17 cocktail in hand, admire the venue's eccentric, avant garde "living room" before heading downstairs to the tapas bar.

Eat Hola, an authentically Spanish restaurant, doles out beautifully presented fare, with fish to die for. It's a smooth, flavourful assault on your senses. Even after a day of exercise, it's inevitable that by dessert, you'll feel stuffed by all the small, delicious dishes.

Push on and order the dark chocolate fondue for a truly indulgent experience.

Alternatively, if you wish to sample local Swiss cuisine, Le Carrefour, a favourite of Prince Harry's, is the place for you.

With furs thrown over the chairs and an imposing moose head jutting out of the wall, the wooden walls give it a ski lodge feel.

If after filling yourself to the brim you want to squeeze the pips out of the night, head to one of the area's distinctly average bars.

Like most, Farinet, a favourite of James Blunt, is home to many English and American club remixes and badly dancing tourists.

It may seem more convenient to simply combine dinner with dancing, but don't be fooled.

A night at Etoile Rouge, a self-defined "supper club", will be the most surreal of your life - an overwhelming truffle-laden spaghetti in a dark, seedy club which started accosting its guests with thudding beats and disco lights about halfway through the meal.

These high-class offerings contrasted with the mediocre dessert which came around 12.30am, as visitors divided into two groups: dancers and drunken loungers.

After this sensory overload, you'll be more than ready to shut down for the night.

I stayed at the three-star Montpelier Hotel, which offers family suites and cosy couples' rooms, including a Superior Double with breakfast for £154 per night.

Cosy is the key word here, though the hotel lives up to its three-star rating with some charming decor and an extensive breakfast, as well as an on-site ski shop if you don't happen to have a full set of snowsports equipment stored away.

I ended the trip frazzled, bruised and sleep-deprived, exhausted from the exhilaration of hurtling down mountains and sampling some of the richest food ever conceived by humans.

If you want to quicken your pulse and can afford it - slope off to Verbier.

STAY: Hotel Montpelier, from £101 per night.

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