70 rue de Médran, Verbier, Switzerland, wverbier.com. Rooms from $1,083, or $360 in low season.
There are small villages in the Swiss alps that are quiet, unassuming witnesses to the grandeur that surrounds them, where the few hundred inhabitants are as likely to ski to work as they are to swoosh down a piste. And perhaps Verbier was once one of them. But with the world’s first W ski resort’s opening in December, the town is most certainly one no longer. This is an international hot spot, up there with its Teutonic neighbours Gstaad, Zermatt, Andermatt and Davos. If you like that kind of thing, as I do, it may be time to go.
Tucked away in Switzerland’s French sector, Verbier is a ski-lift ride away from the town of Le Châble and about 25 kilometres from the slightly larger town of Martigny, both of which you can take gorgeous train rides into from nearby Montreux or Geneva. The hotel is directly across the street from the ski lift, the closest hotel in town. It’s also close to Great St. Bernard, the mountain pass where the dogs come from. There’s a museum dedicated to the history of the dogs in Martigny, and in the summer, you can visit the hostel where they did all their rum-based rescuing back in the day.
Amsterdam’s Concrete design group, who also worked on W London, commissioned Buff Diss, the Berlin-based Australian, to throw up some of his groovy, awe-inspiring tape art. He’s covered the walls of most public areas with landscapes and portraits of extraordinary depth made with simple strips of masking tape. And don’t miss Arola, with its inverted copper-bowl lights and colourful backlit walls, it’s Concrete’s best work in the hotel.
Whom you’ll meet
Of all the reasons to go to a ski resort in Switzerland, skiing comes in about No. 5, behind scenery, melted cheese, a bitter called Diablerets and the people. Verbier, and especially the W, presents a bracing hybrid of ruddy and taut locals, who’ve been skiing since they were toddlers, and the plutocrats, rich, fashionable and at their ease. It’s a potent mix at the bar, or in the hotel’s underground club, Carve.
I liked the ski-up bar under the pink umbrella at the bottom of the slope. It presents multiple daily opportunities for suave James Bond moves, slicing up to the bar to order your martini, or mulled wine, if that’s the way you want to go.
Eat in or eat out?
If you’re there for one night, walk five minutes into Verbier and have some raclette at Le Caveau (be sure to order the house Cynar and limoncello mid-meal digestif). But if you’re visiting longer, try the Michelin-starred Sergi Arola’s restaurant in the hotel. As long as you don’t expect too much from the tataki-style beef, which was beyond the chef on my night, the menu is as creatively composed as you’d expect from a two-star chef who trained under Ferran Adria. The Iberian pork carpaccio with green apples was especially good.
If I could change one thing
The lounge bar was charming, and so was the Belgian bartender – but he didn’t know the difference between a cosmopolitan and a Manhattan.
Room with a view
There are only two views to choose from, mountain and town. You can’t really lose. Though I’d recommend town views, because, this being Switzerland, it includes mountains.
The writer was a guest of the resort.