23rd April 2023 | James Cove, Verbier, Switzerland
PlanetSKI has been in the resort as it shuts today. We’ve been enjoying the fabulous late-season conditions, wondering why it is even closing and assessing how the winter has gone for the Swiss resort. NEW
Making some turns in Verbier in the final week of April this year begs a simple question.
Why is the resort closing?
There is top to bottom snow, with hardly a bare patch in sight.
It may be green in the valley, but it is white at altitude.
As well as the snow there is some sunshine.
With near deserted pistes.
Locals call this run the M25 as it is usually packed.
Not at the moment.
The bars and apres venues are still entertaining the crowds.
Here’s another party night in the Lumi.
There is even some more snow in the forecast.
However, closing dates are set many months ago with contracts signed.
It costs a lot to keep a ski resort open and there simply aren’t the numbers to make it economically viable.
The seasonal workers have other jobs to go to, and all good things must come to an end.
See here for PlanetSKI’s rolling snow report for a full assessment of the conditions in Verbier and other parts of the Alps.
It has, quite simply, been the best April in recent memory both in Verbier and elsewhere
So, how has this winter gone for the up-market Swiss resort?
The short answer is much better than expected with the numbers of guests now back to pre-covid levels.
The number of visitors is slightly down on last year, but that was because the Swiss resorts remained open during the pandemic with fewer restrictions.
This led to people who skied in France, Austria and Italy heading to the Swiss Alps.
Verbier was worried there might be a sharp fall as people went back to the other resorts.
That didn’t happen.
“There was a small decline, but it was not nearly as big as feared and we are pleased to say the season has gone very well,” said the Head of Promotions, Arnaud Walpen to me.
Hotel stays went up but there were slightly less people booking apartments.
Despite the poor exchange rate for us Brits, the cost-of-living crisis at home and the high Swiss prices the UK market remains the biggest foreign market for Verbier.
“The Brits are back in large numbers,” Arnaud Walpen added.
“The French looked set to become our biggest foreign market but that has not been the case. Verbier is a special place for the British.”
3. Scandinavia (Sweden, Finland, Norway)
There has also been a sharp increase in skiers and snowboarders from the USA.
This is in part due to a favourable exchange rate with the dollar, and also because Verbier is on the Epic Pass that allows them to ski in Verbier for a few at no extra charge.
I noticed a similar development in Chamonix that is on the rival Ikon Pass that I have.
The Snow Conditions in Verbier
It got off to a slow start, like other resorts in this part of the Alps, heavy snow in January followed by cold temperatures saw some of the best conditions of the winter.
I was fortunate enough to be in Verbier at the time.
Back in January I was with Warren Smith, from the Warren Smith Ski Academy.
Warren and I met up again this week as the season closed.
“We have had one of out best seasons at the Academy even though it has now slowed down a bit now, at the end of the season.”
“This is certainly a favourite resort for British skiers and I’m delighted they continue to be the largest foreign market in Verbier.”
The good powder snow has come at a price with avalanche deaths off piste in the Verbier ski area.
At one point in the first half of March there were four fatalities in five days.
Back in January I spent a day with the Verbier Piste Patrol, observing how they make the slopes safe.
Including training for off piste safety.
Now, as the resort closes towards the end of April, pond skimming is the order of the day.
One of PlanetSKI’s great friends, Steve Sparks, was at the event:
And here is the aforementioned cow fighting, another Spring tradition in this part of the Alps.
As the winter season closes Verbier is looking to the summer.
It has made big efforts in recent years to attract more people in the summer months, and it seems to be working.
The resort is known for its golf, e-biking and hiking.
But it offers much more.
The Verbier Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Plus there is the new exhibition of Palp and Creative Space.
30th Anniversary of Verbier Festival
For several years, music lovers from all over the world have been gathering in Verbier for the annual Verbier Festival in July.
It has always aimed to encourage interaction and exchange between the great masters and young musicians from all over the world. 14th – 30th July.
Creative Space Verbier.
Its aim is to provide an artistic and cultural venue in the heart of Verbier, offering a creative space to the local community as well as a first-class visual arts programme.
Creative Space will also host exhibitions, film screenings, and will have a boutique creating a cultural hub open to all.
Palp Festival exhibition
The Passage Exhibition will take on a subject as fascinating as it is frightening: death.
Whether you create a playlist for your funeral, write a death notice, go on a tour of flowers that can kill or visit a haunted house, this year’s exhibition in Bruson will give you a different perspective on
death. June 18th to September 10th, 2023.
Here on PlanetSKI we will be posting a longer article on the resort’s summer offerings so do check back for that.
In the meantime, as Verbier has closed its slopes, I’m heading on to ski elsewhere in the Alps.
I’m squeezing every last flake out of the superb end-of-season conditions in the Alps.
I’m just looking at the possibility of heading over to the Tirol in Austria where I am told snow conditions are just as good as here in Switzerland.
It’s glacier areas are open well into May.
And did someone mention California?
Some resorts are open into June and July after a record-breaking 17.6m of snow this winter.
PlanetSKI’s flights are booked, May 10th – 22nd.
In the meantime, Thank you Verbier.
This winter has been an utter blast.
See you next winter (unless I pop back to sample your summer delights)…