A chalet business co-owned by a British explorer proves to be the dream getaway for those hoping to mix ski adrenaline with sheer glamour in Verbier
Switzerland’s fearsome Four Valleys circuit is 50km long, a gruelling round-trip day of thigh-tautening skiing, often at altitudes of 3,300 metres, between Verbier and neighbouring slopes of Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon.
Hard enough, you might think. But it’s even harder given the fact the person you’re trailing is Tom Avery, the youngest Briton to have skied to the South Pole and somebody who has slalomed down an erupting Chilean volcano and driven dog teams to the North Pole.
Until now, Director assumed that our skiing skills were pretty good. But a day spent plodding on wooden sticks alongside Avery soon made us feel like Eddie the Eagle.
When he’s not making a mockery of our black-run blunders, Tom Avery co-owns, with David Pearson, luxury chalet operator Ski Verbier Exclusive, a cluster of 17 premium chalets, in the eponymous Swiss ski resort.
When Director stayed at their latest property, Chalet Chouqui – a nine-bedroomed cabin-cum-chateau which sleeps 18, boasts its own hammam, 15m-swimming pool and well-stocked wine cellar – Tom was never far away.
He was there on Friday night reeling off polar anecdotes while we drank Perrier-Jouët Champagne and nibbled courgette-flower canapés. He was there when we arose on Saturday morning, fiddling around with the outdoor hot-tub so his guests could marinate their slalom-sore joints in it later.
He was even in Verbier’s après-ski bars that evening, getting free shots for us because of who he is. And just like any self-respecting adventurer, he never passes up the option of an intrepid ski into the snowy Valais hinterlands.
Verbier (or ‘Verbs’ as it’s colloquially known) may have a reputation as a Gucci-goggled billionaire’s playground – a permanent space in its underground car park will set you back £97,000 – but there’s a reason why the village has become such an oligarch-magnet: its superlative skiing.
With over 410km of ski-runs and nearly 100 (state-of-the-art, non-creaking) ski-lifts, there should be something to suit winter sports enthusiasts of all aptitudes.
Furthermore, there are few winter tableaus finer than scudding down a slope with view of Mt Blanc on one side and ‘Toblerone Mountain’ the Matterhorn on the other.
A new eight-man gondola has also opened up Verbier’s little-known ‘satellite resort’ Bruson – all virgin slopes and off-piste forests – for the first time.
Verbier’s main ski-lifts are just three minutes’ drive from Chalet Chouqui (Ski Verbier offers a 24-hour car service). Fortunately, explorer Avery appreciates that both polar adventurers and skiers alike need some pampering after their wintry wanderings.
Ergo the luxury factor at Ski Verbier Exclusive is high. Chalet Chouqui in particular offers the perfect post-piste comedown: tiers of crumbly carrot cake upon arrival, a cinema room, afore-mentioned hammam and deep-tissue massages in the spa.
Then there’s the food. Every night the onsite chefs would whip up a multi-course menu featuring dishes such as roasted poussin with pine nut jus, smoked polenta and most intriguingly, a cheese ice cream with brioche 99 Flake. There’s also a gratis alcohol policy.
The transition from explorer to business co-owner can’t have been an easy one. But with Chalet Chouqui, Avery is pushing back the boundaries of what luxury ski accommodation could be. For the guests, staying there is a world of constant discovery too…
Chalet Chouqui slideshow (click to enlarge)
Verbier: Getting there
SWISS operates flights to Switzerland from as little as £39 one-way. swiss.com or 0345 990 9161.
A week at Chalet Chouqui with Ski Verbier Exclusive costs from £2,950 per person based on 18 sharing. The price includes daily breakfast, afternoon tea, pre-dinner drinks, canapés and dinner six nights a week with a wide selection of champagne, wine, beer and spirits. The price also includes 24-hour in-resort chauffeur service and in-chalet ski equipment fitting with mountainairverbier.com.
Ski Verbier Exclusive can also organise private guiding and tuition with performanceverbier.com
For more information visit skiverbierexclusive.com or call 01608 674011.
For more information on Switzerland visit MySwitzerland.com
Writer: Christian Koch. Traveller: George Taylor