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V is for Verbier, W is for Wow by Maggie O'Sullivan

Posted in HOTELS + VILLAS By Maggie O'Sullivan

My trip to Verbier last year was a disaster and, as I write this, my regular ski buddies have returned to the Swiss resort without me. But though I found the skiing in near whiteout conditions too testing, there was one consolation: the Hotel W Verbier, which had just opened. I whiled away quite a few hours in the W. And I noticed that while most ski hotels are pretty empty during the day, the W was always buzzing. Perhaps it wasn’t only me that was finding Verbier testing…W’s only Alpine ski retreat, the W Verbier is set on Place Blanche, opposite the main Médran gondola. Many doubted the wisdom of opening a luxury hotel here since, for years, this part of Verbier was just a scruffy spot where the ski buses set down and picked up. But not only did developers Les Trois Rocs give Place Blanche a complete facelift, they remodelled the bottom of the mountain so you can practically ski right into the square. Other new additions include a large branch of Mountain Air (I spent quite a lot of time in there) and a jolly brasserie called Le Bec (and there). Then towards the end of the day the whole square becomes an open-air après ski bar with a DJ.The W Verbier, designed by Amsterdam-based Concrete Architectural Associates, comprises four traditional chalets linked by a glass atrium. If you’re familiar with the W brand you won’t be surprised to learn that the W Verbier takes the concept of chalet-chic to a whole new level, inhabiting its own world somewhere between urban cool and Heidi. Nylon, faux fur and leather artfully combined with wood and natural stone. Crackling open fires with retro Bubble chairs. The lady who showed me round pointed out how the smooth lines ‘carved’ through the spaces (the ‘destination bar’ is also called Carve). Get the allusion? I did.W Verbier’s 130 rooms, suites and residences have W’s signature daft names (ranging from ‘cozy’ to ‘wow’, pictured above), but the rooms themselves are pretty and surprisingly rustic, with sloping beamed ceilings and wooden balconies. Many – though not all – have spectacular mountain views which, in my book, more than makes up for the ‘animal footprints’ in the hall carpets.Cuisine at W Verbier is not what you would call traditional mountain food (there’s plenty of that up the mountain). Culinary director Sergi Arola hails from Spain and dishes in Arola restaurant (above) and the Eat-Hola tapas bar reflect his origins (and his two Michelin stars). Think sea bass à la plancha rather than raclette. 

Though I’ll always be partial to chalet-chic, I did rather take to the W Verbier. It’s modern and sassy and a breath of fresh air at a time when luxury chalet-hotels are all beginning to look the same. One afternoon, as I sat in the W Café, sipping a delicious hot chocolate, I spotted my ski buddies, cold and wet, on the other side of the square. I (almost) forgave them for abandoning me at the top of a particularly vicious red: at that moment, I knew who was having the better time. Further information, W Verbier

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