The focal point of the huge Four Valleys ski area in Switzerland, Verbier might just be the perfect all-round Alpine ski resort. Sure, St Anton wins - just - in the après-ski stakes, Zermatt might be (even) prettier and Chamonix has the ultimate gnarly off-piste action, but Verbier delivers for anyone wanting extreme skiing plus extremely hard partying and extremely comfortable accommodation in beautiful surroundings. As an example of the disparate but discerning downhillers who have long known this, James Blunt, Lawrence Dallaglio and Carl Fogarty have even opened La Vache, an excellent new on-piste eatery. Read on for all the information you need to conjugate your Verbs...
At Chez Dany, a pretty chalet tucked away in the trees in the hamlet of Chambin, and reached via one of Verbier's famous itinéraires - marked but unpisted runs. Sit on the sun-soaked terrace taking in the beautiful view, delicious food (the classic croute au fromage is made of those classic alpine ingredients - bread, melted cheese and ham, topped off with a fried egg) and surprisingly good Swiss wine before weaving back down the piste to the Medran in the centre of town.
The hip dining destination is supper club Etoile Rouge, from the team behind old favourite Le Rouge. The décor is baroque bling, the food a Scandinavian/Russian mash up (try the Kamchatka crab and caviar) and the poison - naturally - a selection of vodkas and aquavits, enjoyed before the DJ cranks up the volume and the place kicks off.
Just up from the Medran, Mont Fort is the closest Verbier gets to a proper pub, and a favoured après-ski haunt.
The ultimate toss up between the old - in the form of The Farm Club, 50 years old and still going strong (some would say stronger than many of the more senoir clientele) - and the new, at Carve in the W Hotel, shiny and pretty in design and in the massed ranks on the dancefloor.
Having all the gear and no idea means instant social death in Verbier's hard-skiing circles; while it takes years to get the idea, a quick trip to Mountain Air should see you sorted for the gear, from skins to avalanche airbags.
Tackle Mont Gele. Take the cable car to the 9,900ft summit, survey the epic scene and take the plunge, either down one of the marked itinéraires, or if you rate your chances, into one of the infamous couloirs. A guide is strongly recommended.
Where you're going in a white out by seeking out the Bruson tree skiing area. Formerly a well-kept secret, a new gondola system means the area is now within easy reach and carving through the powder-filled forests is magical.
Developing a noticeable 'punter's gap', the tell-tale red rectangle of sunburn on one-week-only skiers' foreheads caused by the gap between goggles and helmet. Novices' mistake.
Rent a sledge, take the bus to the Carrefour restaurant (another goodie) and walk 20 minutes or so to La Marmotte, a cosy spot on the Savoleyres slopes. Enjoy a slap up Savoyard spread (raclette, fondue - you know the drill) and bottle of red (breaks down the cheese, blah, blah) before a sledging experience more intense than batting against the Aussies, all the way back into town.
The Freeride World Tour rolls into town from in April in the gnarly form of the Swatch Xtreme Verbier, the tour finale. See how it's done as the world's best freeride skiers and boarders attempt to master Verbier's baddest backcountry in the quest for the title of World Champ.
Another feather in Verbier's cap is its accessibility - just 2.5 hrs from Geneva Airport, which is served by BA, Swiss and Easyjet.