Welcome back to my Ask a Local series.
Today, I’m happy to introduce you to Kent Berglund, a ski school manager and outdoor enthusiast who lives in the famed ski resort, Verbier. Kent’s is one of the first interviews I’ve collected for my next 100 Locals book (on Switzerland, as you may have guessed), which will be launching in early 2015.
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And now, for the ski and outdoor lovers among us, onto Kent…
I came to Verbier 20 years ago from Sweden (where I grew up). I run a ski school called Performance Verbier and in my free time, I hang out with family and do a lot of ski touring.
What To Do In Verbier (The Basics)
Well, as we are the third largest ski area in the world, you pretty much have to ski if you come here. In the summer, the mountain biking (both trail and downhill) is world-class. And, of course, hiking is a popular pastime.
One of the first things you’ll want to do is head to the top of Montfort, where you’ll see both the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, as well as Lake Geneva on a clear day.
Hidden Gems for Seasoned Travelers
If you want to get off the beaten path, get out of the main ski area and explore the four valleys. Nendaz and Veysonnaz are both amazing places. Le Chable (at the bottom of the mountain) is really up-and-coming, with good bars and restaurants.
If you’re not skiing, Chateux Chillon (the island castle on Lake Geneva) is very nice…and there you have Montreux, as well. Aosta in Italy is about an hour away and (as always in Italy) it has great food and good shopping. For skiing, I love Les Diablerets, Champex Lac, or La Fouly.
Where to Hike
The area around Bruson is lovely, especially toward Mont Rogneux. And there are some stunning routes around the Mauvoisin Dam.
What to Eat
Raclette (melted cheese, often served over potatoes) originated from our valley, so that’s a must-try. The cheese-makers here (I think there are 16 of them) are allowed to put an A.O.C stamp on their cheeses, which means they’re incredibly authentic and worth trying. Cheese fondue with an assiette Valaisanne (local meat platter) is a must. And the local wines are really good (try the white Petite Arvine or Johannisberg and the red Humagne Rouge or Pinot Noir).
Where to Eat (Favorite Restaurants & Bars)
For a beer, try Pub Mont Fort (located at Chemin de la Tinte 10), The Loft (on Rue de Poste), and Fer a Cheval (at Rue de Médran 18). For cocktails, check out Nevai (at Route de Verbier Station 55), The Living Room at the W Hotel (at Rue de Médran 70), or Farinet Lounge (in Place Centrale).
For food, I like the Nevai Sushi Lounge (at Route de Verbier Station 55), Le Bec Brasserie (at Rue de Médran 77), and Le Caveu (at Place Central) for cheese.
Check out happy hour (every day between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m.) at Pub Mont Fort for half price drinks. Chex Martin is great for families (the meat fondue is a fixed-price all-you-can-eat option). And it’s always free to walk up to the little chapel of St. Christoph, where the views are stunning.
How to Fit In
Learn a little French (bonjour and merci will take you far). And know that everything here happens over a glass of wine.
How to Meet Locals & Make Friends
Have a glass of wine in Le Chable at Gietroz (at Route de Verbier 9) or Le Chat Bleu (at Route de Clouchèvre 24).
Best Places to Take a Photo
The Bruson ski area offers the most amazing view over Verbier.
In my eyes, this is the best ski resort in the world. We have more skiing on more mountains than anywhere in the world.
Where to Find Wi-Fi
Try the W Living Room, Pub Mont Fort (downstairs), or Harold’s Hamburgers & Internet Cyber Café (at Place Centrale 4).
Final Notes & Other Tips
Valais (the Swiss canton where Verbier resides) is the biggest wine producing area in Switzerland. The Rhone River runs through the valley before it goes into France. This makes for some really good wine.
The reason not many people know about our wines is because nothing gets exported; they are simply not making enough, so everything is consumed locally.
Going to Verbier? Find Kent at performanceverbier.com.
Want more interviews? My new Switzerland guide (with 100 expert local interviews) just published! Grab your copy here.