I’ve been skiing in a lot of strange places in my time: Lebanon, Iran, Newfoundland, Gloucester… Every experience has been different but the one constant is that glorious moment when the sun is shining, you are skiing well and the world is, briefly, yours.
That is an elusive moment, however. Most of the time when skiing you are either too cold, too hot, your boots hurt, you’re sunburnt or you’re hungover. A lot of the ski experience is essentially a triumph of reality over expectation.
Growing up, skiing was a family affair. I am still (touch wood) the only one of my four siblings who hasn’t broken a leg on the slopes.
Admittedly, I have severely ruptured ligaments in my left leg in a moped crash in London and shattered my left kneecap in a motorbike accident on the Greek island of Evia.
Come to think of it, I have also broken two metatarsals on my left foot while competing in the TV show Total Wipeout. But nothing on the ski slopes. I put it down to my lucky left leg.
There are essentially two types of skiing breaks – the normal sort and the money-no-object sort.
In the lap of luxury: Dom and his wife Stacey during their luxury trip to Verbier
The former is to book a flat or hotel, find the cheapest flights to the nearest airport, rent a car, forget to book snow chains, and set off to join a 30-mile jam somewhere below Albertville in France, where you spot people you vaguely know from school having a hissy fit in their car while you really enjoy spending ‘quality time’ with your own precious family.
Luckily, everything is OK because this time you are ahead of the game. You are sick of paying ridiculous amounts of money for awful ski boots that should be default footwear in Guantanamo. No, you were clever. You went to a ski shop in the UK and had some bespoke boots moulded to your lovely feet.
Parents escape: Dom and Stacey were invited to Verbier, and jumped at the chance to leave their children at home for a few days
The hot-tub at swanky Chalet No 14. The huge property can be rented out entirely for a week from about £75,000 (it sleeps 26) or holidaymakers can take rooms
Don’t you feel smug? Aren’t you the clever one? YES… but only until you realise that your feet expand at altitude and that your new boots will not fit.
You will still have to rent old, painful boots that you will wear while walking miles from your hotel to the nearest ski-lift while shepherding your wailing children and grumpy wife and carrying all their equipment because, unlike you, they are weak.
That is the normal way. Despite the trials and tribulations of the normal way, I loved it and was totally happy – until I sampled the money-no-object way.
It was a bit like turning left when boarding a plane. Once you’ve done this, you will never be content with turning right into economy.
This Swiss resort is where the Duke of York has a £13 million chalet. It is where the illuminati ski. This is not the place for peasants like me
My wife Stacey and I were invited to Verbier, and jumped at the chance to leave our pesky kids at home and swan off to the Alps for three days.
It was only when we stepped off the plane in Geneva that we realised quite how much swanning there was in store for us.
This Swiss resort is where the Duke of York has a £13 million chalet. It is where the illuminati ski. This is not the place for peasants like me. I couldn’t wait.
A pleasant young man called Toby greeted us and ushered us to a waiting minibus. It was not full of annoyingly drunken revellers, as it would have been on a normal trip.
Even better, there was a hamper nestled between me and my wife, packed with sandwiches and a bottle of champagne. Suffice to say it was one of the most pleasant minibus journeys ever.
Upon arrival in Verbier we were shown into our home for the next three days. Rosalp 4 is one of a selection of uber-chic flats and chalets that operator Ski Verbier Exclusive has dotted around the resort.
Exquisite: One of the bedrooms at Chalet No 14, with sublime mountain views
We were the only two in this swish four-bedroom apartment that made me want to up sticks and move to Switzerland. It was beautifully and eclectically decorated, and came with a resident chef and lady butler.
Drinks were on tap, snacks were in abundance, and any thoughts of an abstemious ski break went out of the window. The chef was happy to cook healthy fare for us – but let’s face it, when you have a chef you’re going to pig out and pretend you’ll burn off the calories on the slopes.
Just as we were settling in, we were taken to a room in the basement of our building where another man had brought boots and skis for us to try on. Heaven forbid that we’d have to go outside or visit a rental shop open to the smelly public! The boots fitted first time and were wonderfully comfortable.
Having made our choice, they were placed on electric boot-heaters so that our pampered little tootsies wouldn’t face the indignity of a moment’s chilliness the following morning.
Chef had prepared some snacks, champagne was poured and bathrobes were donned. Life was good.
Snow had been falling like an impenetrable blanket from the moment we arrived – I could barely make out the street below from the window of our apartment. We weren’t bothered – with luxury like this, who needs to ski?
Sadly, despite our laziness, the following morning another man called Toby knocked on our door and introduced himself as our ski guide for the day. We were whisked to the bubble car in another minibus driven by yet another young man called… yes, you guessed it… Toby.
Toby the ski guide was excellent company and most understanding when we only skied for about two hours. We gave up in the end as the snow was falling so thick that I could barely see my hands and Stacey was getting motion sickness.
I was disappointed, as Verbier has some exceptional ski-runs. We soon got over it, however, when we got back to our apartment. Chef had prepared some snacks, champagne was poured and bathrobes were donned. Life was good.
That evening we went out and sampled some of Verbier’s apres-ski. It was predictably lively and fun but, sadly, there were zero sightings of the Duke of York or his hard-working daughters.
Mouth-watering: A shot showing some of the food served up at Chalet No 14
On our final evening, we were invited to the main event – an evening at Chalet No 14 – the jewel in the Ski Verbier Exclusive crown.
It’s a huge property that you can either rent out entirely for a week from about £75,000 (it sleeps 26) or take rooms.
It comes with all the trappings to make a Bond baddie happy – a fur-lined TV room, huge bar, indoor swimming pool, hot-tub and treatment rooms.
It was a place that would have been hard to leave, even for that elusive perfect day on the slopes.
We had a magnificent Asian meal (an interesting change from the usual Alpine fare) and the booze flowed freely.
Some time the next day we awoke and stumbled back on to our minibus heading for Geneva airport and our flights home. Toby (who else?) indicated that there was yet another bottle of champagne, chilled and awaiting our consumption.
Stacey and I looked at each other and groaned. We had reached our luxury limit.
Skiing the normal way won’t be quite the same.
Seven nights at Rosalp 4 costs from £1,500 per person per week.
The price includes chalet-board accommodation, drinks, 24-hour in-resort chauffeur service, concierge service and daily cleaning.
Visit skiverbierexclusive.comor call 01608 674011.
British Airways (ba.com) offers return flights to Geneva from £69pp.