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Verbier in the skiing area Les 4 Vallees (©_OTV)
Itís the skiing that put VERBIER on the map: few places in the world offer such breadth of possibilities with such awe-inspiring scenery as a backdrop. Before 1910, the plateau on which Verbier sits was an empty summer pasture; the first hotel opened in 1934, and even by 1950 the place was still a tiny village. No more. Following the 1960s ski boom, Verbier now sprawls, characterized by unattractive apartment blocks and modern housing. Itís not particularly charming or endearing, but with this quality of skiing on offer, it doesnít have to be. European high society flocks to the resort in season, and the mood of the place can get tediously brash and trendy, but still the slopes hold sway. Fully half of the million annual visitors are Swiss, many scooting over from Lausanne and Geneva for a weekend in their apartments or chalets; itís a feature of Verbier that chalet accommodation outnumbers hotel beds ten-to-one, making it much more advisable to visit on a ski-chalet package booked from home than to arrive without a hotel reservation.