When the news of Princess Eugenie's engagement broke this week, it was reported that the royal met her fiancé, Jack Brooksbank, in Verbier, a ski resort town in the Swiss Alps. Here are a few things to know about the ski destination, which has been dubbed the most exclusive in the world.
IT'S POPULAR WITH ROYALS.
The Belgian royal family poses in front of a chalet in Verbier in 2016.
Princess Eugenie grew up going to Verbier for ski vacations with her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, and her sister, Princess Beatrice. The Danish, Belgian, and Swedish royal families also visit regularly. Prince Harry and his then-girlfriend Cressida Bonas were spotted hugging on the slopes in 2014. And while stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jude Law, and James Blunt have been seen in Verbier, it's not as much of a celebrity magnet as other ski destinations.
THE SKIING IS WORLD CLASS.
The destination is a venue for the Freeride World Tour, which, Ski.com's Leah Boucher says, basically involves "dropping off cliffs like you see in ski movies." She says experts love the
IT'S NOT AS SHOWY AS OTHER EUROPEAN SKI TOWNS.
The Duke and Duchess of York with their daughters Eugenie and Beatrice (left) walk back to their Verbier chalet in 1997.
Verbier is popular with people who like their ostentation to be less obvious—stealth fancy if you will. A former "chalet girl" (someone who cooks and acts as a caretaker and welcome committee for guests, this is a role often filled by someone doing a "gap year" from university or taking time off before getting a "real job") recalls seeing Prince Harry around the holidays a few years back: "I turned around in the pub and there was Prince Harry having a pizza next to me—with his bodyguard."
It hasn't turned into Russia central like Méribel, which is all facelifts and fake tits on display.
And while this recovering chalet girl, who now works as a lawyer in London, says "you will never find anybody badly turned out there, it hasn't turned into Russia central like Méribel, which is all facelifts and fake tits on display." She also said that unlike Gstaad, which features stores from Loro Piana and Louis Vuitton catering to those who want to see and be seen, Verbier's shopping is decidedly more low-key.
IT'S ALSO NEWER.
Members of a ski touring group climb adjacent to the Bec Des Rosses Mountain in Verbier in 2016.
"Verbier doesn't have the history of other European ski towns like St. Moritz, Zermatt, and Gstaad," says Jack Shaw of Epic Europe, a luxury adventure travel operator based in the Swiss Alps. "It only became a ski resort in the 1950s and then became popular in '70s and '80s.
IT HAS A BRITISH VIBE.
Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie in 2003
Shaw says that Verbier is "very much a British chalet town—you have a British chalet girl and British ski instructor, and while it's a little bit more international than it used to be there's definitely a very British feeling. The divorced Duke and Duchess of York (Princess Eugenie's parents) reportedly bought a Verbier chalet "on a joint mortgage" in 2015 as a "family investment." Brits make weekend trips from London, and since it's only a two-hour drive from Geneva it's popular with Swiss city-dwellers as well.
IT'S KNOWN FOR ITS PARTY ATMOSPHERE.
"Ibiza in the snow" is how Shaw describes the town. "It's been that way since the '70s, when [Princess Eugenie's mother] Fergie danced on the bar and flashed the crowd at the Farm Club. People come here if they’re hardcore skiers or hardcore nightlife people." (Remember the video of Prince William's "dad dancing" in a Verbier club last spring? Nightlife, to be sure, but not exactly the hardcore variety.)
RICHARD BRANSON OWNS A CHALET THAT ANYONE CAN RENT.
Anyone with a spare $100,000 that is. Rates reportedly start at $102,271 for a week during the peak season. The five-story Lodge at Verbier can accommodate up to 18 guests and comes with a resident chef and team of ski instructors. While chalets are the most common lodging option, the W Verbier—the brand's first ski property—added a popular hotel to the mix when it opened about four years ago.
IN TERMS OF CHICNESS, IT FALLS AROUND THE MIDDLE OF THE EUROPEAN SKI RESORTS.
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"In terms of five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, St. Moritz and Courchevel are at the top," Shaw says. He says they're also the most popular with Russian oligarchs, who haven't overtaken Verbier yet. "Gstaad is definitely chic but not known for as good skiing because it’s considerably smaller. It's always had the caché as being big with royals and having really high-end hotels though. Verbier probably comes after them, along with Kitzbuhel in Austria."
*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors