RICHARD BRANSON’S VERBIER HOME
SIR RICHARD STYLE – RICHARD BRANSON’S VERBIER HOME IS A STYLISH HIDEAWAY FOR HIRE
Richard Branson’s Verbier home: First, let’s get the name right. It’s Verbs, darling. And true to the moniker, this resort is all about action men and women. Verbier lures mountain-mad alpine fashionistas like a siren in a storm. A true classic of the Alps, this big-mountain bit of Switzerland is renowned for powder, parties, and chalet culture. Verbier’s huge off-piste and non-stop socials attract Hollywood royalty from Leonardo and Jude, to the 24-carat kind that includes William, Kate, and Harry. Their aunt and uncle, a.k.a. Fergie and Prince Andrew, bought a Verbier chalet just last year.
Verbs has chalets in spades — catered, self-catered, and über-private. Atop the A-list is the well-established nine-bedroom home of Sir Richard Branson, the U.K. founder of the Virgin Group. Known as The Lodge, it’s an exclusive member of the Virgin Limited Edition collection of retreats. It’s a snow-coated wedding cake en bois, enviably tucked in a wood just 800 feet from the Médran gondola station. Opened in 2008,The Lodge has made its mark as one of Switzerland’s sought after luxury retreats.
Sir Richard and his family make good use of The Lodge. “I’ve always had a passion for skiing because of my dad, Edward James Branson, who was one of the pioneers of skiing in the 1920s,” Branson says. “From the moment I saw it I knew this beautiful chalet in the Swiss Alps was destined to become my favorite mountain hideaway. I chose Verbier because it’s an amazing year-round destination, and offers world-class skiing, fabulous après-ski, and beautiful old restaurants tucked away in the woods.” He adds: “I have always loved Verbier. We get there a couple of times a year.”
For the rest of the winter, this sumptuous chalet and its team are available for exclusive hire by the week, or an individual room basis if the chalet has not been booked for exclusive use. Rental includes a staff of 14 — activities co-ordinator, spa therapist, and cooks trained by celeb-chef Raymond Blanc.
Oh, the games you’ll play. The Lodge accommodates 18 guests plus up to six children or young adults in a funky bunkroom kitted out with TV, Xbox and beanbags. Five lavish floors reveal nine en suite bedrooms — that’s seven suites and two top-floor master suites. Take a dip in the indoor pool, or get bubbly in the indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis. (Champagne and other tipples are included.) Shoot some pool, workout in the gym, or trip the light beneath the twinkling disco ball in your dance and party room. There’s even a private ice rink.
Just because it’s big doesn’t mean it’s not cozy. Warm wood surrounds and high thread counts prevail. From remote controlled fireplaces, a large wine cellar, and wide balconies that open onto one of the finest peak scapes in the Alps, exciting pops of orange, purple and yellow keep things vibrant. Branson’s humor is evident, too: vast bathrooms and egg-shaped tubs come with rubber duckies at the ready. Tired ski legs? The spa treatment tables lie in wait and the elevator comes in handy too.
Fifteen months of work went into this eco-oriented chalet, by architects Sophie Mourad and Patrice Coupy (archimc.com), employing recycled wood to water-saving loos. The decor is contemporary chic, thanks to star interior designer Fiona Barratt — granddaughter of late Sir Lawrence Barratt, known as Britain’s most prolific house builder, and spouse of former England football captain Sol Campbell. Furniture was custom made in England and shipped to Switzerland. Clean lines are paired with sumptuous fabrics: plain oak armchairs are lined with flannel and cashmere stoles drape out-sized sofas. Branson’s globetrotting joie de vivre lives large in the personal touches that include photos of his exploits (public and private), and beloved biographies of his favorite adventurers.
Sir Richard has a hand in all of it, including the secret passageway in his bedroom that opens into a further private suite. Says Branson: “My wife Joan and I love to get involved in the design of our properties.” Of course, we’re not surprised to learn moguls love powder — virgin powder at that. “I love to heli-ski in Verbier,” Branson says. “It’s nice to have a day without lifts.”
The Lodge’s concierge regularly organizes heli-skiing days. Lifting off from just below the village, a glittering array of peaks surrounds Verbier proper. Ones like Petit Combin, whose 360-degree panorama stretches from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn, the rugged Trient Glacier, or, at a height of 12,454 feet, the Pigne d’Arolla, the highest drop-off point around Verbier — these are the Alps’ classic heli-skiing landing zones at altitudes above 10,000 feet.
Long runs descend through stunning mountain scenery, averaging close to 6,500 vertical feet. Far from the madding crowds, one or two multi-hour descents end in a picturesque barn-filled hamlet, or inside a remote restaurant where a tangy fondue or tasty raclette and excellent local Valais wines such as Chasselas and Humagne Rouge await… As does your 24-hour chauffeur, just another service for Sir Richard’s guests at his hideaway in Verbs.