Villars is gloriously situated at 1,300m on a sunny south-facing plateau above the Rhone Valley, which looks out across to the mountains of the Portes du Soleil ski area. The bustling town is far from a sleepy mountain village, offering an impressive range of shopping opportunities, a good selection of accommodation and even several international schools which bring the area an air of youth and vitality. The town truly holds its own unique offerings beyond the fabulous skiing available, making it an excellent destination for both skiers and non-skiers.
An ideal weekend destination, it can be reached by car from Geneva Airport in just one hour and 20 minutes, almost an hour of that being on autoroute. Alternatively it can be reached by Swiss Rail in just over two hours, providing for a magical climb through the mountains. Villars has long been regarded as one of the classiest places to take a winter holiday, and this is much owed to the fine dining, connections to neighbouring resorts of Verbier, Les Diablerets and Gryon and overall discreet and understated charm.
Resort Altitude: 1,300m
Resort Skiing: 3,000m
Total Ski Area: 174km
Blue Runs: 94km
Red Runs: 59km
Black Runs: 21km
Cross Country: 50 km
Villars offers a good family ski area, with the added bonus of it linking up to the Les Diablerets glacier which provides some exciting, more challenging terrain. Either a cog railway or a gondola will take you up the mountain from the town, providing access to an approximate 174km of skiing. All ski routes return to the town via gentle, meandering forest paths, which is a great benefit for families looking to reconvene at the end of the day.
A two-way chairlift at Chaux des Conches links Villars with its neighbour Les Diablerets, providing access to the snow-sure Glacier 3000 ski area which is served by a cable car running up from the Col du Pillon. On the Glacier there are some cruising blue runs and the exceptional red Combe d’Audon, which has cliffs rising on both sides with a thrilling 1,000m vertical descent. The slopes in the Villars/Diablerets area are mostly of intermediate level, with plenty of variety and lots of spectacular panoramic views.
Villars is a popular destination for snowboarders, with much of the boarding community being due to the international schools within the area. There are several snowparks including one at Les Chaux on the Gyron sector and one at Villars itself. The multitude of long, cruising blues and reds around the Bretaye area will appeal to beginner and intermediate boarders looking for terrain on which to practice and enjoy the views.
Both the Villars Ski School, which also runs its own sports shop with equipment rental service, and the Swiss Ski School have a good reputation for looking after international guests and will offer private or group lessons to students of all abilities. The Bureau des Guides can organise heli-skiing trips in the company of mountain guides, which is a fantastic way in which to explore the region's off-piste territory.
Villars has an excellent non-ski kindergarten called La Trottinette which takes children from two months to six years of age on a daily or an hourly basis. The Swiss Snow Kids Village run by the Swiss Ski and Snowboard School teaches skiing to children aged three to seven years and is the largest in French-speaking Switzerland. The Kids Club is another option at Bretaye and will look after and teach older children from the age of eight years.
Villars has a fabulous selection of unique mountain restaurants. Gourmet skiers will be impressed by the hard-to-find but beautifully situated restaurant at the Lac des Chavonnes, serving a wonderful croute aux champignons. On the glacier itself is the Col de Soud; a beautiful old chalet that serves good rustic food and has spectacular views. Down in the town, there are over 50 establishments to suit all tastes and pockets, ranging from chargrilled meats at Hotel du Golf to raclette at Vieux-Villars.
Most hotels in Villars have fairly busy bars of their own, but the key early evening rendezvous point is Charlie’s Bar, which houses an iconic replica of a plane crashed into the ceiling. The Sporting Bar is another popular meeting place, as is the tiny chalet-style Mini-Pub, which holds just 30 people at a time. The Absolut VIP Club is a hotspot for those looking for a more refined evening where they can sample first-class cocktails, whereas Fox is a disco frequented by Villar's younger clientele.
The busy and well-defined town of Villars makes for an excellent destination for non-skiers. Alternative winter sports activities on offer include paragliding, ice skating, curling, dog sledding and rock climbing. For a more relaxing day off the mountain, head to the Lavey-Les-Bains thermal spa which is fed by the hottest spring in Switzerland and offers stunning mountain views. It is also possible to take the train to the neighbouring beuatiful towns of Montreux or Lausanne for a day excursion.