Villars is a traditional Swiss ski resort in the French-speaking canton of Vaud and is a decent choice for beginners and intermediate level skiers. The village sits on a ledge with great views to the Rhone valley and even Mont Blanc beyond and is nicely accessible from Geneva. Villars is a dual-season resort that is also popular in the summertime, with the surrounding area having a great sunshine record. The resort's fantastic climate, great location and scenery have made it a popular place for the rich and famous, with a number of notable figures having chalets there. It's also home to two of the world's most expensive boarding schools, so doubt be surprised if you're sharing the slopes with the mega-wealthy as they visit their kids during the winter !
The live images below of Villars are provided courtesy of Feratel Media Technologies AG
A list of webcams for Villars and the surrounding area.
Villars is undoubtedly a family friendly resort with a nice mix of clientele, pretty tame après-ski (certainly no rowdy element to it) and a generally relaxed and friendly vibe to the whole place. The skiing will suit families too, with a nursery slope near to the station, and nice easy runs up at Bretaye to progress onto, and some easy intermediate slopes as well if they've already progressed beyond the beginner level. The only thing that would make it even better for young kids was if the main street in Villars was pedestrianised.
As ski resorts go, Villars is in a pretty fine location, with the nearest major airport being Geneva. If your transfer is not included in your holiday then definitely consider the train. Villars is just over 2 hours away by train from Geneva with a change required at Bex for the final 40 minutes climb from Bex up to Villars on the scenic funicular. The entire train journey is beautiful - it sweeps initially around Lake Geneva, through Lausanne and Montreux until it starts to wind up into the hills. A relaxing, and stunning, start to your holiday.
Bretaye is the main skiing area above Villars and there are a couple of options to get there from the resort. The most direct method is on the funicular from Villars town centre right up to the terminal at Bretaye, however be aware that this can get crowded in peak times. The alternative is to get the gondola from the edge of the resort up to Roc d'Orsay, from where there are a series of slopes down to Bretaye.
If you want to get to the Bretaye area from Gryon then either to get into Villars itself (for example get on the funicular in Gryon and stay on it right up to the Bretaye terminal) or if you're out on the slopes of Les Chaux then ski down to Rasse and get on the chairlift to Chaux Ronde, and you can then ski down and link into the pistes around Bretaye.
If you want to get to the Bretaye area from the Les Diablerets side then do a similar thing and get to Chaux Ronde from the Meilleret area, and then ski into Bretaye from their.
To get to the slopes of Les Chaux above Gryon means a quick jump into the gondola from Barboleuse, down on the outskirts of Gryon village, taking you right up to Les Chaux at 1750m.
If you want access to Les Chaux from Villars then one option is to get the funicular from Villars down to Gryon, and then get on the gondola at Barboleuse, or if you're already on the slopes around Bretaye then ski the blue down to La Rasse and then get the chairlift up to Croix des Chaux - you've then got access to all of the slopes below you.
Information on the Swiss ski area Alpes Vaudoises, including links to the surrounding resorts, webcams, slope information and lift details.
We'll start with the highest point in the Bretaye area, which is the Grand Chamossaire at 2120m. You get up there via the chairlift from near the funicular station at Bretaye. There are a couple of reds from Grand Chamossaire, one linking it with Roc d'Orsay and one sweeping right down to near the start of the chairlift. For those ending up at Roc d'Orsay (either via the slopes from Grand Chamossaire or via the gondola up from Villars), there is a red piste down the other side of Roc d'Orsay, with a drag lift serving it to haul you back up. As well as the red coming down from Roc d'Orsay to Bretaye, there is a blue as well, which branches off into an optional black piste halfway down, which gives more advanced skiers the option of heading down towards Villars.
If we have a look at the slopes and lifts in the immediate area area around the main core of facilities at Bretaye, we'll find that there are a couple of drag lifts serving some smaller blue pistes (there are also a couple of longer drag lifts that take skiers to the Chaux Ronde area). The blue that comes down from Roc d'Orsay to Bretaye continues down parallel to the funicular and then sweeps down to the resort of Villars, branching off into a couple of further blue slopes and the option of a small section of a red.
We'll start from the highest lift-served point in the Les Chaux area, which is the 2020m Croix des Chaux (accessed via a chairlift from Sodoleuvre down in the valley below Les Chaux). There's something for everyone wanting to ski down from Croix des Chaux, with a blue piste, a red piste and a black piste all making there way down to the main set of mountain facilities at Les Chaux. Skiers can continue down each of these pistes towards the Frience area, which incidentally has a good toboggan run. There's a drag lift at the bottom of these slopes to take you back up to Les Chaux. Alternatively, rather than heading down towards Frience from Les Chaux, you can ski down in the other direction to Sodoleuvre, and yet again there options for all skiing abilities with a blue run, a red and a black all winding down (from the bottom of these slopes you can get a chairlift right back up to Croix des Chaux or continue further down the slope to Rasse and get a chairlift up to the Chaux Ronde area). Those skiers coming down the blue piste from Les Chaux to Sodoleuvre can make a switch halfway down at Combe du Scex and make there way right down to Gryon on a long blue piste. Skiers can then return back up to the Les Chaux area on the gondola from Barboleuse on the edge of Gryon village.
The slopes at Meilleret are good, mainly blues but with a smattering of more testing reds mingled in amongst them. There's a decent chairlift to take you from Vioz on the valley floor up to Mazots at 1720m. There are some really nice wooded runs up here - ski part way down the long Ruvine blue run (P26) and you can then get another chairlift up to the highest point of this area - Meilleret at 1948m. There are a couple of reds down from here as well as a blue. It's worth pointing out that there are blue runs from the top of Meilleret and Les Mazots right down to the bottom of the Vioz-Mazots chairlift and also to the foot of the Vers l'Eglise chairlift. Vers l'Eglise is a small village just down the road from Les Diablerets, so if you're staying there you can get direct access to the slopes of Meilleret from the chairlift that starts there.
One of the advantages of the Meilleret area is that it links into the resort of Villars which is on the opposite side of the mountain. However, be aware that the chairlift that gives access to it is pretty slow and can be quite exposed in bad weather. However, once you've got over there it does give you access to a whole host of other slopes, although they did seem a lot busier in comparison to Les Diablerets.
A list of piste-maps for Villars and the surrounding ski areas.
Interactive piste-map of the slopes above the ski resorts of Villars and Gryon.
Downloadable pdf piste-map of the slopes above the ski resorts of Villars and Gryon.
The 2016 Les Diablerets Film Festival will be the 47th running of one of Europe's largest events dedicated to films centred around the mountains. Centre piece of the festival is a giant screen showcasing the latest action from some of the world's top outdoor film directors, including some free-riding features. There also climbing walls and exhibition stands to visit.
When it comes to ballooning, the Swiss resort of Chateau-d'Oex is the Alpine capital, and this is the festival to celebrate it. The 2016 festival will be the 38th in the history of this renowned international event, and will feature about 100 balloons, including 10 special shaped ones, from over 20 different countries. The highlight for us though has to be the fantastically named event - "the David Niven Long Distance Hare and Hounds Competition" !
As the festival normally runs in the last week of January it's possible to combine a visit with a skiing holiday in the area - Chateau-d'Oex is situated in the Pays-d'Enhaut region (between Lausanne and Interlaken) and there are a number of other ski resorts close by, including Gstaad for the millionaires amongst you.
If you want some further information on Villars, then you might find these links to other sites useful...
Villars hotels and chalets.