Skiing in Villars

Mid-size Villars offers sufficient variety on the slopes, and its ski lift system is nearing the end of a major refurbishment programme. The link-up with the glacier at Les Diablerets is a useful option.

Villars Ski Area Overview

Neither exceptionally big nor small, the Villars ski area’s bonus for keen skiers is its link to the Diablerets glacier, where modern uplift and extensive (and naturally snow-sure skiing) can be found. On the Villars slopes, once you’re on the mountain, either by cog railway from the centre of Villars or gondola from above the village, the lift system offers sufficient variety and options across four 2,000m hills, one of which can be reached directly by gondola from Gryon, the neighbouring village to Villars. The total piste length, including Les Diablerets, but not the glacier, is 100km.

Petit Chamossaire, at 2,037 metres, offers stirring views across the valley towards Leysin and Chateau d’Oex, and some good piste descents for strong skiers with a variety of permutations featuring a choice of bumps or interesting, steep tree-lined cut-throughs – and all are generally uncrowded. In fact, for many of Villars’ regulars, Petit Camossaire is their favourite peak.

Above Villars and to the west is Roc d’Orsay, reached by gondola from one end of town. Much of the skiing lies in the bowl to the east and north of this point, with draglifts and chairlifts rising from the centre to the 2,120m high point – Grand Chamossaire – and east to 1,987m Chaux Ronde. A chairlift and a draglift heads north-east from here, below the ridge to Meilleret and beyond to Les Mazots and then the village of Les Diablerets and access to the glacier; to the south is the final mountain in the Villars ski area, Les Chaux, above Gryon, with an entertaining mix of reds, blacks and blues served by a long chair and a draglift.

Off-piste routes abound in Villars without going far afield: much of the skiing is below the tree line and some of the forest is open to skiers, while the bowls are broken up with unpisted steeper areas interspersed with minor cliffs, leaving a significant portion of the terrain untamed but available for skiing off-piste.

Possibly the most family-friendly aspect of the skiing in Villars is the return to base with all routes taking gentle, meandering forest paths right back into the village. These runs between cosy chalets give a sense of skiing as it used to be, and the main path into the village now has snowmaking over its full eight-kilometre length.  The piste grooming regime covers blue runs each night, reds every other, and blacks not at all.

Beginner Skiing in Villars

Villars is very beginner-friendly, with good access to nursery slopes and easy runs as well as breathtaking views and ambience.

With the beginner-friendly train providing easy access to the upper mountain and the gentle return routes to the village, Villars is an excellent place to learn to ski or snowboard, though less so when busy at weekends or during peak season. But the views and winter holiday ambience of the area (not a given in many resorts with otherwise good novice terrain) should conspire to leave you wanting more.

The beginner terrain on the edges of Villars is ideal when there’s decent snow; higher up at Bretaye, there’s a nursery slope with a magic carpet.  Once you’ve mastered the basics, a network of blue runs lies between two of the four peaks, making the main bowl a good place to graduate from the nursery slopes. For 2011-12, two specially designated “Ski Slow” pistes were introduced to help those progressing from novice to intermediate slopes. One is on the blue Chaux Ronde slope and the other is on the Gryon side below the restaurant at Les Chaux.

For absolute beginners, there are two free beginners’ areas with a magic carpet and mini-ski lift in the heart of Villars (behind the railway station) and another one in Gryon at Frience, with a “sledge” lift and mini-ski lift. Both are free and avoid the cost of a ski pass.

Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Villars 

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Intermediate Skiing in Villars

The entire Villars ski area is within the grasp of most skiers and adjoining Les Diablerets offers an exciting day out.

Without the almost endless mileage associated with the biggest piste-bashing resorts, Villars’ terrain delivers good skiing for intermediates with variety and good scenery in a mixture of forested skiing and sheltered, friendly bowls. Families and mixed groups can try tours that take in the skiing above Les Diablerets, both on the small ski domain above the village to the north and south and on the glacier, though it makes quite a big day out.

Less far afield, the majority of the skiing is easily accessed from the Roc d’Orsay gondola; it’s almost all red or blue from here over to Chaux Ronde and a couple of black runs have easier alternatives to choose from if it all looks too much; it’s a similar story on Les Chaux. Most of the red runs are slightly over-graded, so the entire area is within the grasp of most skiers.

On the glacier, everyone should try the Combe d’Audon, a long descent running from the high glacier and well away from the lifts, with striking views and a big mountain feel.

At the end of the day, after a quick espresso at the reggae bar at the top of Chaux Ronde, a non-stop run through Bretaye and onwards down to the village on the path with the new snow-making is a glorious way to finish.

Advanced & Expert Skiing in Villars

There are a few black runs at Villars, but the limited vertical makes most advanced skiers escape to Les Diablerets.

Villars is not traditionally where you come for serious skiing. But a day or two exploring the tougher pistes and the Diablerets glacier, followed by some guided off-piste works well, particularly if you are holidaying with a mixed-ability group. The main restriction is the limited vertical, with the village at 1,300m and the high point at 2,120m; it’s no wonder people are drawn to the 3,000m glacier, for both snow conditions and a couple of runs of substantial length.

Of Villars’ black runs, the most sustained is from Les Chaux, through the trees below the Sodoleuvre chair; better still are the trees (off-piste) to the far side of the lift. From the Croix des Chaux are a black and red down to Alpes des Chaux and the other peaks – Chaux Rondes and Chamossaire – have modest black runs.

The glacier pistes (but not the cost of the cable cars) are automatically included on any ski pass for three or more consecutive days – this also includes the neighbouring resorts of Les Mosses and Leysin, which between them offer an extra 100km of runs. On a one or two-day ski pass, designed for week-enders who rarely have time for a glacier excursion, the glacier ski pass price has been deleted to achieve a more attractive tariff.

It takes about an hour and 45 minutes to reach the glacier from Villars. You get there by taking the Roc D’Orsay gondola, the Chaux Ronde chairlift, and then the long, flat chairlift to Les Diablerets (a 14-minute ride which allows you to sit back and enjoy the view!). Next comes the Laouissalet draglift to the Meilleret slopes from where you can ski down to Les Diablerets Village. From here you need to take the shuttle bus to the Col du Pillon (every half hour, and included in your ski pass). From the Col du Pillon, it’s a 20-minute ride by two cable cars to the top of the glacier. But don’t leave it too late to get back – the resort suggests no later than the 2.30 pm bus back to Les Diablerets from the  Pillon cable car base station.

A greater percentage of Les Diablerets’ holidaymakers head over to the Villars-Gryon sectors of the ski area because they get many more lifts and pistes for their money than Villars’ visitors heading in the opposite direction and because skiers from Villars to Les Diablerets using the long chairlift have to walk to get to the main Les Diablerets’ slopes.

Boarding & Freestyle in Villars

Villars has two snowparks, and there’s a halfpipe and fun park at Les Diablerets. But the glacier draglifts – which work best on glacier terrain – are, as it were, a bit of a drag for boarders.

There are snowparks beneath the Croix des Chaux and Chaux Ronde in Villars; Les Diablerets has a halfpipe and a fun park but nothing on the glacier. The number of draglifts rather than awkward flats in the terrain is the main problem for boarders.

Villars Mountain Restaurants

Apart from the functional self-service places, Villars has some excellent mountain restaurants, but you’ll normally need to book to be sure of getting a table.

The quality of the mountain restaurants above Villars is good news, but they’re often very well subscribed and in high season need to be booked. A great lunch can be had at the Golf, where there’s just one sitting so you can time lunch to suit your ski plans. The chef picks up the day’s ingredients down in the valley each morning, so the day’s special is always good. Most of the non-self-service restaurants have two sittings and at set times.

A recent addition to the on-mountain dining possibilities is L’Etable.  The restaurant has been built into a converted stable and people are travelling from near and far to eat here.  Located just above the Sodoleuvre lift station on the way up to Les Chaux, L’Etable is easiest to reach on skis.  But it’s also accessible to non-skiers and the effort is well worthwhile.

More functional and with higher capacity, the restaurant and self-service at Les Chaux is in a big well-appointed timber building which even has facilities for disabled skiers. The self-service has a raised enclosed fire round which you can sit on high stools to eat.

There are plenty more options at Bretaye – L’Hotel du Lac with a south-facing terrace and the Cookie Cafe for instance.

Auberge du Col de Soud Tel :  +41 24 495 26 40
L’Etable Tel : +41 24 498 40 06
Hotel du Lac de Bretaye Tel :  +41 24 495 21 92
Hotel Restaurant des Chaux Tel :  +41 24 498 11 87
Refuge de Frience Tel :  +41 24 498 14 26
Refuge de Solalex Tel :  +41 24 498 27 09
Refuge de Taveyanne Tel :  +41 24 498 19 47
Refuge de la Tour Tel :  +41 24 498 11 47
Refuge Giacomini Tel :  +41 24 498 22 95
Restaurant du Club House du Golf du Villars Tel :  +41 24 495 78 37
Restaurant du Col de Bretaye Tel :  +41 24 495 21 94
Restaurant du Lac des Chavonnes Tel :  +41 24 495 21 31
Restaurant du Roc d’Orsay Tel :  +41 24 495 28 14
Restaurant-Fromagerie Les Mazots Tel :  +41 24 492 10 23


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