Travel Guide to Villars, Switzerland

Villars, in the striking Vaudoises Alps, is full of character and tradition. Yet time hasn't stood still: the place pulls off its old-world charm and old-fashioned aura to match with a healthy snowboarding culture.

Villars, in the striking Vaudoises Alps, is full of character and tradition. Yet time hasn't stood still: the place pulls off its old-world charm and old-fashioned aura to match with a healthy snowboarding culture.

The resort rests on a sunny shelf at 1,300m just 90 minutes from Geneva airport, and the scenery is genuinely dramatic. A historic old railway, which begins in the valley chairlift link with the resort of Les Diablerets (1,200m), which in turn has its own linked area high on the Diablerets Glacier (Glacier 3000).

Altogether there are 120km of predominantly intermediate terrain in the area - wide, rolling, well-groomed alpine boulevards. From Bretaye there are chairs going to Grand and Petit Chamossaire, having some wide, open and sunny cruising runs, while another lift brings skiers to Roc d'Orsay to meet the gondola coming up from town. On the eastern wing, a number of lifts take skiers to Chaux de Conches and Chaux Ronde, where another batch of easy runs radiate in just about any direction. At La Rasse you'll find a link with Les Chaux, which is primarily accessed by gondola from the village of Barboleuse. The link with Les Diablerets (named after the local 'Little Devils' peaks) is the two-way Perche-Conche double-chair. Les Diablerets itself is a short bus ride away from the mammoth cable-car up from Col de Pillon to Cabane. Another cable-car completes the journey to Scex Rouge at 2,971m.

It's worth seeking out the restaurant at the Lac des Chavonnes It's a bit of a schlep from the Bretaye crest but the croute aux champignons is delectable (only open in high season). The Refuge de Frience at Alpe des Chaux dishes out freshly smoked local trout. The Col de Soud is a wonderful old chalet restaurant with some spectacular glacier views.

You can find  funparks at Bretaye and Les Chaux. The park above Bretaye stretches from 2,000m to 1,700m. The Les Diablerets glacier has one of the largest summer snowparks in Europe, including half-pipes, tables, bumps and a boardercross course.

There's also tobogganing, ice skating and curling, plus tennis and badminton at Tennis de Villars. You can also enjoy bowling and billiards, swimming and walking, of course.

The Hotel du Golf provides Lac Leman perch and char-grilled meats in the Au Feu de Bois restaurant. The gourmet Hotel Alpe Fleurie draws in locals with fondues bourguignonnes and Chinese dishes. The Hotel Renardiere makes succulent Pyrenean lamb and Simmental beef. The favorite dish at the Vieux-Villars is raclette cooked on a charcoal grill. Le Sporting ) specializes in pizzas and grills.

Despite Villars' charming, old-world ambience, it's no slump when it comes to nightlife. El Gringo's supplies the main disco action, Le Sporting and L'Alchimiste have regular live bands, and Charlie's has a replica of a crashed aircraft penetrating the ceiling. Bowling-Billiard offers bowling, billiards and snooker till 2am. If you like to hear yourself talk, try the bar at the Pare.

Recommended accommodations are the grand five-star Pare, having its own ski slopes, and the four-star Bristol, with a magnificent view from every room. The Hotel Eurotel Victoria offers charming decor, a good location and gourmet cuisine. Further down the scale, the handsome chalet-style Renardiere, renovated in 2003, has cozy rooms, a great restaurant and bar, and is only 150m from the lifts.

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Graciela Sholander
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Yovita Siswati
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Chris Stonecipher
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