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Skis and Skidoos: a trip to Villars, Switzerland

We were invited by London City Airport and Swiss Air to the ski resort of Villars – a favourite of A-listers but often overlooked by British skiers. Let’s face it, we weren’t going to turn down the chance of a trip to this beautiful but low-key resort. There was just one problem: we’d hadn’t been skiing before. The organisers assured us this wouldn’t be a problem…

Our group flew from London City Airport to Geneva with Swiss Air, and arriving at the bus station in Villars sur Ollon we were greeted by Guy – a beaming Villars Tourisme promotion manager who promised us a weekend of skiing, fondue and lashings of glüwhein. Definitely my kind of place. After a train and bus transfer, we were high in the Vaud Alps, ready for a (mostly) beginners day of skiing.

Villars may be one of the lesser-known ski resorts, but is by no means under-developed. It’s also extremely easy on the eye. Filled with traditional chalets and surrounded by impossibly beautiful scenery – it’s not hard to see why Europe’s elite (Formula One drivers, actors such as Gerard Depardieu and even a handful of Royal Family members) find Villars such an attractive holiday option. It’s also handily only an hour and a half drive from Geneva, but far enough away from the grey skies of London.

L'Arrivee Apres-ski, Villars Switzerland on GlobalGrasshopper.com

4pm and time for apres-ski

We had arrived in Villars just in time to experience a typical end to the resort’s day: apres-ski. Squeezing in to the cozy L’Arrivee bar with local skiers and ski instructors, we were plied with warming glüwhein (a traditional drink of red wine and spices), Swiss salami and a couple of glasses of the local Ollon Pinot Noir. L’Arrivee is just the kind of place you’d expect to find in the Swiss Vaud Alps – a pretty wooden chalet bar, adorned with authentic decorations and filled with good natured locals. It also serves food and drink at some of the cheapest prices around.

Skidoo Ride, Villars Switzerland on GlobalGrasshopper.com

Skidoo ride – surely the best way to get to a restaurant

Next stop was our early evening meal reservation, via a skidoo ride. We were dropped off by taxi at an unlit car park, from where we walked a few hundred metres into a snowy valley with only the moonlight to guide us. Turning a corner, we were met by the headlights of our transport.

Sitting on upturned plastic crates on a trailer pulled by the skidoo, we took a-once-in-a-lifetime journey through the snow-laden trees to Refuge du Solalex – a mountain hideaway that seems to sit in the middle of nowhere. Dinner – a typical meal of log fire cooked raclette, fondue and wild forest mushrooms, accompanied by the obligatory glass (okay, maybe five) of red wine.

Refuge du Solalex, Switzerland on GlobalGrasshopper.com

Morning sun, Villars Switzerland on GlobalGrasshopper.com

The next day we found ourselves at Col de Bretaye, skis in hand but slightly fuzzy headed from the evening before. Thankfully our instructor Andreas was wonderfully patient  – gently introducing us to the basics before picking up the pace and guiding us down increasingly steeper slopes. I found that it is definitely possible to feel both exhilarated and frustrated at the same time. How could I manage to turn on some occasions but not others..?

On the slopes, Villars Switzerland on GlobalGrasshopper.com

It’s not that steep, is it?

Getting comfortable on the snow isn’t always a feeling that comes easily, but when it does you feel pretty smug. As a group of mostly first-timers, we were thankful when our instructor said he was impressed with our progress. A light snowfall dusted the slopes while we ate lunch, which resulted in a completely different looking terrain for the afternoon. We continued where we had left off – moving on to a steeper slope that looked completely terrifying at the top, but of course much less so after having tackled (and survived) it.

Vaud Alps, Villars Switzerland on GlobalGrasshopper.com

I left Villars having been firmly bitten by the ski bug. Next time you book your skiing adventure, don’t overlook this underrated destination – with slopes perfect for both beginners and advanced skiers, beautiful scenery, plenty of fresh snow with a charming, anachronistic feel, Villars is one of those places that deserves a second look. Anyway if it’s good enough for Gerard Depardieu…

 A huge thank you to London City Airport, Swiss Tourism and Swiss Air for inviting, hosting and flying us over to gorgeous Switzerland! 

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Born in England, with a few family roots from Bavaria, and a heart in Scandinavia I've always been a bit of a restless soul. My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I've lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up over 40 countries on trips and living in Dublin, South East Asia and Australia. I'm a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, easy-on-the-eye travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian - from cloudberry liquors to Scandi Noirs. When not wandering the world, you'll find me walking my rescue dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Laines on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about returning to my all time favourite places in the world; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Thailand and the frozen landscapes of a wintry Iceland. Follow Becky on Twitter and Google+.


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