Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland

Villars ♥♥ is decidedly less glamorous than other Alpine skiing resorts such as Zermatt or Chamonix or Kitzbuhel, but it is an excellent place to spend a week skiing, snow-walking and enjoying many other things that a holiday in Alps can offer.


Villars is an archetypal Alpine resort village, dominated by chalets, hotels and commercial enterprises that target skiing clientele (i.e., rental and repair shops, skiing gear boutiques, bars and restaurants). Quite picturesque. It sits at an altitude of over 1200 meters, reachable via a couple of narrow winding roads. For a person who does not drive on such roads habitually, it is a bit of a challenge to get to/from Villars, which contributes to the once-here-stay-here atmosphere. Especially since the village seemingly has all of the amenities for around-the-clock entertainment, including performances and the night scene. (A rail line connects Villars with Ollon down in the valley, but I cannot attest at frequency of that service).

The main skiing slopes “terminal”, Bretaye, is 600 meters above the village, accessible via a train line. If there is one major drawback of Villars, it’s this: The trains run no more frequently than every 15 minutes even during the peak morning hours, and take over twenty minutes to get to the top. You can spend upwards of half an hour just getting to the lifts. (There is an alternative route involving a bus and a gondola lift that takes about the same time, but deposits you at the top of a slope).

But once you are at Bretaye, the possibilities are endless, with dozens of lifts – button ones, t-bar ones, four-seaters, six-seaters, gondolas – and slopes of varying degree of difficulty. For those interested in exercise but not in skiing, there are miles and miles of trails for snow-walking. For those interested only in scenery and relaxation, there are strategically positioned bars and chalets, most with lounge chairs facing the most dramatic – or most peaceful – landscapes. And if you have been skiing, then at the end of your session you do not have to get onto the crowded train again, but instead can take a long and leisurely slope all the way back down to the village.

Nearby attractions

Les Bains de Lavey ♥♥ is an excellent spa complex located at the foot of the mountains. A large open-air pool is fed by nearby natural streams; various hydro-massage implements, jacuzzi lounges and different types of hot baths offer many modes of relaxation; the whirlpool, meanwhile, is a big hit with children. Private treatments are available. The spa can get somewhat crowded on weekends and when there is little snow on the slopes. Family ticket CHF 72.

Aquaparc ♥♥ is about 16 miles away (of which half is taken by the descent via mountain roads). The compact indoor waterpark can provide a fun diversion from skiing routine, with several good slides, kiddie playground and a wave pool. Not too overcrowded on our visit there, with minimal waits for any slide. If you are visiting without kids, you may want to instead spend time at no-less-excellent adults-only spa. Family ticket CHF 123.


Many things speak in favor of spending a skiing holiday at an all-inclusive resort, such as Club Med ♥♥♥. The particular one at Villars offers nice rooms, spacious environment that contains practically everything you’d need on a holiday, free drinks, unremarkable but nevertheless useful spa (with sauna, hammam and pool) and gym, various events, activities and shows, kids clubs for all ages, from little babies to teens, and, of course, extensive skiing and snowboarding instruction, either private or as part of the group. (Note that depending on your actual package, equipment rental and/or instruction may come at extra cost; private instruction is always for an additional fee).

The food service is extraordinary; lots of variety, nightly dinner themes, local specialties – all in abundance. The main buffet restaurant serves food three times a day, plus a mountain chalet allows for lunch breaks without returning to the hotel. A separate fondue restaurant meal can be had with a day-ahead reservation, but we did not hear overly positive reviews about that.

In addition, there is a daily apres-ski welcoming table with hot beverages (including mulled wine) and biscuits, and later an extensive pre-dinner snack bar. All drinks are naturally included.

Excellent overall organization, but be prepared for overwhelming prevalence of French language among both the guests and the stuff. One of the Club Med traditions is having staff members mingle with guests during meals, by sharing tables, which can be a chore if your French and their English is limited. (Thankfully, our knowledge of French is just enough to be able to hold small talk).

The hotel is situated smack in the middle of the village, providing easy access to its amenities. Last stay: 2008.

Places to Eat

On a previous short visit to Villars in Fall of 2006, we had lunch at Heiz Confiserie, located on the main street a few steps from the train station. Nice meal, as I recall.

Other notes for Switzerland