Villars may no longer be in the Premier League of Swiss ski resorts, but is a pretty strong proposition for day trippers or people on a short break. It's handy for Geneva airport (allow an hour and a half) and is very close indeed for anyone staying in Lausanne or Montreux.
The local ski area gives access to a respectable 100kms, and is linked to Les Diablerets via a strange old two person chairlift: here's a nice write-up on the area via the Daily Mail. There's a certain quirkiness about the place; the lift pylons include quotes from Camus, de Beauvoir and...Woody Allen.
Skiing in the area has a fine history, and visiting today feels a bit like going to a museum of ski lifts. Cog railways, gondolas, slow chairs, fast chairs, T-bars, pomas...all are on view:
|(A short) T-bar linking Villars with Gryon's ski area|
The quickest entry into the ski area is to park at the Roc d'Orsay lift at the entrance to the village. (If you want to ski the Diablerets glacier you'd be best just to go there directly and park at the Col de Pillon. There are buses from Les Diablerets village, but the service is pretty limited.)
Avoid the Vers l'Eglise area if you dislike draglifts. Instead ski down to Les Diablerets village and have lunch at the Les Vioz restaurant at the foot of the main chairlift.
It's a fun area to explore, with skiing on a number of different mountains. The Croix des Chaux area above Gryon has some fine open slopes, and a long and beautiful run down through pastures and chalets to the village - around 1000m of descent. There's an annoying walk from the bottom to the gondola back up, but a more direct route to the lift is probably possible (visibility was not good on my visit).
|Croix des Chaux, 2000m|
|Foot of the slope at Gryon|
In March 2013, they have excellent snow conditions, and could certainly carry on longer than the 7 April closing date: the south facing nature of the pistes and low altitude do mean that this is probably never going to be a mecca for late season skiing however.
This week the British Ski Academy was holding a training camp, and a party of 40 Chinese skiers was in town. Apparently the Chinese have already overtaken the Dutch in visits to Switzerland. The Swiss tourist industry clearly has high hopes of further building its presence in the Asian market in the wake of its loss of market share to Austria and France.
On your way home, do make sure you take the exciting fast blue back from Bretaye to the telecabine.
There seems to be an ongoing debate about linking Les Diablerets with Chateau d'Oex to form a "mega resort", as well as uncertainty about the future of the Isenau area. If you want to explore the skiing there you'd probably be best driving straight to Diablerets rather than striking out from Villars.