France is famous for gorgeous glaciers of snow, and genuine
slopeside villages. The French basically invented “après ski” so you
know there will be worthy wine and cheese at the end of your turns.
Villard De Lans in the western foothills of the French Alps has just
the right combination of panoramic peaks and a sublime ski setting
with clusters of cute, colorful chalets. Southwest of Grenoble
(32-kilometers), this beautiful French hamlet in the heart of the Vercors Nature Park Region is an alpine amusement park.
Skiers can connect from Villard de Lans to Correncon and Vercors – all tolled 125-kilometers of skiing and 27 lifts including a six-passenger cable car from Villard. The summit elevation is 2,050-meters with just over 1,000-meters of vertical, not quite Mont Blanc at 4,810-meters – the highest in France, but the average amateur skier will find plenty of terrain in the Vercors massifs. All this skiing is on one convenient pass, with assured snow thanks to 251 cannons blasting out artificial flakes (just in case Mother Nature needs a boost), and there’s a ski school if you’re not yet ace. There are no insanely steep descents like the nail-biting Aiguille du Midi, however fantastic scenery will keep you out and about burning calories for the fine French cuisine at the conclusion – tell you mates you’ll race to the base for raclette (potent melted cheese).
Villard de Lans may not roll off your French-speaking tongue like Les 3 Vallées, Espace Killy or Courchevel, but it is one of the top ten French resort destinations with over 20,000 tourist beds. Many a top ski racer has originated from Villard, and its spectacular hilly landscape has made the map of the Tour de France.
If you haven’t had your fill of fresh air, or succumbed to a French cuisine coma at one of the wonderful French bistros, you can mush huskies on a dog sleigh ride or skate on the public ice rink – where you might slide into a bunch of bears (the local hockey team “Ours”). Ludi Gard, the host site of the 1968 Olympic Luge, is located in Villard de Lans. Villard also has a big cross country ski center if Nordic is more your speed than schussing downhill. Parents traveling with wee ones in tow should go to Ribambel Village for an entertaining family snowshoe adventure, as you tromp through the forest you will learn the legend of Ribambel and the little people.
Villard de Lans has French charm and frequent snowfall. While you may encounter wildlife with four legs, especially at La Tanière Enchantée where live bears are on display in their habitat, don’t come for wild nightlife as there’s just one discothèque and most of the play happens by day.