News from the snow
Vars shares the giant Foret Blanche ski area with neighbouring Risoul, one of the most affordable of the giant French ski regions. Whilst Risoul is a major British destination, Vars has a longer history and a predominantly French feel. Vars is situated on the other side of the Pic de Chabrièresr to Risoul and claims to enjoy 300 days of sunshine a year. The resort is divided in to four bases, although the original centre, Les Claux (often just known as Vars), is by far the largest and has the lion's share of facilities. Its 1900m altitude makes it one of the higher resorts in the Alps too, a particular strength given the southerly latitude of the area compared to many of the other well known French resorts. Les Claux is made up of a mixture of concrete blocks and traditional chalet designs. Smaller settlements are at Sainte Catherine, Sainte Marie and Saint Marcellin, all but Sainte Catherine have lifts and runs down to the edge of the village.
Vars has been a predominantly domestic destination resort until recently, it shares the largest ski area in the Southern French Alps with neighbouring Risoul, and has the more interesting part. The main Vars station is made up of a mixture of concrete blocks and traditional chalet designs. There are many good restaurants and the nightlife can be very lively, especially at weekends.
Intermediates will get the most pleasure from the Foret Blanche however, with long, fast 'motorway' pistes joining Risoul and Vars, some reaching a knee shattering eight kilometres (five miles) in length. There are rather more runs on the Vars side including some excellent swooping reds down to the villages.
Vars does have the tougher runs in the area, including a notorious mogul run down to the resort. There are about a dozen trails graded black in total, the thoughest is generally agreed to be Cuni. Freeriders will enjoy the powder bowls at the top of the ski area after a fresh fall.
The resort has a speed skiing course, open every day of the season, allowing users to reach up to 160 kilometres per hour (100 mph). Accessed via the Crévoux chair, the course has been designed by speed skiing professionals.
The resort also has a permanent parallel slalom course which is used for 'boarder cross races and offers regular shows and demonstrations from freestylers and 'boarders.
Family friendly facilities include an ice rink, cinema and horse riding. There are also plenty of family friendly and reasonably priced places to eat.
There are more than 20 bars to choose from. For occasional live music in try the piano bar Le Gruate in the Hotel Les Escondus. Nightclubs open to the early hours include Le Lem, Le Lynx and Le Look.
In the evenings, there are regular night-time snowboard jump competitions.