The popular ski-resort Vars, which is composed of 4 small villages, lies north of the second largest skiing region Forêt Blanche in the southern Alps. The older districts, which were formed from earlier hamlets, still show the original mountain villages’ roots. Saint Marcellin was the first village and is therefore the oldest. Sainte Marie came to be the gateway to the ski-region, for the first tourist facilities such as lifts and hotels emerged here. The authentic ski-village Sainte Catherine, where the granaries used to be located, is most notably regarded as having high levels of sunshine nowadays.
At an altitude of 1850 meters, Les Claux is Vars’ newest district and at the same time the main station. Here, surrounded by the larch forest, modern comforts meet traditional architecture with a homely flair. In addition to this Les Claux provides a connection to most of the ski-slopes. It is also possible to directly access the ski-region from Sainte Marie. Every district shares the spectacular backdrop of abundant larch forests and the surrounding summits around Vars.
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The 116 slopes in the ski-region Forêt Blanche provide a wide variety of suitable ski-runs for winter sportsmen and women of all levels and which, for the most part, run through picturesque larch forests. As the network of slopes almost reach an altitude of 3000m, ski-tourists can enjoy ideal snow conditions during the whole season, whereas Vars’ climate, however, seems to be slightly mediterranean. Beginners can look forward to more than 100 easy, intermediate and practise slopes in the domains of the ski resorts Vars and Risoul, which together form the Forêt Blanche skiing area. Two special zones for beginners are also located directly by the station in Les Claux.
Vars’ slope area, on the other hand, is a real mekka for seasoned professionals and winter sports enthusiasts. Those who are looking for a real challenge, should not pass up the chance to ski on the high speed slope „Kilomètre Lancé“ (KL) on the Pic de Chabrières summit. With a length of 1.4km and a partial incline of 98%, this alpine highlight requires a fair bit of courage. The current speed record lies at 243.9 km/h. Skiers over 6 years of age who nonetheless brave the slope, are rewarded with a certificate at the end.
The mountain ranges l'Eyssina und Chabrières are the second starting point for top skiers, and have several challenging off-piste possibilities to offer, like, for instance, the freeride slopes „Y“ , „Entonnoir“, „La Virgule“, „Petit Col“ or „La Banane“ which have an incline of 30-50%. Generally freeriders can reach the unprepared slopes in just under an hour on foot.
Even avid snowboarders are well taken care of in Vars. The „Vars Park“ is not just 1 snowpark, as you might mistakenly think, but rather a collection of 6 different Fun-Zones. The Park de l’Eyssina which occupies 8 hectares is for slopestyle of all levels and has a boardercross course. The Kid Park is for young snowboarders from the age of 3. The Girly Park is for female up-and-coming snowboarders. The Ecrins Park is also available in the evening. The Totem Park has a spectacular Indian and Wild West design. And last but not least there is the Escondus Park, which is popular among advanced freestylers. For anyone who is still not satisfied, there are two further snowparks in Risoul and, most notably, 2 halfpipes, one of which is 150m high.
The cross country ski tracks around the small mountain lake „Lac du Refuge Napoléon“ or those in the direction of the „Col de Vars“ pass are particularly recommendable. Vars offers a total of around 10 kilometers of cross country trails for all levels of difficulty.
As far as the junior skiers are concerned, the range in Vars leaves nothing to be desired. Young holiday tourists are well looked after in the several nurseries and creches. The regional ski-schools also offer skiing courses for those aged 3 and above, snowboarding courses for those aged 7 and above and snowshoe hikes for those aged 3 and above. On top of this, skipasses are free for young holiday guests below the age of 5. Families with over 4 persons can even save a collective 10% per pass, provided that the passes are bought together and are valid for 6 days or more.
Both young and old ski-tourists can also look forward to the diverse range of leisure facilities away from the slopes. For instance those who enjoy venturing on the hillside with a sledge, can ride the toboggan in a group or by themselves. Besides two normal sledging slopes, the family-friendly ski-resort offers many options of toboganning in a group. Once a week the sledge-fans gather after the pistes close at the Chabrières gondola’s mountain station, to then begin a 2km long sleigh ride together. A helmet is obligatory for children and recommended for adults. The sledges must also be equipped with metal breaks – suitable models can be borrowed in the many sports shops in Vars Les Claux.
Ski-tourists can also look forward to a special sledging experience with the „Snake Gliss.“ Similar to a snake or a train of sledges, participants slide downhill on sledges connected to one another. A toboggan guide is sat right at the front and guides the sledge train in adventurous curves down the mountain.
A snowmobile tour, that is advertised for children from 5 years of age and above, skiing in the evening with floodlights, dog-sledding trips, a snowshoe hike or a round-flight with a helicopter over the sensational mountain landscape promise plenty action for young and old alike.
Likewise ski-tourists need not fear any boredom in Vars Les Claux itself. An ice rink, an outdoor bouncy castle with a climbing wall and a play area with a mini-golf course and a bouncy castle await young holiday guests. Older guests can relax in the several spas in the communal bathhouse and spoil themselves with massages, spa and beauty treatments. The numerous restaurants, bars and the cinema are the perfect way to spend a relaxed evening.
Special Tip: An igloo-village is located in Peynier’s woods and has a total of 6 igloos for 2-4 persons. Those who stay in this unusual village, that is only accessible by snowshoe, can expect a pleasant dinner in the communal igloo after a nightly walk, followed by a special kind of overnight stay.