Villars is to the East and North of Montreux. The ski resort lies on a South facing mountain shelf with open views of the Alps from sunrise to sunset. In fine weather there is crystal clear light, and the mountains seemingly close enough to touch despite being across a valley some kilometres wide.
Above, to the North, and reached by a long cable car ride, are endless ski fields, woods and walks. In summer the trails, the pistes are full of helmeted mountain bikers clanking noisily away. One wonders if they have a terrible tinnitus.
Mountain bikers are a dreadful hazard to walkers as they appear silently behind you, have no warning bells, unlike cattle, and casual contact with them at full tilt would inflict painful injury. Are there annual fatality and serious injury statistics? In Switzerland, if cattle stray into your garden, the police officer you telephone asks you to describe their breed which requires observation, study, and identification skills.
If frightened or struck by a biker, could one identify him or her from their rapidly retreating and unnumbered bottoms? Male or female, probably.
But little more as they move so fast. They peddle with such doggedness that it seems unlikely that unless knocked off their mounts, they would actually be aware of a collision.
It is too late for Alpine flowers, but in Spring gentian, orchids, campanulas, and much else. Hares, foxes, chamois, roe deer, and more are said to abound but hide in hot weather. Their prints can be clearly be seen in muddy spots by the paths. A feature of these paths are simple but cleverly made ramps of welded ferro concrete rods for bicycles to cross fences where they replace conventional cattle grids.
The huge ski domain has well marked pistes, several chair and other lifts, and, happily, a few well placed and well managed alpage bistrots which provide very traditional dried meat, local cheese, and other welcome but savagely priced refreshments.
Local wines, less than CHF10 a bottle at the grocer are cranked up by factors of four and even five times which is not a plus for Swiss tourism.
As so often in the mountains in summer, clouds move in rapidly, as today, thunder rumbles, the view is obscured, and the rain sheets down. But the smile is quickly back, all is forgiven, and the uplifting mountains work their magic again before dusk.
And tomorrow, to the narrow dramatic Diablerets valley.
Then to open and less dramatic Chateau d'Oex, once the home of David Niven.
One wonders how this most imperturbable of les Vrai Anglais would have coped with the biker infestation.