Depending on the season, the northeastern corner of Provence can be two different worlds. In winter, the sheep and shepherds find warmer pastures, leaving the snowy heights to horned mouflons, chamois and the perfectly camouflaged ermine. The villages where shepherds came to summer markets are battened down for the long, cold haul, while modern conglomerations of Swiss-style chalet houses, sports shops and nightclubs come to life around the ski lifts. The seasonal dichotomy is especially evident in towns like Colmars-les-Alpes and Barcelonnette.
The Alpes-Maritimes make up much of northeastern Provence, encompassing much of the magnificent Parc National du Mercantour, which runs south of Barcelonnette to the Italian border villages of Tende, Breil-sur-Roya and Sospel.