The 15 best ski resorts you can reach by train: how to get there and when to book tickets

Advice

In recent years taking the train to the slopes of Europe has become an increasingly popular choice for British skiers and snowboarders looking for a more enjoyable alternative to airport queues or long drives.

This year, however, Eurostar’s famous ski train has been chartered solely by a French tour operator, Travelski, and will be marketed as the Travelski Express. The train runs outbound to the Alps overnight on Fridays throughout the season, and back on Saturdays during the day. Tickets are now on sale, but can only be bought through Travelski as part of an inclusive package of train, transfer, accommodation and seven-day ski pass. The packages are only available to six resorts – La Plagne, Les Arcs (including Peisey-Vallandry), Les Menuires, Méribel, Tignes and Val d’Isère — rather than the usual 14 previously served by the Eurostar ski train.

On October 6, tickets for indirect winter rail journeys to the Alps went on sale, for travel dates between December 12, 2021 and January 2, 2022. Then, in early November tickets were released for journeys between January 3 and March 27, 2022.

These indirect journeys provide an alternative to the direct Travelski Express – giving skiers and snowboarders access not only to resorts on the direct route, but many more besides. These include Alpe d’Huez, Avoriaz and Les Gets in France, Sauze d’Oulx in Italy, and the Swiss resorts of Saas Fee and Zermatt – by using a combination of Eurostar to Paris and TGV from Paris to the Alps. Travellers can also travel from Paris by sleeper train to resorts such as Serre Chevalier in France and Claviere in Italy, or take high-speed services via Brussels to Cologne to take Alpen Express or NightJet sleeper trains to the ski slopes of Austria.

Travelling with a stopover each way in Brussels, skiers from the UK can also use the Thalys Neige, which runs direct, weekly, from December 25 to April 16, between Brussels to Moutiers, Aime and Bourg St Maurice.



Eurostar


The Travelski express replaces Eurostar’s ski train service this winter


Credit: Eurostar

The Alpen Express, accessed via Eurostar to Amsterdam, has announced that for 2021/22 it will only run on four dates, outbound on February 11, 18 and 25 and March 4, returning the following week in each case. It accesses nearly 100 of Austria’s top resorts.

Wherever the final destination travelling by train to the mountains has become an increasingly popular choice for skiers and snowboarders, as both the logistical and environmental benefits of train travel become more appealing to a variety of travellers, including families, groups and the budget savvy. 

Below we run through the best ski resorts to reach by rail, and how to do it. While indirect outbound tickets are on sale now, some Eurostar schedules have not been released yet, so travel back from the Alps on a Saturday in one day is not yet possible, but should be once Eurostar adds trains in the coming months. 

Morzine, France

Central to the vast 650km Portes du Soleil, Morzine is a resort with something for everyone. Chalet-style buildings give the village bags of ambience, and the lift system gives easy access to neighbouring Avoriaz, Les Gets and beyond. For eco-conscious train travellers, the resort has been awarded the prestigious Flocon Vert for its environmental steps. Also new this winter in the resort is night ski touring.

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Friday on the 19:01 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Stopover in a Paris hotel and next morning depart Paris-Lyon on the 10:29 TGV, to arrive in Cluses at 15:09; from there it’s 40 minutes by bus or taxi.

Rail journey time: 19 hours, 08 minutes, including a night in Paris.

Journey highlight: Gliding through the Arve valley on the approach to Cluses. 

How much? Return rail fares from £124 per adult.



Morzine


Morzine is part of the giant Portes du Soleil ski area

Les Arcs, France

Les Arcs’ four villages are part of the Paradiski, a huge 425km ski area that caters for all abilities. The villages, 1600, 1800, 1950 and 2000, offer convenient, often ski-in/ski-out access to the slopes – and with its upgraded, unique funicular railway. This winter daredevils can try the resort’s new zipline, which speeds from the Aiguile Rouge at 3,226m at speeds up to 130km/h. 

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Friday on the 19:45 Travelski Express to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 06:16. From there it’s a 35- to 45-minute transfer to Les Arcs’ villages.

Rail journey time: 9 hours, 31 minutes

Journey highlight: Direct overnight travel gives holidaymakers an extra day’s skiing.

How much? Return rail fares only as part of a Travelski package, from £620 per person, including accommodation and lift passes. 

Sauze d’Oulx, Italy

This relatively unheard of Italian resort forms part of the 400km Milky Way ski area, shared with neighbouring Sestriere and Claviere and is ideal for confident intermediates. It’s possible to cover miles and miles of terrain in a day, including many blissfully quiet runs. Sauze d’Oulx‘s village is a mixture of charming cobbled streets and rather more brash architecture, and has a lively après scene.

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Saturday on the 07:52 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 12:47 TGV to Oulx, arriving at 17:28. From there it’s 15 minutes by taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 36 minutes

Journey highlights: A ringside view of Lac du Bourget.

How much? Return rail fares from £124 per adult.

Val Thorens, France

Val Thorens‘ enviable position perched at 2,300m in the huge Trois Vallées ski area makes it a popular choice for British skiers and snowboarders. The resort has excellent beginner slopes and all the skiing that intermediates and experts could dream of, with 600km of slopes in total. There’s an abundance of stylish hotels, such as the new four-star Hotel Marielle. Starting this winter, there will be a new ski touring zone in the Borgne sector of the ski area, too. 

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Saturday on the 07:52 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 13:29 TGV to arrive Moutiers at 17:51. From there it’s 50 minutes by taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 59 minutes

Journey highlight: The varied scenery of the Tarentaise valley. 

How much? Return rail fares from £130 per adult.



val thorens


Val Thorens is Europe’s highest ski resort

Alpe d’Huez, France

A quick jaunt by train brings you to the heart of the Isere region, where Alpe d’Huez’s vast 250km ski area encompasses five villages, including the longest black run in Europe – La Sarenne. The terrain here will suit beginners through to advanced, and is dotted with cosy restaurants such as La Bergerie, at Villard Reculas – an ideal place for a coffee stop at the end of a powder run.  

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Saturday on the 10:22 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 14:43 TGV to arrive Grenoble at 17:46. From there it’s 50 minutes by taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 6 hours, 22 minutes

Journey highlight: Paris to Grenoble by TGV, through the French countryside. 

How much? Return rail fares from £124 per adult. 

Tignes, France

Tignes has a high proportion of ski-in/-ski-out accommodation in its higher villages, and an inviting array of traditional chalets at Les Brevières, its lowest. There are 300km of slopes to explore, which it shares with neighbouring Val d’Isère. Alternative activities include ice diving, ice climbing, snow tubing and Bun J Ride – a hybrid combination of a ski jump, bungee and a zip-line ride. From this winter, there’s a new overnight polar adventure, staying in a translucent lakeside dome under the stars. 

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Friday on the 19:45 Travelski Express to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 06:16. From there it’s a 40-minute transfer. 

Rail journey time: 9 hours, 31 minutes

Journey highlights: The views onto mountain villages in the Tarentaise valley.

How much? Return rail fares only as part of a Travelski package, from £620 per person, including accommodation and lift passes. 

Söll, Austria

The impressive SkiWelt region, of which the compact village of Söll forms a part, boasts 284km of ski runs dotted with 77 rustic Alpine huts and après bars. The views over the Wilder Kaiser mountain range are stunning and you can even ski at night, as well as enjoy some of the longest floodlit toboggan runs in Europe at Hexenritt and Mond.

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Friday on the 15:04 Eurostar to Brussels, arriving 18:05; take the 18:25 ICE from Brussels to Cologne, arriving 20:15; have dinner and take the 22:17 NightJet sleeper train to Kufstein, arriving 08:26; from there it’s about 25 minutes by bus or taxi.

Rail journey time: 16 hours 22 minutes

How much? Return rail fares from £244 per adult.



skiwelt


Söll forms part of the SkiWelt region


Credit:
CHRISTIAN KAPFINGER

St Martin de Belleville, France

Far less famous than its neighbours, St Martin de Belleville delivers the huge Trois Valleés ski area while providing an authentic, relaxed base. The picturesque Savoyard village has been adopted by innovative chalet providers, and its superb local restaurants such as the high-end Le Montagnard and the hearty L’Eterlou are helping create a loyal following.

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Saturday on the 07:52 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 13:29 TGV to arrive at Moutiers at 17:51. From there it’s 30 minutes by taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 59 minutes

Journey highlight: Snacks at high-speed in the TGV café bar.

How much? Return rail fares from £130 per adult.

St Anton, Austria

You can’t walk through St Anton’s charming centre without being impressed by the bustle and character. This is a resort with buzz, and part of the excitement stems from the fact that it’s blessed with some of the Alps’ finest expert off piste, in addition to 340km of pistes, as part of the giant Arlberg ski area. After a day on the slopes, friendly après huts such as Taps and Heustadl will have you singing and swaying from afternoon onwards.

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Friday on the 19:01 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Stopover in Paris and take the 07:26 TGV from Paris-Lyon, changing in Zurich onto the 12:40 RailJet to arrive at 15:03 in St Anton.

Rail journey time: 19 hours, 2 minutes, including a night in Paris.

Journey highlight: Passing by Lake Zurich and later through the Arlberg Valley.

How much? Return rail fares from £230 per adult.

Val Cenis, France

The piste map is a giveaway as to why French families love the ski area of Val Cenis Vanoise: an impressive 125km-strong network of green, blue and red runs spread across the terrain. There’s also a 900m toboggan run in resort and a pool and spa complex. Self-catering accommodation is good value here, with high quality residences at prices below the French average.

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Saturday on the 07:52 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 12:47 TGV to Modane, arriving at 16:49. From there it’s 30 minutes by taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 7 hours, 57 minutes

Journey highlights: Plunging into the French countryside from Paris.

How much? Return rail fares from £124 per adult



kids on train


Travelling by train to the slopes is particularly popular with families


Credit: Daniel Elkan

Serre Chevalier, France

Made up of four villages, Serre Chevalier is a friendly, unpretentious resort with access to some marvellously varied terrain and plenty of wooded runs. The 250km of pistes suit intermediates perfectly, with long reds and simple off piste. Alternative winter activities here include paintballing on snow, dog sledding and fat biking.

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Saturday on the 07:52 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 12:47 TGV to Oulx, arriving at 17:28. From there it’s 45 minutes by taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 36 minutes

Journey highlights: Relaxing in the TGV as France speeds by.

How much? Return rail fares from £142 per adult.

Peisey-Vallandry, France

Located right at the heart of the 425km Paradiski region, between its more famous neighbours, Les Arcs and La Plagne, this resort is made up of several charming villages with old farmhouse buildings converted into beautiful chalets and apartments amid a friendly, laid-back vibe – and a superb Nordic ski network of slopes too. This year the resort opens a new museum of mountain wildlife, too. 

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Friday on the 19:45 Travelski Express to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 06:16. From there it’s a 35-minutes transfer.

Rail journey time: 9 hours, 31 minutes

Journey highlight: Direct overnight for an extra day’s skiing.

How much? Return rail fares only as part of a Travelski package, from £620 per person, including accommodation and lift passes. 

Montgenèvre, France

Montgenèvre’s nursery slopes sweep down right into its pretty village centre, making it an attractive destination for families with young children. The resort also has plenty of intermediate-friendly terrain and links into the 400km Milky Way ski area, which includes Sestriere in Italy.

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Saturday on the 07:52 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 12:47 TGV to Oulx, arriving at 17:28. From there it’s 25 minutes by taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 36 minutes

Rail journey highlights: A ringside seat passing Lac du Bourget.

How much? Return rail fares from: £124 per adult.



montgenevre


It takes less than nine hours to reach Montgenevre by train

Les Gets, France

Part of the huge 650km Portes du Soleil, Les Gets is dotted with chocolate-box chalets that give it an enduring charm. You can ski to some wonderful mountain restaurants, such as the panoramic Grand Ourse on Mont Chéry and the new La Croix Blanche at the top of the Chavannes cable car. The resort has introduced electric snowmobiling for children, as well as a geocaching trail and chocolate-making workshops to add to its already family-friendly appeal. 

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Friday on the 19:01 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Stopover in a Paris hotel and next morning depart Paris-Lyon on the 10:29 TGV, to arrive in Cluses at 15:09; from there it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi.

Rail journey time: 19 hours, 08 minutes, including a night in Paris

Journey highlight: Gliding through the Arve valley on the approach to Cluses.

How much? Return rail fares from £124 per adult.

La Plagne, France

The 11 villages that make up the resort of La Plagne are dotted across some tantalising terrain, with much of the accommodation being ski-in/ski-out. There’s a vast range of activities here, and this winter the resort is introducing electric Moonbikes — a cross between a snow-scooter and a skidoo, ideal for exploring the terrain once the lifts close. You can also stay in a luxury converted snow groomer, under the stars at the top of the Arpette slopes. 

The journey: Depart London St Pancras on Friday on the 19:45 Travelski Express to Moutiers, arriving at 05:32. From there it’s a 50-minute transfer. 

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 47 minutes

Journey highlights: Overnight direct for the very first ski tracks.

How much? Return rail fares only as part of a Travelski package, from £620 per person, including accommodation and lift passes. 


The essentials

Useful resources for rail travel to the Alps

The new Rail Map of Europe 2nd edition (£12 from europeanrailtimetable.eu) is a fantastic companion for planning rail journeys. Change stations in Paris (Gare du Nord to Gare du Lyon) with a pre-booked taxi from companies such as City Airport Taxis (city-airport-taxis.com) or Paris Private Cab (parisprivatecab.com).

How to book your tickets?

Plan your trip and book your tickets through rail booking agencies such as Trainseurope (trainseurope.co.uk), International Rail (internationalrail.com) and Ffestiniog Travel (ffestiniogtravel.com). Alternatively use online ticket agents such as Rail Europe (raileurope.co.uk) and Trainline (trainline.com). Travelski Express rail-ski packages are booked directly with Travelski (uk.travelski.com/travelski-express). 

Further information

The three major rail companies skiers and snowboarders need to be familiar with are Eurostar (eurostar.com), OUI.sncf (oui.sncf.com) and Deutsche Bahn (bahn.co.uk). For more information about NightJet sleeper trains, see the NightJet website (nightjet.com).

Useful guides on journeys into Europe and the Alps can be found at Seat 61 (seat61.com) and Ski Flight Free (skiflightfree.org).

Daniel Elkan is founder of snowcarbon.co.uk, an independent guide to how to travel to ski resorts by train. The website has train journey schedules up to one year in advance, ski packages with rail travel included, detailed guidance on independent travel, videos and by-skier-for-skier stories of ski holidays by train.

Reader Service: Planning on travelling to the continent? Make sure you book European travel insurance before you go.

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