Who doesn’t love the idea of a relaxed journey to the slopes by train? No airport queues, tedious transfers or long drives – just great scenery all around. But although ski holidays by train might be increasingly popular with skiers wanting to make the journey part of the holiday, one rail travel option often gets overlooked – the Paris stopover.

ski holidays by train

Sit back and enjoy the views

The idea is that instead of leaving the UK in the morning and travelling straight through to resort, you leave the afternoon or evening before, staying a night in Paris. Then you take one of the many TGV trains that depart Paris for the Alps.

By doing this, you have the chance to see a bit of Paris, and get to resort earlier, while most skiers are still travelling.  In some cases, arriving in resort for midday means that you can spend a cheeky extra afternoon on the slopes too.

ski holidays by train

An early start could give you an extra afternoon on the slopes

As someone who has spent many years organising ski holidays by train for friends, I’m surprised that this way of travelling never occurred to me sooner.  It wasn’t difficult to persuade friends to try it, once I’d assured them that we could transfer to a hotel, only metres from the our next-morning departure station of Gare de Lyon. I recently filmed a journey travelling by train with a big group of friends.

For skiers with holidays starting on a Sunday in the popular Tarentaise region of the French Alps, stopover journeys are particularly useful because there is no Sunday daytime Ski Train service.

There are so many TGV trains that leave from Paris that this kind of journey makes sense for a whole host of ski resorts in France, Switzerland Italy and Austria. Here are some great destinations for ski holidays by train travelling from Paris.

La Rosiere, France

La Rosiere ski area

Perched high up in the Tarentaise Valley at 1850 metres, La Rosière’s slopes straddle the border with Italy, linking with the Italian resort of La Thuile to make a good-sized, sunny, relaxed ski area known as the Espace San Bernardo. The village itself is in charming Savoyard style, with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and south-facing terraces upon which to linger over après ski in the evening sun.

At 150km, the skiable area of La Rosière is actually relatively small, but certainly sufficient for a week’s skiing. The terrain has good variety, with tree runs, a superb snow park and good off-piste, as well as an ungroomed ‘freeride’ area. La Rosière is particularly good for families and beginners – the village is small and convenient, the nursery slopes are excellent, and progressing from them and onto the blues is easy.

Paris-stopover rail journeys: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris. Next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 11:48; or the 07:49 TGV, arriving 12:51; or the 09:49 TGV, arriving 14:48. From there it’s 45 minutes by bus or taxi.

Les Contamines, France

Ski lifts, Les Contamines

You may well not have heard of Les Contamines but those that come here love it. Tucked away between the famous resorts of Chamonix and Megeve, lovely Les Contamines has remained under the radar.  While it’s not the best resort for total beginners, it’s ideal for intermediates. The scenery here is stunning: you ski with an unparalleled view of Mont Blanc on one side of the mountain and a vista into Haute Luce on the other.

Second-weekers will gain confidence on Les Contamines’ wide, gently rolling pistes, and there is some fantastic, easy, off-piste skiing between pistes.  The resort has ice climbing, dog sledding and horse-drawn carriage rides. The quaint village is unspoiled, with pretty little wooden chalets dotting the gently sloping hillside, along with a fine old church and a weekly market in the village square. Nightlife in Les Contamines is very quiet, but the low-key bars and restaurants are friendly and welcoming. On the slope there are some wonderful, family-run mountain huts for lunch.

Paris-stopover rail journeys: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris. Next morning take the 07:11 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at St Gervais at 11:33; from there it’s 20 minutes by bus or taxi.

Saas Fee, Switzerland

Saas-Fee Night - ski holidays by train

Beautiful, car free Saas-Fee’s village, up at 1800m, is full of old world charm. The slopes reach a staggering top height of 3500m and are unsurprisingly snowsure, with beautiful views. The resort is home to the world’s highest revolving restaurant, too.  The 100km of piste will suit beginners and intermediates alike, and this is a great place to take a novice to fall in love with skiing, such is the magnificence of the surroundings.

There are a lot of draglifts, however, because Saas Fee has glacier terrain and the glacial crevasses limit the off-piste. There are also activities including ice climbing, tobogganing, winter walking and paragliding. Food on the mountain is excellent, and in the village there are plenty of classy boutiques and stylish hotels between the traditional buildings with a great buzz in the evening. The restaurants (including a Michelin-starred one) are highly rated, with menus influenced by Italian cuisine.

Paris-stopover rail journeys: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris. Next morning take the 07:57 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Visp at 14:04. From there it’s 50 minutes by connecting bus.

Val Thorens, France

Val Thorens ski resort village

Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Western Europe, perched a lofty 2300m at the top of the huge, 600km Three Valleys ski area. Indeed, at this altitude, even the kettles take longer to boil!  For a purpose-built resort, many of the buildings are wood-clad and chalet style. Here you get true ski-in, ski-out convenience and snowsure slopes. Neighbouring Les Menuires further down the valley and Méribel and Courchevel over in the next valley, are easily accessible: this is a place where you can point your skis in any direction and enjoy epic runs.

The innovative, slope maintenance service has created the ‘Ski Flux’ system, which gives skiers real-time information about how busy the runs are. You can try ice-climbing here, and Val Thorens has introduced fatbiking too. The resort hits big on the après and has plenty of life in the evenings. Recent years have seen an influx of upmarket hotels, restaurants and Michelin-starred chefs.

Paris-stopover rail journeys: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris. Next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Moutiers at 11:07; or the 07:49 TGV, arriving 12:12; or the 09:49 TGV, arriving 14:12. From there it’s 45 minutes by bus or taxi.

 

St Anton, Austria

Skiing in St Anton, Austria

In the Austrian Tirol is the legendary resort of St Anton, much loved for its generous and regular snowfall, epic expert terrain, and its vibrant après ski – arguably Austria’s best. This winter, three new cable car systems will connect all ski resorts on the Arlberg – turning it into Austria’s largest inter-connected ski area with a total of 305 kilometres of marked runs and 87 lift and cable car systems. The Arlberg-Arena will therefore extend from St. Anton in Tyrol to Lech and Zürs, as well as Warth and Schröcken in Vorarlberg.

The resort village – attractively lined with handsome hotels and wooden chalets, has a cosmopolitan, international feel. Most of the hotels in St Anton are clustered around the central area right by the shops and the nightlife, and five restaurants are Gault Millau recognised. The terrain is generally suited to experts and intermediates, and its abundant off-piste makes it a magnet for powderhounds and pro freeskiers and snowboarders. The resort has huge spa complex, the Arlberg Well, and a fascinating History Museum, which traces the development of the sport.

Paris-stopover rail journeys: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris. Next morning take the 07:23 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Zurich, change there and take the 12:40 RailJet train, arriving at St Anton at 15:03.

Meribel, France

ski chalet, Meribel ski resort

It’s easy to fall in love with Méribel. Sitting in the middle valley of the vast 600km Three Valleys ski area, surrounded by 150km of its own varied and fun pistes, plus significant off-piste options. The lifts spring from the middle of the village in all directions, making Méribel a great base from which to explore:  Courchevel to the east, Val Thorens to the south, St Martin and Les Menuires to the west and southwest.

This immense convenience does mean that Méribel can be a bit of a thoroughfare at busy periods. But with 600km to play with, it’s easy to scoot away to ski in another resort, just by taking one or two lifts. Méribel is unusual for a purpose-built resort in that it was made in a traditional chalet style from its conception in 1938. There’s also the rustic traditional Savoyard village of Les Allues, with it’s old farmhouses. Then the convenience of quiet Méribel Village, the hotels, apartments and chalets in Méribel centre (1450m) or the abundant apartments in Méribel Mottaret, located at 1750m.

Paris-stopover rail journeys: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris. Next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Moutiers at 11:07; the 07:49 TGV, arriving 12:12; or the 09:49 TGV, arriving 14:12. From there it’s 20-30 minutes by bus or taxi.

Serre Chevalier, France

tree skiing in Serre Chevalier, Winter, France

Despite its extensive, snowsure slopes, Serre Chevalier isn’t very well known. It’s located in the Southern Alps, with a good value friendly, laid-back, south-of-France atmosphere, and stunning views of glaciers and the border with Italy. There are three villages, plus the 1200m town of Briançon – the highest in France. Eighty per cent of the slopes are above 2000 metres. With a high treeline, the terrain is excellent in all kinds of weather.

Keen piste cruisers will enjoy the sense of travel and variety, and it’s fun to ski down to Briançon for the views over the historical town, with its Roman origins and UNESCO city walls. It’s a great resort for families or mixed-ability groups, with several nursery slopes and a great variety of pistes for all. There’s plenty for non-skiers here too, including a big thermal spa. One highlight is the Grotte du Glace, a 100m long ice cave filled with magnificent ice sculptures. The resort has also introduced fatbiking, ice-climbing, ice-driving and snow-kiting.

Paris-stopover rail journeys: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris. Next morning take the 06:29 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Oulx at 11:23; or the 10:41 TGV, arriving 15:43. From there it’s 50 minutes by bus or taxi.

La Plagne, France

La Plagne ski resort, France - ski holidays by train

One of the most diverse areas in the Alps, due to the seven altitude resorts and four traditional villages that comprise it, La Plagne is part of the huge 425km Paradiski area. The skiing ranges from glacial powder runs at 3250m to tree-lined cruisers lower down, and suits mileage hungry intermediates particularly, because there is so much terrain to carve and cruise. The double-decker Vanoise Express cable car links La Plagne to Peisey-Vallandry and Les Arcs, travelling high across a deep gorge.

Although some of the developments have an odd urban feel, much of the accommodation is truly ski in and out. The Savoyard villages, such as Montchauvin, have bags of charm and cute chalets and hotels. There are plenty of sporty non-ski activities too, including the famous 1992 Olympic bobsleigh course, where you can choose between a speed luge, bob racing, bobcraft or the ‘Olympic experience’. There’s also ice-climbing, fatbiking, paragliding and airboarding too. The resort is very family friendly, with  a brilliant festival at Easter, called Sublicimes, featuring music and activities around six summits in the resort, with a huge ice grotto, pop-up hot tubs, magicians and other performers.

Paris-stopover rail journeys: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris. Next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Aime la Plagne at 11:27; or the 07:49 TGV, arriving 12:29; or the 09:49 TGV, arriving 14:28. From there it’s 20 – 40 minutes to the resort’s villages by bus or taxi.

Sauze d’Oulx, Italy

Sauze d'Oulx mountain cafes

Part of the 400km Milky Way area, the village of Sauze is perched just over the border of France and accessed via little Oulx station on the TGV route between Paris and Turin. Sauze d’Oulx was known as Ibiza-on-snow during the 80s, which attracted the British 18–30 brigade. However, these days the clientele is far more refined, including local Italians from Turin, who come for the sunny open slopes, long vertical drop, and wide range of good, tree-lined cruising pistes.

The nightlife is still vibrant and the village has a vibrant ambience in the evenings, but now is without the boozy hoards. There are some great restaurants in the village and on the mountain too, and you are never far from an expertly created cappucino. The resort suits intermediates best, and more advanced skiers will soon want to explore beyond the local slopes of Sauze towards Sestriere, with the black runs at the top of Mount Motta or the World Cup Kandahar Slalom, while snowboarders will love the ‘Double Black’ district of the Rio Nero valley.

Paris-stopover rail journeys: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris. Next morning take the 06:29 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Oulx at 11:23; or the 10:41 TGV, arriving 15:43. From there it’s 50 minutes by bus or taxi.

La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand, France

La Clusaz ski resort village, France, Winter holiday

La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand are two charming villages that share excellent slopes on the same ski pass, across five mountains – located nearby Lake Annecy. The pistes are predominantly intermediate level, and it’s a great place for beginners to gain confidence too. There are also some fabulous off-piste areas and the resort gets excellent snow due to its local microclimate.

Both villages have bags of alpine charm: La Clusaz is better for those who want to party, while Le Grand Bornand is more family focussed. Non-skiers can go tobogganing, husky sledding or ice skating, and there’s an excellent aqua park in resort. After the slopes, you can try the Serge Blanco Balneotherapy centre, the first alpine centre above 850 metres, with a huge pool, hydro-massage jets, sauna and hammam. Both resorts have good village and mountain restaurants, and since Reblochon cheese was born in Le Grand Bornand, you’ll find it in abundance here.

Paris-stopover rail journeys: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris. Next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Annecy at 11:16. From there it’s 35 minutes by bus or taxi to either village.

Ski holidays by train booking and information

Voyages SNCF (Tel: 0844 848 5 848)

Loco2 – Europe by train

Ffestiniog Travel (Tel: 01766 772 030)

The new European Rail Map (£10.99 + p&p from www.europeanrailtimetable.eu)

More information about rail travel to ski resorts can be found at independent guide, Snowcarbon.

Hotels in Paris near Gare de Lyon

Hôtel Bel Oranger (+33 1 43 42 15 79)
Hotel Palym (+33 1 43 43 24 48)
Hotel Viator (+33 1 43 43 11 00)