Train-travel to ski resorts is fun for families. No more long drives or cramped plane journeys; instead, with scenery gliding by, children can play games and stretch their legs, and parents can relax. Rail-ski website Snowcarbon’s new film shows how children make the train journey part of the holiday, and here Snowcarbon Founder Daniel Elkan picks some of the best family resorts by train.
1. Sauze d’Oulx, Italy
Sauze d’Oulx, with its cobbled village and historical centre, makes a great base for families. The ski school has a good reputation and the 400km ski area is dotted with affordable, excellent restaurants, with plenty of character, such as the wonderful Ciao Pais. Prices for accommodation and food are very reasonable, with an increasing number of places run by British families who have moved here.
Example journey: Depart St Pancras on the 08:54 Eurostar, change in Paris and take the 14:41 TGV, to arrive at Oulx at 19:21. From there it is 10 minutes by taxi.
2. Avoriaz, France
Avoriaz’ car-free village is located at the centre of the 650km Portes du Soleil. The surrounding terrain has easy runs for those learning to ski, along with plenty of blues and reds for intermediates. There’s a dedicated “Village des Enfants” with childcare for children aged three upwards and a team of 100 instructors who adapt activities for youngsters. There’s also the Aquariaz, a huge tropical aqua park, with water slides, wave machines and relaxing spas.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras on the 17:31 Eurostar to Paris-Nord, change station and take the 22:56 sleeper train from Paris-Austerlitz to Cluses, arriving 08:20. From there it is a 45-minute bus or taxi ride.
3. Les Arcs, France
Part of the 425km Paradiski area, Les Arcs’ five villages access plenty of varied terrain, with gentle blue runs at high altitude. In Arc 1800, there’s the new Mille8 area, with dedicated beginner slopes, an experiential toboggan fun and a spa and swimming complex. And Arc 1950, with its accommodation located right on the slopes, is about as ski-in-ski-out as you can get.
Journey by train: Depart on the 09:39 Eurostar Ski Train from London St Pancras, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 18:52. From there it is a 7-minute transfer by funicular to Arc 1600, with connecting buses to the other villages.
4. Meribel, France
Meribel’s position at the heart of the huge 600km Three Valleys area makes it a five-star location for intermediate skiers, with the runs at Saulire a particular highlight. Families can thrive here, with good beginner pistes above Rond Pont and Meribel Village in particular. Children will enjoy the new Inuit Village and Moon Wild nature trail too, and there’s a good range of ski schools, including ESF, New Generation and Marmalade.
Journey by train: Depart on the 09:39 Eurostar Ski Train from London St Pancras, arriving at Moutiers at 18:14. From there it is a 25-minute transfer.
5. Le Grand Bornand, France
You may not have heard of Le Grand Bornand, one of the Lake Annecy Ski Resorts, but it is one of the Alps’ most charming villages, and an excellent destination for families. Set in the beautiful Aravis mountain range with ski areas well suited to beginners, it has fabulous cruising at Beauregard, as well as plenty of terrain for intermediates. There’s also sledging, ice-skating, and aqua-centres with indoor and outdoor heated pools.
Travel by train: depart London St Pancras on the 07:55 Eurostar to Paris-Nord, change station and take the 12:45 TGV to Annecy, arriving 16:29. From there it is a 35-minute bus or taxi ride.
6. Les Gets, France
From the cute road-train that shuttles skiers around the village to the special family events, it’s clear that Les Gets is a resort that has children at heart. The special beginners ski area, ‘Espace de Mappys’, has a gentle slope with two moving carpets. Close by, the Mauve Milka ski run has child-friendly guides to mountain flora and fauna. The resort is part of the vast 600km Ported du Soleil ski area, and the local slopes, at Mont Chery, are consistently blissfully quiet.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras on the 17:31 Eurostar, change in Paris and take the 22:56 Corail Lunea sleeper train which arrives at Cluses station at 08:15. From there it is a 25-minute taxi or bus ride.
7. Montgenevre, France
The almost traffic-free village and huge beginner area, with gentle slopes that run down to the centre of the village make this a wonderful option for families. There’s an array of cafes and restaurants that overlook the slopes, so meeting up for lunch after lessons is easy. The lack of lift queues is another bonus in this friendly resort, and piste-hungry skiers can head over to explore the rest of the 400km Milky Way ski area.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras on the 09:31 Eurostar, change in Paris and take the 14:41 TGV train which arrives at Oulx station at 19:21. From there it is a 25-minute taxi or bus ride.
8. Verbier, Switzerland
Verbier’s varied ski terrain mean that families of all levels have options here. There’s a large nursery slope at Les Esserts, and bundles of intermediate and advanced slopes too. For toddlers, there’s non-ski nursery, Les Schtroumpfs located in Les Moulins, which accepts children from three months old. You can go dog sledding with huskies and there is also a St Bernard’s museum in Martigny, en route by train, making a lovely visit for children.
Travel by train: depart London St Pancras on the 17:31 Eurostar to Paris-Nord, stopover at a hotel by Gare de Lyon and next morning take the 08:02 TGV to Martigny, changing to a regional train, arriving at Le Chable at 13:47. From there it is a 20-minute bus or taxi ride
9. Valmeinier, France
This friendly, unpretentious resort shares the Galibier-Thabor ski area with Valloire. There are has 150km of family-friendly slopes and some excellent high-altitude skiing. Unusually for a ski area, there’s a choice of green-graded routes that you can take from high up all the way back to the main villages, giving beginners a top-of-the-mountain experience. The village at 1800 metres is largely traffic free, with doorstep skiing and there are husky sled rides, ice-skating and ‘snakegliss’ – a linked series of toboggans.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras on the 06:18 Eurostar, change in Paris and take the 11:49 TGV train which arrives at St Michel Valloire station at 16:33. From there it is a 40-minute taxi or bus ride.
10. Megève, France
Turning up at the village of Megève is a bit like arriving in a fairytale. The village centre, with its horse-drawn sleighs, babbling brook and beautiful architecture is stunning. The skiing here is well suited to families and Megève, together with neighbour St Gervais, has 400km of pistes, which remain remarkably quiet. You can also go husky-dog sledding and there is an aquatic centre welcoming baby swimmers.
Travel by train: depart London St Pancras on the 17:31 Eurostar to Paris-Nord, change station and take the 22:56 sleeper train from Paris-Austerlitz to Sallanches, arriving at 08:36. From there it is a 20-minute bus or taxi ride.
(Images in order of appearance Avoriaz ©Stéphane Lerendu, Boy on TGV ©Daniel Elkan, Les Gets ©D.Bouchet, Train in snow ©Daniel Elkan, Megève ©SimonGarnier)