It always looks like a short hop by air from the UK to the Alps, but it still takes all day often with airport queues and long transfers. The experience by rail is totally different and there are plenty of great resorts in the Alps that you can reach by rail. Why wouldn’t you swap cramped flights for space to move around and an ever-changing vista.
And new this season;
- An overnight route to Austria on the OBB’s NightJet sleeper trains means you can snooze your way to Tirolean ski resorts
- Ben’s Bus has a new, shared transfer service, the Paris Ski Shuttle for daytime journeys via Paris. It runs every Saturday, linking popular trains, collecting you from Eurostar arrivals and dropping you at Gare de Lyon for your onward TGV train.
Here’s some of the best resorts you can reach by train and example journeys.
Travel overnight on the NightJet sleeper service to Söll, arriving in the morning. The huge SkiWelt ski area has 284km of ski runs. Intermediates particularly will love the range of blue and red runs. When hunger or thirst calls you are never far from a rustic restaurant or an après ski hut. For lunch, try the Gipfelalm Hohe Salve restaurant, with its a sunny terrace that rotates through 360 degrees while you eat, giving incredible views of the Wilder Kaiser mountain range.
Depart London St Pancras on the 15:04 Eurostar to Brussels, arriving 18:05; take the 18:25 ICE from Brussels to Cologne, arriving 20:15; then take the 21:21 NightJet sleeper train to Kufstein, arriving 08:25; from there it’s about 25 minutes by bus or taxi.
Les Arcs, France
Hop on the funicular from Bourg St Maurice station to reach Les Arcs. As part of the Paradiski area, the resort has access to 425km of terrain, and one of the reasons that the resort has many returning skiers is that the slopes suit a range of ski abilities. The 2,000-metre descent from Aiguille Rouge down to the quiet hamlet of Villaroger is one of the most epic routes in the Alps, as panoramas turn into silent, tree-lined runs. There’s an igloo village on the slopes too, where after a fondue dinner you can snuggle into soft fur-covered beds.
Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 19:03; from there it’s a short walk to the funicular and then seven minutes to Arc 1600, with a bus connecting the other villages.
Val Cenis, France
If you are looking for an authentic French ski resort that is brilliant for families, Val Cenis ranks high up there. The setting is magnificent, overlooking Lac Du Mont Cenis, with vistas on to Italy. The slopes offer a combination of easy runs for beginners as well as accessible off-piste for confident skiers. The resort is also home to L’Escargot, the Alps’ longest green run. But Val Cenis offers far more than just skiing: you can paraglide, try husky dog sledding, go ice climbing and see how cheese is made in by traditional methods.
Depart London St Pancras on the 09:22 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 14:41 TGV to Modane, arriving at 18:45. From there it’s a 30-minute taxi or bus.
Sauze d’Oulx, Italy
On the TGV route between Paris and Turin, relaxed, unpretentious Sauze is nestled just over the French border. A traditional favourite with British, you’ll also find Italians drawn here by sunny open slopes, long vertical drops, and plenty of tree-lined cruising runs. Advanced skiers will enjoy tackling the black runs at the top of Mount Motta or the World Cup Kandahar Slalom. The ski area is part of the 400km Milky Way, and the slopes are dotted with wonderful mountain huts for a cappuccino stop, or a long 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 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.
Les Contamines, France
You’d be forgiven if you’ve not heard of Les Contamines. But this place is a gem, especially if you like skiing on blissfully quiet slopes even at peak periods. There are 120km of slopes here, and the Evasion Mont Blanc ski pass gives access to neighbouring St Gervais and Megève. The scenery is breathtaking: one side of the mountain you ski facing an unparalleled view of Mont Blanc, with a choice of undulating blue, red and black runs; on the other, you ski on slopes that dip down towards Haute Luce with spectacular vistas.
Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar at 07:55 to Paris-Nord and then take the 12:11 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, changing at Bellegarde to arriving at St Gervais at 16:56; from there it’s 15 minutes by bus or taxi.
Tignes shares 300km of terrain with neighbouring Val d’Isère, making the area a Mecca for those that want to ski all day. And its altitude means that the resort is a safe bet for early and late season skiing. The resort has always prided itself on offering unusual activities to complement the skiing. You can try ice diving, ice climbing, snowtubing and Bun J Ride – a hybrid combination of a ski jump, bungee and a zip-line ride, amongst others.
Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Direct Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 19:03. From there it’s a 40-minute taxi or bus.
St Anton, Austria
The train journey to St Anton is a scenic treat, taking you past Lake Zurich, Lake Wallensee and through the magnificent Arlberg Valley. The resort is famous for incredible skiing, and the new Arlberg gondola now links to Zürs and Lech creating 305km of connected slopes. You’ll find plenty of humour and charm here too: the Hospiz Alm in St Christoph, for example, has chute that you can use to slide down to the restrooms, saving clanking in ski boots.
Depart London St Pancras on the 18:01 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Stopover in Paris and take the 07:23 TGV from Paris-Lyon, changing in Zurich to the 12:40 RailJet arriving at St Anton at 15:03.
Val Thorens, France
High up in the Trois Vallées, at 2,300m Val Thorens is one of the most snow sure in the Alps. The mainly ski-in/ski-out village has plenty to do, great après ski and restaurants that are at the top of their game as well as access to 600km of pistes. Beginners are also well catered for: there are excellent nursery slopes, and a network of easy blues just above the village – and a 7,500 m2 sports and aqua centre that families will love too.
Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Moutiers, arriving at 18:15. From there it’s 55 minutes by bus or taxi.
Les Gets, France
Minutes from Cluses station, the charming village of Les Gets is a fabulous resort in the huge 650km Portes du Soleil, linked with Morzine and Avoriaz. Beginners will thrive here, and intermediates and advanced skiers have endless possibilities, with forest runs and panoramic vistas. The charming streets are lined with cute chalets and restaurants that specialise in Savoyarde cuisine, while a little road-train ferries beaming skiers across the village. The resort has also launched the Skicolor festival, where you can ski through clouds of multi-coloured natural paint powder.
Depart London St Pancras 07:52 by Eurostar to Paris-Nord; change station and take the 12:45 TGV changing at Bellegarde to arrive Cluses at 16:35; from there it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi.
Centrally located in the 425km Paradiski, between its more famous neighbours, La Plagne and Les Arcs, Peisey-Vallandry is makes a great base. The red runs above the resort are some of the best in the area, with Aigle and Ours particularly exhilarating. There are lots of good mountain restaurants such as Blanche Murée, with its big sunny terrace. The resort has a variety of Nordic ski trails too and offers activities including cross-country skiing, biathlon, snowshoeing, dog, reindeer and horse- drawn sleds, ski Joering, electric Fat Bike and wildlife watching.
Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 19:03; from there it’s 45 minutes by taxi.
More information, tips and booking
Eurostar: 01233 617 575 or www.eurostar.com
Voyages SNCF: 0844 848 5 848 or www.Voyages-sncf.com
The new European Rail Map is £10.99 + p&p from www.europeanrailtimetable.eu
More information about rail travel to ski resorts can be found at independent guide, Snowcarbon