AAs the winter sports travel industry sheds its Covid chains, rail routes to the mountains are experiencing a surprise renaissance, with more than 60 resorts in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy now easily accessible from London. And up to 90% reduction in the carbon footprint of a trip.
But despite the enthusiasm of winter sports enthusiasts for flightless trips to ski resorts (and the extra day of trail that can be turned into a vacation compared to a standard seven-day package), the range of lines Rail availability, especially on sleeper services, was disappointing. It is therefore encouraging to note that, as the ski industry prepares for its first “real” season in two years, more trains than ever are running to more than 60 European resorts. Reservations opened this week.
Much fanfare accompanied the September announcement of the Eurostar overnight snow train’s return to the French Alps – sort of. Renamed Travelski Express, the service leaving London St Pancras on Friday evening and returning the following Saturday is in fact a partnership with the tour operator Travelski, and exclusively for those of its travel / accommodation / ski packages, which start at around £ 450. This season, it serves six resorts, including Val d’Isère, Les Arcs and Les Menuires, with its first departure on Boxing Day.
There are also options for those who book independently or through specialists such as Ffestiniog Travel, Trainseurope and Rail Travel. Nightjet is the name of a growing international network of sleeper routes run by the Austrian national carrier, ÖBB, which can be accessed via Eurostar. Traveling through Amsterdam or Brussels, as well as a German InterCity Express (ICE) to Cologne, they deliver skiers to Salzburg, Zurich and Innsbruck for easy jumps to many resorts. The train journey from London to Wörgl, a short taxi ride from several good resorts in Austrian Tyrol, for example, takes around 18 hours, including a night in one of the many sleeper classes.
While the French crown of rail to the Alps slipped with the reduction of sleeper routes in 2016, the efficient SNCF service to Briançon (for Serre Chevalier and Montgenèvre) remains. And December 10 will see the relaunch after three years of an overnight itinerary from Paris to Lourdes for the Pyrenees, whose stations, although lower and smaller than their Alpine counterparts, are appreciated by many British downhill riders for their authenticity, their affordable price and their uncrowded tracks. . The service lasts around 10 hours, with berths starting at € 29 and private first class compartments available.
The choice of TGV lines from Paris and Lille facilitates day trips to the Alps. Paris to Chamonix, for example, can be done in five hours, with a change of scenery in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains; Morzine is only 2.5 hours from the French capital (the Eurostar journey requires a change of station in Paris).
And the inexpensive Belgian Thalys Neige trains run every Saturday from Christmas Day to April 16 from Brussels to hubs in the French Alps, including Albertville, Moûtiers, Aime-La-Plagne and Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
Six suggested routes
(Best prices at time of posting and most convenient routes from London St Pancras – Eurostar stations in Kent will only reopen after ski season. Prices vary based on date and availability ).
Watch out for the slopes from 9 a.m., from £ 179 return
Take advantage of the 600 km of pistes in the Portes du Soleil via the most refined of its 12 resorts, with access to quieter pistes on the local summit of Mont Chéry. The 9:31 a.m. Eurostar arrives at Paris Gare du Nord at 12:47 p.m., leaving enough time for the transfer to Gare de Lyon for the 2:18 p.m. TGV to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, arriving at 5:00 p.m. The next service to Cluses leaves at 5.15pm and arrives at 6.52pm, leaving you 25 minutes by taxi or bus from your destination.
Watch out for the slopes from 9 a.m., from £ 161.93 return
Two new ski lifts connecting Val Thorens to the outskirts of Orelle are the great story of this season in the 3 Valleys, and Méribel places its guests in the heart of 600 km of varied terrain. Take the Eurostar 07.52 to Paris Gare du Nord, arrival 11.17. Taxi transfer to Gare de Lyon for TGV 13.29 to Moûtiers-Salins, arrival at 17.51 (operates from January 1). Road transfers to Méribel take around 30 minutes. A six-night travel / accommodation / ski pass from Travelski costs from £ 544 per person, traveling at 7.45pm direct to Moûtiers on the Travelski Express, arriving at 5.32am.
Watch out for the slopes from 15 hours 31 minutes, from £ 109.62 return
The traditional Pyrenean village of Barèges and the neighbor linked by ski lift La Mongie form Le Grand Tourmalet, the largest ski area in the Pyrenees, with more than 100 km of slopes. Take the Eurostar 16.22 to Paris Gare du Nord, arrival 19.47. Transfer to Paris Austerlitz for the 21.14 Intercités de Nuit sleeper train to Lourdes, arrival 07.43. From there, a shuttle to the resort takes 70 minutes.
Watch out for the slopes from 9 hours 37 minutes, from £ 195.96 return
This chic resort located above the Rhone Valley offers panoramic views, pretty wooded runs, excellent beginner runs and a few good mountain restaurants. Take the Eurostar 09.31 to Paris Gare du Nord, arrival 12.47. Transfer to Paris Gare de Lyon for the TGV 14.18 to Genève Cornavin, arrival 17.29. Transfer by 18.11 to Sierre, arrival 20.07. From there it takes 15 minutes by funicular to the resort.
Watch out for the slopes from 10 hours nine minutes, from £160 return
Fittingly, this Tyrolean resort’s rise from farming village status to world-class ski town status began with a new rail connection in 1884. Today, the state-of-the-art ski lift system that serves the 305 km from the slopes of the Arlberg ski area is a short walk from the station. Take the Eurostar 07.55 to Paris Gare du Nord, arrival 11.17. Transfer to Gare de Lyon and take TGV 12.22 to Zurich HB. The Railjet Xpress from Zurich to St Anton am Arlberg departs at 4:40 p.m. and arrives at 7:01 p.m.
Watch out for the slopes from 6 p.m., from £ 244 return
Part of the 280 km SkiWelt area and located a short bus ride from Kitzbühel, Westendorf is a traditional, quiet village with great beginner slopes and night skiing. Take the Eurostar 15.04 to Bruxelles-Midi, arrival 18.05, then the 18.25 ICE to Cologne, arrival 20.15. The Nightjet night train to Wörgl leaves at 22:16 and arrives at 08:37. Bus or taxi transfers to Westendorf take approximately 20 minutes.
How to book
The main ticket resellers are Trainline, Rail Europe and OUI.sncf. Rail booking agencies such as Rail Travel, Trainseurope and International Rail also sell tickets online.