Currently only 2% of British skiers travel by train to the Alps. You can reduce your CO2 emissions significantly by travelling by train so let’s look at the two main ways you can travel to the Alps by train:
Eurostar (direct to the Tarentaise)
Eurostar (to Paris) + SNCF
Eurostar (to Amsterdam/Brussels) + Alpen Express
You can book your tickets direct, online or by using a specialist agency, details of which are listed below.
1. Eurostar (direct to the Tarentaise)
Eurostar operate direct trains from London St Pancras to Bourg St Maurice during the winter, usually stopping at Moutiers and Aime as well.
You can either travel out overnight on a Friday (dep 1945, arr 0616) and leave the following Saturday arriving back into London St Pancras on the Sunday morning (dep 2212, arr 0716).
One great advantage of the overnight train is that as you arrive early on your first Saturday and late on your final Saturday, you can increase your ski days by a third, from 6 days on the mountain to 8 days.
While ski companies and hotels are unlikely to be able to offer you an early check in on the Saturday morning, they will normally be able to offer you somewhere to change and leave your bags while you go out skiing for the day.
During the day
Alternatively you can travel during the day on Saturdays direct to the Tarentaise (dep 0945, arr 1903).
Return trains leave the following Saturday. The day train leaves Bourg at 0934 and arrives back in London St Pancras at 1613.
The direct Eurostar ski trains prove very popular, and over peak school holiday dates sell out very quickly. For travellers looking at these times we recommend booking as close to the opening of sales as possible.
2. Eurostar (to Paris) + SNCF
The direct Eurostar train only services the resorts of the Tarentaise valley in France. However, it is possible to travel to many other resorts by train, by combining a Eurostar ticket to Paris with a SNCF train to the nearest station to your resort.
Thonon: Morzine, Avoriaz and the Portes du Soleil ski area
Toulouse: Cauterets, Ax 3 Domaines and the French Pyrenees
Grenoble: Alpe d’Huez, Les 2 Alpes and Serre Chevalier
Cluses: (Flaine and La Clusaz)
Saint Gervais: Les Contamines, Chamonix
Zurich: St Anton, Engleberg, Andermatt (should time be on your side you can also connect from here to Innsbruck to connect to all the resorts of the Austrian Tirol)
3. Eurostar (to Amsterdam/Brussels) + Alpen Express
This works by taking Eurostar to Amsterdam, or Eurostar and a slick German ‘ICE’ train to Cologne, then joining the Alpen Express. This serves a wide selection of Austrian ski resorts including St. Anton, Alpbach, Kitzbühel, Söll, Mayrhofen, Ischgl, Sölden, Westendorf and Zell am See-Kaprun.
The Alpen Express runs outbound on Fridays, reaching Austrian resorts on Saturday morning, in time for the first of two extra days on the slopes. It travels back overnight the following Saturday evening, after you’ve had a second additional full ski day (compared to a traditional week-long ski package).
Being an overnight train, there are couchette options, as well as luxury private compartments for one to three people. For more info on this route, go to Snowcarbon
Eurostar trains to Paris are available from £59, with prices increasing the later the booking is made. SNCF trains are good at from around €100-€120 return from Paris.
When comparing with flying, make sure you include travel costs to and from your UK and arrival airports, taking into account petrol, parking and transfer fees. Once factored in, you’ll often your point-to-point return fare from the UK will be significantly cheaper by train.
One of the limitations of booking SNCF tickets is that trains are only available to book 3 months in advance. It does mean that if you are organised you can get some excellent fares.
How to Book
Both the Eurostar and SNCF websites are easy to use. However, unless you are travelling on the direct Eurostar train or to certain destinations (Thonon, Grenoble & Toulouse), then you will need to make a separate booking on both sites.
Travelling across Paris is not difficult. You can either catch a taxi, or travel the short journey from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon on the Metro. If travelling from Gare d’Austerlitz, it is literally a 10 minute walk from Gare du Nord.
Our favourite is the excellent Loco2.com website. You can book point-to-point tickets from within the UK to any destination in Europe. What we particularly like is that results are quick and – even better – they are prepared to offer you shorter connections, advising you that that is the situation, but offering you alternatives, if it’s not for you.
The Trainline is a quick and useful website that works well for point to point travel to and within Europe.
Train Specialist Travel Agencies
Alternatively, if time is limited, there are a number of specialist agencies who can help arrange all your travel for you, including working out your connections.
Snow Carbon – The only ski-specialist train agency, founder Daniel Elkan is the go-to person for any advice on train travel to ski resorts. He works with a selection of tour operators. By going via his site you can select and book ski holidays with ski companies that offer train travel packages. All these packages use the Eurostar direct trains as detailed above.
Rail Canterbury – This small team are extremely experienced and can package together your trip for you. They will discuss your preferred dates and times of travel and come back to you with a single price and complete itinerary, including your Metro ticket across Paris. Their free is 10%.
Ffestiniog Travel – Experienced rail-booking agent, based in Wales. Their fee is 9% to a maximum of £40.