On 16 December 2023, I was invited to trial the new Eurostar Snow Train service by Inghams Ski, who are offering ski holidays packaged with train travel and transfers using the new service.
This is a very significant step from Eurostar, having cancelled the previously successful service in 2020. So what was the new train like?
London St Pancras – Lille
The most significant difference from the old ‘Snow Train’ is that it no longer goes direct to the French Alps, but requires a change in Lille. My first surprise was that the initial leg is a plain old regular London-Brussels Eurostar service. Like many of the services to Brussels it simply stops at Lille Europe on the way.
This has no impact at all on the journey. Eurostar only sold a limited number of tickets and there was plenty of space set aside for ski and snowboard bags. Evidently, a big advantage of the train is that, unlike flying, there are no additional fees, either for skis or bags. As long as you can move it, you can take it!
Changing at Lille
Changing trains at Lille was very straightforward as promised. Once we disembarked it was just a short walk (100-200m, depending where your seats were) to the other side of the platform.
The connection time was an hour and the onward train turned up within around 15 minutes. Those who wanted to board could do so then, or you could go up to the concourse and stock up on food from the patisserie. If you really wanted to, you could have left the station and wandered further into Lille. The Bourg train left bang on time at 12:29.
There were separate luggage areas for anyone travelling to Bourg-St-Maurice or Moutiers and staff were on hand to help load them up. There seemed to be some confusion as to whether anyone could use these, or if they were just restricted to Standard Premium passengers, but regardless there was no issue with space on the train.
The one point I would make in this respect is that it added a little bit of time on arrival at Bourg for those who had stowed their luggage here, plus it also caused a bottleneck on the platform as passengers stood to wait for their bags to be unloaded.
Lille to Bourg St Maurice
The train itself was very comfortable. This was the first Eurostar-branded Thalys service following the merger of the two companies earlier this year. The Wi-Fi was excellent and I settled in to do some work while others watched box sets on their devices. Alternatively you could just stare out of the window as some of the views were spectacular:
This slightly took the gloss off the day, but made me even more glad I had chosen to go up to Les Arcs. It’s just a short walk to the end of the platform and over the bridge (note: there are no lifts from the platform) to the funicular, which is free to train passengers and takes just 7 minutes to get to Arcs 1600, where I was staying (in the excellent Hotel La Cachette).
Would I recommend the new Eurostar Snow Train?
The simple answer is yes. It’s a shame it’s not direct any more, but changing in Lille is not a burden and it adds little time to the journey. If you can buy a fare for £99 one-way or £198 return then it’s excellent value as well.
You could do the journey more quickly (and probably around the same price) by going via Paris, but if you have skis, you might not want to add the complication of taking the two stops on the RER.
And of course you can buy a packaged trip with either Inghams or Travelski, which will include transfers and accommodation. There are some excellent offers there that will definitely be value for money and in many cases are the same cost as flying.
A key point to consider is that the train goes out on Saturday and returns the following Sunday during the day. The big advantage is that you get an extra day’s skiing (giving you 7 days’ skiing, instead of six). If you are on a package with Inghams or Travelski, that final night will be included in the package, as well as your lift pass for the 7th day of skiing.
However, if you are travelling ‘independently’ you’ll need to work out your logistics for that final 8th night. Personally, I don’t really see this as an issue. You can ski the final day then go down and stay in one of the hotels in Bourg or Moutiers (all significantly cheaper than in resort).
Let’s hope that Eurostar add more dates. The 2023/24 service is almost sold out for direct tickets, although package remain. That’s because, inexplicably, it only runs to 03 February. We hope that next year – PLEASE, EUROSTAR! – it runs all season.