In January 2024, Iain presenter of The Ski Podcast and founder of Ski Flight Free, travelled from London to Les 2 Alpes by train.
“This was a first for me, as while I’ve travelled to Switzerland and the Tarentaise in France on many occasions, this was my first train journey to the Southern French Alps.”
08:01 (GMT) – London St Pancras
The check in at Eurostar on this Friday morning was busier than usual, apparently due to a cancelled train earlier than morning.
However, even though I only arrived 50 minutes before departure, I wasn’t concerned at all. Even on a slow-moving day like this, it still took just 30 minutes (rather than the typical 15 minutes or so) to pass through security and passport control.
And, of course, unlike at an airport, once through customs you are literally in the departure lounge: there’s no 25-minute walk to get to the gate. I bought a cup of tea, visited the loos and then it was time to board.
11:40 (CET) – Paris Metro
The challenge was that the Eurostar left London late and arrived at 11:40 instead of the scheduled 11:18. It still only took 25 minutes from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon via the ‘D’ RER line [see the video below for details of how to get across Paris], but while my connecting train to Grenoble hadn’t yet left the SNCF staff had closed the gate.
12:14 (CET) – Gare de Lyon
No amount of pleading from the half-a-dozen or so people who had come off the same Eurostar would persuade them to change their mind and we watched sadly as it slowly pulled away from the platform in front of us.
I should note at this point that although my trip was very kindly booked for me by the Les 2 Alpes Tourist Office, I would have booked exactly the same train.
Generally, an hour or so is ample time to cross Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon. If the Eurostar had arrived into Paris just 18 minutes late, instead of 22 minutes, we would have been fine.
13:00 (CET) – Lunch in Paris
To misquote a famous Frenchman, misfortune isn’t so bad if it leads to lunch in Paris.
It was straightforward to revalidate my booking to Grenoble for the next departure, and once a new ticket had been issued, I enjoyed a marvellous lunch in a Parisienne bistro, just a few minutes’ walk from the station.
14:30 (CET) – Gare de Lyon
Second time around, I was on the platform in plenty of time and within minutes, we were flying south at 280 km/h on our literal ‘Train à Grande Vitesse’.
The standout feature of taking the train to Les 2 Alpes is that it takes just three hours to get from Paris to Grenoble. There are no changes and, in our case, just one stop, at Lyon. The wifi on board was impeccable and by the time we arrived in Grenoble, I’d had a very productive afternoon of work.
17:28 (CET) – Grenoble
Grenoble station is easy to navigate. The tourist office had arranged a taxi, but I could have easily taken the bus service, direct from the station to resort (which also stops at Bourg d’Oisons, for Alpe d’Huez) for just €20.
20:10 (CET) – Les 2 Alpes
Unfortunately, we did get caught up in Friday night traffic going out of Grenoble. This was more annoying than the delay in Paris, as I just wanted to get to resort, but I watched some Netflix and had a quick snooze before we arrived at Base Camp Lodge in Les 2 Alpes, just over 11 hours after we had started.
This trip was comparable in time to my journeys by train to other French and Swiss resorts – yet those 11 hours included an extra two in Paris, plus some congestion outside Grenoble.
On a ‘normal’ day I would expect this to take 9 hours or less. I’ll definitely have to try again and report back…