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 three main ways you can travel to the Alps by train:
You can book your tickets direct, online or by using a specialist agency, details of which are listed below.
1. Eurostar (to Paris) + SNCF
The direct Travelski Express train only services certain 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.
Destinations (not an exclusive list, there are many, many options)
Thonon: Morzine, Les Gets, 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
Moutiers: Méribel, Courchevel, Val Thorens, Les Menuires, La Tania
Bourg St Maurice: Les Arcs, La Plagne, La Rosière, Tignes, Val d’Isère
Cluses: Flaine and La Clusaz (plus Morzine, Les Gets, Avoriaz and the Portes du Soleil ski area_
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)
Geneva/Lausanne: Verbier, Crans Montana, Zermatt, Zinal-Grimentz and other Valaisan resorts
2. 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). Unfortunately it is only operating on four dates during the 2021/22 winter season.
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
3. Eurostar (direct to the Tarentaise)
In September 2021, the new Travelski Express service launched, again offering direct trains from London to the Tarentaise in France. This was a great vindication of the lobbying we did via the Save The Ski Train. You can find full details of the new Travelski Express service here.
Listen to Iain’s interview with the CEO of Travelski in Episode 79 of The Ski Podcast (16 minutes in):
Eurostar trains to Paris are available from £39 each way, with prices increasing the later the booking is made. You can get a view of current prices here. SNCF trains are typically available from around €100-€120 return from Paris. Sign up to OuiSNCF’s alerts for when tickets go on sale.
When comparing costs 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 find your point-to-point return fare from the UK will be 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.