This week has seen a flurry of news releases about ski train services to the Alps for the oncoming 2023/24 winter season.
The good news is that skiers who want to travel by train have several more options for this winter, primarily created by Eurostar’s decision to run a ‘Snow Train’ to the French Alps.
These are the key points:
1. Eurostar via Lille
The first point to understand is that this is not a ‘direct’ service, like the old Eurostar ski train that ran from London St Pancras to Bourg St Maurice until 2020.
The train will leave London and stop at Lille Europe for about 45 minutes. Passengers will then change onto another train that will take them via Chambéry, Albertville, Moutiers and Aime to Bourg St Maurice.
The stop on the way back will be slightly longer to allow passengers to go through customs.
2. Seat-only tickets are available
Many lovers of train travel have been disappointed that the old Travelski Express service (that did go direct from London to France in the last two winters) did not offer seat-only options. Travellers had to choose one of the Travelski packages.
In my opinion, these were good value, as they included accommodation, lift pass and transfer, however, they evidently they did not offer a varied choice of resorts or accommodation types.
The Eurostar Snow Train allows skiers to buy seat-only tickets from £99 each way, meaning you can travel by train to whichever accommodation or resort you choose.
3. Travelski and Inghams are both offering package ski trips by train
Many people don’t want to book all the elements of their holiday separately and the great news is that for the first time since 2020 more than one tour operator is offering packages by train.
This means you can book your travel, transfer, accommodation and any extras you want in one go. It also means travellers get extra financial protection via ABTA. More details of both offerings are shown below.
4. Travel will be during the daytime in both directions
Anyone who has tried to sleep on a Eurostar on one of the overnight services will know that unless you are very small, it’s very hard to get comfortable. I’ve personally seen passengers curl up on the floor underneath a row of seats or in the aisle.
That is not going to be an issue in 2023/24 as the train will travel during the day in both directions. The provisional timings are shown here:
5. Eight nights, seven days’ skiing
The outbound journey will be on Saturdays and the return journey on Sundays. This means that all packages sold by Travelski or Inghams will be for 8 nights, with 7 days’ skiing.
Inghams’ guests will stay in Bourg St Maurice on the final Saturday night, which will be convenient for the early Sunday departure. Inghams are also planning to offer the final 7th day of skiing free of charge (i.e. 7 days for the price of 6). Given this final night is in Bourg, Inghams are likely to be offering the train package only for Val d’Isère, Tignes, Les Arcs or La Rosière.
Travelski will offer Tignes, Val d’Isère, Val Thorens, Méribel, Brides les Bains, Courchevel, Les Menuires, Les Arcs, La Plagne and La Rosière. However, they are only offering a few departure dates in 2023/24, from 16 December 2023 to 04 February 2024.
We believe that the reason the service is Saturday to Sunday and not Saturday to Saturday is that the train travelling from Lille to Bourg will remain there overnight and then simply return the next day.
This is likely to be because the train will be a Thalys train (Eurostar have confirmed it will be operated by ‘THI Factory SA’). Thalys is in the process of merging with Eurostar; a process that will complete in October 2023.
6. Available for 7 weeks only
Disappointingly, the service is only going to be available from 16 December 2023 to 04 February 2024 – just eight departure dates. And in reality, this means there are only 7 dates available for packages as the last outbound does not have a return associated with it.
We believe that this is due to the start of ‘vacances scholaires’ (the French school holidays) shortly after, which is the absolute peak season across France. Eurostar have simply said that “it is not possible” to provide a snow service all winter.
7. Only 104 seats available?
Some sources have suggested that there are 250 seats available on each train. However, Eurostar have confirmed that there will be just 104 seats on each rotation. It may be that this is the number of seat-only tickets that can be bought, with the remainder made available to tour operators.
According to Travel Weekly, Inghams have bought a risibly low allocation of 10 seats a week, which suggests that Travelski might have 136 available.
Alternatively, it could be that the 250 figure is wrong and there are just 104 seats available in total, including both Travelski and Inghams’ allocation.
8. Book early for the best prices
Evidently there is limited availability, so we recommend that you book as early as possible.
While one-way prices from Eurostar are available from £99, as at 01 September, after the seats had been on sale for 36 hours, outbound seats at this price were only available on four of the eight departure dates.
9. More train packages available from Inghams
Inghams will also be offering other train travel ski packages this winter to Italian, Austrian and Swiss resorts, in each case going via Paris on Eurostar and then mainline train services. They are launching these services later this month.
10. Booking via Paris independently
The other option available to anyone wishing to travel by train is to book your own Eurostar and connecting trains. This is something that I have done on many occasions, to destinations such as Verbier, Andermatt, Chamonix and Les 3 Vallees.
Tickets are always less expensive if you book in advance. Often this means booking your Eurostar first, then your SNCF connecting train when they go on sale, around three months before travel. Follow our Facebook page to keep up to date with these deadlines.
Getting across Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon is very straightforward:
I prefer to book the Eurostar sections as soon as I know my travel dates. This will typically mean that the cost will be £49 each way (and occasionally less).
Continental travel to and from Paris can only be booked from certain windows. Currently these are shown below. In my experience, if you are ready to book on these dates, then you can get excellent value for money, with Paris returns from as little as EUR70.
10 Dec 2023 – 09 Jan 2024 – Sales open 04 October 2023
10 Jan 2024 – 09 Feb 2024 – TBC
10 Feb 2024 – 24 March 2024 – Sales open 15 November 2023
25 March onwards – TBC
Travelling by train will significantly reduce your carbon footprint
However you choose to travel by train, we highly recommend it. Not only is it more pleasant than flying, it’s often less expensive and is certainly much better for the planet: