© Florian Pépellin/Wikimedia Commons
No 3-hour airport queues, no delayed flights, no teeny-tiny baggage allowance – this is what it’s like to take the Eurostar ski train to the French Alps! This direct 300km/h train whisks you from London straight to the heart of French ski territory and has become so popular that the tickets for February half-term have been known to sell out in minutes – so be sure to book in advance. If you’ve never travelled to the Alps by train before, you’re sure to love the convenient, comfortable journey and the infectious atmosphere on board. It’s just you, your friends or family and a whole carriage-full of avid skiers and snowboarders – happy travels!
The Eurostar ski train runs direct from St. Pancras in London or Ashford in Kent to Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-Saint-Maurice, in the heart of the French Alps. These stations give easy access to the ski resorts of Les Trois Vallées, Paradiski and Tignes-Val d'Isère, most of which are accessible via quick shuttle from the train station – think around 45 minutes, and around €10. Les Arcs in Paradiski is the easiest to reach from the train, as it’s connected directly to the station by a short 10-minute funicular ride from Bourg-Saint-Mourice. On the way home, the train does not pass through Aime-la-Plagne so be sure to arrange your own transfer to Moûtiers or Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
Choose from first tracks or après-ski: the weekly day train runs every Saturday, leaving London at 9:45am and arriving in Bourg Saint-Maurice at 7:03pm. The weekly night train leaves London on Friday evening at 7:42pm and gets to Bourg-Saint-Maurice early Saturday morning at 6:17am. The Eurostar ski train will be in service from December 21st until April 6th this year and tickets start at about £100 round trip.
There are no sleeper cabins on board, just reclining seats with fold-down tables. If you’re travelling in a group, there is the option of sitting at a table of four. You can buy food and drinks at the bar buffet coaches. Alcohol is also available on board the day train, and you can bring up to four cans of beer or one bottle of wine of your own stash on board. Sadly, it is absolutely forbidden to bring alcohol on board the night train, and they will check. In further admirable attempts to help people sleep on a train without sleeper cabins, the Eurostar also provides blankets, pillows, eye masks and ear plugs.
Unlike most airlines (with the exception of Swiss Airlines, which has a decent luggage policy for skiers), the Eurostar makes a special exemption for skiers on the direct ski train from London to the Alps, allowing you to bring your skis or snowboard for free in addition to the two suitcases plus normally allowed within the luggage allowance.
Children under 4 ride the train for free if they sit on your lap, and children under 11 receive a discount on their ticket. Before booking your Eurostar ticket, check with your tour operator to see if your package allows you to take a train instead of a plane. If you’re booking independently, ask your accommodation provider if they arrange shuttles from the train station.
Cuts to many of the sleeper trains from Paris, and the fact that the Eurostar ski train only runs once a week, mean that train travel to the Alps from Britain is better-suited to week-long visits rather than quick weekend getaways. Another option for getting to the French Alps by train is to combine the London-Paris Eurostar with a TGV from Paris to the Alps, allowing more flexibility with dates and pricing, plus the opportunity to spend a day or two in Paris on the way to your ski holiday. Be aware that the luggage policy if you go this way will restrict you to ski/snowboard and only one other piece of luggage. While the ski resorts of the French Alps are the easiest to reach from Britain by train thanks to the direct Eurostar ski train, it’s also possible to get to Austria via a combination of Eurostar, ICE/Thalys and NightJet sleeper train. This transportation option involves two transfers but will deliver you straight to the heart of Austria’s Tyrol, where most of the country’s best ski resorts are located. For more information on getting to the Alps by train, check out Snowcarbon.
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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