10 of the best ski resorts to reach by train

·6-min read
Catching the train to the mountains makes for a scenic journey (Deutsche Bahn AG)
Catching the train to the mountains makes for a scenic journey (Deutsche Bahn AG)

Sometimes, the faster you try and get somewhere, the slower the journey feels. On paper, the Alps seems a short flight away. But airport queues, flights and transfers can easily take up a whole stop-start kind of day. Travelling by train is different: when you actually enjoy the journey, you might end up wondering where the time went.

In fact, from London, some daytime rail journeys to the slopes don’t take much longer than flying. Combine a Eurostar to Paris with a TGV to the Alps and you’ll reach most French ski resorts in about eight or nine hours. Bag yourself a table seat, stroll to the cafe bar or simply gaze out at the vista of ever-changing scenery and the journey will feel like time well spent, rather than a means to an end.

On top of that, the carbon footprint of these journeys is much smaller than flying. A one-way journey to the French resort of Tignes, for example, by Eurostar and taxi would create 18kg of CO2, according to carbon experts the Anthesis Group. The equivalent trip by plane and coach produces about 78kg of CO2.

Voyages SNCF (Voyages SNCF)
Voyages SNCF (Voyages SNCF)

A surprise this winter is the change to the direct Eurostar Ski Train from London: it’s been privately chartered by a French tour operator called Travelski and is sold only as part of bonded package that includes the train ticket, transfer, accommodation and seven-day lift pass. This option is available only to the following nine resorts: Les Menuires, Meribel, Saint Martin de Belleville, Brides-les-Bains, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Peisey-Vallandry, Tignes and Val d’Isere. The train heads out on Friday evenings and the compensation for sitting up all night is an extra day’s skiing, with travellers arriving early enough in resort to be smugly making first tracks in the snow. The return the following Saturday is a daytime journey.

Catching the night train can get you to the foot of the slopes of Austria’s Tirol too. Travel is by Eurostar, ICE and then a NightJet sleeper train, which prides itself on comfortable couchettes on a service that runs from Cologne to Innsbruck seven nights a week.

ICE trains form part of the journey to Austria (Deutsche Bahn AG/Georg Wagner)
ICE trains form part of the journey to Austria (Deutsche Bahn AG/Georg Wagner)

France is bringing back the many sleeper trains from Paris that it abruptly axed five years ago. First up, this winter, is the route to Tarbes and Lourdes, which give access to resorts in the French Pyrenees. This will be followed in the next few years by routes to St Gervais and Bourg St Maurice in the French Alps. Plenty to look forward to for skiers looking to embrace slow travel.

France is currently banning all leisure travel from the UK, as of midnight on 18 December. It is unknown when current restrictions will lift.

Morzine, France

The chalet capital of the Alps, Morzine’s vibrant village is perfectly positioned for exploration of the vast Portes du Soleil ski area. A new 2km red piste, Pointe de Nyon, opens this winter and the resort has added falconry sessions to its wide range of activities, too.

How to get there

Take the 9.31am Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris, then TGV to Bellegarde and TER train, to reach Cluses at 6.52pm. Transfer time to village: 40 minutes.

Les Arcs, France

If you’ve ever spotted tracks in the snow and wondered what animal made them, then Les Arcs might have the answer. The new Mountain Animal Museum opens this winter, presenting around 30 species of local fauna that reside within this dazzling 425 square km ski area.

Les Arcs (Les Arcs Tourisme)
Les Arcs (Les Arcs Tourisme)

How to get there

Take the 7.45pm Travelski Express from St Pancras to reach Bourg St Maurice at 6.17am. Transfer time to village: 40 minutes.

St Anton, Austria

This famous Tirolean village is located on the railway line between Zurich and Budapest, in the magnificent Arlberg valley. In the village, the Arlberg Wellcome leisure centre boasts extensive pools and spas, and this season the resort introduces guided husky tours, too.

How to get there

Take the 7.52am Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris, then TGV to Zurich and RailJet to St Anton, arriving 7.01pm. The train station is in the village.

Saas Fee, Switzerland

Saas Fee, in Switzerland’s Valais region, combines a picture-postcard car-free village with dramatic scenery on the slopes. There are plenty of piste-side eateries with sunny terraces, like Zur Muhle, and a cavernous ice pavilion to explore, up at 3,500 metres.

Saas Fee (Switzerland Tourism)
Saas Fee (Switzerland Tourism)

How to get there

Take the 6.01pm Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris, stop over and take TGV to Lausanne and IC train to Visp, arriving 1.53pm. Transfer time to village: 50 minutes.

Meribel, France

Meribel’s position in the heart of the Trois Vallees ski area makes it an ideal starting point for forays in all directions. There’s also bags to do apart from the skiing, such as paragliding flights and husky-dog sledding – not to mention great apres-ski at the Folie Douce.

How to get there

Take the 7.45pm Travelski Express from St Pancras to reach Moutiers at 5.32am. Transfer time to village: 30 minutes.

Bardonecchia, Italy

Located in the Peidmont region, Bardonecchia is a family-friendly resort blessed with a train station in the village. There's an ample 100km of terrain here, spread over three linked areas: Melezet, Jafferau and Campo Smith, plus excellent mountain dining too.

Bardonecchia (Bardonecchia tourism)
Bardonecchia (Bardonecchia tourism)

How to get there

Take the 9.31am Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris, then TGV to Bardonecchia, arriving 7.13pm. The train station is in the village.

Saint Martin de Belleville, France

The beautiful village of St Martin is a lesser-known access point for the Trois Vallees ski area. It’s an excellent base to enjoy authentic Savoyarde architecture, with charming, innovative chalets such as Le Nid and Le Duchesse and quirky restaurants, including the new L’Art B.

How to get there

Take the 7.45pm Travelski Express from St Pancras to reach Moutiers at 5.32am. Transfer time to village: 25 minutes.

Kitzbuhel, Austria

The beautiful Tirolean village of Kitzbuhel, with its handsome painted houses, has an extensive network of tree-lined pistes and an efficient lift system. The resort’s backcountry area spans 200 square kilometres, making it perfect for lovers of powder skiing, too.

Kitzbuhel (Michael Werlberger)
Kitzbuhel (Michael Werlberger)

How to get there

Take the 3.05pm Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels, then ICE to Cologne and InterCity to Kitzbuhel, arriving 9.28am. The train station is in the village.

Alpe d’Huez, France

The scenery from the slopes in Alpe d’Huez could certainly claim to be a contender for the most spectacular in the Alps. Views from the 3,330m Pic Blanc and the Sarenne gorge are particularly dramatic.

How to get there

Take the 9.31am Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris, then TGV to reach Annecy at 5.46pm. Transfer time to village: 60 minutes.

Le Grand Bornand, France

The charm of the rustic village is such that a ski holiday here feels like a true Savoyarde cultural experience. This is also the home of Reblochon cheese, with farm tours showing how it’s made. Tree-lined, intermediate terrain makes for great skiing to boot.

Le Grand Bornand (LASR Tourism)
Le Grand Bornand (LASR Tourism)

How to get there

Take the 7.52am Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris, then TGV to reach Annecy at 4.30pm. Transfer time to village: 35 minutes.

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