Indirect services to ski resorts in Europe are on sale with flexible booking conditions and new Covid-safety measures in place
The cancellation of Eurostar’s popular direct service to the French Alps was a huge blow for the thousands of skiers and snowboarders who use it each winter. But today those keen to travel by rail to the slopes can still do so as tickets for indirect services go on sale today.
On Thursday evenings, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the ski season skiers can travel direct with Eurostar from London to Paris, before connecting to a high-speed TGV service from the Gare du Lyon to Chambéry, Albertville, Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne, Landry or Bourg-St-Maurice. From any of these stations they can travel on to some of Europe’s leading ski resorts.
For example, the Saturday morning service departs London at 07:52, arriving in Paris at 11:17. From the Gare de Lyon the 11:47 service arrives in Bourg St Maurice at 16:51. From there it's a seven-minute funicular ride to Arc 1600, with free shuttle bus to the other Les Arcs villages, or a 40-minute taxi would get you to Tignes. Alternatively disembark at Aime-la-Plagne at 16:28 and take a 20-minute bus up to La Plagne. There are numerous resorts in the Alps that are accessible by indirect train, including St Anton in Austria, Sauze d’Oulx in Italy and Courchevel in France.
The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office is advising against all non-essential travel to the likes of France, Austria and Switzerland. It therefore remains to be seen whether British skiers and snowboarders will return to the Alpine slopes this winter regardless. British holidaymakers looking to travel to much of Europe also currently face quarantine restrictions either on arrival home or when they get to their destination (the case in Switzerland) as cases of coronavirus continue to surge.
To combat this uncertainty Eurostar is offering flexible booking terms to encourage travellers to book their winter trips with confidence. It is possible to exchange all fares, with no fee, up until 14 days before departure. This applies to all bookings made until the end of March 2021 and is valid for any dates. Ticket holders have the ability to catch any train, should theirs be delayed or cancelled. However tickets are non-refundable and passengers must pay any difference in price if transferring.
The train operator has also introduced a series of new hygiene measures to ensure journeys are Covid-safe. All passengers are seated a safe social distance apart, trains undergo deep cleans before every journey and onboard teams are carrying out regular disinfections. Masks are mandatory for all travellers while onboard and in stations.
Tickets are on sale for journeys departing from December 13 to January 3 – those looking to travel later in the season, up until the last departure on March 28, will be able to book tickets from November 5.
Eurostar recently confirmed its decision to cancel its direct service to the Alps, which has been running for 23 years, this winter, despite pressure from the industry to have it reinstated, blaming “coronavirus and a challenging travel market.”
A petition calling to revoke the decision, supported by key figures in the ski world, has received over 10,500 signatures.
“The cancellation of the ski train is a huge blow for everyone who cares about making ski holidays sustainable. We need to get the strongest voice together to persuade Eurostar to get the Ski Train back on track,” said four-time Winter Olympian Chemmy Alcott.
Travelling by train to the Alps has become an increasingly popular choice for skiers and snowboarders as both the logistical and environmental benefits of train travel become more appealing to a variety of travellers, including families and groups. Many cite flexible baggage allowances, lack of queues and no need for long coach transfers as the benefits of swapping planes for trains.
With pressure on travel companies to become more sustainable there is a huge following of environmentally-conscious skiers who use the train each winter too. Eurostar estimates a rail journey from London to Amsterdam emits 80 per cent less carbon than the equivalent short-haul flight.