The 2018-19 ski season has started in Europe, so if you are planning to hit the slopes either this side of Christmas or in the New Year, we’d like to share with you some of the best ski resorts to reach by train.
A ski holiday by train is a great way to avoid the stress of flying. And since it’s possible to book trains virtually all the way to the mountains, it’s obvious why a growing number of people are ditching planes (with hidden fees, luggage restrictions and lengthy transfers) and hopping on trains to many of Europe’s ski resorts.
Eurostar’s direct Ski Train tickets went on sale in July 2018, but there are also indirect winter rail tickets to the Alps. These have just gone on sale, with skiers now able to also book travel for journeys to ski resorts, with one or two quick changes, between 9th December 2018 and 7th January 2019.
The second batch of tickets, for travel after 7th January 2019 up until March, will go on sale on Loco2 on 6th November 2018. These tickets will sell out fast, so you need to get your winter skates on.
Indirect journeys provide an excellent alternative to the Ski Train because skiers and snowboarders can go a little bit more off piste, in train terms… Travel by train to resorts such as Alpe d’Huez, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Saint Gervais and Montgenèvre in France, Sauze d’Oulx in Italy, and the Swiss resorts of Saas-Fee and Zermatt – by using a combination of Eurostar to Paris and TGV high speed trains from Paris to the Alps.
Travellers can also take a sleeper train from Paris to resorts such as Serre Chevalier in France and Claviere in Italy.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best ski destinations in Europe that are accessible by rail, remembering also that by taking the train you can cut your carbon emissions by up to 90%.
1) Lausanne, Switzerland
Travelling from London to Switzerland via Paris offers the most flexibility for Swiss ski holidays by train. Eurostar services from London to Paris are frequent, fast and there are plenty of connecting services to stations throughout Switzerland, so it’s easy to create an itinerary to reach your preferred resort. Lausanne is gateway to many Swiss ski resorts such as Caux, Champery or Leysin.
The journey by train from London to Lausanne can take as little as 7 hrs 06 mins. There are usually up to four departures available from London every day, connecting in Paris with a direct 3 hrs 40 mins TGV Lyria train to Lausanne.
From Lausanne there are frequent onward connections by direct Intercity trains to beautiful ski spots such as Aigle (30 mins), Martigny (50 mins), Visp (1 hr 32 mins) and Brig (1 hr 20 mins).
- Route: London to Paris to Lausanne
- Price: From £75.50 one-way in Standard Class
- Duration: 7 hrs 6 mins, plus onward train
2) Sauze d’Oulx, Italy
Most travellers who disembark in Sauze d’Oulx are bound for the slopes. It’s an easy journey to Oulx, in the Susa Valley, as it’s the second stop in Italy on the Paris – Turin/Milan TGV.
The Sauze d’Oulx resort forms part of the 400 km Milky Way ski area, shared with neighbouring Sestriere and Claviere…
It’s possible to cover many kilometres of terrain in a day, including some blissfully quiet runs. The village itself is a mixture of charming cobbled streets as well as some rather more brash architecture, and it also has a lively après ski scene.
Three TGV trains go daily from Paris to Oulx in just under 5 hours, stopping at Lyon St Exupéry and Chambéry along the way. There are local trains, normally hourly, from Turin to Bardonecchia, which also stop at Oulx. The journey by train from London to Oulx, via Paris, only takes about 9 hours.
- Route: London to Paris. Change to Paris Gare de Lyon station and take the TGV to Oulx. From there it’s 15 mins taxi or bus
- Price: From £68.50 one-way in Standard Class
- Duration: 8 hrs 59 mins, plus onward bus
3) Bourg-Saint-Maurice, France
Bourg-Saint-Maurice is the most elevated main-line railway station in the Tarentaise region of the French Alps. Otherwise known simply as Bourg, the station was renovated for the 1992 Winter Olympics at Albertville.
Direct trains from London, Paris and other cities serve resorts along the Isère Valley, all terminating at Bourg-Saint-Maurice towards the head of the valley.
From the town, it is a short ride on the Arc-en-Ciel funicular to reach the Les Arcs ski area. This is a world-class ski area in its own right, but it also has excellent cable car links with other pistes in the Paradiski complex. Bourg-Saint-Maurice is also the nearest railhead to the ski resorts at Val d’Isère, Tignes, Sainte-Foy and La Rosière.
During the ski season, Eurostar operates both direct daytime and overnight services from London and Ashford International to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. There are also special high-speed daytime trains for the winter sports market running directly to Bourg-Saint-Maurice from Amsterdam, Brussels and Lille.
- Route: London direct to Bourg-Saint-Maurice
- Price: From £72.00 one-way in Standard Class
- Duration: 8 hrs 13 mins
4) Chamonix, France
Take the train to Chamonix and discover one of Europe’s most extraordinary mountain resorts. Once no more than a village in the shadow of Mont Blanc, the highest Alpine peak, Chamonix has ballooned into a bustling ski hub.
The resort’s main station is Chamonix Mont Blanc, often just referred to as Chamonix. The station is a 10 mins walk south of the town centre. A second station, called Chamonix Aiguille du Midi, is west of the central area, just over the river from the Aiguille du Midi cable car All Chamonix tickets issued by Loco2 are to the main station, but if approaching Chamonix from Saint-Gervais, these tickets are also valid to Aiguille du Midi station.
One of our tips for keen skiers is that bookings for journeys to nearby Saint-Gervais-les-Bains often open earlier than those to Chamonix. Our advice is, therefore, that you should book to Saint-Gervais as soon as those tickets go on sale. You can always buy the ticket for the short journey from Saint-Gervais to Chamonix just prior to travel. In addition to trains, there are a handful of SNCF direct buses to Chamonix on which rail tickets are valid. These run on peak travel days only, and also link up with main-line stations at Bellegarde (Ain) and Lyon-Part-Dieu.
- Route: London to Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, and transfer to Chamonix
- Price: From £33.50 one-way in Standard Class
- Duration: 8 hrs 30 mins
5) St Anton am Alberg, Austria
You can’t walk through St Anton’s charming centre without being impressed by the bustle and character. This is a resort with buzz, and part of the excitement stems from the fact that it’s blessed with some of the Tyrolean Alps’ finest expert off-piste terrain, in addition to 340 km of pistes. After a day on the slopes, don’t miss a warm up drink at MooserWirt, a St Anton Après ski institution.
St Anton is gateway to the Arlberg ski area where 280 km of slopes are served by 85 ski lifts with some of its most celebrated resorts including St Christoph, Lech, Zürs and Stuben.
- Route: London to Paris, transfer to Paris Gare de Lyon to take train to Zurich. Depart Zurich and arrive at St Anton
- Price: From £85 one-way in Standard Class
- Duration: 10 hrs 09 mins
6) Avoriaz, France
Hub of the vast 650 km Portes du Soleil, Avoriaz is a great base for exploring this world-famous ski area. Considered by many to be one of the Alps’ best designed resorts in the lift circuit, it also boasts a charming traffic-free village. The nearest train station is Cluses, 42 km from Avoriaz, which is then accessible either by taxi or public bus.
Cluses is an hour from Annecy, France and two hours from Geneva, Switzerland and is well served by regional express (TER) trains and also direct trains from Paris in the ski season.
Another popular trip is to take the train from Cluses Chamonix and beyond. This involves taking a regional train from Cluses to Saint-Gervais-les-Bains and then changing onto the Mont Blanc Express for the onward journey into the mountains.
- Route: London to Paris then take the TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to arrive at Cluses. Take a bus or taxi journey, 50 mins to Avoriaz
- Price: From £95 one-way in Standard Class
- Duration: 7 hrs, 35 mins
7) Saas-Fee, Switzerland
Visp (Viège in French) railway station is the hopping off point for Switzerland’s Saas-Fee resort, famous for its proliferation of 4000m peaks. From here, take a 50 mins bus ride to Saas-Fee village where you can access skiing all year round, as well as the highest funicular railway in the world – although it is entirely underground, so don’t expect mountain views.
The village is traffic‑free, with car parks at the entrance and electric buses, taxis and hotel vehicles to ferry people around.
- Route: London to Paris Nord, then take TGV Lyria from Paris Gare de Lyon to Lausanne – then get Swiss InterRegio trains (run every half hour) from Lausanne to Visp
- Price: From £95 one-way London to Visp in Standard Class
- ·Duration: From 8 hrs 53 mins, plus onward regional train/transfer
8) Livingo, Italy
The lively ski resort of Livigno, in Italy’s Livingo Alps, is in the north of Italy near the border with Switzerland. Livigno boasts an excellent range of modern ski lifts, stunning views and reliable snow, and is particularly popular with those who enjoy sci di fondo, or cross-country skiing.
Livigno is served by Tirano station, from where you need to take another 2 hours bus trip. The best train route is to travel to Milan on a high-speed train, and then take a regional train to Tirano. Trains between Milan and Tirano take around two and a half hours. Tirano is also a terminus for the world famous Bernina Express scenictrain, which takes you on a spectacular 122 km train journey between Chur, Davos or St. Moritz in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy.