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The 12 best ski resorts you can reach by train: how to get there and when to book tickets

Daniel Elkan
A number of ski resorts across Europe are easily accessed by rail

In recent years taking the train to the slopes of Europe has become an increasingly popular choice for British skiers and snowboarders. Back in July, Eurostar’s ski train service, which travels from London to the Tarentaise region of the French Alps, is one went on sale all dates of the season. The popular service provides direct access to some of the Alps’ most popular ski resorts, including Tignes, Courchevel and Les Arcs

On October 17, tickets for indirect winter rail journeys to the Alps went on sale, too, for travel dates between January and March 2020. 

These indirect journeys provide an alternative to the popular direct Eurostar ski train because skiers and snowboarders can access resorts that are not on the direct route, such as Alpe d’Huez, Avoriaz, Les Gets, Morzine and Montgenevre 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 from Paris to the Alps. Travellers can also travel from Paris by sleeper train to resorts such as Serre Chevalier in France and Claviere in Italy, or take high-speed services via Brussels to Cologne to take sleeper trains to the ski slopes of Austria. The Austrian AlpenExpress also recently announced its 2019/20 timetable to nealy 100 of the country's top resorts.

Wherever the final destination travelling by train to the mountains 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, groups and the budget savvy. Below we run through the best ski resorts to reach by rail, and how to do it. 

Avoriaz, France

The central hub of the vast 650km Portes du Soleil, Avoriaz is a great base for exploring the ski area's intermediate-friendly terrain. Despite being purpose-built, the resort has a relatively charming traffic-free village with the Aquariaz tropical pool complex and the Folie Douce bar-turn-cabaret-show particular highlights.

Avoriaz is a traffic-free purpose-built resort Credit: This content is subject to copyright./JACQUES Pierre / hemis.fr

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 07:31 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 12:11 TGV, changing at Bellegarde to arrive Cluses at 16:35; from there it’s 50 minutes by bus or taxi.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 4 minutes
Return rail fares from: £124 per adult

Les Arcs, France

Les Arcs’ four villages are part of the Paradiski, a huge 425km ski area that caters for all abilities. The villages, 1600, 1800, 1950 and 2000, offer convenient, often ski-in/ski-out access to the slopes – and this winter the resort is upgrading its unique funicular railway.

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Direct Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 19:03. From there it's a seven-minute funicular ride to Arc 1600, with free shuttle bus to the other villages.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 13 minutes
Return rail fares from: £160 per adult

Les Arcs is made up of four villages Credit: ©andyparant.com/Andy Parant

Sauze d’Oulx, Italy

This relatively unheard of Italian resort forms part of the 400km Milky Way ski area, shared with neighbouring Sestriere and Claviere and is ideal for confident intermediates. It's possible to cover miles and miles of terrain in a day, including many blissfully quiet runs. Sauze d’Oulx's village is a mixture of charming cobbled streets and rather more brash architecture, and has a lively après scene.

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 09:24 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 14:41 TGV to Oulx, arriving at 19:23. From there it's a 15-minute taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 59 minutes
Return rail fares from: £124 per adult

Val Thorens, France

Val Thorens enviable position perched at 2,300m in the huge Trois Vallées ski area makes it a popular choice for British skiers and snowboarders. The resort has excellent beginner slopes and all the skiing that intermediates and experts could dream of, with 600km of slopes in total. The village, which has plenty of exciting activities to try, this winter opens a new igloo village created out of ice.

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Moûtiers, arriving at 18:27. From there it's a 50-minute taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 7 hours, 34 minutes
Return rail fares from: £160 per adult

Europe's highest resort Val Thorens is surprisingly easy to access by train

Tignes, France

Tignes has a high proportion of ski-in/-ski-out accommodation in its higher villages, and an inviting array of traditional chalets at Les Brevières, its lowest. There are 300km of slopes to explore, which it shares with neighbouring Val d’Isère, as well as a huge range of alternative activities. These include ice diving, ice climbing, snow tubing and Bun J Ride – a hybrid combination of a ski jump, bungee and a zip-line ride.

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Direct Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 19:03. From there it's a 40-minute taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 28 minutes
Return rail fares from: £160 per adult

Tignes boasts a wide variety of slopes and activities Credit: ©andyparant.com/Andy Parant

Söll, Austria

The impressive SkiWelt region, of which the compact village of Söll forms a part, boasts 284km of ski runs dotted with 77 rustic Alpine huts and après bars. The views over the Wilder Kaiser mountain range are stunning and you can even ski at night, as well as enjoy some of the longest floodlit toboggan runs in Europe at Hexenritt and Mond.

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 15:04 Eurostar to Brussels, arriving 18:05; take the 18:25 ICE from Brussels to Cologne, arriving 20:15; have dinner and take the 23:27 Alpen Express sleeper train to Kufstein, arriving 07:34; from there it's about 25 minutes by bus or taxi.

Rail journey time: 16 hours 13 minutes
Return rail fares from: £244 per adult

St Anton, 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 Alps’ finest expert off piste, in addition to 340km of pistes, as part of the giant Arlberg ski area. After a day on the slopes, friendly après huts such as Taps and Heustadl will have you singing and swaying from afternoon onwards.

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 18:01 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Stopover in Paris and take the 07:23 TGV from Paris-Lyon, changing in Zurich onto the 12:40 RailJet to arrive at 15:03 in St Anton.

Rail journey time: 20 hours, 2 minutes, including a night in Paris
Return rail fares from: £230 per adult

St Anton has some of the best off-piste in the Alps

Val Cenis, France

The piste map is a giveaway as to why French families love the ski area of Val Cenis Vanoise: an impressive 125km-strong network of green, blue and red runs spread across the terrain. There’s also a 900m toboggan run in resort and a pool and spa complex. Self-catering accommodation is good value here, with high quality residences at prices below the French average.

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 09:24 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 14:41 TGV to Modane, arriving at 18:45. From there it's a 30-minute taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 21 minutes
Return rail fares from: £124 per adult

Serre Chevalier Vallee, France

Made up of four villages, Serre Chevalier is a friendly, unpretentious resort with access to some marvellously varied terrain and plenty of wooded runs. The 250km of pistes suit intermediates perfectly, with long reds and simple off piste. Alternative winter activities here include paintballing on snow, dog sledding and fat biking.

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 16:22 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Austerlitz and take the 21:22 sleeper train to Briancon, arriving at 08:30. From there it is a 20-minute taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 15 hours, 8 minutes
Return rail fares from: £142 per adult

Serre Chevalier is popular with intermediates Credit: © Luka Leroy/Luka Leroy

Montgenèvre, France

Montgenèvre's nursery slopes sweep down right into its pretty village centre, making it an attractive destination for families with young children. The resort also has plenty of intermediate-friendly terrain and links into the 400km Milky Way ski area, which includes Sestriere in Italy.

The journey 

Depart London St Pancras on the 09:24 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 14:41 TGV to Oulx, arriving at 19:23. From there it's a 25-minute taxi or bus ride.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 59 minutes
Return rail fares from: £124 per adult

Les Gets, France

Part of the huge 650km Portes du Soleil, Les Gets is dotted with chocolate-box chalet that give it an enduring charm. You can ski to some wonderful mountain restaurants, such as Grand Ourse on Mont Chéry, from where the views are spectacular. The resort has introduced electric snowmobiling for children, as well as a geocaching trail and chocolate-making workshops to add to its already family-friendly appeal. 

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 07:31 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 12:11 TGV, changing at Bellegarde to arrive Cluses at 16:35; from there it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 4 minutes
Return rail fares from: £124 per adult

Les Gets is part of the Portes du Soleil ski area Credit: Anthony Brown/Anthony Brown

La Plagne, France

The 11 villages that make up the resort of La Plagne are dotted across some tantalising terrain, with much of the accommodation ski-in/ski-out. There’s plenty to do off the slopes as well as on, with a new Deep Nature spa at Belle Plagne and overnight stays in a luxury converted snow groomer, under the stars at the top of the Arpette. 

The journey

Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Direct Ski Train to Aime la Plagne, arriving at 18:46. From there it's a 20 - 40 minute taxi or bus.

Rail journey time: 8 hours, 1 minute
Return rail fares from: £160 per adult

Daniel Elkan is founder of snowcarbon.co.uk, an independent guide to how to travel to travel to ski resorts by train.  The website has train journey schedules up to one year in advance, ski packages with rail travel included, detailed guidance on independent travel, videos and by-skier-for-skier stories of ski holidays by train.