Wanting to reduce my carbon footprint, I travelled from the UK to French Alps by train for a snowboarding holiday in Morzine. Rather than rent equipment, I took my own snowboard and other gear. So this article is a Eurostar snowboard bag travel review, about the journey and how it went with an enormous bag!
First up I planned and booked the journey through Rail Europe. They are a global travel tech company and the main brand for booking European train travel from the UK. They’ve been operating for nearly 100 years originally selling French train routes to a US audience.
These days their train booking website and app is available worldwide. They sell around 2.5 million European train tickets every year, offering point to point tickets and various passes for the whole of Europe or single countries. Interrail tickets for the whole continent can be purchased for a number of days a month or unlimited travel.
Rail Europe works with many European train operators, including SBB, Thalys, Trenitalia, Italo, DB, Renfe, ÖBB, SNCB, NS, OUIGO Spain. For this trip I took the National Rail from Brighton to London, then the Eurostar to Paris, and then the SNCF to Thonon-Les-Bains.
The booking process is simple. Just input your start and end destinations and it will come up with cross Europe suggestions. You can then book your entire journey in one go.
During this review of Rail Europe I found that the planner didn’t always come up with the best times to avoid long gaps between trains. For example, if I put departing at 8am I ended up with a three and a half hour wait in London, and a two and a half hour connection in Paris. But playing around with the times meant I found better connections.
Of course getting the train across Europe can be a bit daunting, especially if you have luggage for a holiday. We ramped the difficulty up a notch be each taking two metre long snowboard bags. Fortunately, we both fit all our gear inside the snowboard bag plus a small backpack each.
I have travelled by train in the UK, and from the airport to resort in Europe, with my snowboard bag a lot. Typically it is fine unless the trains are busy when finding somewhere to put it can be tricky. We had seats booked on the Eurostar and TGV legs of our journey, but there was no possibility to book a spot for luggage.
The Eurostar terminal at London St Pancras was heaving when we arrived, but getting through security was fairly quick. We then had around 45 minutes to hang around before boarding the train. The walk to the platform with our bags was OK, but getting on the train was awkward as it was really busy with people putting luggage into the racks.
The racks are designed for normal suitcases so are nowhere near large enough for snowboard bags. However, the overhead shelves on the Eurostar are huge and run full length on both sides. They are easily big enough for a snowboard bag.
Although lifting the snowboard bag up to head height is tough, and slightly dangerous as you could hurt someone if doing it on your own. The other challenge is finding a long enough gap to fit the bag. It was fine on the way to Paris but on the way home we had to ask people to move their luggage a bit to fit ours in.
Like the Eurostar the TGV trains were fully booked. And similarly the luggage racks were designed for the usual suitcases. A quick look at the overhead racks told us they would not fit a snowboard bag.
However, when we went upstairs there was a gap between the main luggage area and the last seats in that carriage. This gap was just about wide enough to fit two snowboard bags on their ends. And using the straps on our bags we were able to secure them in place.
The local train from Brighton to London was easy with my snowboard bag, but only because it was not busy. So I just put it standing in the seat next to me. If it was busy I’d either have gone to the bike area to store my bag or there is usually space near the toilets.
The final part of this Eurostar snowboard bag travel review was on the local French train form Bellegarde to Thonon-Les-Bains. Just like in UK there was plenty of space, however we kept the bags out of the way by putting them beneath our fold down seats.
First up it is worth noting that we made every train, and that once on the trains this is a very relaxing way to travel. I essentially got a day of work done in each direction. However, we had a few less than relaxing moments during the travels, all of which revolved around delays and changing stations in Paris.
When you arrive on the Eurostar it is at Paris Nord, you then have to get to Paris Lyon via the Metro. This is fairly easy as it is just two stops on the green line. With the walking at either end, plus ticket buying, this takes about 15-25 minutes.
Buying tickets from the machine, including tickets for the return journey together was easy. You just need a single ticket for each journey and you can choose how many to buy.
Top tip: don’t buy tickets from the first machines you come to, as they’ll be busy with all the Eurostar passengers. Instead walk on towards the green line and buy tickets at the quiet machines near the entrance.
Unfortunately our journey home was delayed. To be fair we were lucky the train was running at all as there was a strike. We made it to Paris with just enough time to get across the city. However, the green line was closed (we assume as part of the strike) and we hit Paris at rush hour.
You are supposed to check into the Eurostar at least 30 minutes before departure. We arrived in Paris about nearly an hour late, with just 50 mins before departure. We ran through the station, to the metro and then discovered we had to change trains which took ages. Plus there were big queues with all the metro trains rammed.
Eventually we used our bags to barge onto the tube, and made it to Gare de Nord about 20 minutes before departure. It is still quite a distance from the tube to the Eurostar. But we ran through the station in the hope they would still let us on. Fortunately there was no queue at security and we were let through in time for the train.
We were both drenched in sweat, and it had been rather stressful. So allow two hours for the transfer between Gare Lyon and Gare Nord. Unlike normally trains you cannot just rock up to the Eurostar at departure time. The security process takes ten minutes even without queues. If we had not run we would not have made it.
But getting the train was worth it for the 90% reduction in carbon emissions compared to flying. Door to door it took 11-13 hours, although we did get a Skiidy Gonzales transfer from Thonon-Les-Bains to Morzine, which was a lot quicker than the bus. Comparatively, flying would take seven to eight hours door to door.
Morzine is an awesome resort with a number of eco-initiatives through the Montage Verte association. This includes the AlpinExpress discount card for those who travel by train. You get 10% off your lift pass, plus 5-10% off lessons, kit hire, shops, spas, activities and much more.
As part of the Portes Du Soleil there are 650km of mostly lift linked pistes and much off-piste and backcountry to explore. It covers 12 resorts across France and Switzerland including Les Gets, Avoriaz, Chatel, Champerry and Morgins. There are seven snow parks in Avoriaz alone, plus more dotted around the area.
The town of Morzine is lively without being mad. You can normally find apres fun or late night partying if you want. The restaurants are great with good options for meat free diets as we showed during this Morzine vegan ski and snowboarding holiday.
As we have shown in this Eurostar snowboard bag travel review it is perfectly possible to take all your gear on the train from the UK to the French Alps. Booking with Rail Europe is simple and the trains are mostly easy. The link across Paris can be a little stressful if you don’t allow enough time.
Travelling by train is more comfortable and I found it more relaxing that flying. And you certainly have a lot more leg space. I worked and napped, and even had time to have a read and chat with my mate over a couple of beers.
And ultimately it is the more eco-friendly way to travel. Yes it takes about 50% longer, but it saves 90% of your carbon emissions. And while the train is more expensive that flying there are discounts that make up the difference once in resort if you travel to Morzine by train.
To conclude this UK to French Alps by train review, I’d say it is easier than you think. If you just have normal luggage and allow more time in Paris it would be even easier. You could even tag a night or two in Paris onto your ski or snowboarding holiday.
I hope you found this Eurostar snowboard bag travel review useful. If you go to from the UK to French Alps by Train then head to the Rail Europe website to get started: www.raileurope.com