Ski resorts are fantastic places. However, there is no quick way to reach them from the UK. Flying might look fast on paper, but when you add up all the airport queuing and the transfers, it takes all day. Driving, of course, takes even longer. What’s surprising is you can reach many ski resorts by train in the Alps.
There are plenty of great ski resorts that you can reach from the UK by train as fast as flying. The difference is that they journey is more enjoyable: sitting around a table with a bunch of friends or family, gazing at the scenery whizzing past the window, or stretching your legs with a stroll to the on-board café bar… you’ll feel like the holiday has begun.
An added bonus it taking the train generated a fraction of the carbon emissions of flying or driving. You can travel by day or you take an overnight train journey meaning you get extra time on the ski slopes. So what are the best resorts by train in the Alps?
Daniel Elkan, the founder of Snowcarbon – an independent guide to how to travel to ski resorts by train – has kindly put together this list of the 10 best ski resorts by train in the Alps.
Avoriaz’ ski-in/ski-out village is perched at the top of the huge 650km Portes du Soleil ski area. On arrival you’ll find that the village is entirely car free – with you and your luggage transported to your accommodation by horse-drawn sleigh.
The resort works well for all levels: there’s a beginner area in the centre of the village – which in the evenings becomes a tobogganing zone; intermediates will be in heaven – with an abundance of blue and red runs shooting off from Avoriaz in various directions; and for the advanced, there’s plenty of challenge – and off-piste too.
Accommodation wise, the Amara residence is the latest swish edition. Off-slope, there’s lots of fun to be had too: the ‘Aquariaz’ tropical aqua centre has pools, waterfalls and a spa and the resort has also introduced Japanese ‘Yukigassen’ snowball fighting as well as on-snow paintballing.
Example train journey: depart London St Pancras on the 07:19 Eurostar to Lyon; then take a local train to Cluses, arriving at 16:35. From there it’s 55 minutes by bus or taxi. Return rail fares from £139 making it one of the best ski resorts by train in the Alps.
With its village at 2,300m and its skiing going up to 3,800, Val Thorens is a high-altitude snow-sure bet if ever there was one. There’s boundless terrain, because the skiing is part of the 600km Three Valleys ski domain, linked with Meribel, Courchevel and La Tania using France’s fastest lift system.
Après-ski bars like La Folie Douce and 360 provide the tunes and the dancing, and there are also cosier bars like Rhum Box Café. If you are into gastronomy you can enjoy Michelin-starred cuisine at the Jean Suplice at Oxaly’s and at L’Epicurian.
The village is purpose built, but many buildings are wood-clad and the layout is compact and predominantly ski-in/ski-out – which makes it all very convenient.
Example train journey: depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Moutiers, arriving at 18:11. From there it’s 60 minutes by bus or taxi. Return rail fares from £149.
A favourite resort for many skiers, St Anton has good reasons to be popular. The terrain is blessed with bountiful off-piste options, which make it a magnet for powder lovers. The lift pass covers five villages, including Lechs and Zurs –well worth a trip.
For beginners, the Nasserein area has dedicated nursery slopes and there are good blues and reds to progress to up at nearby Gampen. Apres ski was born in St Anton, and the atmosphere in slope-side huts like the Moosewirt is legendary.
You can also slink off for a sumptuous spa experience at the Arlberg Well. Make sure you visit the ski museum – which tracks the history of the sport and has a treasure trove of memorabilia.
Example train journey: depart London St Pancras on the 07:55 Eurostar to Paris, change station and take a TGV to Zurich and then a RailJet to St Anton, arriving at 19:03. The train station is in the resort village. Return rail fares from £185.
Beginner skiers might be hard pressed to find a better resort that Montgenevre. The centre of the village has a wide bank of nursery slopes, lined with café bars. That means that you are never far from a hot chocolate as you take your first wobbling snowplough.
For intermediates and above, the 400km ski area is linked with the Milky Way which is ripe for exploration and has plenty of accessible off piste too. This includes the resorts of Sauze d’Oulx, Sestriere and Claviere in Italy.
The village has a rustic and unpretentious feel, and prices here are relatively inexpensive. The resort has just opened a new leisure centre, Durancia, with indoor and outdoor pools. Plus there’s the Monty Express – at 1,400 metres – France’s longest toboggan run.
Example train journey: depart London St Pancras on the 09:22 Eurostar to Paris; then take a TGV to Oulx, arriving at 19:23. From there it’s 30 minutes by bus or taxi. Return rail fares from £112 making it one of the cheapest ski resorts by train in the Alps.
Alpe d’Huez Grand Domain de Ski has 250km of slopes, encompassing five villages: Vaujany, Villard-Reculas, Oz-en-Oisans, Auris-en-Oisans and Alpe d’Huez itself – all served by Grenoble train station.
From whichever base you choose, the terrain here is intermediate friendly and the views superbly scenic. The slopes at Vaujany and Auris in particularly remain beautifully quiet, to the point to which you feel like you’ve got the mountain to yourself.
You’ll also find a good density of inviting mountain restaurants, such as Chalet de Lac Besson and La Bergerie – perfect for a coffee or lunch after some of the roller coaster red runs that swoop into Villard Reculas.
Example train journey: depart London St Pancras on the 07:19 Eurostar to Lyon; then take a local train to Grenoble, arriving at 15:49. From there it’s 55 minutes by bus or taxi. Return rail fares from £123.
Verbier has cult status for off-piste, with ample terrain for those that love their snow untracked. Areas like the back of Mont Fort and under the Gentiane and Chassoure lifts are some of the many powdery paths that exist here.
It is also a good resort for snowboarders and a home of the Freeride World Tour. The resort has a deserved reputation for its cosmopolitan ambience, which gives the village a real buzz and makes it one of the best ski resorts by train in the Alps.
It’s also a resort that gets great reviews for its ski schools, where some independents like New Generation have set up, and where Powder Extreme specialises in off-piste (the clue is in the name, to be fair). When it comes to mountain food, seek out the Cabine de Mont-Fort, which serves up a smashing goulash.
Example train journey: depart London St Pancras on the 18:31 Eurostar to Paris; stopover and take the 08:02 TGV Lyria to Martigny, change there and take a local train to Le Chable, arriving at 13:43. From there it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi. Return rail fares from £152
From Bourg St Maurice, it’s only seven minutes by funicular train up to Arc 1600, the first of the four villages that make up the resort which is a firm favourite with British and French skiers. The layout of the slopes benefits early-intermediate skiers particularly, as they are able to cruise smooth, easy blue runs at high altitude.
For intermediates and experienced skiers, meanwhile, the variety and extent of the slopes make for epic days. There is 425km of terrain in the Paradiski area, shared with neighbouring La Plagne and Peisey-Vallandry.
For convenience, the ski-in/ski-out layout of Arc 1950 is hard to beat – with the slopes snaking through the village. Arc 1800 is the liveliest of the resorts and is just below the new Mille8 development has a 3800m2 swimming and aquatic centre with indoor and outdoor pools and waterfalls. Plus there’s a thrilling state-of-the-art luge run.
Example train journey: depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Moutiers, arriving at 18:52. From there it’s seven minutes by funicular train to Arc 1600 making it one of the easiest ski resorts by train in the Alps. Return rail fares from £149
It’s hard to imagine that an Italian ski resort would be one of the best ski resorts by train in the Alps from the UK. But Sauze sits just the other side of the French border, only a few minutes from Oulx station.
The resort is part of the 400km Milky Way ski area offering great variety in resorts such as Sestriere and Claviere in Italy and Montgenevre in France. The local slopes are mostly tree-lined runs and are perfect for intermediate cruising, particularly the slopes above neighbouring Sansicario.
There are also some wonderful mountain restaurants, such as the rustic Caio Pais and Orse Bianco. The town has an attractive cobbled pedestrian centre, and in the evening the bars are lively and unpretentious.
Example train journey: depart London St Pancras on the 09:22 Eurostar to Paris; then take a TGV to Oulx, arriving at 19:23. From there it’s 15 minutes by bus or taxi. Return rail fares from £112.
Les Contamines isn’t that well known to the UK market, but it should be. Just up the road from St Gervais station, there are 132km of pistes here, with sublime scenery making it one of the best ski resorts by train in the Alps.
Ski on one side of the mountain and you have an unparalleled view of Mont Blanc; ski the Haute-Luce side and you peer down toward Belleville. Sometimes, on sunny days the valley below is covered in cloud, creating a spectacular vista.
Try the runs such as Gentianes, Fredze, Toboggan and Combe, and then stop for lunch at favourite eatieries like La Rosilette, and La Buche Croisee. In the evenings in the friendly village is more about eating than drinking, so this isn’t the place to party. But the restaurants are very welcoming and friendly – a quality that makes this resort one that once skiers discover, they return to.
Example train journey: depart London St Pancras on the 07:19 Eurostar to Lyon; then take a local train to St Gervais, arriving at 16:53. From there it’s 20 minutes by bus or taxi. Return rail fares from £139.
In the Southern Alps, Serre Chevalier Vallee has access to 250km of slopes shared between four villages. Over 80% of the ski terrain is located above 2,000 metres, making it a snow-sure bet for early and late season. Many of the runs are tree-lined and so even in cloudy weather, easy to navigate.
The unpretentious atmosphere in the villages – plus some good-value pricing – make it a draw both for families and groups. The nursery slopes for beginners in each sector are excellent. Intermediates will be in their element, carving runs such as the Cucumelle red run or the cruisy Myrtilles.
There’s also an exhilarating 4-km toboggan run that will take you through 26 turns in a larch forest, with a total vertical drop of 573 metres. For a dinner with a difference, the tourist office organises excursions by piste basher in the evenings to restaurants up on the mountain.
Example train journey: depart London St Pancras on the 16:22 Eurostar to Paris; then take a sleeper train to Briancon, arriving at 08:30. From there it’s 20 minutes by bus or taxi. Return rail fares from £112.
Rail tickets for all of the above journeys can be booked independently at: loco2.com, uk.voyages-sncf.com or eurostar.com. Alternatively visit Snowcarbon.co.uk, where train travel can be linked with ski holidays by major ski holiday tour operators, or you can plan or book your journey to the best ski resorts by train in the Alps.
Massive thanks to Daniel Elkan, is founder of Snowcarbon – an independent guide to how to travel to ski resorts by train – for writing this article.