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Snowtrain to French Alps

Snowtrain to the French Alps

Train to the Alps update for winter 2023-24

The former direct Eurostar service between London and the Alps no longer exists in the same format it did pre-pandemic.

There is, however, the possibility to still book a direct Eurostar service to and from the Alps if you book through a French tour operator. Their holidays only come with the daytime train out (Saturday) and the overnight train back (Saturday evening to Sunday morning).

The Compagnie des Alpes which owns much of the ski lift infrastructure in the northern French Alps has charted a direct Eurostar train which will operate out and back (London to the Alps) for 16 weeks of the winter 2023-24. This has been branded as the 'Travelski Express' and will only operate outbound London St Pancras to Moutiers/Bourg St Maurice on Friday night, and return to London during the day on Saturdays.

Seats on the train will only be available to book through the online tour operator, Travelski, (which is wholly owned by Compagnie des Alpes) as part of a package including cheap accommodation (mostly in self-catering apartments) and ski pass. Seat only bookings cannot be purchased on their own.

Excluding the above inclusive packages there are now just two train options available:

Ideal ski chalets to combine with the snowtrain


1. Morning Eurostar to Paris + TGV

Avoid airport stress and enjoy lunch in Paris

The completion of High Speed 1 has brought the British part of Eurostar's route up to the same standards as the French high-speed train lines. Non-stop journey times were reduced by a further 20 minutes to just 2 hours 15 minutes for the London to Paris route. Take an early morning Eurostar from London to Paris Gare du Nord (they operate on every day of the week) and then a taxi to your favourite Parisian restaurant to enjoy a fabulous lunch whilst soaking up the atmosphere. Afterwards arrange for the maitre d' to book a taxi to Gare du Lyon where you can catch a TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) operated by the SNCF. These trains are even faster than the Eurostar so that the journey from Paris to the Alps (you can choose from many destinations) takes just over 4 hours. A short taxi ride will then bring you to your ski resort with enough time to pick up your ski equipment before sitting down to dinner.

Useful fact: In April 2007 a TGV test train set the record for the fastest wheeled train ever, reaching 574.80kph (357mph).

The return journey would work almost as well. A morning TGV from the Alps will get you into Paris for a late lunch or perhaps an early tea, depending on which train you catch. Transfer across Paris to the Gare du Nord and then catch the Eurostar service to London where you will arrive in time for dinner (catching back one hour with the time difference).

Advantages:
  • Travel on any day of the week. This allows you to stay in one of the many better quality chalets with a Sunday changeover day.
  • Travel to a much wider variety destinations in the French Alps. The TGV service runs to more stations than the Eurostar.
  • Enjoy a lunch in Paris on the way out to resort and tea on the way back.
  • Cheaper than the direct Eurostar service.
Disadvantages:
  • Greater chance of your itinerary going awry if one of the trains is delayed.
  • Crossing Paris is not easy when you have lots of luggage with you (families with young children take note).
  • You need to book tickets with two different suppliers, Eurostar and the SNCF.

2. Direct Daytime Eurostar to Tarentaise Valley


This departs London St Pancras on Saturday morning (arriving in the French Alps early evening) and departs from several Tarentaise Valley stations early on Sunday mornings (arriving back in London early evening the same day). This train schedule only runs in the winter season until 04th February 2024.

Advantages:
- Less hassle than flying.
- Short transfers up the mountain from the valley stations to the ski resorts (approx 30-45 minutes).

Disadvantages:
- You will need to find overnight accommodation on Saturday night so you can check-in for the early train departure Sunday morning.

Ideal ski chalets to combine with the snowtrain


Snowtrain vs Flying - which is quicker?

You may think that taking a train to the Alps would take a lot longer than taking a flight. After all the cruising speed of a modern Boeing 737 (the short haul workhorse hero) is 580mph and covers the route London (Heathrow or Gatwick) to Geneva Airport in approximately one and a half hours. However, the Eurostar is by no means a slouch, travelling at just a shade under 200mph, and by the time you factor in the extra hours taken at the airports checking in and collecting luggage, plus the extra 2 to 3 hours transfer time to your ski resort the total journey times are in fact very similar. Given the extra stress of travelling by plane it's no surprise that many of our clients opt to take the relaxing daytime direct snowtrain service to the Alps. The video below shows a comparison of journey times for the plane vs plane race. The difference in time between the two very different journeys is just 35 minutes - but which is quicker?

Luggage allowance for the Eurostar direct train services

One of the best things about travelling with Eurostar is that there’s no weight limit for your luggage, as long as you’re able to carry your own bags and put them safely in the luggage rack on board. There is also no restriction on liquids, so you can pack a bottle of bubbly for the train, or bring back a large bottle of French scent.

Adult Standard class tickets includes:
- 2 pieces of main luggage (up to 85cm long) plus a set of skis/snowboard.
- 1 small piece of hand luggage eg. handbag, laptop or briefcase.

Adult Business Premier class tickets includes:
- 3 pieces of main luggage (up to 85cm long) plus a set of skis/snowboard.
- 1 small piece of hand luggage eg. handbag, laptop or briefcase.

Child ticket includes:
- 1 piece of luggage (up to 85cm long).
- 1 piece of hand luggage.

The last time we checked children under four years old travel free with Eurostar, so they don’t need a ticket. Since they won’t have a seat or luggage allowance though, they’ll need to sit on a grown-up’s lap and fit all their belongings in with the adult’s too. Given that you need to buy an airline ticket for children once they reach 2 years old there is an opportunity for a family with a two or three year old to save money (so long as you can deal with them being on your lap for the journey).

Note: Pushchairs can be taken free in addition to your individual allowance. However, you will need to fold your pram and store it in the luggage rack above the seats.

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