Snowtrain to French Alps
Which snowtrain to the French Alps should you book for your ski holiday? There are 4 main 'snowtrain' options available and below we look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. If you are one of a growing number of skiers and snowboarders who prefer to catch the train to France rather than fly then talk to us to arrange your next ski holiday.
The four different snowtrain options:
1. Daytime Eurostar service direct to the Alps
The civilised and comfortable way to reach the French Alps by trainThe Eurostar daytime train departs from London St Pancras station each Saturday morning of the winter season (21st December 2018 through to 06th April 2019) and travels via Ashford International directly to the centre of the French Alps.
Eurostar direct daytime train times 2018-19:Outbound: Departs London St Pancras Saturdays 09.45hrs and arrives Moutiers 18.27hrs. The train then goes on to stop at Aime La Plagne 20 minutes later, and Bourg St Maurice 15 minutes after that (19.03hrs).
- Moutiers station accesses: Ski resorts in the Three Valleys plus Valmorel
- Aime La Plagne accesses: the ski resorts making up La Plagne
- Bourg St Maurice accesses: Les Arcs, La Rosiere, Tignes and Val d'Isere
Advantages of daytime direct Eurostar service:
- Easy and quick check in at London St Pancras or Ashford International station.
- Stress free journey with comfortable seats & extra leg room, scenery to look at and on-board meals to enjoy from the buffet car.
- Business Premier tickets include two light and complementary meals. With this ticket you also have slightly more spacious seating.
- Short taxi transfer to your resort from the station. Compare this to the coach journey from Geneva Airport to Val d'Isere which on a peak weekend can take more than 4 hours.
- Quick exit from station to taxi with no waiting at the airport luggage carousel.
Disadvantages of daytime direct Eurostar service:
- More expensive than flying.
- Daytime direct Eurostar service only runs on Saturdays. This does not work if you wish to stay in a better quality catered chalet with a Sunday changeover day.
2. Morning Eurostar to Paris plus TGV to the Alps
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 your 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 of morning Eurostar to Paris plus TGV to the Alps:
- 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 of morning Eurostar to Paris plus TGV to the Alps:
- 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.
3. Overnight Eurostar service direct to the Alps
Add two extra days of skiing to your week's holidayIf you want to maximise your time on the ski slopes then the overnight snow train would be the ideal mode of transport to get you to and from the Alps. The Eurostar departs from London St Pancras station each Friday evening throughout the winter season so you should be able to catch the outbound train right after work (without having to take extra time off).
The Eurostar service travels through the night to arrive in the heart of the French Alps early the next morning. A short taxi ride from the station (usually 45-55 minutes) to your chosen ski resort ensures that you can ski all day before checking into your chalet or hotel later that afternoon. The return train leaves Saturday night and arrives back into London St Pancras on Sunday morning. The overnight train service therefore allows you to ski both the Saturday you arrive in resort and the Saturday that you leave. This means you can book a seven night holiday and ski for 8 days. Those that choose to fly to the Alps will only have 6 days of skiing for the same seven night stay in resort.
Eurostar direct overnight train times 2018-19:Outbound: Departs London St Pancras Fridays 19.42hrs and arrives Moutiers 05.34hrs Saturday morning (approx journey time: 11 hours). The train then goes on to stop at Aime La Plagne 25 minutes later, and Bourg St Maurice 20 minutes after that (06.17hrs).
Return: Departs Bourg St Maurice Saturdays 22.12hrs, and Moutiers at 22.54hrs. Arrives London St Pancras station Sundays 07.16hrs (having already stopped at Ashford Int. at 06.33hrs). Please note that the return train does not stop at Aime La Plagne.
Advantages of overnight direct Eurostar service:
- 8 days on the mountain for a 7 night stay in resort (2 extra days skiing compared to a standard 7 night holiday with flights).
Disadvantages of overnight direct Eurostar service:
- The seats are not designed for sleeping so you will arrive in your resort pretty shattered having not slept much.
- Arriving in a ski resort at 6.30am can be soul destroying. It is likely to be dark, cold and there will be no shops or bars open for you to get breakfast. You will not be given access to your hotel or chalet until 4pm so you will need to find somewhere else to change into your ski clothes. Furthermore the ski hire shops and the first lifts will not open/start until 08.30hrs.
4. Evening Eurostar to Paris plus overnight sleeper train
Add two extra days of skiing to your holiday and save money
Take an early evening Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord on a Friday and then either catch a taxi (why not take in some sightseeing en-route) or the RER (the Réseau Express Régional is a highspeed commuter train service) to Gare du Lyon. The RER journey between the two stations will take less than 10 minutes but bear in mind that you will be carrying all your ski luggage and negotating Parisian commuters at the same time.
From Gare du Lyon you can catch a sleeper train operated by the national French train operator, the SNCF. This will arrive in Moutiers, Aime La Plagne and Bourg St Maurice early on Sunday morning. The return from the Alps works in much the same way as the Eurostar direct train service. Catch the SNCF sleeper train on Saturday night to Paris. Change stations from Gare du Lyon to Gare du Nord early on Sunday morning and then hook up with a highspeed Eurostar service getting into London St Pancras just over two hours later.
Advantages of evening Eurostar to Paris plus overnight sleeper train:
- 8 days on the mountain for a 7 night stay in resort.
- Cheaper than the direct Eurostar service.
- Enjoy a better night's sleep on the sleeper train compared to the Eurostar.
Disadvantages of evening Eurostar to Paris plus overnight sleeper train:
- Greater chance of your itinerary going awry.
- Crossing Paris is not easy when you have lots of luggage.
- You will need to book tickets with two different suppliers, Eurostar and the SNCF.
- You are likely to share your 6 person sleeper couchette with strangers.
- You arrive in the Alps too early in the morning.
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 snow train 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 (day or overnight)
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.
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.