The Crystal Ski Holidays Blog

Ski train vs plane – the fastest way to the Alps?

Daniel Elkan of Snowcarbon talks a good game, extolling the virtues of travelling to the slopes by train.

But surely it’s a lot of hassle right, and flying’s so much quicker isn’t it?

Well there was only one way to decide the matter- a Top Gear style race to the Alps.

Train vs plane in a race to the Alps

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We all know the story of the hare and tortoise – but does this fable translate on a journey from London to the French ski resort of Meribel, in the Three Valleys?

In one corner was Snowcarbon’s Daniel, taking the Eurostar and a TGV train from London St. Pancras, via Paris to Bourg St. Mourice, then hopping a taxi for the final few miles up the mountain.

His opponent, travel journalist Neil English, who flew from Gatwick to Geneva, then took a private transfer by road.

The finishing line – the first to dive into the hot tub at a chalet in Meribel.

But who was fastest? Surely a train can’t beat a plane – or can it?

All we’re saying is that it was a very close race – watch this video to see who won…

Why travel by train?

So are you convinced enough to consider ditching the boarding pass for passing through the French countryside at 200mph an hour instead?

Daniel explains why he loves to travel to the ski resorts by train:

I love travelling to the slopes by train because you get quality chunks of time to spend having fun or getting stuff done. When you fly it’s quite stop-start as you move through the airport and flying process, but with the train you get time that you can actually use.

With friends, sitting at a table seat, you can be playing games, chatting, reading, watching films – and all this against a backdrop of changing scenery. Sometimes the train goes literally right past peoples back gardens or farms, you see the animals, and then later past lakes and see the mountains rising in from of you.

I don’t have a family myself, but travelling on trains you see children keeping themselves amused, and parents actually enjoying the journey because the kids are happy.

You get talking to other travellers too and swap tips on skiing and even make new friends – I even got myself a date in Courchevel with someone I met on the train to Moutiers once!

How to get to the Alps by train

There’s two ways to travel to the Alps by train with Crystal – by day, or by night.

The night-time direct Eurostar service leaves St Pancras International at 7.30pm on Friday evening, arriving into the alpine stations from 6.00am the following morning. The big benefit of taking this train is you gain 2 more days on the slopes, being able to ski on both Saturdays. The downside? This is a seated service, so if the idea of a less-than-perfect night’s sleep is the stuff of nightmares for you, then perhaps give this one a miss.

The day-time direct service departs London at around 10.00am, getting you into resort in time for your evening meal and fresh for a day on the slopes on Sunday, and gets you six days on the slopes and a comfortable daytime journey.

It’s also possible to upgrade Standard Premier class which gets you a glass of champagne, a tasty meal, roomy seats and newspapers to make that journey to the slopes more of a pleasurable experience.

Crystal’s train travel price match

And the best thing?

On most dates, it’s exactly the same price as taking a flight-based holiday with us.

So not only will you be saving on your carbon emissions, but it’ll cost you no more to do your bit for the environment.

The latest ski train deals from Crystal 

As fast as flying…? The Crystal top five

Here’s Daniel’s pick of the top resorts where a Crystal ski rail-inclusive package can get you there as fast as flying.

Les Arcs, France

Daniel’s resort highlights:  “I came here and stayed at Arcs 1950, which as a ski-in-ski out resort works very well.

You can literally ski through the village, which means you can ski into the village for lunch and even if you feel like going back for an extra layer it isn’t a hassle.

There’s an amazing spa here too, which is great for soaking your limbs after a day pounding the pistes of the 425km Paradiski area.”

  • Journey by train: Depart on the 10:00 Eurostar Ski Train from London St Pancras, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 18:51. 30-minute transfer by road to resort.
  •   More about ski holidays in Les Arcs

La Rosiere, France

Daniel’s resort highlights:  “The first time I visited La Rosiere I was impressed by the friendliness of the the village and its laid-back atmosphere.

The thing that really excites me about the slopes is the fact that you ski between two countries, because the 250km San Bernardo area is shared with the resort of La Thuile, so you can head over for an pasta, pizza or a cappuccino, explore the slopes there and then be back in France in plenty of time time for après ski drinks.”

  • Journey by train: Depart on the 10:00 Eurostar Ski Train from London St Pancras, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 18:51. 50-minute transfer by road to resort.
  •  More about ski holidays in La Rosiere

La Plagne, France

Daniel’s resort highlights:  “If you are an early intermediate here, you’ll love the networks of blue runs that interlace.

There are so many options here in the Paradiski area, because you’ve actually got 425km of slopes, shared with Les Arcs.

The nursery slopes are particularly good here too, there is a choice of villages to stay at and some interesting non-ski stuff too, like the Igloo village and the bobsleigh run.”

  • Journey by train: Depart on the 10:00 Eurostar Ski Train from London St Pancras, arriving at Aime la Plagne at 18:30. From there it is a 25-minute transfer to resort.
  •   More about ski holidays in La Plagne

Meribel, France

Daniel’s resort highlights:  “Meribel has a reputation for vibrant après ski bars that party till late.

But don’t stay out all night and miss the morning on the slopes, because the huge Three Valleys area has some incredible terrain, with fantastic runs from Saulire, Roc des 3 Marches and off Tougnette, which holds its snow particularly well, due to its north-facing aspect.”

  • Journey by train: Depart on the 10:00 Eurostar Ski Train from London St Pancras, arriving at Moutiers at 18:13. It’s then 25-minutes up the hill to Meribel by road.
  •   More about ski holidays in La Rosiere

Tignes, France

Daniel’s resort highlights: “This is a brilliant resort for intermediate skiers and those that like exploring off piste too.

The 300km Espace Killy is has a really good lift system, so you can whizz around the slopes and really get mileage under your belt.

There’s plenty to do after dark too, with a fair share of bars and restaurants and activities like ice-skating on the natural, frozen lake.”

  • Journey by train: Depart on the 10:00 Eurostar Ski Train from London St Pancras, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 18:51. 50-minute transfer by road to resort.
  •  More about ski holidays in Tignes

About Snowcarbon

Snowcarbon aims to help more skiers and snowboarders have enjoyable, sustainable journeys by train by providing comprehensive, independent information:  which resorts are convenient, how to get there, what the trains and journeys are like and how to book.

Generally it is lack of information, not lack of infrastructure, that prevents more skiers from doing this.

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