A new sleeper train route to Austria means that skiers can now get two extra days on the slopes of the Tirol. And there are plenty of other resorts in the Alps that you can reach easily by train.
The idea of dreaming your way to the slopes, travelling overnight on a sleeper train that arrives minutes from your ski village, has always appealed to mile-hungry skiers who have waited all year for their dose of snow.
The fact that, by travelling overnight each way, you can get two extra days’ skiing on your holiday, is a big plus factor. And this winter a new route to the slopes of the Tirol region in the heart of the Austrian Alps means this is possible.
Compared to the direct overnight Eurostar Ski Train to France, the journey is a fair bit longer. But you get to sleep in comfortable couchettes instead of sitting upright as you do on the Ski Train.
The journey begins at St Pancras with a Eurostar to Brussels, where you change platform and take a fast ICE or a Thalys train to Cologne. There you board the NightJet sleeper, which has six and four-berth couchettes, as well as two-berth cabins with ensuite washroom and shower. After being served tea, coffee and breakfast in the morning you reach the Tirol at about 08:30am. The slopes are then just minutes way.
This new option is one of a range or rail journey to ski resorts. Daniel Elkan from the online independent guide, Snowcarbon, highlights some of the best destinations you can reach by train.
The vibrant village of Soll is part of the sizeable SkiWelt, which has 284km of ski runs 77 mountain restaurants and apres-ski bars. The Gipfelalm Hohe Salve restaurant, with a terrace that rotates through 360 degrees while you eat, has spectacular views over the Wilder Kaiser mountain range. While you are there check out the Alpeniglu, a snow village of 18 igloos accessible for non-skiers too. It has a bar made entirely from ice, with fondue served on a crystal-clear ice table and ice sculptures by international artists. There is night skiing as well as floodlit Hexenritt and Mond toboggan runs and the village is lively at night too.
Example rail journey:
Depart London St Pancras on the 15:04 Eurostar to Brussels, arriving 18:05; take the 18:25 ICE from Brussels to Cologne, arriving 20:15; then take the 21:21 NightJet sleeper train to Wörgl, arriving 08:36; from there it’s about 20 minutes by bus or taxi.
Val Cenis, France
Located in the heart of the beautiful Maurienne Valley, Val Cenis is a very family friendly village. The view from the area’s second-highest peak, which overlooks Lac Du Mont Cenis and onwards into Italy, is magnificent. The Haute Maurienne valley, which is part of the Parc National de la Vanoise, has a more historic setting than most, and is anything but purpose-built. Val Cenis offers much more than just skiing, and the resort is proud of its range of activities. You can paraglide, try husky dog-sledding, go ice-climbing and visit a cheese-making facility. Children will love it here, with fantastic slopes for a variety of levels, including L’Escargot, the Alps’ longest green run.
Example journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:22 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 14:41 TGV to Modane, arriving at 18:45. From there it’s a 30-minute taxi or bus.
La Rosiere, France
Perched on a sunny mountainside near the Italian border at the end of the Tarentaise valley, La Rosiere is a friendly resort with a loyal following. The slopes are part of the 160km Espace San Bernardo, linked with La Thuile in Italy. There is also plenty for intermediates to sink their skis into, with La Thuile in Italy a target for a cappucino stop, or lunch. Beginners are well catered for, with gentle blue runs near the village and the ESF beginner snowboarding lessons for children aged four to seven. There’s also snow-kiting, ice-skating and Paret – old-style wooden sledging. A new Hyatt Centric hotel opens this winter, along with the elegant apartment-residence Chalet Grivola.
Example rail journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 18:58; from there it’s 45 minutes by taxi.
Val d’Isere, France
Hugely popular with the Brits, Val d’Isere’s village sits at a lofty 1850m. With skiing up 3400m in Val and 3456m at the top of the Grande Motte, snow is assured. Although 30% of visitors are British, it’s a very cosmopolitan place. The Solaise area has been remodelled with a new beginner area. The village is very lively, with plenty of bars and clubs, and some great restaurants. Chef Benoit Vidal at L’Atelier d’Edmond in Le Fornet runs a cooking course each month, followed by a dégustation in the adjoining bistrot. Hotel L’Avancher has been has been entirely rebuilt and new piste-side L’Étincelle will serve up authentic mountain dishes.
Example rail journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 19:03; from there it’s 45 minutes by bus or taxi.
Les Gets, France
Only minutes from Cluses station, is the charming village of Les Gets. The cute streets are lined with charming chalets and restaurants and a little road-train ferries beaming skiers around the resort. Part of the huge 650km Portes du Soleil ski area, linked with Morzine and Avoriaz, the resort has slopes that will please all level of skier or boarder. There are wonderful local slopes at Mont Chery, which always stay quiet retaining untracked powder. The resort also hosts the Skicolor festival where skiers, dressed in a white suits, ski through clouds of multi-coloured natural paint powder. Quite a sight.
Example rail journey: Depart London St Pancras 07:52 by Eurostar to Paris-Nord; change station and take the 12:45 TGV changing at Bellegarde to arrive Cluses at 16:35; from there it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi.
Peisey-Vallandry sits between the resorts of Les Arcs and La Plagne in the Paradiski area, with 425km of slopes to explore in total. For off-piste, there’s fun to be had up at Aiguille Grive or Aiguille Rousse from the top of the Col de la Chal. The reds above the resort are some of the best in the area, with Aigle and Ours particularly satisfying. Good restaurants on the mountain include Blanche Murée, with its big sunny terrace and for apres-ski the friendly slopeside Mont Blanc bar makes a great place to toast your adventures on the mountain.
Example rail journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 19:03; from there it’s 45 minutes by taxi.
The village of Alpbach is one of the most picturesque in the Alps and the gondola linking Alpbach with the Wildschönau valley, built a few years ago, means there is now 145km of terrain for your skis to explore. Alpbach’s slopes are tailor-made for intermediates, the network of lifts slick and slopes superbly groomed. There are plenty of cosy mountain huts, such as the Gipfohit on top of the Schatzberg, with stunning views over the surrounding peaks and landscape. Beginner slopes in the centre of the village makes things easy for families here, too.
Example rail journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 15:04 Eurostar to Brussels; take the 18:25 ICE from Brussels to Cologne; then take the 21:21 NightJet sleeper train to Jenbach, arriving 08:53; from there it’s about 20 minutes by bus or taxi.
Tignes has a high-proportion of ski-in ski-out accommodation in its higher villages, and an inviting array of traditional chalets at Les Brevières. There are 300km of slopes to exploe, as well as a huge range of alternative activities. These include ice-diving, ice-climbing, snowtubing and Bun J Ride – a hybrid combination of a ski jump, bunjee and a zip-line ride, for the daring!
Example rail journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Direct Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 19:03. From there it’s a 40-minute taxi or bus.
Montgenevre is one of the most family-friendly resorts in the Alps, with an almost traffic-free village and an enormous beginner area whose gentle slopes fan from the centre of the village. Experienced skiers will love the lack of queues and the amount of accessible off piste that stays untracked for days after a snowfall. The slopes are very scenic, and the resort is part of the 400km Milky Way ski area, linked with Claviere, Sestriere and Sauze. In the village, the swim and spa complex will keep children content after the slopes. The resort is relatively chilled in the evening, but head to cosy bar La Tourmente for live music and cocktails.
Example rail journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:31 Eurostar, change in Paris and take the 14:41 TGV train, arriving Oulx station at 19:21. From there it is a 25-minute taxi or bus ride.
La Plagne, France
High-altitude snowsure slopes makes La Plagne a popular destination for skiers at Easter, when the resort puts on a magnificent festival, Sublicimes. During this time there is an incredible range of entertainment, music and activities across a range of mountain summits. The ski-in ski-out nature of much of the accommodation makes it very convenient for families – and the extensive network of blue runs means that early intermediates can cruise the slopes without putting a ski wrong. Non-ski activities including the adrenaline-fuelled Olympic bobsleigh and a new 2km zip-wire from Belle-Plagne to Bellecote.
Example rail journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train, arriving at Aime la Plagne at 18:34. From there it’s 25-45 minutes by bus or taxi.
Rail travel booking and information:
Eurostar 01233 617 575
Voyages SNCF 0844 848 5 848
Ffestiniog Travel 01766 772 030
The new European Rail Map costs £10.99 + p&p from europeanrailtimetable.eu.
More information on rail travel to ski resorts can be found at the online independent guide, Snowcarbon.