Eurostar’s new direct service from London to Lyon will this winter make a range of French ski resorts more accessible by train. Snowcarbon’s Daniel Elkan chooses 10 ski resorts that you can access on this new via Lyon route.
Running every Saturday throughout the winter season, Eurostar’s new service enables skiers to reach a wide variety of French resorts without needing to change station in Paris. Instead, you simply switch platform at Lyon and catch a local train to your ski resort.
Departing London St Pancras every Saturday at 7.20am, the service calls at Ashford at 7.55am and then arrives Lyon Part Dieu at 1pm. The via-Lyon route also makes a useful alternative to direct Eurostar Ski Train, which serves the popular Tarentaise region. The extra capacity helps particularly on peak dates, when the Ski Train sells out very quickly.
Fares on the London-Lyon section start at £89 return, with onward travel on local trains costing £20 – £50 return. Fares for children aged 4-11 are 30% cheaper than adult fares.
Ski area: 372km Top lift: 2466m
At the heart of the vast Portes du Soleil ski area, Avoriaz’ ski-in ski-out village – accessed by Cluses train station, is entirely car-free. Indeed, on your arrival, horse-drawn sleighs are on hand to transport you and your luggage to your accommodation.
Families are particularly well catered for here: there’s a beginner zone in the centre of the village – which in the evenings becomes a tobogganing zone.
The new Amara residence has seen a move toward more upmarket self-catering apartments, and the Aquariaz aqua centre with its pools, lagoons and waterfalls is a lot of fun. The resort has also added paint-balling and Japanese ‘Yukigassen’ snowball fighting to the roster of non-ski activities you can do here.
Train travel: Lyon to Cluses by local train takes 2hr55mins; from there it’s 55 minutes by bus or taxi. Click here for a Journey Planner. Return rail fares from London from £139; book travel at Voyages-SNCF or Loco2.com.
Ski area: 383km Top lift: 3250m
The abundance of beginner and intermediate-friendly terrain has made La Plagne an enduring family favourite. Much of the accommodation in its ten villages is ski-in ski-out too.
The resort is part of the Paradiski area, linked with Les Arcs and Peisey-Vallandry, and the possibilities for mile-hungry piste-munchers are endless.
There’s also plenty of non-ski activities, such as the Olympic bobsleigh, with speeds of up to 120km/h and a new 2km zip-wire from Belle-Plagne to Bellecotte at a height of 45 metres above the ground.
Train travel: Lyon to Aime la Plagne by local train takes 2hr50mins; from there it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi. Click here for a Journey Planner. Return rail fares from London start at £139; book travel at Voyages-SNCF or Loco2.com.
Alpe d’Huez Grand Domain
Ski area: 179km Top lift: 3330m
One of the Southern Alps’ big hitters, Alpe d’Huez is undoubtedly one of the most scenic, too. Served by Grenoble train station, there are five villages to chose from: Vaujany, Villard-Reculas, Oz-en-Oisans, Auris-en-Oisans and Alpe d’Huez itself, the most centrally located.
At either end of the ski area, the slopes remain particularly quiet, wherever you are, you’ll find yourself close to some wonderful mountain restaurants, such as Chalet de Lac Besson – a well-loved favourite.
Train travel: Lyon to Grenoble by local train takes 1hr35mins; from there it’s 55 minutes by bus or taxi.
Click here for a Journey Planner. Return rail fares from London start at £134; book travel at Voyages-SNCF or Loco2.com.
Ski area: 445km Top lift: 2350m
A short drive from Sallanches train station, Megeve is of the Alps’ most beautiful villages, with a car-free centre, an open-air ice rink and horse-drawn sleighs, encompassed by magnificent architecture.
The ski area, shared with Saint Gervais, is sizeable, and has plenty of wooded runs that remain beautifully uncrowded. Intermediates will love areas like the back of Mont d’Arbois and Mont Joux, along with the quiet red runs above Combloux.
The opening of the Folie Douce at the top of Mont Joux has taken the apres-ski up a notch, too. Back in town check out the 5 Rues jazz bar, which attracts some renowned musicians.
Train travel: Lyon to Sallanches by local train takes 3hr06mins; from there it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi. Click here for a Journey Planner. Return rail fares from London start at £134; book travel at Voyages-SNCF or Loco2.com.
Ski area: 495km Top lift: 3230m
One of the Alps’ highest resorts, with its village at 2300m, Val Thorens is a snow-sure bet with a lot of buzz. In recent years the village has opened apres-ski bars like La Folie Douce and 360, and at the same time gone upmarket in terms of accommodation and gastronomy.
The terrain here is limitless, with all of the surrounding Trois Valleys ski area to explore. Try the Boismint sector for particularly quiet slopes. The compact village is predominantly ski-in ski-out, and with the slopes at the foot of the resort very gentle, it’s a good place to be for beginners too.
Train travel: Lyon to Moutiers by local train takes 2hr30mins; from there it’s 60 minutes by bus or taxi. Click here for a Journey Planner. Return rail fares from London start at £134; book travel at Voyages-SNCF or Loco2.com.
La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand
Ski area: 220km Top lift: 2400m
The Lake Annecy ski area is home to several cute villages and some wonderful, scenic terrain. The village of La Clusaz has a 19th-century Baroque church at its centre, and the surrounding streets are filled with lively restaurants and bars – as well as wooded chalet buildings.
Le Grand Bornand shares a similarly attractive architectural style, and is the more family focussed. There are a good variety of slopes in each resort, with some excellent, easily accessible off-piste too. There’s also ski-joering, hot-air ballooning and biathlon. The region is the home of Reblochon cheese, so expect plenty of it in the hearty meals served on the mountain.
Train travel: Lyon to Annecy by local train takes 1hr59mins; from there it’s 35 minutes by bus or taxi to either village. Click here for a Journey Planner. Return rail fares from London start at £131; book travel at Voyages-SNCF or Loco2.com.
Ski area: 125km Top lift: 2800m
Considering the quality of the slopes, attractive villages and unspoilt setting, it’s surprising that Val Cenis isn’t better known. With more chalet-style apartments built in recent years, more skiers are gradually – and happily – discovering it.
The resort is brilliant for families, with beginner slopes conveniently placed. It’s home the Alps’ longest green run, the aptly named L’Escargot, too. Try the 900-metre toboggan run that winds under the gondola at Le Haut and go for a dip at the pool and spa complex in Lanslevillard.
Train travel: Lyon to Modane by local train takes 2hr50mins; from there it’s 35 minutes by bus or taxi. Click here for a Journey Planner. Return rail fares from London start at £138; book travel at Voyages-SNCF or Loco2.com.
Ski area: 250km Top lift: 2800m
Briancon, one of Serre Chevalier’s four villages, actually has a railway station in it – making it great for arrival by train. The journey from Lyon by local train takes a bit longer, but the scenery is great.
Once here, the skiing is fabulous – and distinctive for the proportion of runs that are tree-lined. Much of the skiing takes place above 2000 metres and with many slopes facing north-east, the snow holds well. Try the Eychauda blue run, which drops 1300 vertical metres, or the red Cucumelle between Monetier and Villeneuve.
All the four sectors have dedicated nursery slopes, too, and once lunchtime comes around, you’ll find yourself well catered for, with restaurants like Echaillon, with its open fire and great views from the Chalet de Pra Long.
Train travel: Lyon to Briancon (change at Valence Ville) by local train takes 4hr40mins. Click here for a Journey Planner. Return rail fares from London start at £164; book travel at Voyages-SNCF or Loco2.com.
Ski area: 372km Top lift: 2466m
With bundles of charm and relaxed vibe, Les Gets makes a great base for exploration of the vast Portes du Soleil ski area.
It’s easy to reach from Cluses train station, and the local slopes themselves are very good. Those at Mont Chery tend to remain beautifully quiet – and with untracked powder snow too.
For children, the resort has developed a free ‘Mappy’s beginner zone at Chavanne and there’s a cute road-train that ferries skiers around the village. If you are self-catering, the weekly local market has traditionally produced cheeses and jams – and there’s a new tea room, ‘Le Chalet du Chocolate’, dedicated to home-made chocolate and hand-made biscuits.
Train travel: Lyon to Cluses by local train takes 2hr55mins; from there it’s 55 minutes by bus or taxi.
Ski area: 110km Top lift: 3842m
The train ride up from St Gervais to Chamonix is nothing short of stunning. Once here the buzz of the place is infectious – a vibrant town that attracts a cosmopolitan crowd – many of them good skiers who come here for the steep terrain and bountiful off-piste possibilities – such as the famous 24km off-piste Vallee Blanche itinerary route.
The scenery here is magnificent and dramatic, notably from the 3840m Aiguille du Midi – from where there is a glass viewing area above a drop of 1000 metres. The centre of the town is car-free, with plenty of pavement cafes with terraces and busy bars in the evening.
Train travel: Lyon Chamonix by local train (change at St Gervais) takes 4hr14mins; from there it’s 55 minutes by bus or taxi. No journey planner available. Return rail fares from London from £139; book travel at Voyages-SNCF or Loco2.com.
See also our features on Ten Tips for a Successful Train Journey to the Alps and Ten Train Journeys to the Alps.