There are three basic ways to get to the Alps this winter: fly, drive or train. They all have their pros and cons, but on a good day, surely nothing can beat the simplicity of going by train.
You just sit on the train all the way from England, and then once you get to the Alps, you’ll have a short taxi transfer to your resort. It may not be as quick as flying but it’s certainly a lot less hassle.
Eurostar currently operate two direct trains a week from London St Pancras (stopping at Ashford in Kent) to the heart of the Alps. Stations served are Moutiers (jump off here for the 3 Valleys), Aime (for La Plagne) and Bourg St Maurice (for Les Arcs, Tignes, Val d’Isere and La Rosière).
If you factored in a lunch stop or an overnight stay in Paris, then there are several more resorts served by trains from Paris, including Verbier and St Anton (albeit with a couple of changes along the way).
Back to the direct Snow trains: You can get the Friday night service – there are no couchettes on this train, but there is a bar – enough said.
Or you can choose the more civilized Saturday day service. The return journeys are either during the day on Saturday, or overnight Saturday. So if you took the two overnight services you can have 8-days’ skiing (assuming you’re awake enough to manage that).
So is taking the train really the best option for you?
First it depends where you are in the UK. The further you are from London or the South East, the more time it will take you to get to the Eurostar terminal, and the more schlepping of bags on other trains/tubes etc. Ashford does have a park and ride car park, so you could load up the car, drive to Ashford, and jump on the train.
Second, if you’re trying to find the cheapest way of getting to the mountains, it probably won’t be by train. The best fares are available 4 months’ before departure date (worth setting your alarm for next season already). The train will probably be more expensive than the plane, but you’ll save a lot of money on the resort transfer – these tend to be much more costly from the airport, as the distance from airport to resort is greater than the distance from station to resort.
Third – it depends where you’re going. The direct train is great for the 3 Valleys, La Plagne, Tigne, Val d’Isere, Les Arcs. Not so good for other resorts.
If you’re still interested, then here are the good bits. It really is pain-free. You go through a brief check-in at St Pancras or Ashford. Go onto your platform once it’s announced, And then find your pre-reserved seat, and sit down. And that’s really it. You then have 8 hours to relax, read the paper, read a book, go to the buffet, do some work (isn’t this supposed to be a holiday?), watch a movie, go to the buffet, catch a few zzzs, and enjoy the scenery, which gets more and more stunning the closer to the Alps you get. Before you know it, you’re rolling into your destination, you jump into a cab, and you can be sipping champagne by the log-fire in your chalet within half an hour.
The train is also an easy way to travel with kids too, as they can do all of the above, (well perhaps not the newspaper bit) and wander up and down the train, without getting lost – for most of the journey there are no station stops, so no chance of Young Jonny stepping off the train un-noticed. And of course they can go an annoy the stewards in the buffet.
It’s definitely worth looking at the train option as well as the plane option. It really could be a much better way to start your holiday.