Taking the train has long been an environmentally friendly method to get to the Alps, as well as offering a stress-free alternative for those who don’t like flying or are fed-up with airports.
Train travel has become more difficult in recent years, as direct trains from the UK to the Alps are no longer running as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Eurostar’s services. However, the same option as the direct ski train remains – albeit with a change of train in Lille or Paris – and the launch of a through-ticketed option by Eurostar for the 2023/24 season is a huge step in the right direction.
Elsewhere, it is possible to reach huge swathes of the Swiss and Austrian Alps by train, with the added bonus that Austria’s NightJet sleeper trains can whisk you through the night to be skiing by lunch the next day. And with a promised expansion of French sleeper trains in the next few years, skiing by train will become easier than ever.
Here is the Ski Club’s top tips for taking the comfortable and environmentally friendly method of travel to the mountains.
There are a huge array of destinations that can be reached by train from London, via either Lille, Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam. Here is a summary of the key routes, where to change and where to book.
Starting during the 2023/24 season, Eurostar have returned an (almost) direct service between London and Bourg Saint Maurice, railhead for resorts such as Les Arcs, Sainte Foy, Tignes and Val d’Isére. It will require a change of train at Lille – although this will mean simply waiting on the same platform – but a dedicated skier’s service between London and the Alps is a huge step in the right direction.
This service operates on eight Saturdays throughout the winter, leaving London at 0900 and with return journeys on Sundays.
This service will serve the following major locations directly:
To book, head to the Eurostar website
Alternatively, a wider variety of destinations are available by taking different services and picking up different connections in Paris. You’ll need to leave enough time to change stations in Paris, but this is relatively easy; Paris’ RER and Metro offer quick, reliable connections across town, or you can take a taxi for around 30EUR.
Major routes served by this option include:
Through tickets from London to all these destinations are available via the SNCF website
Take an early-evening Eurostar from London to Paris, and then change station (which is easy by taxi or metro, depending on luggage) and take a Intercites du Nuite (Night Intercity) sleeper train from Gare de Austerlitz. These sleeper services are equipped with “couchette” beds in compartments of, normally, four.
SNCF has confirmed an expansion to sleeper services beginning in 2026. This will see a return of sleeper trains to the French Alps.
Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) operate one of Europe’s most comprehensive sleeper train networks, known as NightJet. Combine this with stops at several key Alpine destinations, including St. Anton, Ötztal, and Innsbruck, and it is possible to wake up in the mountains after setting off from London the previous afternoon.
If that wasn’t enough, ÖBB have announced a brand new fleet of state-of-the-art carriages for NightJet service to be rolled out over the next few years. Sleeper compartments of 2, 3 or 4 people are available.
To take a NightJet service from London, take a Eurostar to Amsterdam Central and change for a NightJet service here. Through booking is not currently facilitiated, meaning it will require two separate bookings to complete.
To book, head to the NightJet website.
Taking the train can be a rewarding experience, but requires a little more forethought that simply hopping on a plane to Geneva and grabbing a transfer.
Booking for services normally opens between 90 and 120 days in advance. Like with airlines, the cheapest tickets are available earliest, so pay attention in late summer and early autumn.
With the re-launch of the (almost direct) Ski Train tickets have gone on sale slightly earlier than normal.
France’s TGV network has expanded exponentially over the past few years, in particular via a low-cost alternative known as OuiGo. OuiGo specialises in routes avoiding Paris, meaning it is possible to travel direct from Lille to Bourg Saint Maurice and other Isere Valley destinations without changing.
Take the Eurostar from London to Paris, get off at Lille, and wait on the same platform – far easier than changing across Paris!
That being said, it is still a relatively simple change across Paris – from Gare du Nord, head down to the Metro and take RER Line D for two stops to Gare de Lyon, and hey presto, you are there!
For those travelling in large groups, with lots of luggage, or with small children, taxis are quick and cost effective, either direct from outside the station or pre-booked in advance.
Whilst airport-style security measures are in place for Eurostar services, these permit you to take liquids larger than 100ml through – your morning Starbucks, for example, or water to keep you going.
Services from Paris direct to the Alps run on weekends only, requiring a change at either Lyon or Chambery if travelling during the week.
Furthermore, the last TGV to Bourg Saint Maurice leaves Paris around 1030 – this means an early start from London if not on the (almost direct) Ski Train. Booking tickets as one through ticket on Eurostar or via SNCF Connect will help you pick the right train to meet your connection
Eurostar is now majority owned by SNCF Group. This means that a through ticket – even with a change in Paris – offers a guaranteed connection; if you miss your connection because of a late arrival, SNCF or Eurostar will put you on the next available train.
When buying tickets to travel to London, ask at ticket offices for “London International CIV” as your destination – this is a weird type of ticket that is only valid in connection with Eurostar ticket, but will guarantee your connection in a similar way if your train to London is late.
If you want to book independent train tickets as soon as they come out, but haven’t decided which resort you want to go to, this may not be a problem. Stations on the same line in the Alps often have exactly the same fares, so you can just book to the furthest station and your tickets will still be valid for whichever station you choose. For example, you could book to Bourg St Maurice and your tickets would still be valid to and from Moutiers instead. If in doubt, check with the rail company before booking.
There remains plenty of space to carry skis and suitcases on Eurostar trains, although note skis will have to go in the overhead racks as there is not enough space on normal luggage racks.
On TGV trains, remodelling of the interiors now means it is difficult to store skis here. Instead, when choosing seats, select seats in the carriage with wheelchair/buggy spaces, and store these here instead (although be prepared to move if the space is required by a wheelchair user or a buggy).
A single pair of skis in a slim bag should still fit fine on TGV overhead racks; larger bags full of clothes and boots will struggle, however.
Especially in France, there is a quick and efficient network of public buses to take you from the station to your resort. This might be via the regional coach network, such as Region Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes running coaches between Bourg Saint Maurice and Tignes/Val d’Isére, or it might be the ski shuttle bus network as in Innsbruck
Otherwise, private transfer companies that normally specialise in airport transfers will offer connections to and from the railhead
When flying to the mountains, remember: