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View of Mt Blanc from Val Thorens

Ski trains to the French Alps

The easiest way to get to the French Alps by rail is to take the direct Eurostar ski train from London St Pancras International, or Ashford International, to Moûtiers (for the resorts of the 3 Valleys), Aime-la-Plagne (for La Plagne), or Bourg-Saint-Maurice (for Les Arcs, Tignes, and Val d'Isère). The transfer times from these stations to the ski resorts are short.

There's also a direct Eurostar to Lyon Part-Dieu; and it's possible to travel by Eurostar then TGV, changing in Paris or Lille. Finally, you can travel on the direct Eurostar ski train as part of a package holiday with a tour operator.

Read about ski trains to the French Alps here.

Ski trains to the French Alps: booking a package with travel by train

Inghams Travel reps  

Inghams and Crystal both offer holidays to a full range of resorts in the French Alps, with travel by train as one of the options. Book Val Thorens by train with Inghams. Read Inghams information on ski holidays travelling by rail.

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar ski train

Clock at London St Pancras International station

The direct Eurostar ski train is from London Saint Pancras International, and Ashford International, to Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne, and Bourg-Saint-Maurice. It is speedy and practical. 

The Eurostar ski train takes seven to eight hours, which is a good deal longer than the journey by air, but the check-in time is less (60 minutes), and you arrive closer to resort than any airport. It's certainly a good option if you live in or near London or Ashford.

Train travel produces much lower CO2 emissions than flying, so it's a more environmentally friendly way to travel.

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar ski train - outbound route

St Pancras station, London

St Pancras station, by dvdlws, Licence CC BY 2.0

Eurostar's direct ski trains set off from St Pancras, calling at Ashford, before travelling direct to the French Alps, at around 186mph. They stop at Moûtiers, for the resorts of the Three Valleys (Val Thorens, Les Menuires, St-Martin-de-Belleville, Méribel, Méribel Mottaret, Brides-les-Bains, Courchevel, and La Tania), then continue to Aime-la-Plagne (for La Plagne), and Bourg St Maurice (for Les Arcs, La Rosière, Tignes and Val d' Isere). 

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar ski train - return route

The return trains from Bourg St Maurice don't stop at Aime-la-Plagne, but do call at Moûtiers, before heading on to Ashford and London. This means that if your ski holiday is in La Plagne, you alight at Aime-la-Plagne at the start of your holiday, but at the end when returning home, you get on the train at Bourg-Saint-Maurice.

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar ski train - night train & day  train

Two Eurostar trains

Two Eurostar trains, by Aubrey Morandarte, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

There are two different direct Eurostar ski trains - the day train and the night train. (In 2016/17, there were also extra Saturday overnight services on two dates in February during the school holidays).

Direct Eurostar ski train - night train

The night train leaves London or Ashford on Friday evening, arriving in the French Alps early on Saturday morning. On the way back, the night train leaves Bourg-Saint-Maurice then Moutiers on Saturday evening, and arrives back in Ashford and London early on Sunday morning. The advantage of the night train is that you can ski from Saturday to Saturday, so getting two extra days on the slopes - 8 days of skiing instead of 6 days.

This winter, the night train runs from 22nd December 2017 (first outbound train), or 30th December 2017 (first inbound train). It runs until 30th March 2018 (last outbound train), or 7th April 2018 (last inbound train).

Direct Eurostar ski train - day train

The day train leaves London or Ashford on Saturday morning, and arrives in the French Alps early on Saturday evening. On the way back, the day train leaves Bourg-Saint-Maurice and Moutiers around 9/10am on Saturday, and arrives back in Ashford and London in the late afternoon. The advantage of the day train is that it's a civilised way to travel, and you don't spend the night in a railway train seat.

This winter, the day train runs from 23rd December 2017 (first outbound train), or 30th December 2017 (first inbound train). It runs until 31st March 2018 (last outbound train), or 7th April 2018 (last inbound train). In effect, the service begins with the Christmas holidays, and takes in the school Easter holidays. 

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar ski train - timetable

Eurostar info screen, St Pancras station

Times from London to the French Alps 2017/18

Station Night train (Fri night) Day train (Saturday)
St Pancras 19.42 09.45
Ashford 20.28 10.28
Moutiers 05.34 18.27
Aime-la-Plagne 05.58 18.46
Bourg St Maurice 06.17 19.03

Return times 2017/18

Station Day train (Saturday) Night train (Saturday) 
Bourg St Maurice 09.34 22.12
Moutiers 10.14 22.54
Ashford 15.37 06.33
St Pancras 16.13 07.16

Note: these are local times. (France is an hour ahead of the UK). Check in at least 60 minutes before departure. 

These times are taken from Eurostar's timetable.

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar ski train - fares

At the time of writing, the Eurostar fares page isn't available, and the information which is follows is a best guess. Adult fares are from £149 return in Standard Class, and from £229 in Standard Premier (which offers more spacious and comfortable seating, with two light meals & drinks included). 

Child prices (4-11 years old) are from £105 Standard Class return, and £161 Standard Premier return. 

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar ski train - alcohol policy

On the night train, Eurostar do not sell alcohol on board, nor do they allow passengers to bring alcohol with them - they say it will be confiscated during check-in. This is no doubt to avoid rowdy behaviour on the train, although the total ban seems excessive.

On the day train, they allow people to bring four cans of beer or one bottle of wine, but no spirits.

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar ski train - luggage

Luggage and skis

There's no weight limit for luggage, you just have to be able to carry your bags onto the train. An adult can take two bags (each up to 85cm long), one piece of hand luggage, and their skis or snowboard. There are a number of banned items, including firearms, ammunition, military shells, grenades, tear gas, furniture, and perishable food like meat, fish and cheese!

Probably Eurostar are devotees of Jerome K. Jerome, and remember the anecdote he tells in Three Men in a Boat, in which the author takes two cheeses from Liverpool to London on the train, as a favour to a friend. 'Splendid cheeses they were, ripe and mellow, and with a two hundred horse-power scent about them that might have been warranted to carry three miles, and knock a man over at two hundred yards'. He starts off sharing the carriage with seven other people, and ends up having it to himself. 'Cheese...makes too much of itself', he concludes.

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar to Lyon

Lyon Part-Dieu station

Lyon Part-Dieu station, by Velvet, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Eurostar runs a year-round service direct to Lyon Part-Dieu, which is a stop on the London-Provence route to Avignon and Marseille. (On Eurostar's website, 'direct' comes with an asterisk, because when you're travelling back to the UK, you have to leave the train at Lille for security and immigration checks.)

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar to Lyon - timetable

The direct Lyon train runs on Saturdays only from November to March, then on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays from April onwards.

The service leaves London St Pancras at 0719, and arrive at Lyon Part-Dieu at 1300. On the way back, it leaves Lyon at 1725, and arrives at St Pancras at 2212. 

Ski trains to the French Alps: direct Eurostar to Lyon - connections

Eurostar promotes this route as suitable for the resorts of Les 2 Alpes, Alpe d'Huez, and Chamrousse, although they are much closer to Grenoble than Lyon. Still, Lyon is within a reasonable distance of those resorts, as well as the resorts of the 3 Valleys, and La Plagne, Les Arcs, La Rosière, Tignes, and Val d'Isère.

From Lyon Part-Dieu, you can take a train, for example to Grenoble (for Les 2 Alpes, Alpe d'Huez, and Chamrousse), to Moûtiers (for the 3 Valleys resorts), to Aime-la-Plagne (for La Plagne), or to Bourg-Saint-Maurice (for Les Arcs, La Rosière, Tignes, and Val d'Isère) .

It is also possible to get a private transfer from Lyon Part-Dieu to your ski resort, or a hire car.

Ski trains to the French Alps: Eurostar to Paris or Lille

Place de la Concorde, Paris

Place de la Concorde, Paris, by David Stanley, Licence CC BY 2.0

If you're prepared to change in Paris or Lille, you can travel by train to Moûtiers, even if the direct Eurostar ski train is fully booked. 

Ski trains to the French Alps: tour operators

Some UK tour operators have an allocation on the direct Eurostar ski train, so you can travel by train as part of a package holiday. Tour operators offering travel on the direct Eurostar ski train include Inghams Travel, and Crystal. These tour operators include the transfer from the railway station to resort in their package price.

Ski trains to the French Alps: skiers need a Sunday Ski Train

Many people prefer taking the train to flying. The direct Eurostar ski trains are only scheduled on Friday nights and Saturdays. There's a campaign for Sunday Ski Trains, with a petition, and a video to back it:

The old Snow Train

Disco & bar carriage in the old Snow Train

Disco car on old snow train, by Simon Pielow, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The old Snow Train was direct from Calais to the Alps. It had sleeper carriages and a disco car. 

People used to arrive in resort either hung over, or bleary-eyed having been kept awake by revellers. Still it was an institution and a talking-point.

The old Snow Train stopped running in 2009.

Ski trains to the French Alps: transfers to the ski resorts

Ski transfer bus in Val Thorens

Once you arrive at Moûtiers, Aime-la-Plagne, or Bourg-Saint-Maurice, you take the bus, or a private transfer/taxi, to your resort. These are Eurostar's estimated transfer times:

Resort From Time
Méribel Moûtiers 50 minutes
La Tania Moûtiers 40 minutes
Courchevel Moûtiers 60 minutes
Val Thorens Moûtiers 1 hour 15 minutes
Les Menuires Moûtiers 50 minutes
Valmorel Moûtiers 45 minutes
La Plagne Aime-la-Plagne 40 minutes
Les Arcs Bourg-Saint-Maurice 60 minutes
Val d'Isère Bourg-Saint-Maurice 60-90 minutes
Tignes Bourg-Saint-Maurice 90-120 minutes

These transfer times are approximate, and reasonably generous. For example the transfer time to Val Thorens is given as 1 hour 15 minutes; it can be 45 minutes with good weather and clear roads; the longest transfer time ValThorensGuide has experienced was 6 hours, on a very snowy New Year's week Saturday.

Eurostar ski train near ChambéryClock at St Pancras stationBus station in Val Thorens