10 luxury ski resorts by train

There are plenty of fabulous ski resorts that you can reach by train, without needing to step foot in an airport. Rail-ski expert Daniel Elkan picks out of some of the most luxurious…


 

The Alps might look close on paper – after all it’s only a 90-minute flight from London to Geneva, for example. But once you factor in the inevitable waiting around and the airport transfers, this can translate to eight hours or more.

Surprisingly perhaps, train travel can rival the plane for speed, when you consider journey times door to door. Even for longer rail journeys, you can relax, use the time productively and make the journey part of the holiday. So where are your best options?

La Clusaz, France

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Photo: P Lebeau

Cute La Clusaz is the kind of place that just oozes charm – and the scenery overlooking the Aravis mountain range is spectacular. The slopes are liberally dotted with mountain restaurants, you are never far from somewhere to sip hot chocolate or dine.  Restaurant Les Terres Rouge has a 360 panorama that overlooks the Jalouvre and Lachat peaks, while at La Vieille Ferme chef Bertrand Basseux cooks up hearty Savoyard classics.

Rail travel: Depart London St Pancras on the 07:55 Eurostar to Paris-Lyon, change station by taxi and take the 12:45 TGV Annecy, arriving at 16:29. From there it’s 35 minutes by taxi.

Journey Planner: www.snowcarbon.co.uk/ski-resorts/la-clusaz

Val Thorens, France

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Photo: Val-Thorens-Tourisme

Val Thorens is one of the most snow sure resorts in the Alps.  The village is perched at 2,300m and the Three Valleys ski area has 600km of skiing. For intermediates and advanced skiers, the options in Val Thorens are unparalleled – such is the extent of the slopes. Plus, the ski-in-ski-out nature of the layout makes it uber convenient.  Over the past few years, the village has seen a flurry of upmarket hotels and gourmet restaurants being created. Jean Sulpice is one such eaterie, run by the chef of the same name and boasting two Michelin stars and four Gault-Millau toques.

Rail travel: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train, arriving at Moutiers at 18:15. From there it’s 55 minutes by taxi.

Journey Planner: www.snowcarbon.co.uk/ski-resorts/val-thorens

St Anton, Austria

St Anton - copyright St Anton Tourism big_1stan_wi_196_691x367

Photo: St Anton Tourisme

Snowy St Anton has long been a Mecca for good skiers due to the huge variety of runs and bountiful off piste terrain.  The journey from the UK might take longer than to French resorts but the scenery en route is remarkable.  The resort is full of quirky charm, with places such as the fascinating History Museum, which traces the development of skiing from its origins to the present day.  On the mountain be sure to have lunch at the Hospitz Alm at St Christophe.  Here you’ll find a 30-metre wooden chute that lets you slide – on your back – from the restaurant down to the huge walk-in cellar heaving with fine wines.

Rail travel: Depart London St Pancras on the 18:01 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Stopover in Paris and take the 07:23 TGV from Paris-Lyon, changing in Zurich to the 12:40 RailJet arriving at St Anton at 15:03.

Journey Planner: www.snowcarbon.co.uk/ski-resorts/st-anton

Les Arcs 1950, France

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Photo: Reyboz

Part of the huge 425km Paradiski area, Les Arcs has splendid terrain overlooking Mont Blanc. There are plenty of tree-lined runs, wide high-altitude blues to exhilarate beginners and plenty of challenge for advance skiers. In Arc 1950, the accommodation is built on the slopes, so in the morning you can literally put your skis on and go. A few minutes away, in Arc 1800 at the new Mille8 development, there is a new state-of-the-art toboggan run too.

1950’s village has a relaxed, friendly vibe and the ability to ski back to your door and out again is a huge plus.  After skiing drop in to the Deep Nature spa, with it’s Cinq Mondes beauty treatments and mineral rock pools.

Rail travel: Depart St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 18:58; from there it’s seven minutes by funicular to Arc 1600, with free shuttle bus to 1950; or just take a 40-minute taxi directly from Bourg to the village.

Journey Planner: www.snowcarbon.co.uk/ski-resorts/les-arcs

Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt by Switzerland Tourism 0040273-691x367

Photo: Switzerland Tourism

One of Switzerland’s big hitters due to its legendary glacial skiing, Zermatt also has one of the swankiest villages.  Like many Swiss ski resorts, the train station is at the heart of the village, so you can arrive and then be whisked to your hotel or chalet by one of the cute electric taxi-buses particular to the village. The resort is renowned for it’s mountain restaurants, where no effort is spared in quality and creativity. Try Chez Vroni, a snug, well-loved cabin in the tiny hamlet of Findeln with dried homemade sausages dangling from the ceiling.

Rail travel: Depart London St Pancras on the 17:31 Eurostar to Paris-Nord; stop over at a hotel by Gare de Lyon and next morning take the 08:02 TGV to Visp, changing to a local train, arriving at Zermatt at 15:13.

Val d’Isere, France

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Photo: Val d’Isere Tourisme

Val d’Isere has long attracted skiers with its high-standard hotels, chalets and residences. The skiing is epic – a paradise for intermediate and advanced skiers. The village stands at a respectable 1,850m, the slopes topping out at nearly 3,400m, under the summit of the Pointe du Montet. The top lift in Tignes, the resort that shares the slopes with Val, is on the Grande Motte at 3,456m. When you’ve done with carving up the mountain, après ski can begin.  Val d’Isere is the home of the original and legendary Folie Douce bar, with its menagerie of inventive performers, dancing on tables to get the party started; they may soon have you doing the same.

Rail travel: 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.

Journey Planner: www.snowcarbon.co.uk/ski-resorts/val-disere

Megeve, France

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Photo: Simon Garnier

Walk though Megeve in winter and it’s easy to believe that you are living in a picture postcard.  The village is one of the most beautiful in the Alps, a medieval chore developed in the 1920s as a swanky French alternative to St Moritz.  The resort is home to some sumptous five-star hotels, such as Alpaga, Les Fermes de Marie and Chalet du Mont d’Arbois and the restaurants are awash with Michelin stars.  Once you hit the slopes, you’ll find another reason why seasoned skiers love to return here:  the 425km of pistes, shared with St Gervais, stay beautifully quiet, and fresh powder remains untracked far longer than in many other resorts.

Rail travel: Depart London St Pancras 17:31 by Eurostar to Paris-Nord; take a taxi to a hotel by Gare de Lyon; next morning take the 07:11 TGV train, arriving Sallanches station at 11:32. From there it’s 20 minutes by taxi.

Journey Planner: www.snowcarbon.co.uk/ski-resorts/megeve

Avoriaz, France

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Photo: Avoriaz Tourisme

Positioned at the heart of the 650km Portes du Soleil, Avoriaz’ accommodation is built entirely on the slopes, making all of its residences ski-in/ski-out.  The resort celebrates its 50th birthday this winter, and although the architecture is modern, the fact that it is entirely car free gives it a great ambience and a friendly feel.  Skiers arriving at the resorts are carried to their accommodation by horse-drawn sleighs, Narnia style. The newest residence, L’Amara, is also the most upmarket, with a large heated swimming pool, sensory pool, steam room, saunas, Jacuzzis and gym, along with a health centre that offers various massages, wraps and beauty treatments.

Rail travel: Depart London St Pancras 07:19 by Eurostar to Lyon; from there take a local train at 13.40, arriving Cluses at 16:35; from there it’s 50 minutes by taxi.

Journey Planner: www.snowcarbon.co.uk/ski-resorts/avoriaz

Verbier, Switzerland

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Photo: Verbier Tourism

In the Valais region of Switzerland, Verbier is renowned for its abundant off-piste terrain. After a snowfall, days here spent gliding through knee-deep powder are just bliss.  Some of the best spots are in the Savoleyres area, where you can weave through powder fields between trees all the way down to La Tzoumaz. The resort attracts a cosmopolitian crowd, and the village is crammed full of upmarket hotels, chalets, bars and eateries. For après ski, try 1930 or Rocks, both of which feature DJs on their snowy patios.  The Valais region is renowned for its local wine – which the Swiss tend to keep to themselves – so try it while you are there.

Rail travel: Depart London St Pancras 09:22 Eurostar to Paris-Nord; change to Paris-Lyon, take the 13:57 TGV, changing at Lausanne and Martigny, to arrive Le Chable at 19:43; from there it’s 20 minutes by taxi.

Meribel, France

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Photo: Daniel Elkan

Founded by a Scot, Peter Lindsay, in the 1930s, Meribel is a resort where you’ll find one of the highest densities of charming wood-and-stone chalets in the Alps, whether that’s in bustling Meribel Centre, ski-in-ski-out Meribel Village or charming Les Allues. The position at the heart of the Three Valleys means epic, endless skiing – and plenty of places to drink and dance after the slopes close – as well as fabulous restaurants. Try Chez Kiki, where Lauraine and David Courteaux grill carefully sourced meats imaginatively – and to perfection.

Rail travel: Depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train, arriving at Moutiers at 18:15. From there it’s 30 minutes by taxi.

Journey Planner: www.snowcarbon.co.uk/ski-resorts/meribel

 

How to book travel:

Eurostar: www.eurostar.com

Voyages SNCF: www.Voyages-sncf.com

Loco2: www.loco2.com

Ffestiniog Travel: www.ffestiniogtravel.com

Independent guide to how to travel to ski resorts by train: www.snowcarbon.co.uk

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