They say it isn’t the destination that counts, but the journey. Why is it, therefore, so many of us choose to fly and not take a train to ski resorts? Is it the slightly longer journey time? Is it because of the convenience? Or is it just because we’ve never, really considered the train before?
Skiing is one of the most invigorating, high-energy holidays out there; the early morning ski runs, the sub-zero temperatures, the high-exertion activities, not to mention the drinking and dancing on tables in ski boots from 3pm in the name of après ski, really it’s hardly a holiday at all. But before we put you off booking a jolly holiday in the form of a winter break in Courchevel, let us sway you back. Although all you snow bunnies are probably keen to get your skis on and hit the slopes ASAP, can we just for a second consider swapping a flight for a train?
Picture this: you get yourself to the station a cool one hour before departure time, once aboard you spread your legs (a bit) on the comparatively large seats to those on planes (unless you’re first class kind of person, if so, fair enough), no queuing for baggage and best of all, no plane food. And did we mention the views? Why be above the clouds when you can be between the mountains? Watch the snow fall on alpine trees, admire the blue skies as clear as J.Lo’s skin, and look out for woodland animals, which are all, thankfully, viewed from the safety of the train. All of this, plus the fact it’s most often a cheaper, more environmentally-friendly way to get yourself from A to B. Got your attention yet? Good. These are the greatest ski resorts to get to by train.
Sauze d'Oulx is part of the popular Milky Way ski area, which spans 400km and five small towns in total. Its ski runs connect France and Italy, so you can have croissants for breakfast and pasta for dinner (romantic or what?). The most, er... lively, shall we say, of the five towns in this region, Sauze d’Oulx, is ideal for those that want an authentic après ski experience, and not so much for those looking for a quiet break away. Runs are mostly red in this area, so ideal for snowboarders and intermediate skiers, or anyone who doesn’t mind spending a little time on their backside.
Route: London St Pancras > Paris Nord (short metro or taxi ride) > Paris Lyon > TGV to Oulx
Total travel time: 14-15 hours
If you fancy dipping your toe further into the European pool, Austria’s alpine-lined ski resorts, are some of the world’s most beautiful. Although a little further afield from London, the slightly longer journey gives you even more time to ride through the mountains. Söll is comparatively small to other bigger Austria resorts, such as St Anton and Ischgl, but what it lacks in area to ski (280km in the Ski Welt region, which is inclusive on the lift pass) it makes up for in facilities. Ski-sperts (ahem, ‘ski experts’) will tell you that Austria has the most efficient ski lifts (and are often heated, big win). You also have multiple choices in route, too - you can either go via Brussels and Cologne, zipping through the picturesque German countryside, or go via Switzerland, heading to Zurich from Paris. All possible journeys take you to the same place, Wögl, which is just a 10km taxi or bus from the Söll town.
Route: London St Pancras International > Paris Gare du Nord > (short metro or taxi ride) Gare de l’Est > Zurich > Wörgl (10 min taxi away from Soll)
Travel time: 18-20 hours
The Three Valleys is somewhat of an institution when it comes to The French Alps (if you know, you know) for its piste conditions and 24-hour-party atmosphere. The area itself is made up of Val Thorens, Meribel and Courchevel, as well as a few smaller towns such as La Tania and St Martin, but Meribel is the heart of the region. If you're looking for somewhere lively to restore your energy, Le Rond Point Cafe on the mountain is a must. Ask anyone and they'll point you in the right direction, or just listen out for really, really loud music. Known for its powdery conditions, your ski pass will let you roam the runs of all valleys, which all together cover 600km, including 15 summits above 2,500 metres. Wowzer.
Route: London St Pancras > Moûtiers Salins Brides les Bains (about 20 minutes by taxi or bus to Meribel)
Travel time: 7-8 hours by day, 9.5 by night
Europe’s longest half pipe? Check. Good après ski? Check. Yes, Laax has all the necessities you’d want from a ski resort (especially for freestyle skiers), but it has something extra to shout about, too. It’s completely carbon neutral, with its power supply being 100% from solar energy. The town’s motto ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ chimes through from its water fountains upon the mountains (to reduce bottled water waste) to its protective glass fit on buildings to stop birds from flying into them (!!). Because of its appeal to eco-warriors as much as adrenaline junkies, it attracts a young crowd, and, therefore, a lively nightlife.
Route: London St Pancras International > Paris Gare du Nord (short metro or taxi ride) Gare de l’Est > Zurich > Ilanz (10 min taxi away from Laax)
Travel time: 10-12 hours
images | shutterstock