All you need to know about ski holidays by train

Will the direct overnight Eurostar Ski Train suit you?

Tue 08 November, 2016

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By: 
Daniel Elkan

Who wouldn’t want two extra days on the slopes?

I often get emails and enquiries from people who want to travel on the overnight Eurostar Ski Train for this reason, and who would like recommendations for resorts and accommodation.   I like these enquiries because I’m able to help.

However, there is always one question that I ask – because I believe that if I didn’t ask this question, I would be doing a disservice:

“Have you travelled on the overnight Eurostar Ski Train before?”

If you have, fine.  You know the deal. We are good to go.

But if you haven’t, then I think it’s important that you understand what the experience is like.  On paper, the extra days on the slopes, and sleeping as you travel, sound great.  However, the overnight Eurostar Ski Train doesn’t have flat beds - only sit up seats.  For many people, trying to sleep sitting (fairly) upright is a challenge.  And it’s definitely not the kind of night’s sleep you would want if the next day you are going to be carving the slopes or cruising through powder.

When I took the train myself, three years ago, I struggled to sleep. I tried leaning on the shoulder of my friend, but after a while he grumbled and shook me off. So I tried leaning against the window.  Didn’t work for long. I tried curling across two seats in the foetal position, but it felt too cramped. I tried stretching out across the aisle, but this would block the aisle and I’d be woken every time someone tried to clamber past me to go to the toilet.  Finally, in desperation, I decided to lie flat on the floor of the aisle (between the rows of seats either side).  Still people had to clamber over me, and on top of that, the vibration of the train engine underneath meant that I just couldn’t sleep.   I went back to the against-the-window-with-a-folded-jacket position and got some sleep, but it certainly wasn’t a great sleep.

Looking around the carriage at 2am, I could see that some people shared my predicament.  Yet others seemed soundly asleep.  So it’s clearly a case of horses for courses.

Until two years ago, at least you could bring some booze on board or go to the café bar and have a drink there.  But last season, Eurostar decided to make the train completely alcohol free.  Clearly, some people must have got drunk and obnoxious for Eurostar to have chosen to ban booze completely.  Shame though, it seems a bit draconian.

The other problem with the train is how early it arrives: 05:33 into Moutiers, 05:57 into Aime la Plagne and 06:17 into Bourg St Maurice.  Sure, you’ll get first tracks; it’s just that you’ll have to do some waiting around before then.

I used to have a better alternative to recommend skiers – which was to go by Eurostar to Paris and then take a sleeper train from there.  But the French Department of Transport, which owns SNCF, decided - in their wisdom – to axe many overnight services all over France, including many of the sleeper train routes that were so popular with skiers.  Even when we showed them that teddy bears liked to take these sleeper trains.

You can still travel by overnight sleeper train from Paris to Montgenevre and Serre Chevalier, but not on the route that mirrors the Eurostar Ski Train to the Tarentaise.  

So in summary, for first timers by train, I don’t recommend the overnight Ski Train.  For those who want to try it, I say try it one-way – and go the other way by daytime travel.  It’s a longer, more complicated answer than just saying ‘sure, go ahead, take the overnight Ski Train’;  but by helping make sure that they will sleep well, I can too.