Ski resorts by train

Eurostar Ski Train vs sleeper trains from Paris

Fri 13 November, 2015


Daniel Elkan

What's the best way to travel to the Alps overnight?

For skiers considering travelling overnight by train to French ski resorts, there are two options:  you can take the direct Eurostar Ski Train; or you could take a Eurostar to Paris, change station, and then take a sleeper train from there. How do these options compare?

The direct train is well…er…direct. Get on in London (or Ashford) get off at Moutiers, Aime or Bourg St Maurice. But the alternative, Eurostar to Paris and then the sleeper train, can be relatively seamless too, if you connect the journeys with pre-booked taxi in Paris.

Why oh why did Eurostar launch an overnight train without beds on it?  Only a lucky – but relatively small - proportion of the population have the ability to sleep comfortably sitting up. The sleeper trains have flat beds, but could do with a bit more space though: if there are six of you in a couchette with a decent amount of luggage you won’t be swinging any cats.  It’s worth knowing about the ‘Espace privatif’ option – to give you more space per person - or privacy if you want it.

Going via Paris to take the sleeper train gives more of a sense of travelling. Children absolutely love the couchettes – but for adults too, there’s still a frisson when you step onto a sleeper train – especially one headed for the Alps.  The Eurostar Ski Train does have a café bar, which was good for socialising. However from this year there is no booze allowed on board – so how that changes the atmosphere remains to be seen. Seems a bit of a draconian move.  On the sleeper train you can take booze on board, and you’ll see plenty of French enjoying wine and cheese before bedtime.

The most loaded word in travel certainly can’t be applied to either service.  Sure, the Eurostar direct Ski Train has its Standard Premiere class, where you get bigger seats - all table seats - a meal with drinks served.  But you can’t lie flat to go to sleep. Meanwhile, the sleeper trains in Paris have ‘First Class’ couchettes, but this stretches the definition of First Class. What’s the difference between this and Standard Class? You get four berths in a couchette compartment instead of six - so that’s fewer people to share with and more space per person.

Variety of destinations
The Eurostar Ski Train only travels on one route: Moutiers, Aime and Bourg St Maurice. These three stations give access to 19 different ski resorts – and some fantastic ones at that.  But sleeper trains from Paris to the Alps travel on several routes, giving access to a far wider range of resorts.