Ski resorts by train

The Paris stopover - a great way to travel

Tue 19 January, 2016


Daniel Elkan

At lot of skiers don’t consider a Paris stopover when considering options for travelling to the Alps by train. Until last year, I had never done either. In 15 years of travelling to ski resorts by train, it had never dawned on me that staying a night in Paris on the way the Alps could be of such benefit.

Last week I travelled with a big group of friends – 24 of us, to a huge chalet in the Portes du Soleil.  Everyone was up for travelling by train – a way to make the journey fun and relaxing – and as the holiday and travel organiser, I suggested we do a Paris stopover, in order to give us a number of benefits.

They most important advantage, I reckon, is the ability to have a very relaxed journey by Eurostar and TGV and yet arrive earlier in resort.  By leaving the night before and staying a night in Paris, you can take one of the many morning trains that leave Paris bound for the Alps.  For many resorts in France and some in Italy, the journey from Paris by TGV takes 3-4 hours.  So you can be at your hotel, chalet or apartment by lunchtime – and get an afternoon skiing if you want to. 

We left London St Pancras on the 19:01 Eurostar on Friday evening and the journey by Eurostar sped by.  We’d taken on plenty of food to eat on the Eurostar – and brought a few bottles of Procecco too.  Arriving in Paris, we’d pre-booked a taxi, and the three taxi drivers met us at the end of the Eurostar platform.  With 24 people it took ten minutes to get everyone’s luggage into the taxis, and then 20 minutes after that we were arriving at Hotel Bel Oranger (photo of one a triple room, below).  The hotel is simple, clean and comfortable  - and only a one-minute walk to Gare de Lyon.

Some of us went for a local drink in the area near the hotel, where there are some bars and restaurants, and some more soberly opted for an early night – given that our train was leaving at 07:11. 

On the one-minute walk from the station, we passed a bakery and loaded up with 40 freshly baked croissants.  Perhaps we were the bakery’s biggest customers that morning – we were certainly the most excited! On the TGV we hit the café bar to get coffees (café au lait because they still haven’t managed to install a cappuccino maker on those trains yet).

There’s no check-in on the French trains, of course, so you can walk on just minutes before the departure.  Even in standard class there are lots of table seats, which were to prove useful for the games of cards that we were to play for some of the journey.  With heavy recent snowfall in the Alps, the train journey plunged us into a kind of winter-wonderland scene, with snow draping the trees, houses, fields and hills that we passed – and further into the distance, the mountains.

We arrived at 11:05 in Cluses, where three minivan taxis (I’d arranged this with a company called Access Taxis) were waiting for us. About forty minutes later we arrived at our chalet.  There’s a rental service called Ski Mobile which brings a mobile rental shop the chalet, meaning that only minutes after arriving we were being kitted up and ready to hit the slopes. And that’s what we did, getting in an afternoon of piste and powder runs.  All thanks to the Paris stopover journey. Why didn’t I think of doing this years ago?!