Ski resorts by train

Seven tips for organising a group ski holiday by train

Thu 29 November, 2012

Roughly five million people in the UK say that they are “skiers or snowboarders”.
That’s a lot of people.
However, only about 900,000 go on a ski holiday every year.
That means about four million skiers don’t go skiing each year. (Ok, ok, I used a calculator).
I’m convinced that at least some of them don’t go for one simple reason: Inertia.
They love ski holidays, but no one has asked them to go, and being the party organiser on a ski trip feels like a daunting task that is beyond them.
We all know the feeling.  But actually, there are some practices that make it easier
I’ve just organised a ski holiday by train for 20 friends this February.   I followed some “dos and don’ts” that I’m pretty sure made it pretty straightforward.

Tip 1: Research and find a holiday that will suit most people, not everyone.

It is almost impossible to try and find something that is ideal for each person invited, so don’t. Find something that suits most people on general criteria (ski area, village, accommodation type, budget level, catered or not etc), making the most of the time you dedicate to organising the group. 

For our trip: I’ve chosen a chalet in Alpe d’Huez, known for a nice ski area, lively village and being easy to reach via daytime train.

Tip 2: There is no such thing as the perfect holiday.

There are hundreds of ski resorts in the Alps, each with a wide variety of chalets, hotels, apartments, making it easy to drive yourself mad trying to pick the ‘perfect’ one. So find something you like, and if you’ve got questions pick up the phone and talk to the tour operator or accommodation provider to gauge if it seems the right kind of thing.

For our trip: I’ve used Zenith Holidays, an independent tour operator, who have catered chalets in Alpe d’Huez and can organise the package with train travel and transfers to the chalet included. Other good tour operators for train packages are Peak Retreats, Erna Low, Mountain Heaven, Ski Famille (family specialist), Crystal and Inghams.

Tip 3: Offer your friends the holiday as only one choice, on a plate.

You probably have seen this happen:  someone sends an email saying “let’s go skiing” and enlists helpful volunteers to research options, what follows next is 100 group emails and no decision. Barry Schwartz’ TED talk on The Paradox of Choice is a great explanation of how too many options lead to no decision at all.  So don’t offer any choice at all, enlisting a slight ‘cruel to be kind’ mantra.  This then means the only decision your friends have to make is “Yes” or “No”.

Tip 4: Leave the details out of the initial invite.

When divulging details, just give group members the bare bones, on a sort of ‘need to know basis,’ and let their imaginations do the rest.  If you start sending floor plans, the weekly menu, and the voltage that the kettle runs on, you’ll only delay the decision process.

For our trip:  Here’s the email I sent:

Hi Katia,

 Here’s the ski holiday plan:

 When: Sat 2nd Feb – Sat 9th Feb (great time for snow and resort not too busy)

Who:  20 of us, in two adjacent chalets

What we do:  Eat, drink, ski, snowboard, banter, party, fall over in the snow, eat more, drink more, ski more, love the scenery love the mountains.

Where:  Alpe d’Huez, France (great resort)

How we get there: By train from London  (more enjoyable than flying, same price, just as fast).  You can fly if you want but watch this plane vs train race first!

The chalets:  Fully catered (breakfast, afternoon tea and 3 course dinner with wine and coffee), good quality four-star accommodation, with lounge space etc, include  transfers from station to resort, run by Zenith Holidays, a very reputable company, know them well.  They are located in the village so good for bars, village life and very convenient.

How much the holiday costs:  £485 including chalet, train travel from London and transfers from the station.

(+ Lift pass £185 and ski hire)

 These chalets are on reserve now but other groups will take them if we don’t soon so we have to get our act together.

 What do now: 

 1.       If you wanna come in principle email me back straight away and say:  “Ski aye!”

2.       Spread the word by sending this on to friends, to join us..

3.       Be a little excited

Speak soon,


Tip 5: When booking a ski holiday by train, tour operator packages make things easy

 Tour operator packages that have rail travel and transfers included are an easier option when booking for a group. This is because the tour operator sorts out all the rail tickets for you, and includes transfers from station to resort.  In some cases tour operators can book train seats at lower rates than you could yourself, saving you money.

For our trip:  Zenith Holidays have booked the train tickets for £109 return from London to Grenoble, and they pick us up from the station and transfer us to our chalet.

Tip 6: Give people an easy next step

The first thing you’ll want to do is gauge interest and get a critical mass of friends that are up for it, before you start asking them to pay a deposit to the holiday provider.  So give them an easy first step such as asking them to reply, showing their initial interest on the concept/principle.

Once you have gauged that there is a critical mass of interest, you can ask people to pay the deposit.

For our trip: all my friends had to do in the first instance was email me back and say “Ski Aye!” and spread the word to other friends (see email in Tip 4, above)

Tip 7:  Make sure there is a sense of urgency/FOMO

Your group needs to know that they have to get organised and help you, as the holiday organiser, by committing to paying deposits etc in time. After all, you have done the hard work for them. You will probably need to over invite to get the right numbers of those who can commit.

So give them a deadline by which they need to do stuff, and let them know that this will ensure that you don’t lose the booking to another group, or so they don’t lose their place to other friends that are keen to go. Good old FOMO, (fear of missing out), can work wonders in counteracting cases of inertia and procrastination!

So good luck organising things  - remember that you are doing your friends a great service, by helping them get out to the slopes.

If you need any help or advice about destinations by train, don't hesitate to get in touch.