Skis and snowboards on TGV trains

For anyone confused by what SNCF's website says about skis and snowboards on TGVs - here's proof that you can take both on board

By: Daniel Elkan
Sun, 11 Feb 2024

TGV trains are particularly useful because they are fast, comfortable and get you to resorts all over the French Alps and beyond.

I've travelled with friends on them many times, with some of us bringing skis and snowboards with us.

But when I began getting emails from skiers and snowboarders who were wondering whether SNCF allowed skis and snowboards on board TGVs, I began to investigate.

Since this morning I was on a TGV travelling from Bourg St Maurice to Paris, it seemed a great opportunity to demonstrate this by talking to staff and taking photos on board the train.

What's caused the confusion?

SNCF website luggage pageSNCF website luggage page

On SNCF's website (pictured above), there's a guide to what luggage you can bring on board a TGV INOUI (INOUI is an ordinary TGV).

The SNCF website states:

Your skis can travel with you as hand luggage aboard any TGV INOUI train, if they are packed in a dedicated bag with a tag.  
There's no limit on ski size, but each passenger is limited to one pair.

Aquatic boards and snowboards
Your aquatic board or snowboard can travel with you as hand luggage aboard any TGV INOUI train, if you pack it in a tagged, dedicated bag no larger than 130 cm x 90 cm.  

Well, that's wierd. Skis can be any length, but snowboard bags have to be 130cm maximum.

Thing is, most adult snowboards will be 150cm minimum. Does SNCF not like snowboarders, or does it just not understand the sport?

Worry not. Because fortunately what SNCF's website says bears no relation to reality. As we'll find out next.

1. What staff at Bourg St Maurice station said

Staff at Bourg St Maurice station said it was fine to bring skis and snowboards on the train. And as I was asking, plenty of skiers and snowboarders were doing just that.

2. What a ticket inspector on the train said

On the train, I showed a ticket inspector the SNCF web page. The inspector shook his head and said:

"Je comprends pas pourquoi c'est come ca. Mais on ouvre pas le sac pour verifier."
("I don't understand why it's like this. But we don't open the bag to check.")

The vibe was very much: 'Don't worry about it'.  This is of course what I expected.

3. I photographed skis and snowboards on board

To really prove that in real life skiers and snowboarders take their snowboards on board, I took my camera out and went for a walk up and down the train. I didn't do it by halves, either...

Here we go...

This was the first ski bag I photographed. Always start with a yellow bag if you can find one.

And then this snowboard.

Snowboard on TGV

Another snowboard in a dark bag.

Snowboard on TGV

Little four-year boy: 'Why is that man taking photos?'

I explained the context. The boy and the family seemed amused. The boy seemed impressed!

Snowboard on TGV

A white ski bag this time. Attractive, perhaps. But unfindable if you leave it in the snow..! Doh!

Skis on TGV

Then another big snowboard bag. Oh happy days.

Snowboard on TGV

And yet more skis...this time Salomon, in tasteful purple-beige combo.

Skis on TGV

I know what you're thinking: 'That's enough now; please make it stop.'

But no, I can't. Not just yet.

Here's another snowboard, slouching in the corridor.

Snowboards on TGV

"Well, were there any snowboards in red bags?" I hear you ask.

Well, in fact these were tucked neatly behind a seat!

Snowboards on TGV

You: "Show me a tall, grey snowboard bag, upright please."

If you insist...

Snowboard on TGV

You: "Can a long ski bag be placed also in the corridor? I've always wondered this."

Yes. Yes it can!

Skis in TGV corridor

You: "This is getting silly. I'm going to click away from this page if you show me any more skis or snowboards on the TGV."

Me: "Come on. Just one more wafer thin mint..."

You: "Oh go on then..!"

Skis on TGV

What about other luggage? Photos please...

Luggage on TGV

There were lots of other bags on the TGV of all shape, size and colour.

What happened next

There's only so many skis and snowboards you can photograph on one train in a day before you need to visit the cafe bar to have a biscuit.

Also, the point at which everyone on the train must have thought I was some kind of fetishist, taking photos 'for personal use only', had long past.

Indeed, the point at which I realised that I was indeed a bit of a wierdo had long passed too. About ten years ago, to be fair!

Then I got chatting with a lovely group of British skiers who where also travelling by TGV from Bourg St Maurice to Paris and then Eurostar back to the UK. They'd also been in Val d'Isere, and were now making great use of the train with an excellent card game called 'Hearts'.

Photo: Daniel Elkan

Photo: Daniel Elkan

Then I returned to my seat and started writing this.

Hope it's been useful for anyone wondering about skis and snowboards on TGV trains.