Some thoughts about winter 2022-23
Predictions are difficult. Particularly ones about the future.’
- Niels Bohr, physicist
One ski season ends, and another begins. Here are some thoughts that might be useful.
Eurostar Ski Train / Travelski Express
When French tour operator Travelski chartered the Eurostar Ski Train last season, It wasn’t intended to be for just one season. Travelski hasn’t yet confirmed publicly that it will run the Travelski Express in 2022-23, but it’s unimaginable that it wouldn’t do so. It would be like learning a new recipe and then only cooking it once.
Eurostar used to run two Ski Train trains per week (enabling skiers to choose daytime or overnight each way). That was a good thing. Last season Travelski ran only one train per week, and it was only half full. I imagine that Travelski will want to show they can fill one train per week first, before adding more trains in future seasons.
This season coming, will Travelski continue to run outbound overnight to the French Alps and daytime back; or switch to daytime outbound, overnight back? I hope they move to the latter, as I think it is more beneficial overall.
It’s clear that Eurostar won’t be running the Ski Train itself next season, but only operating it (trains, train drivers, staff etc) on behalf of Travelski. Having the only direct Ski Train chartered exclusively by one tour operator is not a good thing, because it means that every other tour operator or accommodation provider cannot promote the direct rail option, and even letting people know about it risks their clients switching to Travelski. And independent travellers can’t use it. So for them, it’s indirect journeys instead (also good).
Business is business and Travelski took the risk by chartering the train, and want to maximise the reward. Nevertheless, the new situation is far less than optimal. Eurostar were pretty hopeless at marketing the Ski Train and could still fill it on peak dates many times over. We need more ski trains, bookable in more ways.
Catered ski chalets by train
Catered chalets can be such a brilliant way to experience the Alps. Both Brexit and Covid were huge challenges for catered ski chalet companies, big and small. It’s good to see that many smaller independent catered ski chalet companies have survived and are already looking forward to welcoming skiers next season.
Travelski doesn’t offer catered ski chalets, so combining a catered ski chalet with a direct train journey to the Alps isn’t going to be possible. However, travel via Paris, Lille or Brussels to a catered ski chalet is perfectly viable and plenty of skiers enjoyed that last season.
If you’d like recommendations and suggestions for catered chalets, combined with options by train, do let me know. I know some excellent ones, across a range of resorts and budgets. Do get in touch stating what you are ideally looking for and I’ll be able to help.
Indirect journey schedules
One of the easier things to predict is train journey schedules, because they don’t change a huge amount each year. What’s been very positive to see over the past few months is Eurostar building up the number of trains it runs per day to Paris, Lille and Brussels. More Eurostars = more capacity and more convenient connections. At the moment I’m building the Snowcarbon Journey Planner for next season, so that you’ll be able to choose any date and destination and find predicted schedules. This isn’t ready yet, but will be in a few weeks. In a future newsletter, I’ll send predicted recommended schedules to key destinations, as this was useful info last time I did it.
Independent rail fares
I used to be pretty good at predicting rail prices to the Alps. Then Covid happened. Once travel resumed this season, rail fares between the UK and the Alps seemed to be much higher than they used to be – by about 30% (very rough estimate). Was this Eurostar and SNCF trying to claw back lost revenue from the pandemic? Will prices continue to be higher? I think air fares have gone up too, although I haven’t been watching those closely.
I guess that the fares will be what they will be. I’ll be re-writing the booking guidance on the Snowcarbon website and also do a future newsletter with any useful tips and insights that I can offer as to the best ways to book rail journeys.
If you aren't signed up to the Snowcarbon newsletter, you'll find the sign up form at the bottom of any page of the site. By signing up you'll be the first to know about anything useful that I know.