There are fewer ski packages with rail travel included than pre-pandemic. But Snowcarbon is helping create more.
Firstly, I'll explain why this is, and then I'll talk about tailor-made independent options, which can also be a really good thing.
Why there are fewer rail-ski packages
1. For many years, the two bigger tour operators, Crystal and Inghams, would book allocations of seats on the Eurostar Ski Train, and offer these seats as part of a rail-inclusive ski package. However, since Eurostar temporarily cancelled the Ski Train due to the pandemic, those two companies stopped offering rail-ski packages. Until we see the return of the Ski Train, I imagine that we won't see Crystal or Inghams offer rail-ski packages.
2. In recent years train operators like Eurostar and SNCF hasn't made it easy for small and medium size tour operators to offer rail-inclusive ski packages. That's because they don't offer tour operators any certainty on price, around which to build a package. Nor do they make it easy for tour operators to book seats on behalf of clients. This is a real shame, a pretty ludicrous state of affairs and a missed opportunity. It is something that Snowcarbon is campaigning to change.
3. The continuing uncertainty caused by the pandemic has meant that some smaller tour operators have stopped offering travel as part of their packages, to recude their risk.
What Snowcarbon is doing to create rail-ski packages
Snowcarbon isn't a tour operator. We work with tour operators. Oover the past eight years, Snowcarbon has developed a unique system which matches tour operators accommodation with train prices, in order to create more rail-inclusive packages which you can browse and enquire via Snowcarbon. This has created many more rail-ski packages to many more destinations. As mentioned, the pandemic has reduced this number to some degree.
What are the advantages of rail-inclusive ski packages?
a) The most important advantage is that the rail travel becomes part of a bonded travel package with ABTA and ATOL protection. This offers additional protection in the case of an element of the holiday being cancelled. That doesn't mean it's necessary, of course. Indeed, booking the elements independently might be something you are very comfortable with - and around 45 - 55% of skiers (in the ski market generally) do this every winter, according to various sources of industry research.
b) The tour operator books the train travel for you - which means less for you to do. The price for the train is approximately the same as the public rate, but you don't have to make the booking yourself. You might like the idea of having it done for you by the tour operator. However, if you are very comfortable with booking your own trains, you might even prefer to be doing the booking yourself. Or you might in any case use an independent rail-booking agent to book the trains for you, which can make things easy.
Where to browse rail-inclusive ski packages
As far as we know, Snowcarbon is the only place to browse rail-inclusive ski packages. That's because with Crystal and Inghams not currently doing them, their websites (and some ski agencies' websites) don't list packages anymore. What's more, many of the packages on Snowcarbon are uniquely created by us, on behalf of small and medium size tour operators. And you don't find these packages anywhere else.
Tailor made instead
What's really important to realise is that what you see on the Snowcarbon site is a mere fraction of what is possible. Because Snowcarbon can help you combine independent accommodation options with advice on how to book trains. And we can also help put you in touch with tour operators who can help tailor make a package for you.
Please don't think that what you see on the Snowcarbon packages section is all there is. It's a mere drop in a much bigger ocean of ski holidays by train. Or perhaps a flake of snow on a mountain, to use a more apt analogy.
So the big message from this blog post is that, if you'd like help, do get in touch by sending Daniel, Snowcarbon's Founder, an email, outlining what you are ideally after.