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Does taking the train to ski resorts in the Alps really save you time or money? We put it to the test

Abi writes:

“This journey isn’t for everyone. It was more expensive, for a start, as well as longer. For the train to really start to feature highly in the Great British ski holiday conversation we need the regular  direct train back, bookable independently rather than solely as part of a package. Granted, I would have probably beaten Paul if we were racing to Val d’Isère, because the transfer from Geneva is several hours by car and the train delivers skiers directly to Bourg-St-Maurice, which is 40-minutes drive to resort. 

“Rather like UK train travel, this mode of transport is a conscious lifestyle choice and will remain so until the prices with flights even up. For the train to be viable, you need to view it as part of the holiday, not a means to an end. Ski holidays aren’t light on the environment, but by taking the train and making better choices in resort, accommodation, clothing and food, and we can substantially change the impact of our trips.” 

Paul writes:

“When Abi phoned in November to propose a race to the slopes I knew I would win. Train travel to the Alps is worse than it has ever been – and I say that as someone with a host of amazing ski memories that involve trains. I’ve experienced the wonder of pulling in to Zermatt in a glass-roofed carriage in the shadow of the Matterhorn, and the exhilaration of skiing through the trees above the tiny station at Langen am Arlberg in the Tyrol, from where you can catch a train back to St Anton. 

“And who could forget the old ‘SnowTrain’ that ran overnight from Calais to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, just 40 minutes from Val d’Isere and Tignes, one of the greatest ski areas on earth. You could bunk down early and make the most of the extra day’s skiing, or go large in the legendary disco carriage. 

“I flew in this race with a heavy heart. There could be – and there should be – dozens of direct sleeper trains heading to every corner of the Alps overnight from London and Paris during the ski season and beyond. If there were, prices would plummet, as would our carbon emissions. For the enoyment and an extra two days skiing (let alone the planet), the train would be my choice every time”. 

Need to know

Abi and Paul were racing to reach the French resort of Flaine. The largest of five French resorts in the Grand Massif ski area, Flaine offers family-friendly convenience, with pretty tree-lined runs and traditional villages just a few minutes away. The 265km ski area suits all abilities from beginner to expert and snow reliability is good, with 80 per cent of pistes facing north and a fair amount of snowmaking. 

A seven-night stay at five-star premium residence Les Terrasses d’Eos, starting March 11 2023, costs from £338pp based on four sharing a two-bedroom self-catering apartment, with Pierre et Vacances (0870 0267 145; For more information about Flaine visit 

How to reduce the carbon cost of your holiday

by Abi Butcher

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