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15th Sep 2012 6:21pm | By Helen Elfer
Stocked up on your snuggly socks? Got your ski suit, wraparound sunnies, thermal gloves, chapstick and a tube of SPF30?
Now, how about your train ticket? Yep, finally the ski crowd are starting to come round to the idea of travelling to the snowy slopes by rail rather than by plane.
After all, it makes perfect sense. Rail travel is carbon-friendlier than flying. You get to skip those mind-numbing waits at airport customs (and you won’t be forced to stuff your deodorant and contact lens solution into a miniature sandwich bag by cranky security staff).
A train cabin is infinitely more comfortable than a cramped plane seat. And best of all, if you take a sleeper train, you can arrive early in the morning, ready for a full day’s skiing, and save yourself the cost of a night’s accommodation. Need we go on?
Daniel Elkan, founder of Snowcarbon.co.uk, a one-stop site for everything you need to know about travelling to the slopes by train, adds the clincher.
“Once I’m sitting up there at the top of a mountain, I like to think to myself: Well, thank god I’m not on the Tube…” Amen to that.
You can travel to all these star skiing locations in a matter of hours.
From London to the slopes in: 8 hours
Daredevils and death wishers flock to Les Arcs to get their extreme snowsports fix. There’s top-speed tobogganing, and ski joering, which involves being pulled over the snow behind a horse.
But if you’re seeking a canon-blast of adrenaline, you just have to give speed riding a go.
Part-paragliding, part-skiing, this experience is about as exhilarating as it gets.
Those who prefer to keep skis firmly on the snow will still find plenty of intermediate slopes to suit in the Paradiski area, which links to neighbouring La Plagne by the biggest cable car in the world: the Vanoise Express.
Apres ski: The nightlife isn’t quite as amped-up as the skiing, but there are plenty of spots to enjoy a civilised bevvy such as Red Hot Saloon at happy hour. redhotsaloon.com
Recommended route: Depart St Pancras on the 10am Eurostar Ski Train, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 6.51pm, then it’s a seven-minute ride by funicular train to Arcs 1600. (This route is only valid between December and April). Rail-inclusive packages to Arcs 1950 from £549 per person with Inghams. inghams.co.uk en.lesarcs.com
From London to the slopes in: 8 hours, 20 minutes There’s almost always bright sunshine over the 250km of terrain at Alpe D’Huez, where four distinct skiing sectors are linked by lift.
First-timers will find the decent network of beginner slopes great to practice on, while everyone else can swish speedily down the long reds at Signal l’Homme.
Apres ski: There are plenty of bars to while away the evenings in, along with live music venues and late-night clubs. Try the friendly O’Bar (Chalet La Clé, Route d’Huez) for a well-earned tipple or two after a day on the slopes.
Chalet du Lac Besson ( 33 476 80 65 37) is by the frozen lake above a cross-country track. It can only be reached on skis or by snowmobile; well worth a visit for grills over an open fire.
Recommended route: Depart St Pancras on the 7.31am Eurostar, change in Paris and take the 12.41pm TGV, arriving Grenoble at 3.37pm; then a 75-minute transfer. Rail-inclusive packages to Alpe d’Huez from £498 per person with Zenith Holidays. zenithholidays.co.uk alpedhuez.com
From London to the slopes in: 9 hours, 15 minutes
Pretty, unpretentious and good value, Montegenèvre is highly recommended for first-time skiers because of the bright and sunny nursery slopes that lie right by the village.
There’s plenty of off-piste action when it snows in the Gondrans bowl, Rocher de l’Aigle and off the Col de l’Alpet – take a guide to show you the best routes. Montegenèvre has a solid boarding scene, too. Many visitors opt for group lessons with ESF Mongenevre, which start from £120 per person (15 hours tuition, morning or afternoons); ski-school-montgenevre.co.uk
Apres ski: It’s all about old world charm rather than hardcore partying here, so spend your evenings making the most of the local restaurants.
Try Le Capitaine’s (La Praya, 33 492 21 89 84) wood-fired pizzas, or if you’ve cash to splash, gourmet grub at La Table Blanche. hotellechaletblanc.com
A great place to stay is the Hotel Alpis Cottia, which is a cosy place to stay in the heart of the village. Rooms start from £40 per night. hotelalpiscottia.com.
Recommended route: Depart St Pancras on the 9.31am Eurostar, change in Paris and take the 3.24pm TGV, arriving Oulx at 7.21pm; then a 25-minute taxi ride. Book rail travel with Rail Europe from about £170 return. raileurope.co.uk montgenevre.com.