It’s that time of year again when skiers and snowboarders start getting excited about the first glimpse of white on the mountain tops. By the beginning of December most European resorts will be opening their chair lifts and bubble cars for the start of another winter season.
However, this year why not think about an alternative way to travel to your favorite snow sports destination. Lots of popular European destinations are accessible by rail and, even though flights are still the most common method of transport, the relative popularity of trains increased for the third year in a row. Market share for the train as a method of transport to ski resorts has increased 1% year-on-year to 6%. If we compare that to the 72% of people who choose to fly to their resort, 6% seems quite a small figure but there is definitely an upward trend. (Ski Club of Great Britian - Snow Sports Analysis 2009)
More and more people are opting for the train and this could be due to the fact of the increasing expense of adding extra baggage such as skis on the low cost carriers. British Airways is now abolishing free ski carriage so Swiss Airlines are now the only airline not to charge for ski carriage. Going by train, passengers don’t have to worry about this extra hassle as there are no hidden costs and no luggage weight restrictions.
I should also point out that, if you travel by train, you may get the added advantage of an extra 2 days on the slopes. Some journeys can be made overnight meaning that you arrive in the morning in time to ski and then you leave in the evening the following weekend. However, if you fly your 7 night stay turns into just a 6 day skiing holiday.
There are many rail alternatives to travel to your winter sports destination. Eurostar runs a Ski Train which means French resorts, such as Courcheval, Val Thorens and Meribel can be easily reached. For Swiss resorts passengers can take the TGV Lyria from Paris to Zurich then continue their journey on an intercity train. In many cases trains go direct to resorts such as St Moritz or the Austrian resort of St Anton.
One of the many highlights of travelling by train to a ski resort is the spectacular scenery which is right outside your window. With lakes and snow capped mountains, the landscape is breathtaking. It is also a very family-friendly method of transport as you can reserve seats in tables of four; children are able to draw and play games in a spacious environment while the parents can wander to get a drink from the bar or even get meals in the special dining carriage on certain services.
Not only is train travel good for the passenger, it is good for the environment. According to a study by the l'Agence de l'Environnement et de la Maitrise de l'Energie, 73% of a typical ski resorts carbon footprint is made up by the journey’s tourists take to get there and given that the carbon footprint of a trip by plane is 8–10 times greater than the equivalent journey by rail, the environmental benefits would be considerable if more skiers took the train!