Eurostar is being urged to introduce a new direct service to cater for the increasing numbers of skiers travelling to the French Alps on a Sunday.


A petition’s been launched by Daniel Elkan, the founder of the rail-ski information guide, Snowcarbon, and Graham MacMahon of the skier forum, Snowheads.

It has the backing of many within the ski industry.

Nearly 40 per cent of ski holidays now operate a Sunday changeover but for those who would rather travel by rail there is no Sunday ski train option.

Currently, skiers wanting to travel on Sundays to the Tarentaise resorts, such as Les Arcs, La Plagne, Meribel and Val d’Isere, need to take Eurostar to Paris and then change stations to pick up a TGV train.

Eurostar says it will listen to customers and the wider travel industry when planning its services for next winter.

“Back in the 1990s, when Eurostar launched the Ski Train, almost all ski holidays were Saturday to Saturday,” says James Box, Head of International Product at Travel Agency Iglu.com, “but since then the ski-holiday market has shifted dramatically.”

According to research by Iglu Ski, the ratio last season was 63% Saturday against 37% Sunday.

“Every season, more than 800,000 skiers head to the Alps from the UK,” says Box.

“Many live in the South East, while others travel from all over the country to London or Ashford, just to take the Ski Train. That’s a large potential market for Eurostar to get a slice of.”

London Eurostar terminal - St Pancras International

London Eurostar terminal – St Pancras International. Image © PlanetSKI

Daniel Elkan of Snowcarbon says a Sunday ski train would spare thousands of snowsports enthusiasts airport queues, cramped flights and tedious transfers.

“It’s a long, polluting conveyor belt of boredom. We need more rail alternatives.” he says.

“Skiers whose holidays start on a Sunday can still reach ski resorts by rail,” Elkan says. “But no direct option? It’s the equivalent of keeping supermarkets closed on Sundays.”

The direct daytime Eurostar Ski Train, which runs every Saturday from London to the Tarentaise region of the French Alps, is now so popular that at February half term it sells out within hours of going on sale.

Independent chalet company, Ski Bonjour, is one of many accommodation providers keen to see the introduction of a Sunday Ski Train.

The company, which has catered chalets in the resorts of Tignes and Val d’Isere, has holidays that start both on Saturdays and Sundays.

“Skiers coming by train on Saturdays arrive more relaxed and clearly enjoy the journey,” says Becky Coates, Marketing Manager at Ski Bonjour.

“The shorter transfer – minutes instead of hours – is a huge advantage, with none of the delays of airport transfers.”

VIP is one of many tour operators that offer chalets on a Sunday to Sunday changeover.

“Many tour operators would love to offer guests a direct rail-travel option,” says managing director, Gareth Crump.

“There’s no doubt it would be a popular choice, especially if sold as part of a ski package.”

Some ski resorts are also in favour of a Sunday train.

“We would love to be able to welcome more skiers by train,” says Xavier Feuillant, Director of the tourist office of La Plagne, a popular destination for UK skiers.

“From a sustainability point of view, rail travel is important for the Alps because if you measure the carbon footprint of a ski resort, the majority of the emissions are the result of transport of holidaymakers to the resort.”

According to research by carbon-measurement consultancy, Best Foot Forward, a one-way journey by plane from London to Val Thorens produces 82kg CO2 per passenger. The equivalent journey by train produces only 14kg CO2 per passenger.  Driving produces 225kg CO2 (per car).

Last season, Eurostar dipped a toe in the water for Sunday changeovers: on two dates in February they offered a Saturday night overnight train combined with a Sunday daytime return.

See our story from when the extra half-term trains were announced.

“I hope that this petition will help to change the status quo,” Elkan says. “After 20 years of a Saturday Ski Train – it’s high time for a Sunday one, too.”

A spokesman for Eurostar has told PlanetSKI they monitor demand closely on all their routes and the services they offer reflect this.

“As a response to the increasing popularity of our ski train, this year we offered additional trains on the Saturday nights around the peak half term week in February, adding 50% more capacity during that time,” the spokesman told us.

“We are always listening to our customers and the wider travel industry to encourage travel on our services, and will continue to do so as we plan our timetable for the next ski season.”

If you want to support the petition you can find it here.

Read Katie Bamber’s account of travelling to the Alps by train in March.

Eurostar Ski Train Facts

The Eurostar Ski Train carries 750 passengers at speeds of up to 300kph, and stops at Moutiers, Aime La Plagne and Bourg St Maurice stations, which serve around 15 ski resorts, including Brides les Bains, Courchevel, La Plagne, La Rosiere, La Tania, Les Arcs, Les Menuires, Meribel, Peisey-Vallandry, Sainte Foy, St Martin de Belleville, Tignes, Val d’Isere, Val Thorens and Valmorel.

The journey takes 7.5 hours – frequently faster than flying, when measured door to door.