All aboard! 8 of the best French family ski resorts by train
PUBLISHED: 09:16 22 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:10 22 January 2019
OUI.SNCF Voyages SNCF
You can ditch the airport queues and long drives, and hit the rails instead, says Daniel Elkan. The French Alps has an abundance of ski resorts that suit families, easily accessed by train.
However you travel to a ski resort, it’s going to take all day to get there. What might seem like a short flight on paper somehow morphs into a long schlepp once you factor in getting to the airport, the queues and then the transfer the other side. Driving all the way yourself is an even longer undertaking.
For families in particular, the train can make a great alternative. Space to move about, tables to play games at, and ever-changing scenery out of the window mean that everyone from toddlers to teenagers are entertained.
Here’s our selection of great family resorts that you can easily access by train.
Perched at 2,300m at the top of the huge 3Valleys ski area is Val Thorens, the highest ski village in the Alps. However, despite its lofty altitude, there are excellent nursery slopes and beginner runs just below the village. The resort offers snake glisse, a group toboggan descent, where participants have their sledges joined together for a thrilling downhill ride.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras on the 9.45am Eurostar Ski Train, arriving at Moutiers at 6.15pm. From there it’s 55 minutes by bus or taxi. www.valthorens.com
With four villages located in the Southern Alps, the resort of Serre Chevalier has 80% of its pistes located above 2,000 metres, giving good conditions for early and late season. Alternative winter family activities include a 2km descent on a steerable “Mountain Kart” sled, as well as fat-biking and dog sledding.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras on the 9.24am Eurostar to Paris-Nord, change station by taxi and take the 14:41 TGV from Paris-Lyon to Oulx, arriving at 19:23. From there it’s 45 minutes by bus or taxi. www.serre-chevalier.com
Part of the Paradiski area, La Plagne is home to plenty of interesting activities for families – apart from the skiing. This season the resort will open two escape game rooms for up to six people in Plagne Bellecôte. Meanwhile in Belle Plagne there’s a new Deep Nature spa, including a special family area with water heated to 35°C and an aquatic trail with waterfalls and geysers.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 19:03; from there it’s 45 minutes by taxi. www.la-plagne.com
In the beautiful Maurienne Valley, Val Cenis is a family-friendly resort far better known to the French than to the British. The resort has high-altitude beginner runs with spectacular views over Lac Du Mont Cenis and the longest green piste in Europe. At 2,500m, children can try snowtubing - descending on rubber rings.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras on the 09:22 Eurostar to Paris-Nord. Change to Paris-Lyon and take the 14:41 TGV to Modane, arriving at 18:45. From there it’s a 30-minute taxi or bus. www.haute-maurienne-vanoise.com
The abundance of ski-in-ski-out accommodation in Tignes, combined with high-altitude skiing, make the resort enduring popular. There are new nursery facilities for children at the foot of Tignes le Lac. And there’s plenty for older kids do once the slopes close. Tignespace, is a sports facility a climbing wall, basketball, futsal, handball, volleyball, badminton, tennis and a hockey rink too.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Direct Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 19:03. From there it’s a 40-minute taxi or bus. en.tignes.net
Celebrating its 50th birthday this season, Les Arcs has 70% of it’s slopes above 2,000 metres and one village, Arc 1950, that is completely ski-in-ski-out. On the La Forêt run at the top of the Peisey-Vallandry sector there are 15 fun modules for young skiers as they ski through the woods. Up at Arc 2000 the Rodeo toboggan run has 3km of thrilling turns, fast sections and panoramic views.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras on the 09:45 Eurostar Ski Train to Bourg St Maurice, arriving at 18:58; from there it’s seven minutes by funicular railway to Arc 1600, with bus connections to the other villages; you can also travel by bus or taxi (35 – 45 minutes) from Bourg St Maurice to all the villages. en.lesarcs.com
Part of the huge Portes du Soleil ski area, Les Gets is a family-friend village with an abundance of handsome buildings and bundles of ambience. From 22nd – 28th December 2018 the resort puts on a special ‘Father Christmas’ programme, with storytelling, Christmas markets and ‘workshops with elves’. The local blue runs will perfectly suit those learning to ski, and for advanced skiers the vast terrain makes the possibilities endless.
Example journey: depart London St Pancras 07:52 by Eurostar to Paris-Nord; change station and take the 12:45 TGV changing at Bellegarde to arrive Cluses at 16:35; from there it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi. en.lesgets.com
With high-quality apartments located right on the slopes, Avoriaz is a great choice for families. Children in particular will love the Aquariaz tropical pool in the village centre, and at its doorstep there’s a huge sledging area too. The village streets are lined with bars and restaurants, creating a good buzz throughout the day and evening.
Example journey: depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar at 07:55 to Paris-Nord and then take the 12:11 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, changing at Bellegarde to arriving at Cluses at 16:35; from there it’s 50 minutes by bus or taxi. www.avoriaz.com