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9 French ski resorts you can reach by train

PUBLISHED: 11:42 13 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:42 13 February 2017

La Clusaz ski resort in the French Alps © P. Lebeau

La Clusaz ski resort in the French Alps © P. Lebeau

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Travelling by train to the Alps is gaining popularity, but few skiers realise that stopping in Paris overnight on the way can be advantageous. Find out why and 9 of the ski resorts you can reach by train

What’s the best way to travel to the Alps by train?

Travelling daytime is the fastest, and surprisingly can rival flying for speed, when measured door to door. Travel overnight and you can sleep en route, getting two extra days on the slopes.

The idea of a journey where you stop over in Paris (or Lyon) for a night doesn’t normally figure, because it makes the journey longer. Indeed, having travelled to ski resorts by train for nearly 20 years, this idea only recently occurred to me.

The epiphany came when I was looking at a rail timetable and realised how many morning TGV trains there are that depart from Paris to French ski resorts. By leaving the Friday evening from the UK and staying in Paris, you can then take one of these TGVs and therefore arrive in resort far earlier on a Saturday than you normally would if travelling in one go in the daytime.

And with SNCF having recently axed two of the most popular sleeper train routes from Paris to the slopes, the stopover is a compromise alternative, enabling you to leave the evening before and still get into resort in time for – in many cases – half a day’s extra skiing.

Here’s a selection of some of 9 of the best French ski resorts by train – and how to get there.

Avoriaz ski resort in the French Alps © Daniel ElkanAvoriaz ski resort in the French Alps © Daniel Elkan

Avoriaz

Of the many purpose-built resorts thrown up in France in the 1960s, Avoriaz is probably the best designed. Although the resort missed out on the smart apartment developments that transformed French self-catering a decade or so ago, it has recently more than caught up, introducing elegant new residences like the Amara. The resort’s location in the heart of the 600km Portes du Soleil means that you can ski off in a different direction to explore neighbouring Châtel, Morgins and Champéry, Morzine and Les Gets. The village also has the fabulous Aquariaz tropical swimming pool, with waterslides and lagoons.

Getting there by train via Paris: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 07:11 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Cluses at 11:05; from there it’s 50 minutes by bus or taxi.

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Val Cenis ski resort in the French Alps © Pierre HuartVal Cenis ski resort in the French Alps © Pierre Huart

Val Cenis

Val Cenis is a resort in the unspoiled Haute Maurienne valley, with very scenic ski terrain. There are excellent, varied pistes and fairly reliable snow – with most slopes facing north and spectacular views over Lac du Mont Cenis. It’s not surprising that this is a favourite with French families: the villages of Termignon and Lanslevillard have excellent nursery slopes right by the villages, the latter with long green pistes that run the length of the lifts and there are high-altitude beginner runs too. The resort has recently opened its first 4-star hotel, to complement the range of high-quality self-catering residences that are already there.

Getting there by train via Paris: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:29 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Modane at 10:48; or the 08:27 TGV, arriving 13:07; from there it’s 30 minutes by bus or taxi.

La Rosiere ski resort in the French Alps © MisoKnitl / ThinkstockPhotosLa Rosiere ski resort in the French Alps © MisoKnitl / ThinkstockPhotos

La Rosière

La Rosière is different from its famous neighbours of Val d’Isère, Tignes and Les Arcs: it’s much smaller, quieter and sunnier. But the link with La Thuile over the border in Italy adds another dimension, creating a combined ski area of 160km and a destination to head for an authentic cappuccino. La Rosière is particularly good for families, beginners and intermediates: the village is friendly and convenient, the nursery slopes are good, and progressing off them and onto the blues is easy. This winter, a new hotel, the 4-star Deux Domaines, has opened in the hamlet of Les Eucherts with scenic mountain views.

Getting there by train via Paris: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 11:48; or the 07:49 TGV, arriving 12:51; or the 09:49 TGV, arriving 14:48; from there it’s 45 minutes by bus or taxi.

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Montgenèvre ski resort in the French Alps © Montgenevre TourismeMontgenèvre ski resort in the French Alps © Montgenevre Tourisme

Montgenèvre

Nestled on the Italian border, Montgenèvre sits at one end of the big cross-border Milky Way network, and gets good snow due to a position that delivers snow whichever way the wind is blowing. In recent years the resort has made big strides, banishing through-traffic. It’s undoubtedly one of the best resorts in the Alps for learning to ski, with a huge beginner area on the front de neige, right in by the centre of the village. For the more advanced, there’s plenty of accessible off-piste terrain too. The ambience here is relaxed and unpretentious, and the restaurants good value and influenced by Italian cuisine. After the slopes, the huge Durancia spa is great for a soak.

Getting there by train via Paris: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:29 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Oulx at 11:23; or the 10:41 TGV, arriving 15:43; from there it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi.

Peisey Vallandry ski resort in the French Alps © Peisey-Vallandry TourismePeisey Vallandry ski resort in the French Alps © Peisey-Vallandry Tourisme

Peisey-Vallandry

Peisey-Vallandry is a group of small villages located in the heart of the 425km Paradiski area, between its more famous neighbours Les Arcs and La Plagne. Given the central position, it’s surprising how under-the-radar the resort has stayed - and if you prefer somewhere friendly that doesn’t feel too busy, this is a great fit. The slopes above the villages have uncrowded woodland runs which are ideal for adventurous intermediates to carve down. There are some great-value chalets here, where farmhouses have been beautifully converted. For drinks after skiing, head to the Mont Blanc Bar or the Mojo Bar in Vallandry.

Getting there by train via Paris: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Landry at 11:38; or the 07:49 TGV, arriving 12:39; or the 09:49 TGV, arriving 14:38; from there it’s 15-30 minutes to the resort’s villages by bus or taxi.

Serre Chevalier ski resort in the French Alps © Serre Chevalier TourismeSerre Chevalier ski resort in the French Alps © Serre Chevalier Tourisme

Serre Chevalier

Serre Chevalier, in the Southern Alps, has 80% of its slopes above 2,000 metres. The old villages have the kind of ambience you might look for on a relaxed summer holiday – a sort of Provence in the snow, with small family-run hotels and restaurants in old stone buildings. It’s popular with French families, who appreciate the excellent, dedicated beginner zones and the wooded terrain, with trees reaching appreciably higher altitudes than the Alpine norm. The Grand Hotel in Chantemerle has reopened as a 4-star hotel after complete refurbishment, with a gourmet restaurant.

Getting there by train via Paris: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:29 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Oulx at 11:23; or the 10:41 TGV, arriving 15:43; from there it’s 50 minutes by bus or taxi.

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Les Arcs ski resort in the French Alps © Pete WebbLes Arcs ski resort in the French Alps © Pete Webb

Les Arcs, France

Les Arcs is made up of four modern resort villages, all purpose-built, traffic-free and apartment-dominated. The terrain here is epic in its scale, and full of variety, with plenty of wooded runs – part of the 425km Paradiski area. The new Mille8 development on the slopes of Arc 1800 has a state-of-the-art toboggan ride and modern spa centre. Arc 2000 now has a five-star hotel, the new Taj I Mar while Arc 1950 is the ultimate ski-in-ski-out village, with high-standard self-catered apartments built right on slopes that snake through the cute village.

Getting there by train via Paris: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 11:48; or the 07:49 TGV, arriving 12:51; or the 09:49 TGV, arriving 14:48; 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.

Le Grand Bornand ski resort in the French Alps © LASR TourismLe Grand Bornand ski resort in the French Alps © LASR Tourism

La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand

These twinned resorts sit in the Aravis mountain range above Lake Annecy, and have some excellent slopes. Cute La Clusaz has more buzz in the evenings while Le Grand Bornand, steeped with old wooden chalets, is more family-orientated. The ski terrain here overlooks breathtaking scenery and there are plenty of sunny terraces from which to take in the views, such as that of restaurant Les Terres Rouge, with a 360-degree panorama onto the Jalouvre and Lachat peaks. In La Clusaz, the vast Serge Blanco Balneotherapy spa offers relaxation after the slopes in its 850m² heated outdoor pool.

Getting there by train via Paris: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Annecy at 11:16; from there it’s 35 minutes by bus or taxi to either village.

Megeve ski resort in the French Alps © Daniel Durand / Megeve TourismeMegeve ski resort in the French Alps © Daniel Durand / Megeve Tourisme

Megève

Arriving in the resort of Megève can feel like walking into a picture postcard, so pretty is the village. The 325km of intermediate-friendly slopes are linked with neighbouring St Gervais, with a large proportion weaving through wooded areas. Seemingly around every corner you’ll come across a cosy restaurant, such as The Croute de Gouet in the Le Croix de Christ bowl, which serves up bread dipped in white wine and mountain ham, smothered in cheese and oven baked. Meanwhile for après ski the Folie Douce bar is definitely the place to be and in the evenings there’s the legendary, cosy Jazz Bar in the village.

Getting there by train via Paris: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 07:11 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Sallanches at 11:33; from there it’s 20 minutes by bus or taxi.

Hotels in Paris near Gare de Lyon:

Hôtel Bel Oranger

Hotel Palym

Hotel Viator

Rail travel information sources and booking:

Voyages SNCF

Loco2

Ffestiniog Travel

The new European Rail Map £10.99 +p&p

More information on rail travel to ski resorts can be found at independent guide, Snowcarbon run by Daniel Elkan

Article by France Magazine France Magazine

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