All you need to know about ski holidays by train

Eurostar + couchette sleeper train

Thu, 22/09/2011 - 09:25 -- admin


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Taking a Eurostar to Paris and then a couchette sleeper train from Paris to the Alps is quite a good way to get two extra days on the slopes. It's not a direct as taking the direct overnight Eurostar Ski Train (obviously) but it does have some advantages: 

1. You can reach more far more resorts this way - because there are more routes.
2. There lots of journey options, and you can travel most days of the week.
3. Breaking the journey in Paris can be fun and interesting.
4. The train doesn't arrive as breathtakingly early as the Eurostar Ski Train.
5. The train has couchette beds (while the Eurostar Ski Train only has reclining seats).

Something should be said about names. We at Snowcarbon now call these trains 'couchette sleeper trains from Paris'. The trains used to be called 'Corail Lunea' - which kind of sounded nice. Then in 2014 SNCF decided to 'rebrand' them as 'Intercités de nuit'. As this name is not very memorable, and few people have even heard of this new name, we just say 'couchette' and 'sleeper' for clarity.

The end of some sleeper train routes

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Sadly, The French Goverment Ministry of Transport, which owns SNCF, axed routes all over France.
Some routes that had trains running every night now have zero trains. It's a huge loss for France, travellers, skiers and the environment.

The ski routes that will no longer run are:

Paris - Moutiers, Aime, Landry and Bourg St Maurice
Paris - Annecy, Cluses, Sallanches and St Gervais

Resorts no longer served by these sleeper trains from Paris:
Avoriaz, Brides les Bains, Courchevel, Flaine, La Clusaz, La Plagne, La Rosiere, La Tania, Le Grand Bornand, Les Arcs, Les Carroz, Les Contamines, Les Gets, Les Menuires, Manigold, Megeve, Meribel, Morillon, Morzine, Peisey-Vallandry, Sainte Foy, Samoens, St Gervais, St Martin de Belleville, Tignes, Val d'Isere, Val Thorens and Valmorel.

The routes that remains are:

Paris - Briancon
Key resorts still served by sleeper trains from Paris: Montgenevre, Serre Chevalier

Paris - Rodez/Latour-de-Carol
Key resorts served: (in Andorra) Pas de la Casa, Soldeu

Step 1: Take a Eurostar to Paris

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You get on the Eurostar, sit down, have a chat with your friends, go to the cafe bar, read a book, look at the scenery gliding by, share a joke with a fellow passenger.

There are lots of great ways to use the time and then before you know it your Eurostar is arriving in Paris-Nord.

You may also want to see our guide to what the Eurostar is like.

Step 2: Change from Paris-Nord to Paris-Austerlitz

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So next you want to get from Paris-Nord, where the Eurostar arrives, to Paris-Austerlitz - the station from where the Corail Lunea trains depart, bound for the Alps.

The easiest way to do that is with a pre-booked taxi, where the driver waits for you at the end of the Eurostar platform, holding a placard with your name. But there is also a taxi rank, a 50 metres to the right of the Eurostar platform.

You can take the Metro, but if you have a fair bit of luggage avoid this, as the section from Paris-Nord to Paris-Austerlitz requires going up and down some stairs. When you get to Gare d'Austerlitz, you can have dinner opposite the station, or bring some food onto the Corail Lunea. 

You can find all about these options in our guide to changing station from Paris-Nord to Paris-Austerlitz

Step 3: Overnight to the Alps on the Corail Lunea

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There's something about getting on an overnight train that is always a bit exciting - but never more so than when you are headed for the Alps.

You'll see Paris slipping away through the window, then the suburbs and then you are into the countryside.

In the morning you'll wake up close to the slopes and be able to ski shortly afterward, while thousands of other skiers are standing in airport queues or cooped up on long transfers.

Now, French Corail Lunea trains are not built for luxury and they are cosy, not spacious. But they do the job and you can lie flat and get a good night's sleep, dreaming of the slopes. 

You may also want to see our guide to what the Corail Lunea sleeper train is like.

Step 4: Transfer to your resort

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The final step is to get from the train station to the ski resort.  These transfers are typically between 15 minutes and 45 minutes,  and are far shorter than airport transfers - which can take 1.5 - three hours - or even longer.

It's a good idea pre-book a taxi transfer (although you can also find a taxi driver on the spot too).

There are also buses from train stations to ski resorts, usually timed to coincide with the arrival of the Corail Lunea train.

For every ski resort on the Snowcarbon website, we have a transfer guide page to show you taxi and bus options and how to book them.

Outbound journey schedules - Paris to the French Alps - 2020-21

Couchette sleeper trains depart from Paris Gare d'Austerlitz every night of the week. The following trains are running for the 2020-21 winter season (and beyond)

London and Paris to the French Alps
Depart London St Pancras 16:31  
Arrive Paris-Nord 19:47  
Transfer from Paris Gare du Nord to Paris Gare'd'Austerlitz
Depart Paris-Austerlitz 20:50 Ski resorts served
Arrive Veynes 06:22 Super Devoluy
Arrive Gap 06:51 Praloup
Arrive Embrun 07:32 Les Orres
Arrive Montdauphin 07:51 Risoul, Vars
Arrive L'Argentiere-les-Ecrins 08:05 Puy St Vincent
Arrive Briancon 08:41 Montgenevre, Serre Chevalier

Sleeper trains will no longer rund between Paris and the following stations:
Moutiers, Aime, Landry and Bourg St Maurice
Annecy, Cluses, Sallanches and St Gervais

And this means that you can no longer travel from Paris by sleeper train to the following resorts: Avoriaz, Brides les Bains, Courchevel, Flaine, La Clusaz, La Plagne, La Rosiere, La Tania, Le Grand Bornand, Les Arcs, Les Carroz, Les Contamines, Les Gets, Les Menuires, Manigold, Megeve, Meribel, Morillon, Morzine, Peisey-Vallandry, Sainte Foy, Samoens, St Gervais, St Martin de Belleville, Tignes, Val d'Isere, Val Thorens and Valmorel.

Inbound journey schedules - French Alps to London

Returning from the Alps to London service, the following trains will still run for the 2016-17 winter season (and beyond):

French Alps to Paris
Depart From Arr. Paris Austerlitz Ski resorts served
20:23 Briancon 07:39 Super Devoluy
20:42 L'Argentiere-les-Ecrins 07:39 Praloup
21:00 Montdauphin 07:39 Les Orres
21:18 Embrun 07:39 Risoul, Vars
21:58 Gap 07:39 Puy St Vincent
22:33 Veynes 07:39 Montgenevre, Serre Chevalier

The Eurostar + sleeper train journey

Twelve of us travelled to the Portes du Soleil by Eurostar to Paris, and then a sleeper train to the Alps, and made a film of the journey.

We travelled in Standard Class on the Eurostar and Corail, sleeping in a six-berth couchette.

The journey was a lot of fun, a good way for friends to socialise on the way and get to know each other at the start of the holiday.

Read more about the onboard experience of the sleeper train here.

How to book an 'espace privatif' (private couchette)

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Couchette compartments contain either six berths (Standard Class) or four berths (First Class).  However, if you are 4 or 5 people in Standard Class, or if you are 1, 2 or 3 people in First Class, you can have privacy and book the whole couchette to yourself, simply by paying an 'Espace privatif' supplement.

Not a lot of people know this is possible, and indeed we discovered it from the excellent Mark Smith, founder of rail website The Man in Seat 61

How to book: not bookable on Loco2 Currently you can only book this for First Class travel, which gives you the option to select a 'First Class compartment'.
Voyages SNCF (online): not bookable online
Voyages SNCF (phone): you can book this on the phone (0844 848 5 848). Be aware that some of their staff may not have heard of this, so you might diplomatically have to ask for a supervisor, in that case.

How much does it cost:

Class Minimum number of people Total supplement required
First Class 1 €70
First Class 2 €50
First Class 3 €40
Second Class 4 or 5 €45

You can also read about the Espace Privatif on Seat 61's page about sleeper trains from Paris

How to book Eurostar + Corail Lunea journeys

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There are two ways to book Eurotar + sleeper train journeys to the Alps.

You can book the journey independently, or you can book the journey via a ski tour operator as part of a rail-ski package with the train included.

Prices start from £124 return from London to the Alps, but on peak dates it can be higher (£180 - £400 return) depending on when you book.

The journeys go on sale in early October 2020, and you can book travel dates up to about 90 days in advance.

You can find out more about how to book Eurostar + Corail Lunea journeys in our guide to booking ski holidays by train.

Ski holidays by train — Ask Snowcarbon

At Snowcarbon we are always happy to help you with suggestions for great resorts, fantastic accommodation and how to get there.

Looking forward to helping you.