All you need to know about ski holidays by train

Train-travel booking guide

How to book independent travel and rail-ski packages to the Alps


ski travel by train to Alps

Train journeys to the Alps are fantastic. The experience is much more enjoyable and social than flying or driving.  Travelling by rail means you can spend quality time with friends and family, enjoying the space and scenery.  And it's far more sustainable too.

But what is the best way to book the travel? Train companies haven't made booking as simple as it could or should be — and if you are none the wiser, this could be frustrating.

However, Snowcarbon is here to help.  We don't book journeys for you, but what we will share with you is the knowledge about the best way to do. We can help by recommending the best websites, rail booking agencies and tour operators.

Depending on your destination and which trains you take, some journeys are easier to book than others.  Some journeys are easy to book online, other journeys are much better booked for you by some of the expert rail-booking agencies (see below).

With this knowledge and knowing who to ask, booking can be straighforward, leaving you to be excited about the journey ahead. Snowcarbon is always here to help.

Independent rail travel vs rail-ski packages

ski travel by train to Alps

You can book ski holidays independently, putting all the elements together yourself; or you can book a package with a ski tour operator, with rail travel, transfers and accommodation all included.  There are advantages (and disadvantages) to each way of doing it.

Your priorities are to find a resort that is going to suit your party, with accommodation that you are going to love – accessed by a good train journey.
And if you'd like destination and holiday suggestions, Snowcarbon's founder, Daniel, is always happy to help (just send Daniel an email saying who it's for and what you are ideally looking for).

Booking travel independently, or booking the travel as part of a package with a tour operator can both be good options. Here are a few FAQs:

Is it cheaper to book independently or to book with a ski tour operator?  
In most cases, it will work out about the same cost.  You might want the tour operator to book the journey for you, as they will package everything up for you, and the holiday is protected by tour-operator bonding. Or you can ask them to book just the accommodation, or accommodation and transfers, and do the rail booking yourself (online, or with an expert rail-booking agency - see below).

Can a ski tour operator offer the kind of trains and journey that I want?
A: It depends on the destination and type of journey (more explained below)

Can a ski tour operator book tickets further in advance?
Generally, not, a few can book the Eurostar Ski Train further in advance.

Is there more availability of rail tickets with independent travel or with a tour operator?
It depends. For journeys on the Eurostar Ski Train, a couple of the larger ski tour operators have their own special allocation of tickets, but once these run out they can’t get any more, in which case you’ll need to book independently or with a tour operator that simply buys public tickets on your behalf (see more explanation below).

Types of tour operator (with regard to rail travel)

ski travel by train to Alps

It can be helpful to think of tour operators as one of three types:

Type 1:  The tour operator offers packages on certain trains (usually the Eurostar Ski Train) and has their own allocation of tickets for each date of the season. Once their allocation has sold out, they may not be able to offer a package with the train.  Sometimes their rail-ski packages are priced at the same rate as flying, and sometimes there is a supplement for taking the train. Normally these allocations can be booked further in advance than public fares – which is a big advantage if you are thinking about peak periods such as February half-term.

Type 2: This kind of tour operator doesn’t have a specific allocation of tickets, but can book ad hoc journeys for you.  They might choose only to book rail travel on certain trains, or they might be able to offer any train.  They basically book the rail travel at public fares, so you don’t pay less or more than if you travelled independently, but the tour operator books the travel for you (and your travel and holiday is protected by their tour operator bond).

Type 3: This tour operator doesn’t offer rail travel as part of their packages.  They might be able to offer an accommodation-only price if you are not using their flight, and you can put the money saved towards train travel.

If you know which resort you want to go to, the first thing to check is which trains and schedules might suit you best. On Snowcarbon's ski resorts and journey planner section you can view the best journey schedules. You can also check updated independent rail fares, at a glance, on our ski-trains price-check section.  

The sections which follow offer a guide to booking each type of rail journey to ski resorts.

Booking by phone versus booking online

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In a normal world it would be straightforward to book train travel from the UK to the Alps online - and be confident of finding the best travel options and cheapest fares for your journey.  However, that's often not the case.

The rail network is safe, pretty reliable and certainly enjoyable to travel on. However, for journeys into Europe, the train companies haven't made it easy to find the journeys and tickets that you want.  Because of this, it is often worth booking by phone - after doing your initial fare and journey research online. Here are seven reasons why you might want to book on the phone:

1. The outbound and return leg of your journey involves different kinds of trains
Rail company websites frequently don't allow you to book different types of train in combination.  Indeed, choosing a certain type of train may mean that other perfectly viable train optoins don't even show up as bookable. Crazy, but true.

2. You want to break the journey in Paris and allow more time to do so, for example to have a meal on the way, or for a stopover journey where you stay the night in Paris. 
Booking sites like Rail Europe allow you to do this using their 'via' option, but they way they do it doesn't always allow you to get the cheapest fares. It may be easier to get this sorted on the phone. 

3. You want to choose the seats you are booking, or clarify what seat positions (e.g. table, aisle etc) you could get before you book.
In most cases you can have more certainty about this when booking on the phone.

4. You have questions and need help
Why try and work everything out yourself and get frustrated when you could also phone? Plan in advance, perhaps with some timetable information in front of you. Perhaps put some nice relaxing music on in the background (and a nice hot cup of tea?), before phoning. Give yourself time and have a pen and paper handy so you can make clear notes.

5. You are unsure in any way about what kind of seat or ticket you are buying.
Don't take a guess and risk booking the wrong journey. Phone and check instead.

6. You want to book a rail package with a ski-tour operator
Some ski tour operators can offer rail-inclusive packages, but they don't show these on their websites.  Don't assume that they can't offer train travel. Phone and check. You can also send Snowcarbon Founder Daniel Elkan an email, to ask which tour operators offer rail-packages, and he will be happy to help.

BUT.  And it's a big but:

There are many, many occassions when call-centre staff also get things wrong. Over the years, and recently, we've tested this on many occassions.  So never assume that what someone tells you on the phone is correct.  It's not unusual for call-centre staff to get things wrong, for several reasons: 

1. Often they rely on the same online web interface that you see online - and get fooled accordingly because certain journey options or fares become effectively hidden.
2. Lack of training.
3. The system that they used doesn't access all the available journeys or fares (operator bias).
4. Just stuff more stuff they just don't know, that few people are even aware of.

So so take what they say with a healthy dose of scepticism, not as gospel. But overall, using a combination of websites and the phone, you have the highest chance of booking the journey that suits you most at the best prices.

If you are unsure of something you can send Snowcarbon Founder Daniel Elkan an email.

Contact details for train companies

Eurostar's reservation centre can not only book the Eurostar Ski Train for you.  They can also book indirect Eurostar + TGV journeys to quite a few French destinations. It can take around 10 - 15 minutes to get through someimes, so do it when you are sitting comfortably.

Phone: 03432 186 186
Mon-Fri 8am - 7pm;   Sat-Sun 9am - 5pm.
Booking fee: £10 per booking (not per person) (formerly Voyages SNCF)
When it comes to making bookings by phone, OUI unfortunately says 'Non!' - because SNCF closed its UK call centre in March 2018 when it rebranded. 
They do have an information line and a booking helpline, but both are horrendously expensive to call.  If you are finding that you need help booking online, you'd be better to book with a rail-booking agency (see our list further down this page).

1. Information line: +33 8 92 35 35 35
Mon-Sat 8 am to 6 pm, closed on Sunday (French time)
Calls cost around £1.50 per minute from UK mobile and about £2.50 per minute from a UK landline (cheap overseas call options don't work on these numbers).

2. Online helpdesk (to help you with online bookings) +33 9 70 60 99 70,
Monday to Saturday 9 a.m.-7 p.m (French time), closed on Sunday. says: "Our advisors are here to help and accompany our customers during their online experience on" - while you get more and more wound up by the cost of the call...
Calls cost around £1.50 per minute from UK mobile and about £2.50 per minute from a UK landline (cheap overseas call options don't work on these numbers).

Deutsche Bahn
The German rail operator can book any journey to European destinations and has expertise as a booking agent.
Phone +44 8718 80 80 66 (costs depend on provider)
Mon-Fri: 09:00 to 20:00 (GMT), Sat-Sun: 09:00 to 13:00 (GMT)

Rail booking experts

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One option that may appeal to you is to let rail-booking experts source and book tickets for you.  There are a few companies in the UK that do this, who offer a very useful service by making sure that you are offered the most suitable journey options, for the best prices. These companies charge a fee but are able to find you the best fares available as soon as trains go on sale. They can often hold seats further in advance than you could yourself online; and they take the hassle out of booking. All the companies below can book any journey for you.
NB: direct journeys on the Eurostar Ski Train are better booked directly online or by phoning Eurostar.

Helping people book rail travel since 1986, Trainseurope has an expert, knowledgeable team who can book journeys for you.
Can help with any journey.
Trainseurope charges a fee of £10 per traveller.
Phone: (+44) 01354 660222 (09:00 – 17:00 Monday – Friday; 09:00 – 15:00 Saturday)

International Rail

A family run, Hampshire-based rail-booking agent with an experienced team of staff. 
Can help with any journey.
Booking fees are depend on the total value of the order: Under £100.00 = £15.00; between £100.00 - £300.00 = £25.00; over £300.00 = £35.00
Phone: (+44) 03330 030 413.  (Calls free within inclusive minutes package on mobile; otherwise standard rates apply.)
Call centre times: 09:00 – 17:00 Monday-Friday

Ffestiniog Travel
Ffestiniog Travel
was established in 1974, owned by a Charitable Trust and with profits going to support the world-famous Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. There is a booking fee for all ticketing arrangements made, charged as a percentage of the total booking cost, up to a maximum charge of £30. As you can imagine, its expertise and understanding of rail ticketing means that they are able to advise clients on, source and take advantage of cheaper ticket prices – they know when reservations should be made to secure the best possible prices, offers and upgrades on your behalf.

Phone: 01766 515630

Rail Canterbury
Husband and wife team Phil and Jacky have been helping people book train travel to the Alps and other destinations for many years, with their small Canterbury-based booking agency. They charge a fee for booking, but are hugely experienced.
Phone: 01227 450088

Switzerland Travel Centre
The name suggests only travel to Switzerland, but Switzerland Travel Centre can book almost all journeys into European destinations.
Phone: 0207 420 4934
Mon-Fri 9am - 5pm; Saturdays 9am - 1pm; closed Sundays.

Deutsche Bahn
The German rail operator can book any journey to European destinations and has expertise as a booking agent.
Phone +44 8718 80 80 66 (costs depend on provider)
Mon-Fri: 09:00 to 20:00 (GMT), Sat-Sun: 09:00 to 13:00 (GMT)

How to book the Eurostar Ski Train

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The Eurostar Ski Train goes direct from London to the Tarentaise region of the French Alps. There's a daytime and an overnight service, which goes on sale in mid July (date TBC) for the whole 2020-21 season. If you are booking a return journey independently on the Eurostar Ski Train, you can book online either on Eurostar's websiteRail Europe or Voyages SNCF (formerly Rail Europe). 

Prices are advertised as 'From  £160 return, per adult' (from London to the Alps - standard class).  But what does it cost in reality?  For non-peak dates, standard-class fares do indeed start at  £160, and if you book in advance you could get fares of £160 - £220 return per adult, which will gradually creep up to the £380 return mark the logner the train is on sale. However, for peak dates (Christmas, New Year, February Half-term and Easter), the fares automatically seem to range from £400 - £500 return per adult, depending on the date. Fares for children aged 4-11 are about 30% cheaper than adult prices, and children under four years old can travel for free without an actual reserved seat.

You can also book the Eurostar Ski Train as part of a rail-ski package - see our  rail-ski packages section.

Booking Eurostar + TGV journeys

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Travelling to Paris by Eurostar, and then changing onto a TGV train to the Alps is an alternative to the Eurostar Ski Train, and also gives a far wider range of ski destinations, because TGVs serve far more ski resorts than the Eurostar Ski Train alone does. Eurostar + TGV journeys for the winter season go on sale every October, and you can then book around 90 days in advance of your date of travel. 

Booking online
You can book Eurostar + TGV journeys online either with Rail Europe or with Voyages SNCF, or for certain destinations on Eurostar's website.  Prices start from £109 return per adult from London to the Alps, but for peak dates (Christmas, New Year, February Half-term and to a lesser extent, Easter), expect much higher prices (£225 - £400 per adult, depending on availability).

You can also then book a taxi transfer between Paris-Nord and Paris-Lyon stations, to connect relativley seamlessly between the Eurostar and the TGV.

As with the Eurostar Ski Train, fares for children aged 4-11 are 30% cheaper than adult prices, and children under four years old can travel for free without an actual reserved seat.

You can also book the Eurostar + TGV journeys as part of a rail-ski package from ski tour operators.  See our  rail-ski packages section.

What if you wish to have a longer duration between trains in Paris?
Rail-company websites pair Eurostar and TGV trains together to give you the quickest possible journeys while respecting the time that they deem acceptable for changing stations in Paris. However, there are several reasons why you might want to allow more time between your Eurostar arriving and your TGV departing (or vice versa). For example:
1. You want to have a long lunch in Paris, or visit sights, or meet a friend.
2. You want to stopover in Paris and catch an early TGV the following morning.
3. The train company website has paired two trains together with quite a tight connection and you would like to allow more time to change - as highlighted in this article for the Telegraph by Snowcarbon founder Daniel Elkan.

The answer in this case is either to do the booking by phone or via a rail-booking agency such as Ffestiniog Travel (see section above).

French, Italian and Andorran ski resorts - independent rail travel

new exterior photo:Daniel Elkan Learning on the slopes

To book to French resorts, either with the Eurostar Ski Train or by going indirectly via Paris, the best booking option is to book online either with Rail Europe or with Voyages SNCF, or Eurostar.  The direct Eurostar Ski Train goes on sale in July 2014, while indirect train journeys to the Alps are bookable 90 days in advance of the date of travel. The same applies for Italian and Andorran resorts (except that they aren't served by the direct ski train).

You can check the best journey schedules by visiting the Snowcarbon resorts and journeys page. You'll see that for each resort listed, we have a journey planner, showing hand-researched journey schedules. And from there you can look up the cheapest available fares for your date of travel, click to book independent travel (via one of our online booking partners, Rail Europe) or browse rail-inclusive ski packages.

Swiss ski resorts - how to book independent rail travel


The best way to book to a Swiss resort is with Switzerland Travel Centre (STC) using an online booking enquiry form. STC with then research the lowest fares for you and offer a no-obligation quote. You can usually book usually up to 90 days before the date of travel but if your enquiry is made in advance of that date then STC will make sure that you receive a quote on the day the booking opens, giving you the opportunity to get the best fares.

You can also look up times, fares and book online with Rail Europe - although for journeys for larger groups or with more than two changes of train it may be wise to contact Switzerland Travel Centre too, as online searches cope less well with more journey legs and may not always give you all the available discounts if you have a big party, such as a family group, with multiple ages, etc (especially as Switzerland has generous family discounts etc)

We've created a special section about how to travel to Swiss ski resorts by train, with resort and journey summaries, and an enquiry form that you can send straight to STC.

Austrian ski resorts - how to book independent rail travel


Rail travel from the UK to the Austrian Tirol, with a standard-class seat on Eurostar and a place in a six-berth couchette on the NightJet, start at £215 return per adult.  However, prices always depend on availability, and at peak dates will likely be higher.  Depending on ages, children get about 30% off the adult fare.

Ffestiniog Travel
Ffestiniog Travel is an excellent, specialist rail-booking travel agency and can book the entire journey for you and make sure you get the lowest fares, offers and upgrades.  There is a booking fee for all ticketing arrangements made – this is minimal and charged as a percentage of the total booking cost, ranging from a few points up to a maximum charge of £30.
Phone: 01766 772 030; email:; website: visit:

Eurostar website and NightJet websites
You can book the journey as two separate sections online currently.
London to Brussels by Eurostar, book on at
Brussels to Austria with ICE and NightJet, book at

The excellent website Seat61 has a guide about travelling from London to Austria by NightJet - check it out.  

Daytime travel from London to St Anton
The daytime journey to St Anton and neighbouring resorts by train is a beautiful one. The journey to St Anton via Switzerland and into the Arlberg valley is very scenic and relaxing.

First check the best journey schedules by viewing the St Anton Journey Planner

Then, send Snowcarbon Founder Daniel Elkan an email, and he will help advise on your best booking options.

Rail-ski packages from tour operators


Rail-inclusive ski packages are holidays provided by a ski tour operator, with train travel, transfers and accommodation in the resorts all included.  The benefits are:

  • Easy to book
  • The rail travel is included in the package and booked for you by the tour operator. 
  • In some cases the travel is at preferential rates, saving you money over independent fares.
  • The transfers between the train station and your accommodation are included in the price.
  • The packages are bonded, offering you extra protection.
  • The packages are often bookable further in advance than when you book independent rail travel.

Many tour operators can offer tailor-made packages, so that you can choose what date and trains you travel on, so just ask for what you would like.  Many packages include the Eurostar Ski Train, others a include a journey with a Eurostar and then a TGV, or with the new Eurostar to the French Alps via Lyon. And you can also tailor make them with a Eurostar and then a sleeper train from Paris.

You can view a range of these packages at the rail-ski packages section.

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

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On sleeper trains from Paris, the 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

Options for booking an espace privatif: not bookable on Rail Europe 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

Like more help and advice?

Advice on booking lowest fares to the Alps

If you'd like more help and advice the best train travel options, resorts and accommodation, feel free to contact Snowcarbon's founder, Daniel. 

He can help with specific advice and suggestions, using his years of experience as a ski journalist and expert on how to travel to the Alps by train. 

Daniel knows lots of great accommodation and tour operators and independent providers that can help, so you'll get some great suggestions.

Just send Daniel an email and he'll be back in touch.

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.

For suggestions and advice on fantastic ski resorts, excellent accommodation and suitable train-travel options, just contact ski writer and Snowcarbon co-founder, Daniel.