Whether you fly, drive or go by train to your ski resort, there is no quick way to get there. Rail travel is arguably the best for families, since there is space to move, comfortable seats and an ever-changing vista. Kids love it. Despite the advantages, many families don’t realise the sheer variety of resorts that are accessible by train. This winter, a new overnight route from the UK to the Tyrol in Austria means there are even more attractive Alpine ski villages you can reach easily by rail.
1/11 Saas-Fee, Switzerland
Walk around the beautiful village of Saas-Fee and you’ll feel like you are living in a picture postcard: cute pedestrian streets are lined with restaurants, cafés and chocolate-box hotels. There are good beginners’ slopes right by the village, and up on the mountain the scenery is magnificent – not least from the rotating restaurant, Three Sixty, up at Mittelallalin at 3,500m. Ice-climbing and husky-sledding are popular activities here.
Example Journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 17.30 Eurostar to Paris Nord, arriving at 20.47; stay overnight in Paris, then take the 07.57 TGV from Paris-Gare-de-Lyon to Visp, arriving at 14.04. From there, it’s 50 minutes by bus.
2/11 Montgenèvre, France
Arrive at Montgenèvre and you’ll see why this resort is brilliant for young children. The beginners’ slopes fan out from the centre of the village, next to an array of cafés and restaurants, so meeting up for lunch or hot chocolate after lessons is easy. The resort has a huge public spa, Durancia, with indoor and outdoor pools. The resort is part of the 400km Milky Way ski area, with plenty to explore.
Example Journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09.31 Eurostar to Paris Nord; then take the 14.41 TGV from Paris-Gare-de-Lyon to Oulx-Cesana- Claviere-Sestriere, arriving at 19.21. From there, it is a 25-minute taxi or bus ride.
3/11 Avoriaz, France
Car-free, ski-in/ski-out Avoriaz is a unique place, located at the heart of the 650km Portes du Soleil ski area. When you arrive, you’ll travel from the reception area of the village to your accommodation via horsedrawn sledge. It’s a great place for young children, with a beginners’ slope and sledging area in the centre of the village. The huge Aquariaz tropical pool and spa provides lot of entertainment for families and the village even has a special Japanesestyle Yukigassen snowball-fight court.
Example journey: Depart London St Pancras to Paris Nord by Eurostar at 17.30 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.
4/11 Val d’Isère, France
Val d’Isère is a Mecca for those that take their skiing – and their après ski – seriously. However, it is also deservedly popular with families. The resort has created special beginners’ zones at altitude, such as the Madeleine in the Solaise, and the fun nursery slope Sunny Ride, which features cartoon-based obstacles. The Centre Aquasportif has a wide range of sports as well as swimming pools, a river rapid, hot tubs, steam rooms and saunas.
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 45 minutes by taxi.
5/11 Val Thorens, France
Perched at a lofty 2,300m at the top of thehuge 600km Trois Vallées ski area, Val Thorens is a ski-in/ski-out village that attracts a wide range of skiers. Though the extent of the terrain makes it popular with experts, there are actually great beginners’ zones just below the village, too. Activities at the new 630m2 Délir’ Park (part of the huge sports centre), include Ninja Contest obstacle courses and Iron Cross trails. The centre also has a vast 2,000m2 aqua spa and wellness centre.
Example journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09.45 Eurostar Ski Train, arriving at Moûtiers at 18.15. From there, it’s 55 minutes by bus or taxi.
6/11 La Rosière, France
Family favourite La Rosière is perched near the Italian border and shares 160km of slopes with neighbouring La Thuile, in Italy, with terrain that’s great for beginners and intermediates. You can also try Paret – a small wooden sledge with just one blade, which was used as a way of getting to school at the beginning of the 20th century. After skiing, you can dip into the AltiSpa, which has stunning views over the Tarentaise valley, a whirlpool, salt therapy and a Japanese sauna.
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 45 minutes by taxi.
7/11 Alpbach, Austria
Alpbach’s little Tyrolean village is one of the most beautiful in the Alps, with streets lined with rustic wooden chalets. In 2012, a new gondola linking Alpbach with the Wildschönau valley created the Ski Juwel area, incorporating the resorts of Reith, Oberau and Niederau, boasting 145km of terrain, with fast lifts and short queues. For families with young children, the beginners’ slopes in the centre of the village makes things über-convenient.
Example journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 15.04 Eurostar to Brussels; take the 18.25 Intercity Express (ICE) from Brussels to Cologne; then take the 21.21 NightJet sleeper train to Jenbach, arriving at 08.53. From there, it’s about 20 minutes by bus or taxi.
8/11 La Plagne, France
One of the most popular resorts with British families, La Plagne is a made up of 11 different villages – with much of the accommodation ski-in/ski-out. The snowsure altitude of the slopes makes it a popular destination for Easter, when the resort puts on a fabulous free festival, Subli’Cimes, across six different mountain summits. You can also try ice-climbing, paragliding and huskysledding through the wooded terrain here.
Example journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09.45 Eurostar Ski Train, arriving at Aime La Plagne station at 18.30. From there, it’s 20-40 minutes by bus or taxi.
9/11 Peisey-Vallandry France
The cute resort of Peisey-Vallandry sits conveniently between the resorts of Les Arcs and La Plagne in the Paradiski area, and it makes a friendly, scenic base. There are two beginners’ areas and plenty of wooded slopes that run down into the resort. Good restaurants on the mountain include Blanche Murée, with its big sunny terrace and La Cordée, which conjures up delicious crêpes and hot chocolate.
Example journey: Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Nord by Eurostar at 07.55, then take the 12.45 TGV from Paris-Gare-de-Lyon to Landry, arriving at 17.38. From there, it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi.
10/11 Söll, Austria
The pretty, vibrant Tyrolean village of Söll is part of the extensive SkiWelt area, with wonderful intermediate-friendly slopes that encompass the neighbouring villages of Scheffau, Ellmau, and Going, and spectacular views over the Wilder Kaiser mountain range. For younger children, the resort has a Snow Pirates club and great nursery slopes. In the evening, try the long, floodlit toboggan runs.
Example journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 15.04 Eurostar to Brussels; take the 18.25 ICE from Brussels to Cologne, then take the 21.21 NightJet sleeper train to Wörgl, arriving 08.36. From there, it’s 20 minutes by bus or taxi.
11/11 Val Cenis, France
You might not have heard of Val Cenis, but French families have been coming here for years, impressed by the 130km of piste, extensive off-piste, and a vertical drop of 1,400m. The resort boasts the 10km aptly named L’Escargot – the longest green run in Europe. The friendly villages of Lanslevillard, Lanslebourg and Termignon have quality residences at prices well below the French norm.
Example journey: Depart London St Pancras on the 09.17 Eurostar to Paris Nord, change station and take the 14.41 TGV to Modane, arriving at 18.47. From there, it’s a 30-minute bus or taxi ride to the villages.
The lowdown: Ski by rail
Prices from London to train stations in the Alps start from £109 return, but cost more on peak dates. Voyages SNCF; Eurostar; Loco2. Rail-ticket agency Ffestiniog is also a good option to help make booking easy.