This winter, ski trains are an alternative way to get to the Northern French Alps. If that sounds like your type of journey, here’s why it’s easy to arrange on ski holidays with Peak Retreats.
Why it’s worth thinking about ski trains this winter
Stands to reason you might think flying is the easiest way to start and finish a family ski holiday. However, with the introduction of new services like Eurostar Snow Train, as well as high-speed TGV rail links from Paris to cities like Grenoble, it’s worth thinking about trains as an alternative to planes this ski season.
During school holidays, trains are usually a lot cheaper than planes. Being able to take your ski equipment free of charge as opposed to paying per item with most airlines is another advantage of going by train. And the fact that you avoid airports completely is a bonus we don’t need to explain to parents. Then there’s the pleasure of the journey itself, as well as the knowledge you are having less environmental impact by rail than air.
Of course, it goes without saying that kids like trains, not least because you can walk to the buffet car, or just walk about a bit. Plus, you can see so much from a train, which makes the journey a lot more interesting for young travellers.
Catch ski trains to these iconic Northern Alps’ resorts
Like the sound of making the journey as much a part of your next ski holiday as the skiing itself? Peak Retreats offer rail travel and easy transfers to several Northern Alps’ resorts, so you can be sure of a seamless, family-friendly experience. If that sounds like it might your new thing this winter, then here are five resorts where arriving by train is already very much a thing.
Les Arcs: catch the Eurostar Snow Train direct to Bourg Saint-Maurice
One of the easiest resorts to reach by train from the UK this season, is also one of the most thrilling for families. Les Arcs itself needs little introduction but what might be news is that both the new Eurostar Snow Train and French TGV trains run direct to Bourg Saint-Maurice, and from there it’s seven minutes by funicular to Arc 1600 and shuttle buses to all other areas of Les Arcs.
Shuttle buses are free and run throughout the day. However, if you want even more ease, Peak Retreats can also organise a private transfer from Bourg Saint-Maurice to your resort accommodation in Les Arcs.
A little bit about legendary Les Arcs
As part of the vast Paradiski area, Les Arcs gives you access to more than 425km of pistes. If that sounds daunting for first timers or children, nothing could be further from the truth as the iconic red, black and natural runs here are more than matched by a range of blues and greens.
Arc 2000, the highest resort, is a particularly good choice for families as it features three progressive beginner runs with magic carpets and chairlifts. Although you’ll find ‘Ski Tranquille’ areas all over Les Arcs to let you ski or snowboard at a slower pace.
Why families love Les Arcs
- Peak Retreats specialise in Les Arcs so you have a wide choice of ski-in-ski-out family accommodation here, as well as hotels and apartments close to ski schools and village centres.
- Its P’tits Montagnard label lets you know Les Arcs offers good facilities specifically for families, such as warm picnic rooms with toilets on the slopes and Les Cabines or Le Foret de Pitchouns fun slopes.
- Great après-ski for children includes tobogganing, aquatic centres, luge tracks and even ziplines.
- High altitude Les Arcs is super snow-sure and long season, perfect for ski breaks during February half-term and even Easter.
Samoëns: up to 15 ski trains a day to Cluses from the UK
Another pleasure to reach by either Eurostar or TGV, Samoëns is just 20km from Cluses railway station. And to make your journey as effortless as possible, Peak Retreats can pre-book taxis from the station right to the resort.
Samoëns adds fairy tale magic to ski holidays
Historic Samoëns village could be exactly the charming fairy tale you want this winter. Not only does it have a traditional market right at its heart, the pretty little streets are a delight to wander around, and much of the village is now pedestrianised.
But all that quaintness leads to some excellent skiing. As part of the Grand Massif, Samoëns accesses over 265km of pistes with good beginners and intermediate areas, as well as fun zones for families. Plus, you can ski from resort-to-resort here which children find thrilling, no surprise.
Why families love Samoëns
- Home to one of the largest beginners’ areas in Haute Savoie which includes everything from easy ski lifts to a family area with sledging slopes and a children’s garden.
- Under-8s ski for free in the Grand Massif and there are reduced rates for 8 to 15 year olds, so Samoëns is a great value choice for young families.
- As well as a lovely, traditional ice rink, you can look forward to tobogganing and dog-sledding here, plus there’s a mountain coaster.
- Proving it’s perfect for young children, Samoëns has a cute Septitrain which tours around the village, saves little legs from walking and lets you take a break too.
- Adult Beginner Pass available at Samoëns, from just 23€.
Les Saisies: ski trains let you enjoy more of the scenery
Between regular TGV services and the new Eurostar Snow Train – both to Albertville – Les Saisies is a good choice for families with younger children this winter. The resort itself is a little under an hour from the station and Peak Retreats can organise private transfers. So you get to sit back, breathe and simply appreciate the local scenery on-route.
Welcome to the largest Nordic ski area in France
Not only is Les Saisies close enough to Mont Blanc to mean outstanding snow cover all winter, it’s also a cross-country skiing legend thanks to the largest Nordic area in France. Downhillers should get equally excited, as 192km of pistes here combine great snow with plenty of challenge. Beginners aren’t forgotten either, as gentle slopes build confidence, and fun slopes like Montagnes des Elfes are playful, but come with tunnels and banked curves for when kids want to test themselves.
Why families love Les Saisies
- Family friendly Les Saisies village basks in sensational views of Mont Blanc, but doesn’t take anything for granted. On top of its great location it offers 18 restaurants, a lively atmosphere and lots to do, day and night.
- If kids still have energy after a day’s skiing – of course they do – children’s dog sledding for 3-7 year olds, horse drawn sleigh rides and a mountain twister are just a hint of what’s happening, off the slopes.
- Three safe, easy and free rope tows are available so beginners and kids can try skiing or snowboarding without paying for lift passes.
- Above-average snow conditions make this another resort that’s good for off-peak breaks with pre-schoolers.
Val Thorens: high speed ski trains from Paris to the highest resort in Europe
Catch the Eurostar from London to Paris and the high-speed TGV train takes you straight to Moûtiers Salins Brides-Les Bains, less than an hour’s transfer time from Val Thorens.
Come ski the immense Trois Vallées
Regarded by many as the greatest intermediate ski-playground in the world, Les Trois Vallées is inarguably the largest of all the world’s ski areas. Experienced skiers will find plenty to love about the challenging pistes here, but easy rider zones mean it’s also great for beginners. Themed bumps, jumps and slaloms are a feature of family parks like Val Thorens Snow Park. And everyone, without exception, finds the 360° views from the top of the Cime Caron cable car completely unforgettable.
Why families love Val Thorens
- Not only voted ‘World’s Best Ski Resort’ at the World Snow Awards 2022, Val Thorens has also been awarded a Famille Plus label. That means it’s met no fewer than 110 strict requirements and is designated the highest quality for families with children aged 18 months and over.
- All ages enjoy Val Thorens thanks to its laid back and friendly atmosphere. The nightlife is justifiably famous, but it’s equally good fun for families during the day.
- A great resort for kids’ lessons; a sunny, west facing aspect makes for good snow conditions and comfortable learning throughout the season.
- An extra-large beginners area features wide slopes and it’s totally free, so first timers and learners can build confidence without investing in lift passes.
Les Menuires: one of the most family-friendly resorts in the French Alps
This is another great family ski holiday which starts with a Eurostar journey to Paris and then a high-speed TGV train service from Paris to Moûtiers Salins Brides-Les Bains.
Affordable ski breaks in Trois Vallées
Not only is Les Menuires incredibly family-friendly, it’s also part of the enormous Trois Vallées ski area. So you won’t be surprised to learn that its pistes cover all levels from complete beginner to expert. Off the slopes, it’s known for an outstanding winter-long activity programme for kids of all ages. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, Les Menuires turns out to be one of the most affordable resorts in the Trois Vallées too.
Why families love Les Menuires
- As well as being naturally family-friendly, Les Menuires is another Famille Plus resort, so you can look forward to a high standard of everything from childcare to ski-in-ski-out accommodation.
- A combination of traditional French charm and a fun atmosphere makes this warm, relaxed resort a haven for families.
- Les Menuires features the largest ski kindergarten in France, the ski school starts kids’ lessons from age three, and childcare for non-skiing children is available from three months to five years.
- You’ll find one of the best beginner areas in the French Alps here, with well-marked ‘Easy Rider’ routes which can be accessed with a dedicated beginners’ lift pass.
- Little night owls will love My First Torchlit Descent, which lets young skiers from age three take part in torchlit skiing during school holidays. The experience is bookable through L’École du ski français (ESF) and costs just 5€ per child, including torch and hot chocolate.
Alpe d’Huez: as little as seven hours from London by train
Glide into the great Alpine city of Grenoble in six hours by train, then in one hour you can be surrounded by the famous beauty of Alpe d’Huez. Apart from its enviable good looks, the sun shines here, a lot: more than seven hours in winter and up to 11 hours in still snowy April.
Discover why Alpe d’Huez is known as L’ile au Soleil
A combination of crisp, sure snow and gorgeous sunshine make Alpe d’Huez first choice without a second thought for countless skiing families. Stunning conditions aside, it’s also part of the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine ski area, so you’ve access to over 200km of pistes, as well as several lovely Isère villages and resorts.
Two family-friendly boarder cross fun slopes, along with a 21 hectare snow park for intermediates, makes this resort one of the best choices to keep everyone happy on holiday this winter.
Why families love Alpe d’Huez
- A perfect all-round resort Alpe d’Huez works for experienced skiers, but appeals equally to beginners and is ideal for first time family ski holidays.
- One of the biggest nursery areas in the French Alps combines with a wide range of gentle slopes just above the resort.
- Another Famille Plus resort that’s guaranteed to be good for families on every level, from scope of activities to quality ski schools and childcare.
- The mountain coaster here incorporates a virtual reality experience, but there’s strong competition on the activity front from ice caves, exciting sledging and a fun family ice rink.
Introducing ‘Free Time? Ski Time’ for families this winter
At last, someone has come up with the brilliant idea of flexible ski holidays. Starting this winter, you can now organise ski breaks in Savoie Mont Blanc in the Northern Alps at times and within a budget that suits yourself. So if you want to go last minute, that’s now possible. You can also bid farewell to the restrictive Saturday-to-Saturday tradition and take week-long holidays, starting on any day of the week that works for you.
In short, ‘Free Time? Ski Time’ couldn’t be more ideal for families who aren’t tied to school holiday dates. And of course, with Peak Retreats you still have a choice of wonderful accommodation in several family-favourite resorts.
And finally…Peak Retreats wins Best Ski Operator at Telegraph Travel Awards 2023
To be fair, we weren’t at all surprised to hear Peak Retreats had won Best Ski Operator at the Telegraph Travel Awards 2023. Their level of personal service alone could fill an award cabinet, particularly because they combine it with an understanding of families that can only come from having plenty of parents on their team.
If you like the idea of discovering somewhere new or a bit of a hidden gem, Peak Retreats are the people to talk to about that too. And since we’re on the subject of ski holiday transport here, it’s worth mentioning their range, which covers not only rail and convenient transfers, but also offers you the option to self-drive.
Currently, Peak Retreats features holidays at over 70 French resorts, which gives you so many possibilities, all with superb family accommodation and excellent skiing as standard. Too much choice? Again the personal service comes into play here. So if you want advice, first hand recommendations or you’re looking for something very specific, you only have to ask. Peak Retreats are pretty passionate about ski holidays and they love to share their expertise.
Visit Peak Retreats now and discover the Northern French Alps by train or call 023 9283 9310 and speak to the award winning Peak Retreat team