It’s fast, comfortable, and far more sustainable than flying or driving from the UK to the Alps. But it’s cancelled.
To the massive disappointment of skiers and the ski industry, Eurostar will not run its iconic Ski Train this winter. A campaign, Save The Ski Train, has been launched to persuade Eurostar to reinstate this unique service.
Since 1997, the train has run twice weekly from London and Ashford to the popular Tarentaise region of the French Alps, dropping skiers at Moutiers, Aime la Plagne and Bourg St Maurice stations, a short hop by bus or taxi from 16 major ski resorts, including Méribel, Courchevel, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Tignes and Val d’Isère.
With 750 skiers on each train, the Friday overnight and Saturday daytime services carry a total of 24,000 holidaymakers every winter. The daytime train makes the 830km trip from London to Bourg St Maurice in just over eight hours and is frequently faster than flying when compared door to door — with an estimated 80% reduction in CO2 emissions. Travelling on the overnight train each way gives skiers two extra days on the slopes.
Eurostar told its customers: “This is a decision we’ve made with a great deal of sadness. It’s been an absolute pleasure to take thousands of travellers direct from St Pancras to the Alps over the years. But in the wake of the coronavirus and a challenging travel market, we’ve had to make some changes to our services, focusing on our main routes with the highest demand”.
Daniel Elkan, founder of independent rail-ski guide Snowcarbon, says: “Skiers and snowboarders are gutted by the loss of this hugely popular train. Why would you spend an entire day navigating airport queues, sitting on cramped, gas-guzzling flights and on tedious, transfers when you could be smoothly, safely and scenically gliding by train to your ski resort? It’s the most magical start to a ski holiday. This cancellation is a damaging step backwards by Eurostar. While there are indirect train routes to the French Alps, these can’t compensate for the loss of the direct Ski Train”.
Transport is by far the biggest environmental factor of a ski holiday. A 2010 study by Alpine-sustainability charity Mountain Riders found that 57% of the entire carbon footprint of a typical French ski resort was solely the result of transport of holidaymakers to the resort.
Dominic Winter, Manager of environmental charity Protect Our Winters UK, says: “The future of snow sports and the wider planet depend on us switching rapidly to more sustainable modes of transport. The loss of the Ski Train would be a huge blow to progress on climate change in outdoor sports”.
The Save The Ski Train campaign, launched by Snowcarbon, Protect Our Winters, Ski Flight Free and SaveOurSnow, will create a voice for skiers, snowboarders and the ski industry together to try to persuade Eurostar to put the Ski Train back on. “Eurostar’s decision is premature and seemingly made without any consultation of skiers or the ski industry”, says Elkan. “There’s still time to think again.”
- Per season, the ski train saves an estimated 3.1 million kg of CO2 emissions compared to flying. (source: Best Foot Forward/Anthesis Group 2010)
- Ski resorts served by the Ski Train:
Couchevel, Doucy, La Rosière, La Plagne, La Tania, Les Arcs, Les Menuires, Méribel, Peisey – Vallandry, Sainte Foy, St Martin de Belleville, Tignes, Val d’Isère, Val Thorens and Valmorel.
- For the previous two seasons, for February half term, the Ski Train sold out within five hours of tickets going on sale.
Notes for editors:
Save The Ski Train campaign:
Facebook page: facebook.com/SaveTheSkiTrain
Campaign updates: snowcarbon.co.uk/campaigns/save-the-ski-train
Films about the Ski Train:
The Eurostar Ski Train Experience: https://youtu.be/-p7cIeDysaA
Why Children Love Train Travel to the Alps: https://youtu.be/CxldHyoJ8rQ
Images and graphics:
Snowcarbon is an independent website to help skiers and snowboarders travel to the Alps by train. (snowcarbon.co.uk)
Ski Flight Free is a campaign to help skiers find sustainable alternatives to flying. (skiflightfree.org)
SaveOurSnow is an information service on initiatives to fight climate change in ski travel and maintains a directory of melting glaciers worldwide. (saveoursnow.com)
Protect Our Winters UK is a charity driving action on climate change in outdoor sports. (protectourwinters.uk)