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SKI ITALY

VIEWS: 15 PAGES: 10

									                                                                                                                                                                                                          SKI: ITALY | 7
                                                                                                                                                                                                     11.01.09               | ESCAPE




      BY TRAIN                                                                                                                                                                                                       BY PLANE




                                                                                                                                         Daniel Elkan relaxes on the TGV to
                                                                                                                                            Oulx station near Sauze, while
                                                                                                                                         Grant caught an early flight. Main
                                                                                                                                          photograph by Francesco Falcone




The great race to the Alps
It’s more eco-friendly to take the train than fly, but can it also be faster?Daniel Elkan challenges a friend to be first to the piste in Italy

O
           n a long journey to the Alps       flight. Meanwhile, I don’t have to leave           He’s lucky – that’s exactly on time.             for a restorative steak-frites and glass of      delayed 25 minutes while the r
           several years ago, as my           the house until 7.35am for the simple             (Damn!) My journey is going equally              rouge at the L’ Express Bleu cafe.               lantly search for him. It finally leaves
           exhausted head rattled against     journey across town to St Pancras. The            smoothly – eight minutes later my                5.15 My TGV departs, full of people              seven hours after Grant set out. At
           the window of a transfer           Eurostar requires you to arrive only 30           Eurostar arrives at Paris Gare du Nord.          reading, studying, tapping at laptops            point my train is speeding towards mist-
coach, it dawned on me that an alterna-       minutes before departure and check-in             I need to head across Paris to the Gare          or playing cards, while toddlers scrawl          covered Lac du Bourget.
tive might exist. As the coach climbed        and security takes me just 10 minutes.            de Lyon from where my TGV departs.               on colouring-in books. It is almost like         8.23 A traffic-free tr
the winding hill to the Italian resort of     1.05 My Eurostar leaves on time. Sun-             There is a taxi rank only metres from            a 1950s-style public service broadcast           Grant reaches Sauze.
Sauze d’Oulx, I spotted something glint-      day papers splayed across the table as            the Eurostar platform, but Gare de               “Use your time wisely – take the train.”         10.20 My train arriv
ing in the sunshine, just down the hill: a    we depart, I can’t wipe the grin from my          Lyon is only three stops by Metro so I           Five hours into his trip, Grant’s plane          6.55pm. A handful of Italian and French
railway track.                                face. This is so civilised. After the first        give public transport a go.                      has touched down at Turin airport.               skiers get off
   Might it be possible to cut out the        hour of his journey, Grant still hadn’t           4.12 Grant’s cooped up in the air, I have        5.55 Grant’s suitcase arrives, but the           Brit to have taken the train. Ten min-
crack-of-dawn flight, all the airport         made it to the airport, let alone joined          made it to the Gare de Lyon. To be honest        carousel gremlins have his snowboard.            utes in a taxi and I’m at the hotel.
hassle, and get to Sauze from the UK by       the check-in queue.                               the trip between stations weighed down           6.30 The snowboard finally appears,
train? I’d heard of the overnight Snow        3.40 After security and killing time in           by bags and snowboard isn’t a barrel of          but someone’s husband has got lost in            So Grant won, but by a far smaller mar-
Train, but that serves only a handful of      duty free, Grant takes off at 6.30am.             laughs. Thankfully, there’s enough time          the airport. The Crystal transfer bus is         gin than e
French resorts clustered in one corner                                                                                                                                                            journey was 20% quicker than mine
of the Alps. Would an Italian resort be                                                                                                                                                           but in terms of convenience and quality
too far? And could the train compete
with plane on journey time?                     MORE RESORTS                                                                                     How? Leave Sunday on the 08.40 Euro-
                                                                                                                                                 star from St. Pancras to Paris Nord. Then
                                                                                                                                                                                                  we both agree: the train tr
                                                                                                                                                                                                  plane. The flight times, as with many ski
   Back in the UK, my inner trainspot-
ter pored over timetables and maps. To          WITHIN A DAY’S                                                                                   catch the 13.50 train from Paris Lyon, arriv-
                                                                                                                                                 ing at Bardoneccia at 18.45. Return the
                                                                                                                                                                                                  charters, were grim, whereas the tr
                                                                                                                                                                                                  trip started at a r
reach Sauze from London would require
only two trains, albeit with a change in        TRAIN RIDE                                                                                       following Sunday on the 10.40 train from
                                                                                                                                                 Bardoneccia, changing in Paris, to arrive at
                                                                                                                                                                                                  arrived in perfect time for supper.
                                                                                                                                                                                                     This winter
Paris. A delayed flight or coach could                                                                                                           St. Pancras at 17.34                             euro, package holidays have
easily make the rail journey the fastest        ENGELBERG, SWITZERLAND                                                                           Cost: Return fares from £102                     become the best va
mode of transport. Better still, the jour-      Travel time from St Pancras: 9 hrs                                                                                                                and almost all are based around flights.
ney would produce less than 10% of the          52 minutes                                                                                       MEGEVE, FRANCE                                   But the good news is that tour oper
CO2 emissions of travelling by air.             Why? Small and friendly with plenty for                                                          Travel time: 10hrs 3 minutes                     such as Crystal, Thomson, Neilson, First
   So, I decided to put this journey to the     powder hounds off-piste                                                                           Why? Quiet slopes and rustic chic                Choice and Inghams are now off
test on the Sunday before Christmas. A          How? Leave Saturday on the 07.20 Euro-                                                           How? Leave Saturday on the 08.40                 discounts from £50 – £200 if you don’
friend of mine, Grant, would fly out to          star to Paris Nord. Catch the 12.24 from        Megève is only 10 hours by train.                Eurostar from St. Pancras to Paris Nord          use the flight and book your own tr
Sauze on a Crystal holiday package and          Paris Est, changing at Basel and Lucerne,                                                        Then catch the 13.50 train from Paris            tickets. I’d recommend it every time.
I’d travel by train.                            to arrive at Engelberg at 18.12. Return the     from Paris Est, changing at Lausanne and         Lyon, changing at Annecy, to arrive at
   The timer for our respective journeys        following Saturday on the 08.45 train from      Sierre. Then take the funicular, arriving Mon-   Sallanches-Combloux-Megève at 19.33.             ■ Rail Europe (0844 848 4070; www.
was set to zero when we each left home          Engelberg, changing at Lucerne, Basel and       tana at 18.57. Return the following Saturday     Then take a taxi (10 minutes, €32-40) to         raileurope.co.uk) London to Oulx from
and we kept in touch to compare how             Paris, to arrive at St Pancras at 17.54         on the 10.45 funicular from Montana, chang-      the resort. Return the following Saturday        £102 return. Taxi from station to resort
long it took to reach every stage of our        Cost: Return fares from £153                    ing at Sierre and Paris – back in London 20.31   on the 09.42 from Sallanches-Combloux-           €20 (00 39 333 318 6476; www.taxiga-
separate trips.                                                                                 Cost: Return from £139                           Megève, changing in Paris, to arrive back        rofalo.it). Crystal Ski (0871 231 2256;
                                                CRANS MONTANA, SWITZERLAND                                                                       in London at 17.54                               www.crystalski.co.uk) offers a week
0.00 We start from the same house               Travel time: 9 hrs 17 minutes                   BARDONECCIA, ITALY                               Cost: Return fares from £131                     half-board in the four-star Hotel La
in West Hampstead, London. Grant’s              Why? Panoramic views and sunny slopes           Travel time: 9 hrs 5 minutes                                                                      Torre from £495, including flights and
journey kicks off at 2.50am – to get him         How? Leave Saturday on the 08.40 Euros-         Why? A family-friendly resort town, just         All journeys can be booked through Rail Europe   transfers. A £70 reduction is available if
to Gatwick airport and through check-           tar to Paris Nord. Then catch the 12.58 train   down the road from Sauze                         (www.raileurope.co.uk; 0844 848 4070)            you book your own tr
in and security in time for a 6.30am                                                                                                                                                              using Crystal’s flights.
8 Travel Saturday Guardian 27.09.08


      kiByRail
      racks in the snow
Why settle for one resort                   on and off 16 trains. I had visions of
                                            our adventure turning into a shoulder-
                                                                                       comfortable all night, though, much as
                                                                                       I like Grant, the romantic atmosphere
when you can take the                       torturing schlep, with Grant eventually    would be better experienced with a
train and enjoy a whole                     crushed beneath the weight of his bag      lover, not a friend.
                                            gasping: “You go ahead without me . . .        After another day on the slopes
country? Daniel Elkan                       I’ll only slow you down. . .”              we headed to Meiringen, two hours
                                                Our first destination, Engelberg in     west, in a carriage full of suited Swiss
hops on board for a rail                    central Switzerland, was just under 11     commuters. Meiringen’s slopes aren’t
ski safari in Switzerland                   hours from St Pancras — door to door       visible from the village and, with so
                                            the journey didn’t take much longer        few people heading up on the cable-car
              Like many skiers and          than it would by plane. The French         next morning, we assumed the skiing

     2        snowboarders, I’m
              instinctively drawn to big-
              name resorts that boast
                                            countryside slipped away and the
                                            ground became blanketed in snow, as
                                            if in the space of a few hours spring
                                                                                       would be tame. But as we ascended, an
                                                                                       impressive panorama of empty pistes
                                                                                       covered in soft snow unfolded before us.
hundreds of kilometres of piste. But        had turned to winter. On either side,          “People don’t really come to smaller
often, on getting there, I feel like I’ve   mountains loomed in the dusk and the       resorts like this except at weekends
  een hoodwinked. Slow, shuffling             huge expanse of Lake Zurich came into      and holidays,” explained Marcus, a
lift queues, overcrowded runs . . . the     view on our left.                          Swiss skier from nearby Bern.
sheer number of people renders piste-           Engelberg has a loyal following            Halfway along a red run, we were
mileage figures meaningless.                 of experienced Swedish skiers and          stopped in our tracks, Road Runner-
    I also find that spending a week in      snowboarders who save up at home all       cartoon style, by the incredible sight
one resort can dull the senses as you       summer so they can ski there all winter,   of a body somersaulting above us,
hit the same trails again and again. So     without having to work. Looking out        and dropping, upside down, out of
last season, I devised an alternative to    from the top of the 3,028m Mount           sight below. We had chanced upon
the standard one-week-one-big-resort        Titlis on our first morning we could see    the practice session of a team of               Nightlife in these small resorts       spectacle of a snowy St Gotthard valley,
holiday — a rail ski safari to several      why: in every direction, expansive off-     professional aerial ski jumpers. One of     is limited to cosy bars, especially        which runs from Zermatt to Andermatt.
small ones. The fact that it would be       piste is accessible without any hiking,    them was the 2006 Olympic champion,         midweek; so our solution was to go off-     For an hour, cross-country skiers glided
greener made it even more appealing.        though the crevasse-riddled terrain        Evelyne Leu. By coincidence, we             brief to party in Zermatt, Switzerland’s   along a path next to the track.
    Europe’s rail network can speed         means it’s wise to ski with a guide.       ended up in the same gondola as Leu         stellar resort, for a couple of nights.        Within an hour of reaching Andermatt,
a skier to hundreds of destinations             We avoided crevasses, but still        on the way back to the village. “We         By day we battled through blizzards to     we were ascending Gemsstock
all over the continent, but with its        ended up lodged in ice, at Iglu-Dorf,      practise these jumps into lakes during      rustic mountain restaurants, including     mountain in the only cable car to
picturesque mountain railways and           an igloo hotel halfway up Titlis.          the summer, for safety,” she said.          Chez Vroni, a snug cabin with              access a phenomenal off-piste area.
243 ski resorts (many with stations),       The cavernous, candlelit rooms had         Safety being a relative term.               homemade sausages dangling from the            Next, Disentis, an hour down the line
Switzerland was the obvious choice.         sheepskin rugs, Jacuzzis and a bar             Searching the town for après-ski,       ceiling in the tiny hamlet of Findeln.     but a very different region of Switzerland,
    When I felt the weight of my friend     serving glühwein. We took a guided         we found a bronze statue of Sherlock            Leaving Zermatt the next morning,      where people speak a Romanche dialect,
Grant’s snowboard bag, though, I            snow-shoe walk in the dark, gazing         Holmes, who was fictionally pushed off        we realised it’s a mistake to travel       not German. Disentis is presided over by
wondered whether it would be as             down from the edge of a cliff at the        a cliff (or not) by arch-rival Moriarty at   between resorts in the evening.            a Benedictine monastery, its cream walls
easy as it first seemed. In the coming       twinkling lights of the town, 1,800m       the nearby Reichenbach waterfall, and       Through the huge windows of the            glowing pink in the late afternoon sun.
fortnight, we’d be hauling our luggage      beneath us. And we stayed warm and         has a small museum dedicated to him.        Glacier Express we were treated to the     It had been four days since the last
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        9




rain with a view . . . the Glacier Express    and hake in breadcrumbs surpassed the
                                              rest. The train clattered through the
                                              beautiful Rheinschlucht valley, known
                                                                                         More resorts                               Minotel Resch in Kitzbühel, inc Eurostar
                                                                                                                                    and 6-berth couchette on the Bergland,
                                                                                                                                                                                   38 Aviemore Scotland
                                              as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland, past
                                              hilltop villages, a turquoise river, and
                                                                                         linked by rail                             from £593pp.                                   In good conditions (don’t book too
                                                                                                                                                                                   far in advance), the Cairngorms can
                                              otherworldly grey rock formations.                                                                                                   be fun for a weekend, and it’s cheap,
                                                                                                                                    36 La Molina Spain
                                                 Two glorious days’ cruising             33 Les Arcs France                                                                        especially with an Adventure Pass
                                              Pontresina’s long, sweeping runs                                                      The Pyrenees are harder to reach than          (visitscotland.com/adventurepass).
                                              ended with a blissful soak in Europe’s     The most convenient Alpine train           the Alps by train — there’s no railway         • Aviemore’s traditional Cairngorm
                                              highest outdoor Jacuzzi, in front of the   destination is the Tarentaise valley.      in Andorra, for example — but it’s not         Hotel (£44pp B&B, cairngorm.com)
                                              excellent Berghaus restaurant at the       A Friday night Eurostar runs all the       too tricky to reach the pretty town of         is opposite the station, from where
                                              2,978m summit of Diavolezza — more         way to Bourg-St-Maurice, arriving          Puigcerdà, in Catalonia, via Toulouse.         a bus runs to the ski hill. Super off-
                                              proof that settling for less piste does    Saturday morning. (NB There are no         The stylish spa hotel, Hospes Villa            peak return with National Express
                                              not mean compromising on altitude.         couchettes — take earplugs, eyemask        Paulita, in an art nouveau building, is        (nationalexpress.com) from London
                                                 The next morning, reluctantly           and pillow.) Taxis and the odd bus         an attractive base, 15km away at the           £117, from Newcastle £81.
                                              boarding a homebound train, I thought      go to Val d’Isère and Tignes and a         linked areas of La Molina and Masella.
                                              back over our trip. While a normal ski     funicular links the station to Les Arcs.   • Double rooms from £110 room-only
                                                                                                                                                                                   39 St Anton Austria
                                              holiday can fast-forward to the end,       • Erna Low (0845 863 0525, ernalow         (0034 972 884 662, hospes.es). Return
                                              each day blending into the next, the       .co.uk) offers 7 nights in a two-bedroom    rail tickets from £169pp (eurostar.com).       The Bergland Express continues from
                                              varied nature of our ski safari had        Radisson SAS apartment in the newest                                                      Kitzbühel to St Anton, one of Europe’s
                                              made it feel like an epic adventure. I     village, Arc 1950, from £331pp inc train                                                  greatest ski areas with extreme skiing
                                                                                                                                    37 Grindelwald Switzerland
                                              took a last glimpse down the railway       travel.                                                                                   and unbeatable partying. Regular Post
                                              track where, further along the line,                                                  Leaving from London on Eurostar at             buses link to Lech and Zürs as well.
                                              dozens of other small, deserted resorts                                               8am, travelling via Paris and Basel, you       • European Rail (020-7619 1080,
                                                                                         34 Méribel France
                                              were waiting to be discovered.                                                        can be in Grindelwald at 6.40pm — and          erail.co.uk) offers London-St Anton for
                                              • Getting there London to Paris by         There are two other stations along         it’s a beautiful journey, to the foot of the   £213pp in a 6-berth couchette. The cool
                                              Eurostar (from £59 rtn) then Paris to      the Tarentaise valley with access to       Eiger — there’s even a tunnel through it!      Hotel Banyan (banyan-hotel.com) costs
                                              Basel (from £38 rtn) then an InterRail     ski areas; Aime, for La Plagne, and        • Inghams (020-8780 4433, inghams              from €75pp pn B&B.
                                              Switzerland pass (£168) giving eight       Moutiers, for the Trois Vallées. The       .co.uk) offers 7 nights’ half-board in the
                                              days’ travel within a one-month period.    shortest road transfer is Moutiers to      3-star Hotel Hirschen from £588pp,
                                                                                                                                                                                   40 Bardonecchia Italy
                                              Book through Rail Europe (0844 848         Méribel — about 20 minutes.                inc train.
                                              4070, raileurope.co.uk).                   • First Choice (firstchoice-ski.co.uk,                                                     The Dolomites are a schlep by rail,
snowfall, but with too few people to          Where to stay Hotel Garni Hostatt in       0871 664 0130) offers seven nights’                                                        but there is a good Paris–Turin
track it out, powder remained in              Engelberg (hostatt.ch), doubles from       half-board in the Chalet Renardeaux,                                             36       connection, stopping in Oulx (for
abundance, right next to the pistes.          £37pp B&B. Iglu Dorf Engelberg (iglu-      from £679pp, inc train.                                                                   Sauze d’Oulx and the 400km Milky
   All too soon we were heading east          dorf.com) from £78pp. Sporthotel                                                                                                     Way ski area) and the market town/
to our final destination, Pontresina,          Sherlock Holmes in Meiringen (sherlock                                                                                               ski resort Bardonecchia, which
                                                                                         35 Kitzbühel Austria
a pretty resort next to St Moritz. Any        .ch), doubles from £87 half-board. Hotel                                                                                             hosted snowboarding at the 2006
regrets about taking one of our last trains   Perren in Zermatt (hotel-perren.ch),       Medieval Kitzbühel, spa town Bad                                                          Olympics. It has 110km of mainly
melted when we boarded a 75-year-             doubles from £54pp B&B. Hotel Drei         Gastein, and lakeside Zell am See are                                                     intermediate skiing.
old wood-panelled dining carriage,            Koenige & Post in Andermatt (3koenige      served every week by the Bergland                                                         • London–Bardonecchia, from £109pp
redolent of the Orient Express, wit h         .ch), doubles from £136 B&B. Hotel         Express from Aachen, Germany                                                              with European Rail. Seven nights’
tables set with wine glasses, folded cloth    Sax in Disentis (hotelsax.ch), doubles     (reached by Friday afternoon Eurostar                                                     half-board at the Villa Myosotis,
napkins and candles. The dining cars          from £49 half-board. Hotel Allegra in      to Brussels and a short connection).                                                      from £350pp, with Alpine Answers
on Swiss trains are typically excellent       Pontresina (allegrahotel.ch), doubles      • European Rail (erail.co.uk, 020-7619                                                    (020-7801 1080, alpineanswers.co.uk).
waiter-service restaurants, but here          from £125 B&B.                             1080) offers seven nights at the 3-star                                                    Chris Madigan
the baby-leaf salad, polenta, ratatouille     More information myswitzerland.com.
                                                                                                                                                                                SKI: RAIL TRAVEL | 5
                                                                                                                                                                                                 16.12.07                   | ESCAPE



                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Avoid the hassle of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      flying and cut your
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      carbon footprint by
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      travelling to your
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ski resort by train.




Making tracks to the Alps
Flying is not the only way to get to the slopes. Daniel Elkan has the lowdown on reaching some of Europe’s top ski resorts by train


E                                            KITZBUHEL, AUSTRIA
                                                                                                  ESSENTIALS                                ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND
          arly-morning airport queues,                                                                                                                                                        ■ Leave Friday on the 17.35 Eurostar from
                                             S                                                                                              O
          security checks, baggage               tunning scenery, vibrant apres-ski                                                              K, St Moritz is awash with fur-clad          St Pancras to Paris Nord. Then catch the
          delays, tedious transfers, high        and a fairytale village setting com-                                                            clientele and pampered pooches.              22.05 overnight train from Paris Austerlitz
          CO2 emissions… Who would           bine to make Kitzbuhel an attractive
                                                                                            ■ Unless stated, all journeys can be            Even so, don’t let its posh reputation            to Briancon, arriving 08.38 on Saturday. A
choose to fly to a ski resort if there                                                       booked through Rail Europe (08708
                                             resort. The rail journey from the UK           304862; www.raileurope.co.uk) or
                                                                                                                                            overshadow the fact that, for inter-              regular bus from Brianc
were a better option?                        could not be simpler, while on-slope                                                           mediates particularly, it has 350km of            single) drops you in Villeneuve at 09.20.
   Most skiers know of the famous                                                           European Rail (020 7387 0444;
                                             highlights include the 6.8km red run           www.european rail.com).
                                                                                                                                            five-star, well-groomed reds and blues             Return the following Saturday on the 19.10
Snow Train, which runs through the           from Pengelstein to Jochberg, with a                                                           to cruise. There are also some great off-          bus from Villenueve to Briancon. Catch the
night to serve such British favourite        great rosti stop at Kasereckhutte en
                                                                                            ■ All overnight fares include a couchette       piste areas, particularly by Piz Nair and         20.28 overnight train, changing in Paris, to
resorts as Val d’Isere, Meribel and                                                         place in a six-berth compartment.
                                             route. With its highest point at 2,000m        ■ Apart from in Paris, all changes of train     Piz Corvatsch. In January, the resort             arrive at St Pancras at 10.35. Return fares
Tignes. In fact, many top resorts in         however, Kitzbuhel is somewhat verti-                                                          hosts the impressive Polo on Snow                 from £111.
Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Andorra                                                        require only a change of platform.
                                             cally challenged, so in terms of snow-         ■ Paris Nord to Paris Est is a 10-minute        tournament followed in early February
and other parts of France are now            fall late season is best avoided.                                                              by the Cricket on Ice competition.                SAUZE D’OULX, ITALY
                                                                                                                                                                                              P
within convenient reach. Depending                                                          walk (use one of the station’s luggage trol-
                                             ■ Leave Friday on the 16.05 Eurostar from      leys) or a five-minute taxi ride; Paris Nord
                                                                                                                                            ■ Leave Saturday on the 07.30 Eurostar                 art of the 400km Milky Way ski
on your destination, you can either          St Pancras to Brussels, and then the 20.25                                                     from St Pancras to Paris Nord. Then catch              area, Sauze d’Oulx’s has been
travel by day or by overnight couchette,                                                    to Paris Lyon or Austerlitz needs a metro
                                             Bergland Express, arriving Kitzbuhel at
                                                                                            or taxi (book a G7 taxi in advance: 00 33 1
                                                                                                                                            the 12.24 train from Paris Est, changing          unlucky with snowfall in recent years.
with time for a bite in Paris or Brussels    09.24 on Saturday. Return the following                                                        at Basel and Chur, to arrive at St Moritz at      What is guaranteed, however, is good
on the way.                                                                                 4739 4739; www.taxis-G7.com).
                                             Saturday on the 19.47 train from Kitzbuhel,                                                    20.58. Return the following Saturday on           partying. You can take your pick: brash
   Going overnight enables you to            changing at Brussels to arrive St Pancras                                                      the 10.02 train from St Moritz, changing at       Brit bars in the modern end of town; or
sleep on the train and gives you an          11.01 on Sunday. Return fares from £192,      frozen lake, tucked away off a run at             Chur, Basel and Paris, to arrive at St Pan-       more cosmopolitan venues a few blocks
extra two days on the slopes because         available through European Rail only.         Grau Roig. The 200km drive from the              cras at 20.40. Return fares from £185.            away in the 15th-century, cobbled
you arrive in the morning in time to                                                       nearest airports is notorious for hor-                                                             centro storico, host to some lovely Ital-
ski and leave in the evening on your         CHAMONIX, FRANCE                              rendous delays in bad weather, making            SERRE CHEVALIER, FRANCE                           ian bars and eateries. The atmosphere

                                             I                                                                                              S
final day. The advantages of daytime              f you’ve only got a couple of days        the train to Andorra a more reliable                 erre Chevalier is well-loved by the           in Sauze is unpretentious and so are
journeys are a later departure time,             to play with, the mecca of steep          alternative.                                         French, and for good reason: the              the prices. You can eat, drink and party
a more relaxing, scenic journey and          terrain is an excellent choice. The size      ■ Leave Friday on the 17.35 Eurostar from        250km ski area is simply superb. The              without haemorrhaging euros, and the
the satisfaction of knowing your             of Chamonix’s charming town means             St Pancras to Paris Nord. Then catch the         resort comprises four separate towns              rail journey from the UK is the quickest
trip produces only one tenth of the          weekend accommodation is relatively           21.56 overnight train from Paris Austerlitz,     and villages: Briancon, Chantemerle,              and cheapest of any resort in Europe.
greenhouse gas emissions of the same         easy to find (contact the tourist office:        arriving at L’Hospitalet 07.20 on Saturday.      Villeneuve and Monetier. Villeneuve               ■ Leave Saturday on the 09.25 Eurostar
journey by air. If you travel by train       00 33 450 530024 www.chamonix.                A bus to Soldeu (60 mins, €5.50 single)          is the main hub, which combines a                 from St Pancras to Paris Nord. Then catch
there are no charges for carriage of         com). If it is off-piste adventure you’re      connects with the train, getting you into        charming, olde-worlde village centre              the 14.14 train from Paris Lyon to arrive
skis or snowboards and no luggage            after, Grands Montets is a great starting     Soldeu at 08.40. Return the following            with some horrendous purpose-built                in Oulx at 18.55. A taxi up to the resort
weight restrictions.                         point, with a 2,000m vertical drop.           Saturday on the 17.35 bus from Soldeu to         architecture. At night the resort will            takes 15 minutes and costs €18. Return
   Some tour operators, such as Crystal      Chamonix’s bars and clubs – lively any        L’Hospitalet. Catch the 20.49 overnight          be too quiet for some, but La Grotte              the following Saturday on the 11.31 train
Ski, offer ‘accommodation only’ or            night – really kick off at weekends.           train, changing in Paris, to arrive at St Pan-   du Yeti, Loco Loco and Le Frog are all            from Oulx, changing at Paris, to arrive at St
‘self-drive’ deals, with around £130 off      Straight from the slopes head for             cras at 10.35. Return fares from £111.           decent watering holes.                            Pancras at 19.33. Return fares from £96.
the price of the holiday – allowing you      Chambre Neuf by the station. Later,
to choose your mode of travel.               MBC is good for microbrewed beer and          ZERMATT, SWITZERLAND
ISCHGL, AUSTRIA
                                             Le Choucas or La Terrasse for dancing.
                                             ■ Leave Friday on the 17.35 Eurostar from     N     o resort can boast a more spectacu-
                                                                                                 lar backdrop than Zermatt, sitting
                                                                                                                                                   SNOW REPORT
T     hough this lively, virtually traffic-
      free resort is consistently rated as
Austria’s second-best ski destination,
                                             St Pancras to Paris Nord. Then catch the
                                             22.25 overnight train from Paris Auster-
                                             litz, changing at St-Gervais-les-Bains,
                                                                                           under the 4,478m Matterhorn. Not only
                                                                                           can you reach Europe’s most famous
                                                                                           resort by train; once you are ready to ski,
                                                                                                                                             FRANCE
                                                                                                                                             With more than a metre of snow falling
                                                                                                                                             across the country, it’s a great start to
                                                                                                                                                                                              opens this weekend. Conditions in Davos
                                                                                                                                                                                              and Klosters are good, with 152cm on top
                                                                                                                                                                                              runs. Sunny skies expected.
few Brits have heard of it because           to arrive at Chamonix at 09.25. Return        the Gornergrat railway drops                      the season with good powder condi-
Ischgl’s hotels prefer to cater for inde-    on Sunday on the 19.12 from Chamonix,         you off on the slopes at 3,000m,                   tions. Alpe d’Huez has 120cm of snow             ITALY
pendent travellers rather than tour          changing in St-Gervais-les-Bains and Paris    with memorable views over                         on its top slopes, with 24 pistes open,          A mix of sun and light snow flurries is fore-
operator groups. Serviced by an effi-          to arrive St Pancras at 09.33 on Monday.      the village. But it isn’t just the                Courchevel has 103cm and Tigne and               cast for most Italian resorts. Conditions in
cient network of fast, covered chair-        Return fares from £125.                       scenery that makes Zermatt                                       Meribel have 165cm. Over          Cervinia are good with 100cm of snow on
lifts, 90 per cent of Ischgl’s 230km ski                                                   so popular; it’s the exhilarat-                                     20 resorts are due to          top slopes, while La Thuile has 130cm and
area sits above 2,000m, guaranteeing         SOLDEU, ANDORRA                               ing pistes, dotted with excel-                                       open this weekend             20km of skiing on nine pistes.
generous amounts of snow. From the
top of Palinkopf you can cruise the
long red run into the Swiss duty-free
                                             T    he Andorran resorts of Soldeu, Pas
                                                  de la Casa, El Tarter and Canillo
                                             have finally linked up to form a 200km
                                                                                           lent mountain restaurants.
                                                                                           One of the best-loved is Zum
                                                                                           See, between Zermatt and
                                                                                                                                                                including Les Arcs and
                                                                                                                                                               La Plagne and slight
                                                                                                                                                             snowfall is forecast.
                                                                                                                                                                                              BULGARIA
                                                                                                                                                                                              Bansko is the only resort open for skiing,
village of Samnaun. On the way back          area marketed as ‘GrandValira’. Apart         the hamlet of Furi.                                                                                though Borovets and Pamporovo have
watch out for plain-clothes customs          from a few bottleneck lift queues, the        ■ Leave Saturday on the                                         AUSTRIA                            good bases for 22 December openings.
officers, who patrol the border on skis,       area is uncrowded, with ideal ter-            08.32 Eurostar from St                                        Heavy snowfall means most
pursuing those suspected of exceed-          rain for beginners and intermediates.         Pancras to Paris Nord. Then                                resorts have more than a metre of       USA AND CANADA
ing the duty-free quota.                     Nights out on cheap booze are a thing         catch the 13.04 train from                                snow on their upper slopes. There’s      Huge snowfall has transformed conditions,
■ Leave Friday on the 16.05 Eurostar         of the past in Soldeu, but the duty-free      Paris Gare de Lyon, changing at                         fantastic skiing at St Anton with almost   with Mammoth and Squaw Valley receiving
from St Pancras to Brussels. Then catch      shops in El Tarter and Pas de la Casa         Lausanne and Visp, to arrive                         three metres of snow at the top and 53        50 and 40cm respectively. Deer Valley and
the 20.25 Bergland Express, changing at      remain. The resort is aiming increas-         at Zermatt at 20.42. Return                          lifts open. Mayrhofen has 130cm and 24        Taos have opened with excellent conditions.
Innsbruck, to Landeck, arriving 09.24 on     ingly at the family market: there are         the following Saturday on                           lifts open, while Loferer Alm opens this       In Canada all three areas are open at Banff,
Saturday, then taxi (30 minutes, £36).       plenty of large hotels with pools, spas       the 09.30 train from Zer-                           weekend.                                       while Kicking Horse has opened early with
Return the following Saturday on the 18.35   and impressive buffets. On the moun-           matt, changing at Visp,                                                                            great conditions. More snow is forecast,
train from Landeck, changing at Innsbruck    tain – disappointingly – fast food has        Lausanne and Paris, to                             SWITZERLAND                                     with Whistler expecting over 70cm.
and Brussels to arrive St Pancras 11.01 on   taken over, but gastronomic respite           arrive at St Pancras                               Switzerland has had heavy snow, espe-           Data Courtesy of the Ski Club of Great Britain
Sunday. Return fares from £219, available    can be found at the delightful, log-fired      at 20.40. Return                                   cially in Verbier down to Le Chable. Leysin     (www.skiclub.co.uk)
though European Rail only.                   Husky restaurant, which looks onto a          fares from £163.
Page 66                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Daily Mail, Saturday, February 24, 2007

               An extraordinary offer for a week in Italy’s most popular region                                                                         Departures & Prices




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           MAKING
           TUSCANY                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Let the train take the strain
                                                                                                                                                                    per person in a twin room
                                                                                                                                                                         2007 – Saturdays
                                                                                                                                                     May 5, 12 £380 - May 19, 26 £390
                                                                                                                                                     Jun 2, 9 £400 - Jun 16, 23, 30 £410
                                                                                                                                                       Jul 7, 14 £430 - Jul 21, 28 £440
    Montecatini Terme is an elegant and historical spa town set amidst green Tuscan hills rich
   with olive groves. Famed for its ‘Liberty’ style buildings, the Italian equivalent of ‘Art Nouveau’,                                               Aug 4, 11 £430 - Aug 18, 25 £420
   this flamboyant architecture defined the town’s heyday when visitors included Puccini, Rossini,                                                   Sep 1, 8 £410 - Sep 15, 22, 29 £400
  Mascagni, Strauss and even the great Caruso. The cultural life and musical activities ensured an
  air of exclusivity prevailed. From 1898 Giuseppe Verdi spent 19 consecutive summers drawing                                                           Oct 6, 13 £410 - Oct 20 £400
  inspiration from the beautiful formal gardens, wide avenues and thermal spas, still open today for                                                         Supplements per person
  those wishing to take the waters.                                                                                                                         NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT
   MONTECATINI AND ENVIRONS: Montecatini has a wide selection of bars, restaurants, quality                                                                    (limited availability)
    shops and a weekly market on Thursdays. There are eleven spas offering a full range of thermal                                                                Extra week £250
     treatments and in the summer months there is a programme of open air concerts. Local trains




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             W
                                                                                                                                                     Price includes: Flights from London Gatwick
      and buses operate regularly to Florence. Pisa, Pistoia, Lucca and Viareggio are all well served                                                direct to Florence, UK departure taxes, overseas
                 by local transportation.                                                                                                            airport taxes, transfers, 7 nights’ accommodation,
                        HOTEL METROPOLE: This ‘Liberty’ style villa has been converted into a                                                        breakfast daily, guidebook. Not included: Travel
                                                                                                                                                     insurance, optional excursions, tour manager,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        HETHER you are fed up with the early
                       charming 3-star hotel. Located close to the public gardens it has a restaurant,                                               gratuities, any government taxes or compulsory                                                                     morning dash to the airport, tired of
                        bar and small garden. All 40 guest rooms have private facilities with                                                        charges introduced after publications.                                                                             the winding queues at check-in or -
                                                                                                                                                     Our current Conditions of Booking (on request)
                            shower, hairdryer, air-conditioning and satellite TV. Guests can also                                                    shall apply to all reservations.                                                                                   concerned about the environmental
                                  enjoy the wonderful views and outdoor swimming                                                                                                                                                                                        cost of flying, there is an alternative if
                                   pool on the roof of the nearby
                                   4-star Hotel Ambasciatori.                                                            VOYAGES JULES VERNE                                                                                                                            you don’t fancy jetting to the slopes this
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             year — take the train. You can get to some of the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             best ski resorts in Austria, Italy and Switzerland
                    7 nights from £380                                                                                     0845 166 7116                                                                                                                     without going anywhere near a plane.
 Reservations: 9am-8pm weekdays; 9am-5pm Saturdays; 10am-4pm Sundays                                                       www.vjv.com                                                                        V1661            0132
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Instead, take a late afternoon Eurostar to Paris or Brussels
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             on Friday, have dinner there, and then travel by overnight
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             train into the mountains while you sleep. Most trains have six,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             four or two-berth sleeping com-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             partments, and by travelling


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      by Daniel Elkan
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             overnight you gain extra time on
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             the pistes. What’s more, with hun-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             dreds of ski resorts threatened by
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             global warming, going by train is a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             great way to go green, too.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               So here’s our pick of the best
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             train-friendly resorts — and how to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             get to them.                          KLOSTERS AND DAVOS,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     SWITZERLAND
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             AROSA, SWITZERLAND                      DON’T be put off by Klosters’s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             BUILT around two picture-post-          reputation as a playground for roy-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             card lakes, Arosa is a charming         alty. It is a mostly unpretentious,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             resort. The 100km of pistes are         laid-back resort and is great for
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             great for beginners and intermedi-      families, offering excellent child-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             ates, and Arosa’s altitude — the        care facilities on and off the slopes.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             village is at 1,800m — means that it      The village is made up of a mix of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             is fairly snowsure, too.                traditional wooden chalets and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Every Tuesday you can try night       smart hotels, and the town centre
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             skiing on the Tschuggen run, or         is virtually traffic free.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             get up early to catch the sunrise         The 320km ski area runs across
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             from the 2,653m summit of Weis-         six mountains and is shared with
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             shorn, with its staggering views.       neighbouring Davos, which is
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               No trip would be complete with-       linked to Klosters by train.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             out a visit to the sumptuous,             The sunny slopes of Madrisa,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             newly-built, Tschuggen Bergoase         with its new bubble lift, are a good
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             spa, with indoor and outdoor            place to start your adventure.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             whirlpools and 12 treatment             Heid, Bolgen and Bunda are ideal
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             rooms offering anything from            for beginners, while intermediates
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             algae soaks to milk, honey and salt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             beauty baths.                           should try the 12km run from
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Weissfluhjoch into Kublis. Off-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               The Waldhotel National (00 41 81      piste, Klosters excels. There are
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             378 5555; waldhotel.ch) has a new       numerous north-facing slopes and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             spa, and you can ski right up to the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             door. Doubles from £80pp, half-         countless tree-runs where the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             board.                                  powder snow remains untouched
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     for weeks.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             GETTING THERE BY TRAIN: Leave             Prince Charles’s favourite restau-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Friday on the 17.40 Eurostar from       rant, Kulm, is a good, reasonably-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Waterloo to Paris Nord. Take a          priced lunch stop.




    THE BIG READ
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             taxi (five minutes, £7) to Paris Est,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             and catch the 22.29 overnight             The Hotel Alpina (00 41 81 410
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             train, changing at Chur, to reach       2424; alpina-klosters.ch) is famous
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Arosa at 09.09 on Saturday.             for its imaginative cuisine,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Return the following Saturday on        and has some very comfortable
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             the 19.48 train from Arosa,             orthopaedic beds. Doubles from
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             changing at Chur and Paris, to          £86 pp half-board.
    THE VERY BEST IN AWARD-WINNING QUALITY ESCORTED HOLIDAYS                                                                                                                                                                                                 arrive Waterloo at 09.59 on             GETTING THERE BY TRAIN: Leave
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Sunday. Return fares start from         Friday on the 17.40 Eurostar from
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             £164 in a six-berth couchette. Book     Waterloo to Paris Nord. Take a
     USA • Canada                                                                                                                                        Jordan • Egypt • Oman                                                                               through European Rail (020 7387         taxi (five minutes, £7) to Paris Est
     Australia • New Zealand                                                                                                                                     Morocco • Italy                                                                             0444; europeanrail.com) or Rail         , and catch the 22.29 overnight
     Pacific Islands                                                                                                                                    Croatia • France • Spain                                                                             Europe (08705 848 848;                  train, changing at Landquart, to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             raileurope.co.uk).                      reach Klosters at 08.25 on
     South Africa • China                                                                                                                                    Portugal • Madeira
     Tanzania and Zanzibar                                                                                                                               Malta • Greece • Crete
     Kenya • Namibia                                                                                                                                        Cyprus • Switzerland
     Galápagos Islands                                                                                                                                        Austria • Germany
     Costa Rica • Peru                                                                                                                                            Czech Republic
     Argentina • Chile                                                                                                                                UK and Ireland • Hungary
     Brazil • Mexico                                                                                                                                            Poland • Norway
     Antarctica • Japan                                                                                                                             Sweden • Finland • Denmark
     Borneo • Vietnam
     Thailand • Sri Lanka
                                                                                                                                                      Iceland • Estonia • Russia
                                                                                                                                                      Slovakia • Cruise & Tour™
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  NORTH CYPRUS
     Cambodia • India                                                                                                                                     River Cruising • Jersey                                                                 Singles Holidays
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Sociable holidays in
     Having been voted year after year ‘Britain’s best tour operator’ by newspaper readers and number one in the UK’s biggest Holiday                                                                                                               the Med to unspoilt
     Choice Survey, we know that travellers expect the best organisation, service and quality from us. It is this reputation that we work                                                                                                           North Cyprus. Small
      constantly to live up to. Our philosophy is that your holidays are among the most important investments you make in your life.                                                                                                              groups, great company.
                           Our job is to make them perfect. So try us and experience the difference for yourself.                                                                                                                                   35+, no upper limit.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Other destinations available.
                          Including FREE VIP Home Departure Service™
                             from your front door to your front door
                                                                                                               Departures from April 2007                                                                                                         TRAVEL ONE
                                                                                                                   to November 2008                                                                                                                0870 787 5414
                          Begin and end your holiday in style with our unique                                                                                                                                                                                 (24 hrs)
                             VIP Home Departure Service™ to the airport                                             To request a brochure please call or click
       absolutely FREE on any departure date from your front door. Or choose                                                                                                                                                                      www.travelone.co.uk
          an available connecting flight from a choice of regional airports.
                                                                                                                     0845 375 0110                                                                                                                       Atol Protected 5188




    Explore the world confidently with Titan HiTours               Please send me further information (please tick, max 3 please):-                                                                                            DM0907
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    24.02.07                                                                                   return to: Titan HiTours, Crossoak Lane, Redhill. RH1 5EX
  Daily Mail, Saturday, February 24, 2007                                                                                                                                                                             Page 67
                                                  escapewintersports




TRACKSTOTHE SNOW
and enjoy a greener — and more relaxing — Alpine ski holiday



                                                                                                                                                                                      ISCHGL, AUSTRIA




                                                                                                                    Picture: WORLD PICTURES
                                                                                                                                              (every Friday until March 9) to
                                                                                                                                              Dobbiaco, arriving at 11.04 on
                                                                                                                                              Saturday — the resort is a taxi-        THERE’S little doubt that Ischgl
                                                                                                                                              ride away (30 minutes, £37).            is a contender for the best Aus-
                                                                                                                                              Return the following Saturday on        trian resort going. With 90 per cent
                                                                                                                                              the 17.22 Bergland Express (every       of the resort’s 230km ski area lying
                                                                                                                                              Saturday until March 17) from           above 2,000m, it gets a generous
                                                                                                                                              Dobbiaco, changing at Brussels to       helping of snow and chairlifts are
                                                                                                                                              arrive Waterloo at 12.27 on             fast and modern. It is surprising,
                                                                                                                                              Sunday. Return fares start from         therefore, that relatively few Brits
                                                                                                                                              £302 in a six-berth couchette. Book     have heard of it.
                                                                                                                                              through European Rail (020 7387           From the top of Palinkopf, you
                                                                                                                                              0444; europeanrail.com).                can ski down the long red run into
                                                                                                                                                                                      Samnaun, a duty-free village in
                                                                                                                                                                                      Switzerland.
                                                                                                                                              MAYRHOFEN, AUSTRIA                        The shops start on the piste, but
                                                                                                                                                                                      make sure that you don’t get
                                                                                                                                              FOR some of the liveliest apres-ski
                                                                                                                                              in Austria, Mayrhofen is the place.     caught with your rucksack full on
                                                                                                                                              From 4pm onwards, local drinking        your way back — plain-clothes
                                                                                                                                              dens Nikki’s Schirmbar and the          customs officers patrol the border
                                                                                                                                              Icebar are heaving and the party        on skis. For £145, you can hire an
                                                                                                                                              goes on into the night.                 Ischgl mountain guide who will
                                                                                                                                                                                      show you how to get to Switzer-
                                                                                                                                                Before you get round to the           land via some of the fantastic off-
                                                                                                                                              drinking, though, Mayrhofen has         piste areas by Stieralpe and Zan-
                                                                                                                                              plenty of inviting red runs and         ders.
                                                                                                                                              experts can test their nerve on           Pick a sunny day for a lunch
                                                                                                                                              Austria’s steepest run, the Harikiri.   stop at the swish, glass-walled
                                                                                                                                              Snowboarders will love Burton           Panorama restaurant at the top of
                                                                                                                                              Park, one of the best in Europe.        Pardatsch-grat, which has incred-
                                                                                                                                              The spectacular views of the
                                                                                                                                                                                      ible views over the whole valley.
                                                                                                                                              3,200m Hintertux glacier are a 30-
                                                                                                                                              minute bus-ride away.                     At night, Ischgl’s compact village
                                                                                                                                                                                      has a vibrant buzz and legendary
                                                                                                                                                Mayrhofen’s slopes can feel over-     party options. The apres ski starts
                                                                                                                                              crowded during peak season, but         at the Schatzi and the Kuhstall.
                                                                                                                                              if you don’t mind slightly older        Later on, head for the Posthoerndl
                                                                                                                                              chairlifts, take a taxi ten minutes     bar or Pacha nightclub.
                                                                                                                                              down the road to Ramsau, a quiet,         Make sure you catch the fort-
                                                                                                                                              charming area frequented by
                                                                                                                                                                                      nightly night ski show (free), with
                                                                                                                                              locals with a 7km toboggan run
                                                                                                                                              which is open until midnight.           synchronised skiing, boarding, and
                                                                                                                                                                                      daring jumps, set to music and
                                                                                                                                                Mayrhofen’s kindergarten can          fireworks.
                                                                                                                                              supervise children aged three             Three times a season the resort
                                                                                                                                              months to seven years, and there        hosts free concerts on the moun-
                                                                                                                                              is a swimming pool with a 100m          tain. The Scissor Sisters are sched-
                                                                                                                                              waterslide and an ice skating rink      uled to play on April 9.
                                                                                                                                              next door.
                                                                                                                                                                                        The small, charming and family-
                                                                                                                                                The family-run Hotel Pram-            run Hotel Arnika (00 43 5444 5244;
                                                                                                                                              straller (00 43 5285 62119;             hotelarnika.at) has fantastic cui-
                                                                                                                                              pramstraller.at) is famous for its      sine and a sauna, steam room and
Saturday. Return the following         limestone rock formations and         mountain restaurants that dot the                                restaurant, La Vita, and has a
Saturday on the 20.29 train from       14th-century town centre make it      slopes.                                                                                                  in-house masseuse. Doubles from
                                                                                                                                              sauna and steam room. Doubles           £65 half-board.
Klosters, changing at Landquart        one of Europe’s most scenic and         Try Rifugio Scottoni on the                                    from £88 half-board.
and Paris, to arrive Waterloo at       romantic resorts.                     Hidden Valley run or Rifugio                                                                             GETTING THERE BY TRAIN: Leave
09.59 on Sunday. Return fares start      Take the Hidden Valley run, for     Averau at the top of the spectacu-                               GETTING THERE BY TRAIN: Leave           Friday on the 15.40 Eurostar from
from £164 in a six-berth couchette.                                          lar Cinque Torri. Round off your                                 Friday on the 15.40 Eurostar from       Waterloo to Brussels, then take the
                                       example: ski past dramatic frozen
Book through European Rail (020                                              meal with a bombardini, a local                                  Waterloo to Brussels, then take the     20.25 Bergland Express (every
                                       waterfalls before taking one of the
7387 0444; europeanrail.com) or                                              speciality consisting of coffee,                                 20.25 Bergland Express (every           Friday until March 9), changing at
                                       traditional horse-drawn carriages
Rail Europe (08705 848 848;                                                  cream and Vov liquor.                                            Friday until 9 March), changing at      Innsbruck, to Landeck, arriving
                                       that pull skiers along the flat
raileurope.co.uk).                                                                                                                            Jenbach, to reach Mayrhofen at          09.24 — you’ll then need to take a
                                       sections.                               Stay in the beautiful, family-run                              09.18 on Saturday. Return the           taxi the rest of the way (30
                                         For beginners, the Socrepes area    Hotel Ancora (00 39 0436 3261; hote-                             following Saturday (every               minutes, £36). Return the following
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO,                     also provides a vast network of
                                       green and blue runs where there is
                                                                             lancoracortina.com) which is
                                                                             renowned for its cuisine and its
                                                                                                                                              Saturday until March 17) on the         Saturday (every Saturday until
                                                                                                                                              18.35 train from Mayrhofen,
ITALY                                  no chance of straying on to a steep   grand, candlelit dining room. Dou-                               changing at Jenbach and Brussels
                                                                                                                                                                                      March 17) on the 18.35 train from
                                                                                                                                                                                      Landeck, changing at Innsbruck
IT’S EASY to see why Cortina was       gradient.                             bles from £89 per person.                                        to arrive Waterloo at 12.27 on          and Brussels to arrive Waterloo at
chosen as the location for films         Another remarkable thing about      GETTING THERE BY TRAIN: Leave                                    Sunday. Return fares start from         12.27 on Sunday. Return fares start
including The Pink Panther,            Cortina is how empty the pistes       Friday on the 15.40 Eurostar from                                £260 in a six-berth couchette. Book     from £273 in a six-berth couchette.
Cliffhanger and For Your Eyes          are. Perhaps everyone’s in the        Waterloo to Brussels, and then                                   through European Rail (020 7387         Book through European Rail (020
Only: the tree-lined mountains,        excellent, reasonably-priced          catch the 20.25 Bergland Express                                 0444; europeanrail.com).                7387 0444; europeanrail.com).
99-101 Trains       12/13/05   9:46 AM   Page 99




      John Norris




               Hit the rails
               to reach the trails                 John Haddon
                                                                 Travelling by rail to your ski resort can
                                                                 mean extra days on the slopes,
                                                                 breathtaking scenery, and a relaxing
                                                                 journey. It helps the environment too.
                                                                 And it’s not only the French Alps that
                                                                 are accessible by rail. Resorts in Italy,
               Switzerland, Austria and Andorra are all within reach too. Daniel
               Elkan focuses on resorts with Ski Club reps



                                                                                                             99
99-101 Trains   12/13/05      9:46 AM    Page 100




                                                                                                         230 resorts in Switzerland alone to close
                                                                                                         permanently, it seemed sensible to try a
                                                                                                         greener method of getting to resort.

                                                                                                         Back home, the only rail journeys that I saw
                                                                                                         advertised were the ‘Snow Trains’ to the
                                                                                                         French Alps. These get you to ski areas in
                                                                                                         the Tarentaise region, such as the Espace
                                                                                                         Killy, Three Valleys and Paradiski, but not
                                                                                                         much further. However, after more
                                                                                                         investigation, I discovered quite a few
                                                                                                         resorts in Italy, Switzerland, Austria and
                                                                                                         Andorra, and other parts of France that are
                                                                                                         convenient by rail from the UK, simply by
                                                                                                         taking a Eurostar from London Waterloo to
                                                                                                         Paris and then changing onto ordinary
                                                                                                         European trains. Some of these resorts are
                                                                                                         accessible by daytime trains and some by
                                                                                                         overnight journeys, with services running
                                                                                                         every day.

                                                                                                         For those who find that a week’s ski holiday
                                                                                                         leaves them wishing for a few more days in
                                                                                                         the snow, overnight train travel has the
                                                                                                         advantage of adding two days’ extra skiing
                                                                                                         to your holiday, without the need to pay for
                                                                                                         additional accommodation. For example, if
                                                                                                         you are going to Davos in Switzerland you
                                                                                                         can leave Waterloo on Friday on the 17.09
                                                                                                         Eurostar to Paris, where you catch the
                                                                                                         22.42 overnight train to arrive in Davos at
                                                                                                         08.55 on Saturday morning. After leaving
                                                                                                         your luggage at your hotel or chalet
                                                                                                         reception, you are free to enjoy the slopes
                                                                                                         on what is the quietest day of the week.
                                                                                                         Those needing to hire skis or boards can do
                                                                                                         so before the usual mid-Saturday afternoon
                                                                                                         scramble. At the end of the week, instead of
                                                                                                         leaving early Saturday morning to catch a
                                                                                                         flight, you can ski all day, have an early
                                                                                                         dinner, and then take the 20.15 train from
                                                                                                         Davos, arriving back in London Waterloo at
                                                                                                         10.19 am on Sunday.
                Just the ticket: More turns                                                              One of the enjoyable things about the
                                                                                                         overnight trains is the atmosphere,
                                                                                                         especially on Friday evenings when there
                John Norris                                                                              are more people on their way to ski resorts.
                                                                                                         Lining the corridors, they share bottles of
           OUR SKIING HOLIDAY hadn’t even begun,          stunned. It had never occurred to me that      wine and enjoy the view out of the windows,
           but already we felt shattered. The journey     trains ventured this far into the mountains.   and an air of anticipation fills the train.
           to the resort was proving to be the kind       Could coming here by rail be a relaxing
           many skiers and boarders will be all too       alternative to the stop-start marathon that    There are three types of sleeping
           familiar with: up at 4am to make it to the     we had just endured? And if so, how long       compartment available. The cheapest are
           airport for a 6.30am departure; an hour-       would it take, and at what cost?               the six-berth couchettes, containing six
           and-a-half waiting for our delayed flight; a                                                  simple bunks, with a sheet sleeping bag,
                                                          If we could go by train next time, I knew      blanket, and pillow for each occupant, and
           scramble for our luggage at Milan airport;
                                                          that we would be doing the environment a       shared washing facilities at the end of the
           and finally being cooped up on a tedious
                                                          favour. The thousands of flights taking        corridor. The next step up in terms of cost
           two-hour coach transfer to our destination
                                                          skiers and boarders on holiday contribute      are the four-berth couchettes, which give a
           at Sauze d’Oulx in Italy. Did journeys to
                                                          significantly to climate change. The same      little more space per person. Finally, the
           resort always have to be like this?
                                                          journeys, if made by train, are estimated to   luxury option is the two-berth cabin, which
           A few minutes from Sauze, as our coach         have ten times less impact on the planet’s     includes a private washbasin, wider, fully
           swung round another bend, I spotted it.        climate. With a recent study by the            sprung mattresses and a duvet instead of a
           There below us, glinting in the March sun,     University of Zurich suggesting that within    blanket. It is difficult to predict how well
           was a railway track and a station. I was       30 years, rising temperatures could force      you will sleep on an overnight train. When




           100
99-101 Trains   12/13/05     9:47 AM     Page 101




                                                                                                                                       snow trains



           we chose the six-berth couchettes, the beds
           were not the comfiest in the world, but the                                                       Journeys to resorts where
           movement of the train soon helped get us
           off to sleep.                                                                                     there are Ski Club reps
           In the morning, the scenery is often superb.
           Last year, a trip to Cortina in Italy took us                                                     Sauze d’Oulx, Italy
           past the beautiful Lake Santa Croce, and                                                          (nearest station: Oulx, 15mins)
           then through the twisted limestone spires                                                         Leave London Waterloo Sat 09.09;
           of the south-eastern Dolomites. The train                                                         change Paris, Lyon, bus from Oulx;
           ticket allowed a break in the journey, and                                                        arrive Sauze d’Oulx at 19.45; £97 for
           we visited friends in Milan on the way back.                                                      a second-class seat.
           On a journey by rail to St Anton, in Austria,
           we sped alongside the vast Lake Zurich and                                                        Soldeu, Andorra
           Lake Walen. Later, when the train stopped                                                         (L’Hospitalet, 60 mins)
           on the way at Bludenz, the smell from the
                                                                                                             Leave London Waterloo, Fri 17.09; change
           famous chocolate factory there wafted
                                                                                                             Paris Austerlitz, bus from L’Hospitalet; arrive
           through the carriages.
                                                                                                             in resort at 08.45; £111 in six-berth couchette.
           Journeys by day are faster than overnight
                                                                                                             Davos, Switzerland
           ones, and in some cases don’t take much
                                                                                                             (Davos, in resort)
           longer than the trip by air. Flying to Sauze         Eurostar
           d’Oulx, for example, typically means being                                                        Leave London Waterloo Fri 17.42, change
           at the airport at 6am and - if there are no     Some of the more distant resorts in               Paris Est, Landquart, arrive in resort at 08.55;
           delays - arriving in Sauze around 3pm. By       Austria, such as Mayrhofen, Kitzbühel and         £167 (in six-berth couchette) £222 (in 2-
           comparison, leaving Waterloo at 9am on          Zell-am-See can’t be reached the next             person cabin)
           the Eurostar gets you to Sauze at 7.45pm.       morning on ordinary overnight trains.
                                                                                                             St Moritz, Switzerland
           Though rail journeys still take more time       However, a specially chartered train for
                                                                                                             (St Moritz, in resort)
           overall, the travel is less disjointed.         skiers, the Bergland Express (booked
           Whereas much of the air journey is spent        through the agent European Rail), can get         Leave London Waterloo Fri 17.42, change
           queuing and waiting, most of the rail           you to these resorts and others in time to        Paris Est, Chur, arrive in resort at 09.58; £167
           journey is spent sitting on trains, with more   ski on the day of your arrival. It leaves from    (in six-berth couchette) £222 (in 2-person
           space to work, sleep, or relax, especially if   Brussels at 20.30 on Fridays, so to catch it      cabin)
           you request a table seat.                       you take the 14.42 Eurostar from Waterloo,
                                                                                                             Zermatt, Switzerland
                                                           giving you a couple of hours spare in the
           Fares on both day and night services vary                                                         (Zermatt, in resort)
                                                           Belgian capital.
           considerably, depending on the route and
                                                                                                             Leave London Waterloo Fri 18.11, change Paris
           whether the cheaper tickets are still           When you’re going via Paris, you need to
                                                                                                             Est, Zurich, Brig, Brig MGB, arrive in resort at
           available at the time of booking. For           get from the Eurostar terminal at Paris
                                                                                                             11.24; £167 (in six-berth couchette) £222 (in 2-
           example, overnight return fares from            Nord to whichever station your onward
                                                                                                             person cabin)
           London to Soldeu in Andorra start from £111     train departs from – Paris Est, Paris
           for a place in a six-berth couchette, but the   Austerlitz, Paris Bercy or Paris Lyon. The        Söll, Austria
           equivalent overnight trip to Davos costs        Paris Metro is a simple and inexpensive way       (Kufstein, 30 mins)
           £167. Both these fares are made up of the       to connect between these stations, but
                                                                                                             Leave London Waterloo Fri 18.11, change Paris
           cheapest Eurostar fare to Paris (£59            there are long walks between platforms,
                                                                                                             Est, Munich, bus from Kufstein, arrive in
           return) plus the onward journey to the          and stairs rather than escalators. If you are
                                                                                                             resort at 11.30; £183 (in six-berth couchette)
           resort, which is what makes the difference      heavily laden, it may be better to book a
           in the overall fare, despite the journey        cab. G7 Taxis in Paris (tel +33 1 47 39 47        Journeys exclude cost of transfer from station
           durations being similar. Happily, on all rail   39) have English-speaking staff booking           to resort (where necessary). This costs 3-5
           journeys, there is no maximum luggage           taxis up to 15 days in advance. A                 euros per person by bus one way or 15-40
           allowance and no charges for skis or            Monospace (a large taxi big enough to             euros per taxi one way.
           snowboards. Cheaper tickets do sell out         carry skis or snowboards) costs 20 euros or
                                                                                                             Prices and times are based on current
           quickly though, so advance booking is           less, depending on which station you are
                                                                                                             information available, but check before
           necessary. The Eurostar can be booked up        transferring to.
                                                                                                             booking. Most travel agents do not book
           to 90 days before travel, and the onward
                                                           If time is not a factor, book an earlier          European rail tickets, so book through:
           journey to the resort 60-90 days in
                                                           Eurostar and have a leisurely meal in a
           advance, depending on the route.                                                                  Rail Europe 08705 848848; raileurope.co.uk
                                                           Paris restaurant before you begin the
           If you are booking a holiday through a tour     onward part of the journey. Be careful            European Rail 0207 387 0444;
           operator, you can still choose to travel        though – it is easy to get carried away with      europeanrail.com
           independently by train and not necessarily      the food, suddenly remember the time, and
                                                           have to rush full pelt to the station on a full   Rail Canterbury 01227 450088;
           lose money. Crystal, Thomson, Inghams and
                                                           stomach to try to make your train. It seems       rail-canterbury.co.uk
           Neilson all offer accommodation-only
           holidays, giving a discount of between £120     every method of getting to resort has its         Daniel Elkan is a Ski Club rep
           and £150 off the package price to spend on      potential pitfalls.
           rail travel.




                                                                                                                                                      101
TheBigTrip2
Skiing on rails
                                                                                                                                                                                   The right kind of snow . . . many Alpine                                       (0033 1 4739 4739) has English-             where a 15-minute local bus ride (€3        service, changing at St Gervais to
                                                                                                                                                                                     resorts are easily accessible by train                                       speaking staff and can book up to 15        each way) reaches Sauze d’Oulx at           arrive at Chamonix station at 09.25 on
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  days in advance. A larger vehicle,          19.45. Journey time: 10 hours, 36           Saturday morning. Journey time: 16
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  called a “monospace”, can carry skis or     minutes. For the return journey, take       hours, 16 minutes. Return on Saturday
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  snowboards at the driver’s discretion.      a bus at 11.00 from Sauze d’Oulx on         evening on the 20.17 train, changing at
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The journey costs €20 or less,              Saturday morning and catch the 11.30        St Gervais and Paris to reach Waterloo
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  depending on the station.                   train. Change in Paris and arrive in        at 10.01 on Sunday. A place in a six-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Alternatively, book an earlier           Waterloo at 19.58 the same day. A           berth couchette costs from £124 return.
It may take longer to get there, but going by train gives you an extra                                                                                                                                                                                            Eurostar, and dine in Paris before you
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  board the overnight train. But if, like
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              second-class seat costs from £97
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              return. Try the friendly, two-star Hotel
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Hotel Pointe Isabelle (0033 4 5053
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1287, pointe-isabelle.com) charges €75-
two days on the slopes — and you’ll be doing your bit for the planet                                                                                                                                                                                              me, you sleep soundly after a good          Stella Alpina (+39 0122 858731) 50m         €92 for a double room per night.




O
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  bottle of rouge and a four-course meal,     from the Clotes chairlift, with double      ● All the above journeys can be booked
                    vernight, the            and then switching to ordinary                  Our plan was to cram as much              there early enough to make the most                                                                                        remember to set your alarm clock or         rooms from €40-€75pp per night.             through Rail Europe (08705 848848,
                    view from our            national trains.                             skiing, snowboarding and partying as         of the day’s skiing. However, you can                                                                                      you may miss the scenery.                                                               raileurope.co.uk), European Rail (020-
                    compartment                 Like many Swiss and Austrian              possible into the week’s holiday, so a       catch the specially chartered overnight                                                                                                                                Pas de la Casa, Andorra                     7387 0444, europeanrail.com) or Rail
                    window had been          resorts, Davos has a railway station in      decent night’s sleep on either end of        train for skiers, the Bergland Express,                                                                                    St Moritz, Switzerland                                                                  Canterbury (01227 450088, rail-
                    transformed from         the resort itself. To get there, you catch   the holiday would help. We had chosen        which goes directly from Brussels and                                                                                                                                  With Pas now linked up to Soldeu, there     canterbury.co.uk).
                    grey Parisian suburbs    the 17.42 Eurostar on Friday from            the cheapest option, a six-berth             reaches many of the faraway Austrian                                                                                       The sun shines 322 days a year on the       is 192km of piste in this plain but
                    to an Alpine             London Waterloo to Paris, and change         couchette, containing simple padded          resorts, such as Kitzbühel, Soll, and                                                                                      impressive pistes and expensive shops       snowsure resort. Take the 17.09             Kitzbühel, Austria
                    landscape covered in     on to an overnight train. After one          bunk beds, with shared washing               Mayrhofen by mid-morning.                                                                                                  of St Moritz. Take the 17.42 Eurostar to    Eurostar to Paris Nord, and then
thick snow. By breakfast time, our train     more change the next morning at              facilities in the toilet at the end of the      If you are booking a package holiday                                                                                    Paris Nord (any day of the week), then      the 21.56 overnight train from Paris        One of Austria’s most charming resorts
had arrived in Davos, long before the        Landquart in Switzerland, you arrive in      corridor. The bunks, covered in black        through a tour operator, you can still go                                                                                  change to Paris Est for the 22.42           Austerlitz to L’Hospitalet. From there, a   with good nightlife too. Take the
hordes of air travellers. And when we        the resort at 08.55. You can then leave      plastic faux-leather with a pillow, sheet    by train. Crystal, Thomson, Inghams                                                                                        overnight train. In the morning, change     local bus (€5 each way) gets you to the     14.42 Eurostar to Brussels on Friday,
stepped on to our first chairlift, most of   your luggage at your hotel or chalet,        sleeping bag and a blanket provided,         and Neilson all offer accommodation-                                                                                       at Chur for the train to St Moritz, which   resort at 08.15. Journey time: 15 hours,    and catch the 20.32 Bergland Express
them were still waiting for their coach      have breakfast, and hit the slopes on        looked functional rather than inviting.      only packages, leaving you around £130                                                                                     arrives in the resort at 09.58. Journey     6 minutes. Returning, take the 18.15        directly to Kitzbühel station, arriving
transfer to the resort.                      the quietest day of the week — ideal for        But sleep was not a priority just         to spend on the train fare. The earlier                                                                                    time: 14 hours, 16 minutes. Returning,      bus to L’Hospitalet, where you can          in the resort at 10.37 on Saturday
   Many skiers and boarders will be          warming up nervous ski legs. Or, if you      yet. The train corridors were lined          you book, the cheaper the fares: the                                                                                       take the 19.02 train on Saturday, change    have dinner before boarding the 20.49       morning. Journey time: 19 hours, 55
familiar with the overnight Snow             need to hire or buy ski or snowboard         with people chatting. We soon found          Eurostar portion of the journey can be                                                                                     at Chur and Paris, and arrive in Waterloo   overnight train to Paris, arriving back     minutes. For the return journey, depart
Trains and the Eurostar service which        gear first, it’s a good time to do it        ourselves sharing a bottle of red with       booked up to 90 days in advance, and                                                                                       at 10.58 on Sunday. The return fare with    in London at 10.58 on Sunday morning.       Saturday evening at 19.02, changing in
run direct to the French Alps. These         because you get an unhurried service         a group of French skiers from the next       the onward part up to 60 days in                                                                                           a six-berth couchette starts at £167pp, a   A place in a six-berth couchette starts     Brussels the next morning to arrive in
enable you to ski both on the day of         and more choice of gear. On your final       compartment.                                 advance. Ordinary trains have daily                                                                                        two-person cabin from £222pp. Stay at       from £111 return. Hotel Himalaia Pas        Waterloo at 12.27 on Sunday. A place in
arrival and your day of departure, so        day, you enjoy another day’s skiing             Sometime after midnight we                services, and the tickets allow a break                                                                                    the Misani Hotel (0041 81 836 9696,         (00376 735515, hotansa.com) is near the     a six-berth couchette costs £171-£240
you get eight days’ skiing instead of the    before taking the 20.02 train out of         retired to our couchettes, where the         in the journey of 24 hours, so you can                                                                                     hotelmisani.ch), with double rooms          slopes, with a spa, pool and sauna, and     return. The three-star Pension Rainhof




                                                                                                                                                                                                                              PHOTOGRAPH: RICHARD MORRELL/ALAMY
usual six, but without the need for any      Davos on Saturday evening, changing          movement of the train was helpfully          visit a European city or town en route.                                                                                    from SFr75pp per night.                     double rooms for €63-€127pp per night.      (+43 5356 62312) has doubles from
extra accommodation. Unfortunately,          in Landquart and Paris to arrive back in     soporific. In fact, the only thing              Unlike the Snow Trains, taking                                                                                                                                                                                  €30pp per night.
they only run as far as the Espace Killy,    London at 09.51 on Sunday morning.           keeping us awake was the banter              ordinary trains from Paris requires a                                                                                      Sauze d’Oulx, Italy                         Chamonix, France                            ● Book through European Rail or Rail
Three Valleys and Paridiski areas.              I was keen to travel by train not just    flying between the bunks.                    change of station. Though the Paris                                                                                                                                                                                Canterbury.
   But what few people realise is that       because of the extra two days’ skiing,          Not all destinations have convenient      metro is simple and quick, there are                                                                                       A good resort for those who want to         An adrenaline challenge for expert          Daniel Elkan
resorts in Italy, Switzerland, Germany,      but for ecological reasons. Flying to a      overnight train services, but many can       fair distances to be walked, with stairs                                                                                   party hard, best reached by day. Depart     skiers and snowboarders. Leave              Prices and times correct at time of going
Austria, Andorra, and other parts of         European ski resort is estimated to          still be reached during the day. And         rather than escalators the norm. If you                                                                                    Waterloo on Saturday on the 09.09           Waterloo on Friday on the 17.09             to press, but check for any changes before
France, are all accessible from the UK       have 10 times greater impact on global       overnight services to more distant           have heavy luggage, book a cab to meet                                                                                     Eurostar to Paris Nord. Take the 14.24      Eurostar to Paris Nord. Then from Paris     booking. Cheaper fares quoted often sell
simply by taking a Eurostar to Paris         warming than travelling by train.            Austrian destinations don’t get you          you at Paris Nord. G7 Taxis in Paris                                                                                       train from Paris Lyon to Oulx, from         Austerlitz take the 22.25 overnight         out quickly for high-season dates.

								
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