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. 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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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