View from train passing through snowy mountains en-route to ski resorts in French Alps

By Train to The Alps – with a Paris Stopover

Have a more relaxing journey to the Alps by leaving the day before and enjoying a night in Paris.

The Paris Stopover

When planning travel to the Alps, it’s natural to plot the fastest route. However, there’s a slower way of travelling to the slopes by train: the ‘Paris stopover’ – and while it takes longer, it has some advantages. Instead of trying to do the journey the same day, you head to Paris by Eurostar the night before and stay over in a hotel there.

Next morning you take one of the many high-speed TGV trains which leave Paris, bound for the Alps. By doing this not only do you get to enjoy some of Paris and break up the journey; you still arrive in resort earlier than you would have done if travelling in one go, the same day from the UK. In many cases, arriving in resort for around midday means that you can sneak a first afternoon on the slopes, too.

For skiers with holidays starting on a Sunday in the popular Tarentaise region of the French Alps, stopover journeys are particularly useful because there’s no Sunday-to-Sunday daytime Eurostar Ski Train service.

When you arrive by Eurostar into Paris Gare du Nord, it’s easy to transfer by taxi to one of the many hotels close to Gare de Lyon, a locality with restaurants nearby for dinner. You can see the journey in this new film by Snowcarbon, which follows 24 friends making a trip together this way.

TGV trains leave from Paris to all corners of the French Alps.
Here’s 10 great resorts you can reach travelling this way.

Skier descending piste beside forest with mountainside at Montgenevre, French Alps.

Destination: Montgenèvre

Part of the 400km Via Lattea ski area and nestled on the Italian border on the TGV route between Paris and Turin, Montgenèvre is one of the best places in the Alps to learn to ski. The local ski area includes a huge, gentle beginners area on the front de neige. There’s vast intermediate territory on both sides of the valley, in the Gondrans sector and Le Chalvet, and the wooded Prarial sector is packed with fairly short but fun reds and sheltered blues. Mile-hungry skiers can explore the connected terrain of Clavière, Cesana, Sansicario, Sestrière and Sauze d’Oulx.

Off-piste potential is thus near-limitless. Montgenèvre has successfully transformed both its image and its fortunes, with massive investment in accommodation and ski infrastructure. The busy road into Italy has been tucked out of sight underground, leaving the heart of the village practically traffic-free and now bars, restaurants and shops extend the length of the front de neige.

The Bottom Line: There’s terrain for everyone here. Families will love the safe environment for children, and even novice skiers can access some of the best and most plentiful intermediate cruising territory on offer anywhere in the Alps. Off-piste opportunities and the option to explore other ski areas make Montgenèvre a top-class destination.

Paris-stopover rail journeys

Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:29 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Oulx at 11:23; or the 10:41 TGV, arriving 15:43; from there it’s just 25 minutes by bus or taxi.

Read the review... MountainPassions goes deeper: The skiing, the village, stats and practical info

Wide view of ski terrain with Mont Blanc at Saint Gervais

Destination: Saint Gervais

Saint Gervais sits between the Chamonix Valley and the Val d’Arly in the Haute-Savoie area of the French Alps, with a direct high-speed rail access into Saint-Gervais Le Fayet, just a few km away. On the mountain the scenery at almost every turn is impressive, thanks to the presence of nearby Mont-Blanc, which also accounts for frequent and heavy winter snowfalls. The impressive terrain links to neighbouring Megève, Combloux, La Giettaz and (via the Tramway du Mont-Blanc) Les Houches. There’s gentle cruising and wooded runs above St Gervais and St Nicolas, some bracing red and black-graded steeps below Mont Joly (2525m) and a choice of onward links from Mont d’Arbois over to Megève’s Alpette and Côte 2000 sectors.

Saint Gervais is a very pleasant place in which to relax, window-shop or explore the wealth of colourful, retro-chic architecture. It’s also a long-established spa town (so daily life continues well outside the ski-season) and it also has a distinctly genteel air and some stylish premium accommodation. The retro architectural feel is enhanced by the presence of the Mont-Blanc Tramway, too. Yet despite its long winter-sports pedigree, Saint Gervais is often overlooked in favour of more famous resorts.

The Bottom Line: This place has real charm, though, and wears a friendly face, making it a solid choice for beginners, families and intermediates who value spectacular scenery and plenty of long cruising runs.

Paris-stopover rail journeys

Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 07:11 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at St Gervais le Fayet at 11:33; from there it’s just 10 minutes by bus or taxi.

Destination: La Rosière

Set high above the Tarentaise valley, where it looks across to Les Arcs, La Rosière is easily accessible from Bourg Saint-Maurice station. La Rosière’s ski area is for the most part south facing, and is integrated with that of its Italian counterpart La Thuile to form the extensive area covered by the Espace San Bernardo lift-pass. Closer to home there are accessible novice areas and lots of blue-graded cruising, along with some more challenging reds including the wooded Fontaine Froide which drops right down to 1176m.

The purpose-built ski village of La Rosière 1850 is linked by a pedestrian footpath (an agreeable 10-minute level stroll) to the newer Eucherts development, expanding the possibilities for both accommodation and access to the skiing. Les Eucherts, the original mountain hamlet, has in recent years been rediscovered by developers and skiers alike. It makes a good base, although so far the 1850 village still has the edge in terms of services and general energy levels, particularly once the lifts close. Architecturally things are pleasing to the eye, and becoming more so as the few outmoded structures are gradually replaced with more traditionally-styled creations.

The Bottom Line: La Rosière’s premium quality image is well founded in terms of both accommodation and services, but it clearly has no intention of becoming another Courchevel. It’s simply a fun place, and good for those on a real-world budget.

Paris-stopover rail journeys

Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 11:48; or the 07:49 TGV, arriving 12:51; or the 09:49 TGV, arriving 14:48; from there it’s 45 minutes by bus or taxi.

Large group of skiers leaving gondola lift top station with mountains in background

Destination: Alpe d’Huez

The Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine boasts the world’s highest vertical-drop figures – in excess of 8000m, in fact. Impressive though this is, much of it is less demanding than it sounds, although all the long steeps include at least one Black-graded section. Another attraction is the now-legendary Sarenne, at 16km the world’s longest pisted ski-run. Its black grading is, however, more a reflection of the distance involved than of any particularly technical demands. Less ambitious skiers have a good selection of terrain to discover, including some fine blue- and red-graded cruises, while just above the village is enough gentle terrain to allow beginners to find their ski-legs with confidence. The village comprises two main centres, sited at Huez 1500 and the much larger Alpe d’Huez 1860.

Established in 1935, the ski village has since developed into a major tourism destination (and a classic stage-closer in the Tour de France), with a wealth of accommodation now on offer for most budgets. The emphasis, though, is on family skiers, and there are signs (not least the recent arrival of prestige developer MGM Constructeur) that Alpe d’Huez is becoming an ever-more desirable ski destination.

The Bottom Line: Alpe d’Huez has a dynamic, environmentally-aware vision for its future development. Not surprisingly, there’s a good range of boutiques and services, with year-round activities for non-skiers, including snow-shoeing, ice-skating, mountain-biking and more. That’s in addition to premium skiing in a world-renowned ski area.

Paris-stopover rail journeys

Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 07:41 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Grenoble at 10:42; or the 09:45 TGV, arriving 12:46; from there it’s 50 minutes by bus or taxi.

Two snowboarders with big mountain view at Les Contamines

Destination: Les Contamines

Les Contamines is a much underrated resort, sitting between the Chamonix Valley and the Val d’Arly. The location is impressive, nearby Mont-Blanc providing visual drama along with healthy snowfalls, while over in the next valley lie Hauteluce and the Beaufortain. The skiing is magnificent, and is accessed by gondola lifts which converge on Etape 1470, from which you either take an onward chairlift to ski a selection of tree-lined terrain (for competent skiers this means all the way down to the valley floor) or a gondola up to Signal 1900. Here you’ll find terrain for all abilities, novices included. Lovers of blue-graded cruising have a good selection of quite long runs, including a couple of scenic swoops over into the Hauteluce sector.

It’s more competent skiers, though, who get to appreciate the full extent of just what Les Contamines offers. Red grading tends to be more a reflection of gradient steepness than anything too daunting – and often you can change your mind along the way and switch to a blue. The old village has an appealingly authentic feel, and still has a reassuringly down-to-earth skyline. Les Contamines-Montjoie has been welcoming visitors since the first hotel opened in 1900, and founded its Ski Club just eleven years later. Chalet style still rules, with larger apartment developments only really in evidence (conveniently) closer to the Montjoie gondola.

The Bottom Line: Enjoy varied skiing beside the incomparable Mont-Blanc. While the village is quiet in the evenings, the atmosphere is very friendly and the restaurants may welcome you as if you are a guest in their home. It’s no wonder people who discover it keep coming back.

Paris-stopover rail journeys

Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 07:11 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at St Gervais at 11:33; from there it’s 20 minutes by bus or taxi.

Skiers looking at piste map beside signage with big mountain view

Destination: Val d’Isère

Located high in the Tarentaise Valley beyond Les Arcs, La Rosière, Sainte-Foy Tarentaise and Tignes is the hugely popular resort of Val d’Isère. If you want mileage, look no further. The legendary Espace Killy ski area includes Tignes and is even bigger than it looks on paper. Even a quick glance at the piste map will leave you awestruck while you ponder just how long it would take you to ski from the Pissaillas glacier(3197m) above the Col de l’Isèran all the way over to La Grande Motte(3456m) then down to Les Brevières(1550m) – and back to base. There’s variety, too, and the experience won’t disappoint as long as you’re up for a challenge or two along the way. If not, then be aware that piste grading can catch out the unwary (as will poseurs blundering to and from the disco-floor terrace of the uber-cool La Folie Douce above La Daille).

For experienced skiers, however, getting around will get you far from the clubbing crowd and onto some epic terrain among some of the most magnificent scenery the Alps have to offer. In the main village, at 1850, there are neatly-styled hotels, restaurants and boutiques, plus a host of individual chalets on the lower flanks of the mountainsides.

The Bottom Line: All you’ve heard is true. Experienced skiers will find a wealth of challenges in the vast Espace Killy. Tucked away in the heart of things you’ll find the original village church and a couple of streets, which give some indication of the how the ski industry has transformed the local economy.

Paris-stopover rail journeys

Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Bourg St Maurice at 11:48; or the 07:49 TGV, arriving 12:51; or the 09:49 TGV, arriving 14:48; from there it’s 45 minutes by bus or taxi.

Big view of tree-lined pistes and mountains at Les Gets

Destination: Les Gets

Les Gets is a lovely resort which is part of the Portes du Soleil. With access to 650 km of slopes spread across 12 villages in France and Switzerland, the ski area offers near-limitless skiing. Les Gets’ own pistes encompass both sides of the village’s valley location, each side topping-off at around 1825m. There’s rapid gondola access to the pistes of Mont-Chéry for some good, north-facing onward (red- and black-graded) drops into L’Encraz – plus less-steep, south-facing return cruises. Although regarding itself as small, Les Gets has a reassuringly established feel to it and offers a refreshingly traditional alternative to high-altitude purpose-built resorts. Both architecturally and culturally you somehow sense that Switzerland is nearby. After fresh snowfalls the heart of the village looks and feels like something from a Christmas card.

Not that it’s in any way unsophisticated; quite the reverse, in fact – but nicely so. Ski boutiques (and boutique chalet hotels) tell their own story, yet Les Gets remains a friendly, down-to-earth place to spend some time, and has a particularly loyal following among skiers from the UK. As a Famille Plus Montagne resort, Les Gets provides activities and services for all ages as well as skiers with a disability. Mixed-ability groups will find variety locally, but will need to build their fitness levels if they intend really covering some distance and exploring the Portes du Soleil’s full potential. If you’re happy skiing red-graded runs (or ready to step up) then you’ll be spoilt for choice. Finally, for independent travellers there’s a wealth of of luxury accommodation options – hotels as well as chalets.

Paris-stopover rail journeys

Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 07:11 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Cluses at 11:05; from there it’s 25 minutes by bus or taxi.

Skier's view of fresh snow on mountains and valley at Le Grand Bornand

Destination: La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand

Located up the road from Lake Annecy, La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand are both wonderful ski resorts which share the same ski pass. La Clusaz’s own skiing, though, is surprisingly varied. You’ll discover great natural beauty among the wooded flanks of both Manigod and Beauregard sectors (much of it Blue-graded, and a good place to start the day) and some steeper Reds nearby in the Etale and Aiguille areas. More challenging, gradient-wise, are the flanks of the Massif de Balme, which has hosted speed-skiing record attempts and whose snow quality holds up well later in the day. One particularly inspired feature is the provision of long return runs, graded from Green to Black, allowing skiers of all abilities to end their days in real style. Le Grand Bornand also has superb terrain, with plenty of blue and red runs – and accessible off piste that you can dip in and out of between the pistes.

Despite being far from small, La Clusaz village has been careful to preserve its traditional Savoyard look and feel. The skyline is still dominated by the 18th-century belltower of the Eglise Sainte-Foy, and a high proportion of visitor accommodation is in individual mountain chalet style. At nightfall the village looks a picture and there’s plenty of choice for those in search of nightlife. Le Grand Bornand is quieter and more family focussed, with lovely old chalet buildings dotting the streets.

The Bottom Line: Generations of French and Swiss families continue to return to enjoy these places in which they learned to ski, and you can see why.

Paris-stopover rail journeys

Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Annecy at 11:16; from there it’s 35 minutes by bus or taxi to either village.

Wide view of two skiers descending high piste

Destination: Val Cenis

A short ride from Modane train station, Val Cenis has enjoyed a loyal following among skiers since well before the addition of Termignon-la-Vanoise to the lift-pass. The link has proved to be an inspired move, broadening the appeal rather more than the piste-map alone might suggest. Much of the terrain is above 2000m with near-panoramic overviews of the Lac du Mon Cenis, which you can admire from the red-graded Goulet piste served by the Mont Cenis chairlift. Val Cenis Vanoise is centred on the cheerful, year-round working villages of Lanslebourg, Lanslevillard and Termignon. Spread out though this sounds, in practise it all holds together well, and any lingering doubts about this being a fully-fledged ski area were removed a few seasons ago by the addition of luxury self-catering accommodation by prestige Savoyard developer MGM Constructeur (now managed by CGH).

All the signs point to things moving steadily (and deservedly) upmarket. That said, the fact that it remains a working village serves to keep its feet firmly on the ground, and meal/bar prices refreshingly affordable.

The Bottom Line: The terrain is varied enough to satisfy both fans of steeps and those who prefer to take it easy among the shelter of natural, wooded settings. As it’s such a good place for novices, it’s also a solid choice for families and mixed-ability groups, who will also appreciate realistic pricing in more traditional village location.

Paris-stopover rail journeys

Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:29 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Modane at 10:48; or the 08:27 TGV, arriving 13:07; from there it’s 30 minutes by bus or taxi.

Wide overview of skiers on ridge with ski lifts and mountain background, Meribel

Destination: Méribel

There can be few skiers who aren’t already well aware of the vastness of the 3 Valleys ski area, and Méribel sits at the very heart of it. Each day, as well as the local slopes, you can ski off towards Courchevel, Les Menuires or Val Thorens. There’s also rewarding terrain tucked away around satellite areas like La Tania, Saint-Martin de Belleville and Orelle. This means that there’s something somewhere for just about everyone, whatever their fitness level or technical ability. You can stretch both here, or back off and take it easy on the kind of long, wide blue-graded cruises which so many of today’s skiers have come to expect, and which modern family-focused resorts have become adept at providing. Don’t think of it as a single village, since the locations here are surprisingly complex.

Altitude-wise, accommodation begins around Les Allues (1100m) and Le Raffort (1200m), two traditional villages with some surprisingly upmarket chalet accommodation and linked to the main ski area by the Olympe gondola from Brides-les-Bains. Next come Méribel Village (1400m) and Méribel Centre (1500m), which as their name suggests, look and feel like the heart of things.The most prized locations, however, are to be found in Méribel Les Hauts, set among pine forests at upwards of 1600m. Here Le Plateau has many of the facilities and services found in Centre, including Piou-Piou kids’ club and ski-school meeting points, while Le Rondpoint is more compact and more chic, most of the accommodation being ski-in/ski-out.

Paris-stopover rail journeys

Depart from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord by Eurostar (choose your most suitable train time) and stay over in Paris; next morning take the 06:49 TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon, arriving at Moutiers at 11:07; or the 07:49 TGV, arriving 12:12; or the 09:49 TGV, arriving 14:12; from there it’s 20-30 minutes by bus or taxi.