Published: November 2010
EUROSTAR TO THE FINEST SLOPES
Let the train take the strain, used to be an old British Rail strap line but could be used these days to describe the Eurostar direct day ski service to the French alps. Intent on minimising my carbon footprint I decided to try it out on a trip to Val D’Isère last season.
The direct day service leaves from and returns to St Pancras International and Ashford International on Saturdays (except Christmas Day and New Years day when the service will run Sun 19th December to 26th December and 26th December to 2nd January). The Saturday service starts properly from 8th January 2011 until the last return journey on Saturday 16th April. With fares starting from £149, it looks to be a good deal but does the time factor (a 7 hour journey) outweigh the ease and convenience? I’m a great one for maximising my time on the slopes but in all reality once you’ve got to an airport, checked in, queued up through security and paid over the odds to sit in a cramped seat, the appeal of sitting in a comfortable, spacious seat, with a view, a decent meal and not having to move becomes ever more appealing. Even if it does mean not being able to hit the slopes on your arrival or departure day. Again, in reality how often have you hoped to ski on the day you arrive but it just didn’t happen. There’s all that admin, ski hire and lift pass organisation and in all honesty you’re exhausted from having got up at the crack of dawn to catch your flight. How much better to arrive relaxed, refreshed and raring to go the next day. On average, a Eurostar journey accounts for just one tenth of the carbon emissions of an equivalent flight. Research commissioned by Eurostar has shown that a Eurostar journey to Bourg St Maurice (the station for Val D’Isere) generates 14 kg of CO2 per passenger. By comparison, a typical return flight from London to Geneva emits 147.8 kg of C02 per passenger If that doesn’t make you feel good, 4 couples in adjoining tabled seats in the next carriage to ours had brought along an exotic picnic feast and some fine wines to consume along the way, all very civilised and a merry excuse to start their holiday early. Note these are not the riotous ski trains of old, Ibiza on the tracks and all sorts of shenanigans going on. You’re sensibly limited to what you can take on board, 4 cans or bottles of beer or one bottle of wine or one 50 cl bottle of spirits. However, still enough to toast your journey.
Eurostar stations are located a short bus ride from the resorts and therefore avoid any lengthy airport transfers. A bus met our train at Bourg St Maurice and less than an hour later we were checking into our chalet in Val D’Isere, 20 miles up the mountain.
In South-East France, in the heart of the Savoie, Val d’Isere is situated at an altitude of 1,850 metres in the Espace Killy ski area. The Olympic Games, the Criterium de la Premiere Neige, the Alpine Skiing World Championships have all taken place in Val D’Isere, it really needs no introduction and is quite simply one of the greatest ski resorts in the world. It’s got it all: size, altitude but above all variety which makes it a great resort for all abilities and therefore a perfect choice for a group Chalet holiday. Our mixed ability group stayed at Chalet Reuben, operated by Crystal Finest and set back from the main road of Val d’Isere, just a minutes walk from the shops and bars and 300m from the Solaise Express ski lift. Location is an important factor in choosing a chalet for a mixed ability group – if some of you need to get to ski school, whilst others want to sleep off a hangover but hit the slopes quickly, convenience of location is crucial. Also with a large group, you want somewhere at the end of the day that’s quick to get to and a central meeting point for everybody. With the current exchange rate still doing Brits abroad no favours (although it is getting better) why hang around for expensive après ski, when you know with a Finest chalet there’s a delicious tea with home-made cake waiting, along with a comfy sitting area to regale the day’s skiing exploits. Chalet Reuben’s central location makes it easy to hit the town instead later on. Built in a traditional Savoyard style with a combination of local stone and wood, it’s a relatively new chalet, so everything is in good working order including a sauna with a relaxation room and heated ski and boot room. However, for me the biggest plus point was the views, no looking on to another building, car park or as has happened to me in a chalet before, a concrete wall. In a large party, you’re often going to get one or two who perhaps don’t ski or just want time out to chill and enjoy being in the mountains and the Chalet. Reuben’s balconies offer a perfect spot to read a book and soak up the sun and views. However, you’d probably want or need to ski of some of the hospitality on offer. There’s the tea, canapés with the pre-dinner drinks, a 3 course dinner, followed by a cheeseboard with port and after dinner chocolates. The additional cost of a finest chalet with these added extras could be of-set by the fact that you probably won’t want a large lunch, knowing what’s coming later.
So what’s new for the 2010/11 season in Val D’Isere? Petit Bois, is a new blue piste in Le Fornet. Naturide consists of six un-groomed but secured pistes (Foret, Marmottons, Signal Bas, S, Tunnell and 3000). Acticross is a new fun course for children and there’s all sorts of new I phone apps including an app for locating members of your group. This geopositioning on the pistes not only allows you to find out where you are but also to locate your friends. No pretending now that you’re doing another run, when you’re really having another vin-chaud or hot chocolate.
Prior to the current recession the keen skier would hope to take at least a couple of ski holidays a year. However, with belts being tightened and with only one ski holiday being possible (a really avid skier would be prepared to forsake their summer holiday rather than give up their week on the slopes). Therefore, a slightly more luxurious, stress free ski break would be a good option and Chalet Reuben and travelling out by Eurostar comes highly recommended.
According to snowcarbon.co.uk (a useful website launched in 2009 with everything you need to know in terms of getting from the UK to a ski resort by train), 73 % of the carbon footprint of a typical alpine ski resort is made up of how people get there. So if you want to do your bit in preserving the ski slopes, it makes sense to take the train. The ease and convenience helps as well!
Petra joined Travel Channel for its launch back in 1994. She looks after our research and works on all original productions. Petra’s one of the most recognisable faces in the travel industry and when she’s not on the canapé circuit promoting the channel, she spends every free moment travelling. She’s visited over 70 countries and prefers back packing to 5 * luxury, unless of course it’s in the name of research!