Transfers are often the last thing to consider and the first place to trip up when it comes to self-building a ski holiday. This is especially apparent when you are traveling as a solo skier or any small group on a budget when the door to door taxi service is simply not economically feasible.
As well as being a good value alternative transfer option for solo skiers, they are also a very eco-conscious ski travel choice.
In this article we will be covering the key things you need to consider when planning train travel to the European Alps in winter.
How far in advance can you book train travel to ski?
We applaud you for pre-planning your ski holiday, this is certainly an excellent idea if you wish to have as many options available to you as possible. However, you will need to make some educated guesses if you're planning too far in advance.
Planning in Summer / Autumn
Most major European train operators change their timetables on the 2nd Saturday in December, and release tickets for the new timetable in mid-October.
PLEASE NOTE: Operators (especially in France) tend to only release a month or so worth of tickets at this time, taking you up to January, the release is often a bit staggered so I'd maybe wait a week or 2 and check back.
Do not look up times and routes for the months prior to December and assume they will be the same in the Ski season.
If possible, see if you can find the previous years Winter time tables to give you an indication of what you can expect (But bear in mind services change)
Late October/ Early November is the best time to book if you have very specific train times and routes you'd like to take early in the season.
The general rule is 2-3 months ahead you are most likely to get the close to full picture
Switzerlands exception - 60 day window for domestic bookings.
If you want to transfer by train for the peak weeks over Christmas and New year get in as early as possible once the window is open, as with most things, services are reduced or altered so availability will be less and demand as domestic travel for the holidays increases will be high.
Planning to Ski by train in-season
As stated previously - Assume a 90 day window for open bookings, the further away the date, the more options you'll have and the cheaper the fare.
Don't want to risk it?
Sign up to a booking alert at Raileurope.com
If you have a specific journey in mind that you don't want to miss out on, search for it on Raileurope.com
If it isn't open for booking they will allow you to sign up for a mailing alert, and drop you an email when booking opens.
How do I plan routes & book tickets?
Firstly - Know what's possible
We will be releasing a tonne of regional guides on the blog, so make sure you follow on socials and sign up to the site.
Secondly - Research the number of options & timings
Through the various changes in nationalised rail, private companies, chartered trains etc. trying to use the individual carrier sites across Europe is a headache to plan your route and research your options, because you'll never get the full picture.
The best option is to use Thetrainline app or website
This is the most comprehensive aggregator that covers most of mainland Europe and has built in journey planning, so it will manage connection times, combine multiple suppliers and. cross boarders. Which means you'll be able to plan international routes easily if needed. They've also just introduced Coaches, so if there's a complimentary coach option covering some or all of your route, you can see these too if you want.
What about my Luggage?
First of all - Make sure you're physically able to load and unload everything you bring with you! Especially if you're bringing your own equipment. Pulling a full suitcase and ski bag/boots across to connecting platforms isn't for everyone.
It is always best to check with the carrier(s) you've book with, but you're almost guaranteed to be fine taking a normal sized suitcase, there's minimal services where luggage restrictions apply.
Ski carriage, although slightly more awkward to find a spot o
n board, is often allowed with no extra charge too.
In Italy if sufficient space isn't available in your train car, you must be prepared to check your skis to be carried in the baggage car.
Depending on the networks you're looking to book with, end to end luggage services are possible within countries. More on this in our individual area articles. e.g. If you land in Zurich, and take the train to ski in Davos (via change in Lanquart) your luggage can meet you there.
Joining up every step of your trip is an important thing to manage.
It's important when booking onward train journeys that you consider the following:
Arrival time - whether you're flying in or out of the country or coming in via Train, factor in the possibility of delays and give yourself adequate time to make your connection. This normally means factoring upwards of an hour between key departures (eg. Eurostar)
Bus connections - If there's not a train station in resort, when do the buses leave for resort from your final station?
Taxi connections - How long and how much is it to get a taxi to bridge that final gap if there's no matching bus times?
Don't be afraid to consider stop overs and splitting up your travel:
Get that cheap late night flight and stay over to start your train journey early
Get a late Eurostar, stopover in Paris, start again
Consider overnight trains across Europe
Much like plane fares, a lot of networks have dynamic pricing (except Snowclans one true love, Austria, see below) and unless you're super early to book, when sometimes there's only expensive flexible tickets on sale, the earlier you secure a spot, the cheaper it is.
International fares are not going to strike you as cheap vs. the budget airline £20 deals you can sometimes see, but do not forget to factor in the luggage fees, transfers to and from the airport and time spent checking in and waiting in your calculations.
We'll cover price range in our individual resort & route articles in the rest of the blog.
Austrian train transfers to ski resorts
If there wasn't 100s of other reasons to love Austria for a solo ski holiday, it's that their train fares are standardized and absolutely dirt cheap.
Once you reach the key transit hubs of Innsbruck or Salzburg, you're going to pay no more than £18 one way, or £42 first class to get yourself to a variety of ski resorts across Tyrol or Salzburgerland. Add on a short and cheap bus journey and you'll have access to even more.
For end to end planning of your route on public transport in Austria, use the VVT app for Tyrol or the OBB app for Eastern Austria.
Ouigo - France
These are very useful for connections to the Alps from Paris or Lille.
Hight speed long distance trains across France to Lyon, you can then change and connect to a wide range of resorts.
A bit like the Ryanair of trainlines, these are cheap and low frills trains that have no catering options, no classes and luggage restrictions (but additional can be bought for a reasonable small upgrade) as can power plugs.
What are the key rail hubs for ski holidays in Europe?
There's 100s of train stations serving ski resorts across Europe, we wont bore you with them all in this article.
Watch out for our area & route guides as we release them.
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