Stephen Wood: For skiers, this winter could be the new age of the train
Something to Declare
Sunday 25 November 2012
Can skiers ever be persuaded, in any number, to travel to the Alps by train? It seems unlikely. In the post-war days, rail travel was the norm for skiers. But the advent of cheap flying and reliable cars eventually shunted ski trains into a siding.
France's Snow Train from the Channel coast soldiered on, its great attraction being the disco carriage, but in 2009 it, too, finally hit the buffers. By that time train travel had somehow become more expensive than flying. This season, however, offers reason for optimism. A new Saturday rail service, the "Swiss Alps Ski Train", will head to the Alps via Lille. But this joint venture between Eurostar and SNCF is unlikely to have much impact this year, because it was launched late and because its route serves only resorts currently handicapped by the high cost of the Swiss franc. The real progress lies behind the scenes, and is being driven by an odd couple: the biggest ski company in the UK, Crystal, and the little guy, Daniel Elkan, co-creator of the Snowcarbon "Ski Resorts by Train" website.
Last year, Crystal doubled its allocation of seats on the direct Eurostar services to the French resorts and removed the traditional surcharge for train travel. The seats sold out. This season its allocation has again increased; the train/plane price-match remains in place, and, for the first time, Eurostar bookings can be made online, where Crystal does 40 per cent of its business.
The number of train-travel packages represents less than 5 per cent of Crystal's bookings to the popular French resorts, but in a business that was built around charter flights, that's an achievement. And it gets the ball rolling, which for Daniel Elkan is the essential thing. His own ball-rolling efforts have made him the "go-to" guy for ski train information.
Last season, he discovered that the daytime Eurostar arrived at Moûtiers station 13 minutes after the last bus departed to nearby Méribel. So he got on the phone, and this season the Three Vallee Transfers company offers a pre-booked transfer to the resort for €20.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...
£240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...
Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...
£27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...