Who was the real winner of our race to the Alps?

You want to maximise your ski time, but there's price, comfort and that carbon footprint to consider, too. So, should you travel by coach, plane or train? We asked three friends to try out these different routes to La Rosière in France


The Coach


I can say three positive things about travelling for 18 hours on a bus. First, it's just £125 for a return ticket. Second, it leaves central London at 6pm. And third, you can check in just 30 minutes before departure and the two changes are smooth.



But then there were the downsides. As we set off, the driver announced: "There's a chemical toilet just to the left of the stairs – please don't use it." And at Folkestone the bus drove into a metal corridor (Eurotunnel) where the whole carriage juddered like a cheap-flight simulator until the door opened and – oh la la – we were in France.

Our first break came at 10pm at the French end of Eurotunnel. "We don't give a time for this break. Just buy what you need and come back," warned our driver. I paid West End prices for a joyless ham and cheese sandwich, which I ate in the shop doorway.

My seat reclined by just 20 degrees but then – over time – it would stubbornly return to upright. I'd pull the lever and press back again and groan. Sleep? Not a chance. The man in front turned on his overhead light to read; the beam was dazzling. I covered my head with my fleece. At 3am I passed out.

At 5am the bus came to a halt; the interior lights were turned on full and the driver hit the public address system to announce: "Warm croissants and coffee are available at the end of the car park."

Passengers jerked from hard-found sleep, rubbed their eyes and slowly stumbled out, leaving just me making hate notes and wondering how many pieces a driver could be cut up into.

At 8am I made a painless transfer to a second coach with a French driver, and by midday I was at Bourg-Saint-Maurice looking with envy at the train station which Simon had arrived at five and a half hours earlier. Then I hopped on to a third coach to take me up to the mountain to the resort.

In theory, I could have checked into my room, showered, changed and picked up my rental skis, and then grabbed two hours on the piste. But, frankly, I just wanted to be horizontal.

Nick Morgan

Road facts: How to get there By coach

Eurolines Ski Express (08717 818177; eurolines.co.uk) departs London Victoria coach station every Friday evening from 19 December to 17 April to 12 ski resorts in the French and Swiss Alps. The return fare costs £125, with no extra charge for skis, snowboards or baggage. Actual journey time 18 hours.

The carbon footprint is 55kg per passenger return trip.

The Plane

It was going to be a slam-dunk victory. Surely the quickest – and therefore the best – way of getting to the Alps was by plane.

A coach travels at 70mph; a train speeds along at almost 200mph (at least in France) but my plane would fly by at 600mph. With an extra night's sleep but still on the slopes by Saturday lunchtime, I decided it was not worth looking too closely at the size of my carbon footprint.

I had booked the first flight out of London Gatwick to Geneva on the Saturday morning at 5.55am, and with some late packing my extra night's sleep had already become no more than three hours. Everything about airports is focused on slowing the travelling experience down, as though there needs to be some karmic balance to the speed of the aircraft. Drive to the airport, park miles away, wait for a bus, take a trip to the terminal, queue at the check-in, then queue again to go through security, then mill around and wait to board, queue again to get on the plane. And that's if it goes well.

Our plane was on the ground and had a problem which was put down to high winds. I wasn't sure if I wanted to take off in a plane that had a problem with wind on the ground. The problem was sorted but we'd missed our landing slot at Geneva. The captain told us we had a 9am slot, which seemed all right until it was pointed out that it wasn't a landing time but a take-off time.

We touched down in Geneva at 11am local time, queued to get through passport control and waited 30 minutes for bags. I picked up the hire car and finally got on the road at 12.15pm. Was it still possible to get a ski in?

The resort transfer time in the glossy brochure stated two-and-a-half hours, but this must have presumed a clear road. On change-over Saturday, with everybody else heading to the Alps, it was a three-and-a-half hour crawl.

I arrived at the resort, at last, at 3.40pm. I got a lift pass and hired the skis (with everybody else); now it was 4.30pm. The lifts shut. Tired, no skiing, huge footprint – what a slam dunk.

Simon Pearce

Air facts: How to get there by plane

EasyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com) flies from London Gatwick to Geneva from £54 return, including taxes. Carriage of skis and snowboards cost £35 return each, plus a baggage charge of £12 return per item. One week's car hire costs £94 through easycar.com, plus petrol. Actual journey time eight hours 45 minutes.

The carbon footprint is 150kg per passenger return trip, plus 36kg per passenger per return car journey from Geneva to La Rosière.

The Train

The pitch for the Eurostar Ski Train is simple: its Friday-night service deposits skiers and boarders in the heart of the Alps for the crack of dawn, giving them a whole day's fun while plane-bound passengers don't arrive until late Saturday afternoon.

Arriving at the splendidly restored St Pancras station with time to spare before my 8.31pm departure, I discovered that the place to be was the Betjeman bar, which is hidden in a remote corner of the concourse. The place was cluttered with the skis and snowboards of excited skiers and boarders and the place was buzzing with an après-ski vibe.

Happily, there were no crowds at check-in and I was helped along by ever-smiling and courteous staff. I breezed into the departure lounge in minutes. How civilised is that?

There were still more impossibly charming staff in attendance on the platform to check my ticket and guide me to my seat and, as we glided out of London, the train's chief conductor came on the PA: "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard the Eurostar express service to the French Alps!" An excited cheer rippled through the packed carriage.

A couple of hours further down the track I checked out the train's infamous disco carriage only to find a flank of stony-faced security guards who ensure that the mood is more frosty than chilled. Anyway, more importantly, I had missed the bar that had just closed at 11pm. Bugger. I headed back to my seat and, for the next five or so hours, tried to get some kip in increasing discomfort as we rattled towards the Alps.

Eventually, I drifted off but, at a little after 5am, on came the lights and soon after we pulled into Moûtiers, the hopping-off point for the major resorts of Courchevel and Méribel. Then, around an hour later, we reached Bourg Saint-Maurice where the train terminates. Feeling rubbish from just a few hours' sleep, I stumbled out on to the platform and into the minibus which, in just 20 minutes, whisked me up the mountain to La Rosière.

To be honest, I just wanted to crawl into bed, but with the lifts opening in about two hours and the promise of near-deserted pistes, I prescribed myself a heavy dose of caffeine and sugar. Besides, sleep is for softies.

Simon Birch

Rail facts: How to get there by train

The Eurostar Ski Train (08705 186186; eurostar.com) runs from London St Pancras to Bourg Saint-Maurice, with drop-offs for other major French ski resorts, from 20 December to 18 April. Return fares costs from £179 with no charge for skis, snowboards or baggage. Actual journey time nine hours 20 minutes.

Rail Europe runs an overnight Friday service, the Snow Train, to the French Alps, changing in Paris, from 16 January to 3 April. Fares cost from £229 return. SNCF runs regular services to the French Alps from Paris. Prices start at £99 return for day trains from London via Paris to Bourg Saint-Maurice or £119 return for overnight trains on the same route. Both can be booked through Rail Europe (0844 848 4070; raileurope.co.uk).

Crystal Ski (0871 231 2256; crystalski.co.uk) offers a week in La Rosière in the four-star Les Cimes Blanches apartments for £429 per person, based on eight sharing, including return flights from Gatwick to Chambéry, Lyon or Grenoble. Ask about discounts on train travel. Self-drive options are also available.

The carbon footprint by train is 24kg per passenger return trip.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee