Plane, train or automobile? Travel to the Alps is a choice of convenience, cost and green credentials.
Who flies where?
Geneva is the airport of choice for the French and Western Swiss Alps with numerous daily flights with British Airways, Swiss and Easyjet. But there are alternatives. Flying to Chambery, with Flybe or Jet2, cuts down on transfer time to ski resorts in the Three Valleys (Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens), Paradiski (Les Arcs and La Plagne) and Espace Killy (Val d’Isere and Tignes). Don’t overlook the Italian airports of Milan for St Moritz and Courmayeur while Turin is closest to the Milky Way resorts. Book flights to Italy through British Airways which also flies to Grenoble (as do Jet2), a more convenient option for Les Deux Alpes and Alpe d’Huez. British Airways also has the most generous baggage allowance, carrying skis and snowboards for free. The Eastern Alps – Switzerland, Germany and Austria – are well served by Monarch airlines, with winter flights to Munich, Innsbruck (Obergurgl and Solden) and Friedrichschafen (Lech and St Anton) as well as Venice and Verona for the Dolomites. Jet2 also flies to Salzburg for Austrian ski resorts (Soll, Schladming and Alpbach).
Skyscanner is a great starting point for finding the best and cheapest flight for your trip with the option to search by airport or country, and also has a handy guide to airline charges for ski and snowboard carriage. To compare the best available deals on flights try Cheapflights.
If you plan to leave your car at an airport, it’s worth booking parking in advance. APH has car parks at most airports in the UK. Silver Shuttles also operates a transfer service to London airports, if you don’t want the hassle of getting to and from the airport at home.
I drove all night to get to Sauze d’Oulx
Extreme (and City) types will relish the challenge of an all-nighter to the snow. For a more leisurely journey, the French autoroutes are littered with convenient stopping points, like the cheap and cheerful Ibis and Etap hotels. Driving can be the cheapest option if your car is full and you book the Channel crossing, by ferry or Eurotunnel, in advance.
There are a few other things to bear in mind before strapping skis to the car roof and heading to the hills. When driving through Europe, motorists must carry an emergency kit (available from Halfords) – of a fluro jacket, emergency triangle and headlamp converters, although breathalysers are not a requirement. In some countries it’s compulsory for cars to be equipped with snow tyres in Alpine regions over the winter months (and you’ll be thankful for them when there’s a black ice on the roads), while in others it is essential to carry snow chains and to be them on where indicated. The AA has more information on this.
It can be a struggle to get all that ski kit in the car. Roof boxes add extra space though take some de-icer in case the locks freeze (speaking from experience)!
While the Snow Train may no longer choo choo (RIP), the Eurostar Ski Train offers an alternative. Seen as the “eco” way to get to the Alps, it runs from London St Pancras and Ashford to stations for the ski resorts Les Arcs, La Plagne, La Rosiere, Val d’Isere & Tignes, Meribel, Courchevel and Val Thorens. It’s a non-stop service with daytime and overnight trains, though with reclining seats only. If you’d prefer to sleep flat, you can take the Corail Lunea sleeper train, which offers couchettes and can get you close to Chamonix, Megeve and St Gervais though most trains involve a change in Paris. For Austria, the City Night Line is a handy option for Soll, Zell Am See and Alpbach. Visit SnowCarbon for everything you need to know about traveling to the Alps by train.
Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Bansko
Bulgaria might be a bit far for a coach trip, but Snow Express runs coaches from London to 40 ski resorts in the Western Alps. Arguably the cheapest way to get to the Alps, if you miss out on the cheapest flight tickets, there is no additional charge for skis or luggage.
(Last updated: January 2014)