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The French Alps ski specialist

Discover the Northern French Alps by Train

image Wednesday, 03, January, 2024

Most people would assume that flying is the quickest and easiest way to get to the Northern Alps; taking the train can actually take less time and it has a range of perks, especially for families! For those who prefer to leave the car at home; they can appreciate beautiful scenery, really enjoy their journey to the Northern French Alps, make the journey part of the holiday, and spend quality family time together. Another big perk of train travel is it’s far more environmentally friendly compared to flying.  

There are a few different options for route via train to the Northern Alps; you can catch the Eurostar Snow Train, a new service that runs from London St Pancras to Lille, where you make a simple platform change, before speeding down to the Alps. Alternatively, another option is taking the Eurostar to Paris and changing to pick up a TGV, run by SNCF, to the closest train station to your chosen resort. With routes to suit all needs, taking the train to the Northern French Alps couldn’t be easier.  

Other reasons you should consider taking the train to the Northern Alps: 

Excellent value compared to flying on peak dates: 

- Train ticket prices can generally be cheaper than flights, especially on peak dates like the school holidays


Enjoy the scenery:

- You can watch the beautiful French countryside fly by through the windows. It certainly beats the view of the inside of an airport!

- TIP - play eye-spy with the kids to keep them occupied. With the scenery constantly changing, there will be lots of new things to guess! 


Great for kids:

- Taking the train gives children more freedom; there's more space, more leg room and wider aisles. On some trains there's on-board Wi-Fi to keep the whole family happy.

Free ski carriage:

- You pay absolutely nothing for your ski carriage whilst on board - airlines can charge more than £70 per item!


It's quicker than flying: 

- Not on all routes, and it does depend where you're staying. But with the train you can cut out a few steps, like waiting for the plane to take off.. 


On-board cafes: 

- The on-board buffet serves snacks, hot meals, hot and cold drinks; making it ideal to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat. Great when kids decide they're hungry - you can continue your journey without stopping. 


Staff Reviews

Alison says: 

When my son was almost one, we travelled to the Alps by train for a week's skiing in Samoëns. We took the Eurostar to Paris then broke up the journey with a night in a hotel, which meant that we weren't spending too long on trains in one day and gave us a proper break. It also meant that we could take a train at a reasonable hour the next day, which didn't interrupt our morning routine, and arrive mid-afternoon at our destination station. We travelled to Cluses which is the nearest station to Samoëns (just 20km away), which made for a short transfer. My son loved the journey, he was entertained by the view out of the window as the French countryside whizzed past, but he also loved playing with his cars at our seat and having the occasional toddle up and down the aisle. With no changes, we could sit back and relax from Paris all the way to Cluses. It was also nice to have uninterrupted quality family time; reading books together, playing games and singing nursery rhymes (possibly that one was nicer for us than the other passengers).

The buffet car on the train was great for coffees but we'd stocked up on snacks before leaving Paris (there's a Monoprix mini supermarket in most big stations in Paris and they are great for picking up good value snacks for the train as well as salads and sandwiches if you want to take a lunch with you on-board). We had a super portable light travel cot (a LittleLife Arc one that was designed like a tent), which was easy to bring with us, and most self-catering properties will offer you the loan of a highchair if you need one (and cot too if needed). Depending on the property, some also offer the loan of bottle warmers, changing mats, and even socket guards, making it easier to travel light with little ones.


Alison's top tips for train journeys with children: 

Take plenty to do - French children's magazines are a novelty; there are plenty with Mickey and Friends cartoons; cards are a must, Snap or Dobble (the Peak Retreats' team loved playing this on a recent trip!); toy cars or trains that can be played on the fold-down table at your seat.


Bring plenty of snacks (as well as familiar snacks from home). You can always nip into the supermarket at Gare du Nord, and get some snacks that you can't get in the UK as well.


Travelling with a baby? Most TGV have a nursery area and toilets with changing tables, whilst staff at the buffet will be happy to reheat a bottle or meal for children under 3.


Practice some simple French phrases while you're en-route - we have a great blog full of these phrases here!


When your children are old enough, if they each take a small suitcase or rucksack then you don't have as much to carry!

Bring a mystery bag of things to do, and don't let the children look inside! You can get something different out each hour - from colouring activities to word search book and little puzzles, keep them guessing! 


Get your older children to follow the route on a map - the TGV portal has an interactive map where you can track your journey


Get on the Wi-Fi! On a long journey, it's nice to have options, and being able to watch a film is a nice way to pass a couple of hours. The TGV portal has access to a small selection of animated films and comedies suited to families. You can also watch documentaries and play games (including Sudoku).


Invest in some good neck pillows for when you need a nap


Our ski expert Yulia travelled to the Alps by train last season - here are her top tips for train travel with children: 

Stay overnight in Paris the night before your train to the Alps - this makes the trip more enjoyable by breaking it up, and it means that you can arrive in resort early on Saturday morning to get your ski hire and maybe even enjoy some early quiet time on the slopes! An overnight stay also means your children aren't overtired from the travelling! 


Whilst the train has Wi-Fi, Yulia would recommend downloading some movies/TV shows to keep little ones entertained, as the Wi-Fi has tendency to be slow at times. 


Prebook your metro tickets if you're heading to the Alps through Paris. It cuts down the wait time in the station, meaning you don't have to wait for tickets with antsy kids! 

Bring a packed lunch! The train will have a food cart, but if you have a slightly fussier eater, it's always good to pack snacks and a packed lunch just in case. 


Leave yourself slightly longer between your trains on the way home. Yulia would suggest 2.5hrs between trains in Paris, to factor in transfer time and toilet trips before the next train. 


Peak Retreats can organise taxi transfer from the train station to the resort; often these only take 20 minutes! It's always better to prebook these taxi's so you don't have to wait for an available taxi. We can also organise transfers between stations in Paris - this cuts out the metro completely!

Yulia said:

I loved travelling by train - the short transfer time from the station and the fact it saves so much time, is a win win. It's great for children and we wouldn't hesitate to take the train to the Alps again!

Resorts that are easy access by train

There are several great resorts in the Northern Alps that are easy to access by train, and have a short transfer from the train station. We've picked out five, but there are so many other resorts that are easy to access by train - find out more here.


Train to Les Arcs:

The ultimate resort for ease of travel by train is Les Arcs, situated in the Paradiski ski area, you can catch the train to Bourg Saint Maurice. 

From the train station, the funicular takes just 7 minutes to reach Arc 1600, and runs every 20 minutes - it's also fully electric! From Arc 1600 you can hop on the free shuttle bus service (these run from 07.30-19.40).

Alternatively, Peak Retreats can organise a private transfer from Bourg Saint Maurice station. Les Arcs is just 10 miles from the station, and this would take approximately 20 minutes.

Ski Area:

Les Arcs forms part of the massive Paradiski ski area, which also includes La Plagne - giving skiers access to 425km of piste with terrain to suit all abilities. The resort is a great place for mixed-ability groups, with a choice of green and blue pistes, as well as more challenging red, black and 'nature' pistes for the expert skiers in the family.

In Arc 2000, the highest of all villages that make up Les Arcs, there are three progressive beginner areas with magic carpets and chairlifts designed for skiers to practice their first turns. The ski area can be enjoyed using just blue pistes, allowing for a gentle pace of skiing. 

Throughout the area there are dedicated 'Ski Tranquille' slow skiing and snowboarding spots, dotted around - they let like-minded skiers enjoy the slower pace without the worry of holding up other skiers. 

Family Friendly reasons to stay in Les Arcs:


Les Arcs was awarded the P'tits Montagnards label - this guarantees high quality facilities for children and their parents whilst holidaying in the mountains; whether that's fun slopes in the Les Cabanes or Le Foret des Pitchouns, or warm picnic rooms (with toilet facilities!) on the slopes. 


The wide choice of accommodation means that you can find somewhere with a good location for you, whether that be ski-in/ski-out, doorstep skiing, close to amenities, or near the ski school meeting point!

Great after ski activities - if the children still have energy after a day on the slopes, there is a wide choice of after-ski activities like toboggan runs, the indoor aquatic centre, a 3km luge track, an exhilarating zip-wire, and so much more! 


70% of the ski area is above 2000m, meaning there is skiing to be had from December to April, ideal for school holiday dates, especially Easter! 


Train to Samoëns:

Just 20km away, Cluses is the closest train station to Samoëns, meaning you can be in resort in just under 30 minutes. Peak Retreats can prebook private taxi transfers from the station to continue the ease of train travel. Samoëns itself is a beautiful historic ski village with a pedestrianised area around a covered marketplace at its heart (where activities are organised by the tourist office). We love the traditional feel of the resort with its narrow streets, ancient trees and old stone church – a great place to explore for non-skiers in the family too.  

Ski Area:

Lift-linked to the fourth largest ski area in France, the Grand Massif, Samoëns has access to 265km of slopes, with large beginners’ areas and plenty of intermediate cruising and fun zones across the ski area (slopes with tunnels to whizz through, bells to ring and foam blocks to avoid!). The ease of skiing from resort to resort in the Grand Massif means the whole family can get a real sense of achievement.  

Family Friendly reasons to stay in Samoëns:


Samoëns 1600 has a large beginner’s area, ideal for those who have never put skis on before, and perfect for families with mixed abilities. Samoëns is host to one of the largest beginners’ areas in the Haute-Savoie. It includes 1 gondola, 1 family-orientated area with children’s garden, leisure area and sledging slope, 7 easy ski lifts, 1 covered carpet and fun slopes for some different fun. 


Great choice of activities for kids – from dog sledding, tobogganing, a beautiful ice rink and even a mountain coaster.

Skiers under 8 ski free in the Grand Massif, and there are special rates for 8–15-year-olds. This makes it great value for those with younger children. 


Samoëns has its own tourist train – you can enjoy a guided tour of the village in the ‘Septitrain’. A fun way to discover the resort at a gentle pace. Brilliant for little ones with little legs! 


Train to Les Saisies: 

Albertville is the best train station to access Les Saisies. A slightly longer transfer time, you can reach Les Saisies in just under an hour, with a 25km journey. Much like the train, with a longer transfer, you can enjoy the scenery without having to do the drive yourself! 

Ski Area: 

Les Saisies’ proximity to Mont Blanc ensures good snow cover in resort, alongside stunning views. Known as a major centre for cross-country skiing, with 120km of tracks, Les Saisies boasts the largest Nordic area in France. However, it also offers a huge range of downhill skiing, with its above-average snow conditions, and plenty of slopes to choose from within the 192km of piste, with something for everyone. The gentle mountain slopes in the beginners’ area are great for building confidence and La Montagnes des Elfes fun slope has banked curves and tunnels for when children and parents want to challenge themselves.  

Family Friendly reasons to stay in Samoëns:


Les Saisies is a family-orientated village offering glorious views across to the Mont Blanc. The resort itself is a vibrant one, full of great après-ski for the whole family. With 18 restaurants, there’s lots of choice for a family evening out.


There are 3 rope tows available for children who are too small to take a chairlift; at Les Trolles, Les Lutins and Les Gobelins. They are safe and easy to use for beginners, and they are free! Amazing for a first introduction to skiing or snowboarding without paying for the full lift pass price. 

Family-friendly après-activities including the mountain twister, dog-sledding experience for kids ages 3 to 7 and horse drawn sleigh rides. A wide variety of activities to experience for the first time! 


Les Saisies benefits from above-average snow conditions, making it a great location to go in off-peak times with younger children who aren’t tied to the school holiday dates. Quieter slopes and less expensive – ideal for first time ski holidays. 


Train to Val Thorens: 

You can catch the high-speed TGV from Paris to Moûtiers Salins Brides-Les-Bains and reach Val Thorens in under an hour via transfer. The resort is the highest in Europe so you can be sure of great snow conditions. This purpose-built resort is a great choice for families with children of junior and senior school age; there is a wealth of activities from the 6km (!) long Cosmojet toboggan run, to a natural outdoor ice rink and state of the art sports centre with indoor play area. 

Ski Area: 

Val Thorens is part of the 3 Valleys, the largest ski area in the world – skiers often regard it as the greatest intermediate ski-playground. Whilst good for high level skiers, it also has brilliant areas for beginners (including its easy ride zones), and families (the VT family park is a snowpark that the whole family can enjoy with bumps, jumps and slalom sections all with a space theme). You can enjoy 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks and feel on top of the world at the peak of the Cime Caron cable car.  

Family Friendly reasons to stay in Val Thorens: 


Voted World’s Best Ski Resort in this year's World Snow Awards, Val Thorens has also been awarded the ‘Famille Plus’ label, a national label highlighting resorts that respond qualitatively to the expectations of families with children from 18 months old. Each resort must meet 110 requirements to receive this label! 


A vibrant and outgoing ski resort with fabulous day and nightlife – ideal for all age groups  

The large beginners’ area is perfect for first-time and low-level skiers and boarders due to its wide slopes. The access is free, so you don’t have to worry about investing in a lift pass until you are more comfortable on the snow. This is also where the ski lessons take place for beginners. 


Val Thorens has a sunny, west-facing mountainside. Great for children in ski lessons, as they can enjoy good conditions to learn in!


Train to Alpe d’Huez:  

The closest train station to Alpe d’Huez is Grenoble. Catch the TGV down to the Gare de Grenoble, and with an hour-long transfer you can find yourself in the picturesque resort of Alpe d’Huez. Located on a fully south-facing plateau, the resort offers glorious sunshine all day long – up to 7 ½ hours per day in December and 11 per day during April – ideal conditions for ski school lessons!  

Ski Area: 

Part of Isère, France's third biggest mountain destination, skiing in the Alpe d’Huez Grand Domaine ski area gives you 250km of piste with varied terrain for all levels; encompassing 5 resorts and 2 villages. There’s an impressive 21-hectare snow park for intermediates, and if you’re not quite there yet, there are two family-friendly themed boarder cross/fun slopes too (Marcel’s Farm – Marcel is a cow, and Chez Roger – Roger is a sheep!). Alpe d’Huez is known as the ‘L’ile au Soleil’, meaning ‘Island in the Sun’ - its south-facing slopes average an impressive 300 days of sunshine per year. From its position, the resort looks across the valley towards Les 2 Alpes, another resort within the Isère area.  

Family Friendly reasons to stay in Alpe d'Huez:


Alpe d’Huez is a great choice for family skiers and is proud to be a ‘Famille Plus’ resort, a label issued by the French Ministry of Tourism for the resort’s commitment to providing good facilities and a warm welcome to children and families. 

Beginners are well catered for in Alpe d’Huez with a vast array of gentle nursery slopes just above the resort. The large network of green runs above the Alpe d’Huez village is as good a nursery area as you will find anywhere.

There are few resorts that can rival the extent and variety of ski terrain. The natural bowl of the resort is conveniently divided into zones suiting different levels for both skiers and snowboarders, and with a choice of fun zones and slopes for families to ski together.

Activities wise, you couldn’t ask for a better resort. You can choose from an ice rink, mountain coaster (with virtual reality experience!), ice caves and sledging areas. 

Ready to discover the Northern French Alps by trains? Give our team of Alpine experts a call on 023 9283 9310 or send an email on and we'll find you your perfect ski holiday!

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