Plane vs Train to the Slopes


For independent travel to the Alps, which costs more: plane or train? While train travel might be more comfortable, relaxing and environmentally friendly, it is often assumed to be far more expensive than flying. However, new research by independent rail-ski website Snowcarbon reveals that in many cases the opposite is true – with train travel giving significant savings over flying.

The research compares return fares from London to six ski resorts in different ski areas of the French Alps for each week between 19th December 2015 and 2nd April 2016. Three journey options were compared, for adults and for children (aged 4-11), with or without skis, starting at either Gatwick Airport or St Pancras International rail station, and ending at the Alpine accommodation door. These are:

• EasyJet flight + shared taxi transfer
• Daytime travel on the direct Eurostar Ski Train + private taxi
• Daytime travel on the new direct Eurostar service to Lyon + local train + private taxi.

Research examples

1. A family of four with two children (aged between 4 and 11) but without skis would pay a total of £1,956 for return air travel to La Plagne at Easter. Travelling on the direct Eurostar Ski Train instead, they would pay £1,132 – a saving of £824. Travelling via Lyon, meanwhile, would cost them only £756 in total.

2. A group of four friends travelling to Meribel on 9th January, two with skis and two without, would pay £972 in total. Travelling on the direct Eurostar Ski Train would cost them £788, while travelling via Lyon instead would cost £644.

3. Travelling to the resort of Les Gets at Feb half term, a family of four with kids aged between four and 11, travelling without skis would pay £2,882, in total. By contrast, travelling on the new train route via Lyon would cost them only £1,252 – less than half the price.

4. Air travel for a Christmas escape would cost an adult couple, both bringing skis, £630. If they opted for the direct Ski Train, the cost would be higher, at £674. However, travelling via Lyon would cost them only £466.

5. Calculated over the whole season, the average weekly cost for an adult travelling by plane to Alpe d’Huez, without skis, is £240. This compares to an average cost of £202 for adults travelling by train, via Lyon.
The full research, with prices for every date for all six resorts, can be seen here:
Additional resorts will be added to the research in due course, to add to the data resource.
“Skiers often tell me that they would prefer to travel to the Alps by train, but imagine that it costs far more than flying,” says Snowcarbon Founder, Daniel Elkan. “This research provides a useful snapshot-comparison of the costs and is quite an eye-opener. Unfortunately, the myth that it’s always cheaper to fly, combined with an over-complicated rail-ticket system, results in thousands of skiers flying in the mistakenly belief that they are saving money. The reality is that skiers frequently end up unwittingly paying extra for a big dose of airport tedium – when in fact they could be pocketing savings and sitting in comfort on the train.”

Updated train prices – at a glance
To help skiers find out train prices more easily, Snowcarbon, in partnership with rail-booking site, has instead created a web page that shows daily updated prices for every week of the ski season, at a glance. The URL is:

‘Plane vs train – race to the Alps’ – the film
The price comparison research follows on from a real-time plane-versus-train race between Daniel Elkan (train) and fellow ski journalist Neil English (plane). Departing from London at the same time, they battle it out to be the first to sip champagne in the hot tub of a ski chalet in the resort of Meribel, France. The can be seen at: 

“When you factor in the quality of the time spent on the train spent with family or friends, where you have room to move about great scenery to enjoy, rail travel becomes better value still,” says Elkan. “The challenge is to enable more skiers to discover these rail options, so that instead of a happy minority enjoying train travel to the Alps, it’s the majority.”