Posted on 21 September 2023
When looking at where people go from London to ski, there is one clear winner: France. Although places like Scotland offer skiing conditions, they can’t match the French alpine plateaus that turn blanket white when ski season starts. Additionally, France is the world’s top skiing destination, with people coming from as far as the USA to experience the snow conditions, mountain restaurants, and their favourite resorts.
Of course, Brits are eager to hop over the channel, and short distance for premier ski conditions. Such is the eagerness; many Brits look to own property for an investment as well as base for a quick getaway. British skiers love the French alpine mountains that also host celebrities, royalty and influential business people worldwide. With that in mind, let’s look at the popular destinations, what to know about the Alps and how to get there.
Where People go from London to Ski
About the Eurostar Ski Train
The Eurostar snow train journey, often called “the Eurostar ski train” or “snow trains”, runs from December to February, from London St Pancras train station to popular ski resorts in the French Alps, including Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Moûtiers, and Aime-la-Plagne. Direct train travel makes it easier to reach the mountains without needing flights or sleeper trains.
The Eurostar snow train provides convenient and eco-friendly ways to access ski resorts. Passengers bring their ski equipment on board, and there are luggage storage areas to accommodate winter sports gear. Food is also on board, updates on the latest snow reports, and skiers can reduce carbon emissions.
Although you have to grab connections at Lille Europe, the Eurostar train ski itinerary stops off at Chambéry, Albertville, Moûtiers-Salins-Brides-Les-Bains, Aime-la-Plagne, and Bourg-St-Maurice train station, which in turns opens up other ski resorts. From the Bourg-St-Maurice station, also get coaches to nearby Val Thorens, Val d’Isère, Courchevel, La Tania, Tignes, Meribel, or Les Menuires.
The Eurostar snow train ski itinerary runs from London St Pancras train station every Saturday and returns from the Alps every Sunday morning. Hence, you must make a week of it, unless you decide to return by plane. Overall, it is 8 hours by train, but there are beautiful journeys along the way.
Other Ways to Visit the French Alps
Gare De Lyon, a famous train station in Paris, can be used to get to the French Alps. The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) is France’s high-speed train service and often the quickest way to reach the Alps. Catch a TGV train from Gare de Lyon to major cities like Lyon or Grenoble, where you can then transfer to regional trains or buses to reach your final destination in the Alps.
TER trains (Transport Express Régional) are regional trains that serve various towns and cities. Depending on destinations, take a TER train directly from Gare de Lyon to your Alpine location. Book train tickets online through the official SNCF (French National Railway) website, at the train station, or through various travel agencies and online platforms.
Alternatively, Geneva Airport is famous for air travel. On average, direct flights from Geneva Airport (GVA) to London airports such as London Heathrow Airport (LHR), London Gatwick Airport (LGW), or London City Airport (LCY) is a 90-minute flight to 2 hours. Please read our article on the closest airports to Geneva.
Extensive Skiing in the French Alps
The French Alps, also called “Alpes françaises” in French, are stunning mountain ranges in southeastern France that attract advanced skiers and beginners. They are part of the more extensive European Alps stretching across several countries. From snow sports to excellent restaurants and mountain gondolas to quick access to world-class slopes, the French Alps stretch to the Swiss and Italian borders in the north and east.
The Alps are characterized by rugged mountain terrain, deep valleys, and pristine lakes. It is home to some of Europe’s most iconic peaks, including Mont Blanc, Europe’s tallest mountain in Western at 4,809 meters (15,778 feet) above sea level. Other notable peaks include the Matterhorn, Ecrins, and Vanoise Massif. The French Alps are divided into several regions, each with unique character and attractions. Some major areas include:
- Haute-Savoie: Known for beautiful lakes like Lake Annecy, charming alpine towns, and proximity to Mont Blanc.
- Savoie: Home to Courchevel, Méribel, and Val d’Isère.
- Isère: Features the city of Grenoble and Oisans region with alpine landscapes.
- Alpes-de-Haute-Provence: Offers mixed alpine and Provencal landscapes.
- Alpes-Maritimes: Contains the southernmost part and the Mercantour National Park.
Visitors enjoy winter skiing and hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and paragliding in the summer. The region also offers mountaineering opportunities. Landscapes dotted with pristine lakes like Lake Geneva and Lake Annecy, include lush meadows, dense forests, and high-altitude glaciers. The region has incredible wildlife, including ibex, chamois, marmots, and eagles, and in protected areas like the Vanoise National Park, visitors observe these creatures in their natural habitats.
In addition to outdoor activities, the French Alps offer various tourist attractions, such as cable cars and cogwheel trains, that provide access to high-altitude viewpoints and hiking trails. The French Alps connect by road, rail, and air, making getting there incredibly easy. Significant cities like Grenoble, Lyon, and Geneva have airports, and high-speed train services link the region with other parts of France and neighbouring countries.
Beautiful Slopes in Les Arcs, France
Catch the Eurostar snow train and get off at Bourg-Saint-Maurice, then take a bus or taxi to Les Arcs, which takes roughly 60 minutes and leaves you plenty of time on the slopes. Les Arcs is popular with many British skiers, and taxi prices from the train station are affordable. If you don’t own your own ski property, there is plenty of choice of accommodation, and ski shops rent out equipment.
Les Arcs Alpine Ski Resort in Tarentaise Valley comprises several interconnected villages at varying altitudes. The resort is celebrated not only for stunning natural beauty but also for exceptional ski terrain. Les Arcs provides well-groomed slopes, from gentle runs for learners to black diamond trails for the more experienced.
Additionally, Les Arcs belongs to the Paradiski ski area, including the neighbouring resort of La Plagne. This vast ski domain offers over 400 kilometres of interconnected slopes, ensuring ample terrain to explore. Beyond skiing, Les Arcs also provides off-slope activities, from snowshoeing and ice skating to vibrant après-ski options, making the resort well-rounded for memorable winter vacations. (More about Les Arcs.)
French Resort of Chamonix
Travelling from London to Chamonix typically combines train, bus, or flight. The most common and convenient way to visit Chamonix is by flying from London to Geneva Airport in Switzerland. Numerous flights are available from London airports (e.g., Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, or London City) to Geneva. From Geneva Airport, take a transfer or a shuttle bus to Chamonix. The journey time is approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. Pre-book transfer services or find shuttle buses at the airport.
Some coach companies offer direct services from London to Chamonix during winter. These journeys are typically overnight, and the duration can vary but is usually longer than other options. If you prefer to drive, rent a car in London and take the Eurotunnel or ferry to Calais, France. The journey takes 8 to 9 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.
Chamonix Centre offers extreme terrain but also a boundless natural landscape. Ski trips often turn out to be fun for the whole family, and you can also take day trips to other nearby resorts. Chamonix’s world-famous ski resort offers ski lifts to various ski areas, well-designed nursery slopes, and backcountry access. The Aiguille du Midi Cable Car also transports visitors from Chamonix to Aiguille du Midi high mountain peak with breathtaking views of the Mont Blanc massif. It’s not a ski lift but famous for tourists and mountaineers. (More about Chamonix.) Other cable cars and Gondola lifts to the slopes.
- In Argentière village, this cable car provides access to the Grands Montets ski area with access to off-piste runs.
- Brevent cable car, also called Planpraz cable car, goes from Chamonix to the Brevent ski area. From here, access slopes suitable for all levels and enjoy panoramic valley views.
- Flégère cable car, also called La Flégère lift, provides access to the Flégère ski area, which offers various slopes and off-piste opportunities.
- Les Houches ski area, a short distance from Chamonix, has several ski lifts, including gondolas, to access the slopes.
- In Les Granges, this ski lift serves slopes for beginners and intermediate skiers.
- In Chamonix Valley’s northern region, you’ll find the Le Tour and Vallorcine ski areas with several ski lifts that provide access to various slopes.
- Balme ski area has ski lifts that serve mixed slopes.
Tignes and Val D’Isère
Tignes and Val d’Isère are two separate but interconnected ski resorts. They belong to the Espace Killy ski area and are among France’s most popular and renowned ski destinations. You can take day trips between the town resorts.
Tignes, in the Savoie region’s Tarentaise Valley, sits at a high altitude, offering excellent snow conditions throughout the ski season. The resort offers everything from gentle beginner runs to off-piste and expert-level terrain. Tignes also boasts some of Europe’s highest skiable landscape, including the Grande Motte glacier, which provides skiing opportunities even in summer.
There are several villages to choose from, including Tignes Le Lac, Tignes Val Claret, Tignes Les Boisses, and Tignes Les Brévières. Each village has its own character and amenities, from restaurants and shops to accommodations. Beyond skiing, Tignes provides snowshoeing, decent après ski, ice diving, ice climbing, and more. There’s also an indoor sports centre with a swimming pool, fitness facilities, and spa.
Val d’Isère not far from Tignes in the Tarentaise Valley, also belongs to the Espace Killy ski area, and the two resorts are linked by lifts and slopes. Val d’Isère earns fame for extensive ski terrain and challenging slopes, and exceptional off-piste opportunities. For aesthetics, the village of Val d’Isère exudes alpine charm with traditional architecture, cobblestone streets, lively atmospheres, luxury hotels and cosy chalets.
Val d’Isère, surrounded by alpine landscapes, sits in the picturesque Vanoise National Park, and together with Tignes offers unparalleled skiing experiences with reliable snow conditions, amenities and activities. (About Tignes.)
Delightful Serre Chevalier
Serre Chevalier, a renowned ski resort in the southeastern Hautes-Alpes region near the Italian border, is one of France’s largest ski resorts, with extensive ski terrain, stylish shops, charming alpine villages, and beautiful natural surroundings. Serre Chevalier, approximately 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of Grenoble and 160 kilometres (99 miles) south of Geneva offers vast ski areas with over 250 kilometres (155 miles) of slopes, making it one of the Southern Alps’ most extensive ski domains.
The ski terrain attracts beginners to advanced riders. Numerous slopes include gentle runs for learners and challenging trails for experts. The resort has excellent snow conditions throughout winter, and its high-altitude skiing areas ensure reliable snow cover.
Serre Chevalier comprises several picturesque villages, including Briançon, Chantemerle (Saint-Chaffrey), Villeneuve (La Salle les Alpes), and Monêtier-les-Bains. Each village has unique character, accommodations, restaurants, like Briançon, a UNESCO World Heritage site with historic fortifications.
Beyond skiing, Serre Chevalier offers winter activities, such as snowshoeing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. The region also earns fame for natural hot springs, like the thermal baths of Monêtier-les-Bains. The resort’s vibrant après-ski scene with bars, restaurants, and stylish shops is where visitors unwind and socialize after a long day on the slopes.
Crans Montana in Switzerland- Another Favourite with the Brits
So, if France isn’t your cup of tea, there is also the nearby Swiss Alps. Crans-Montana, a Swiss ski resort town in the Valais canton of Switzerland, boasts a stunning alpine setting, excellent ski facilities, and recreational activities. On a sunny plateau, Crans-Montana, overlooking the Rhône Valley, is approximately 180 kilometres (112 miles) from Geneva. It can be reached by car, train, or helicopter. Crans-Montana’s varied terrain offers 140 kilometres (87 miles) of groomed slopes, and several ski schools in Crans-Montana have experienced instructors who can provide lessons and guidance.
Where to Ski in the UK
So, if you can’t make it to France or are just looking for a day trip out, there are places and indoor centres in the UK. Albeit you will compromise on the snow quality, but for a fun weekend, look at the following indoor and outdoor centres.
Yad Moss in the northern Pennines is one of England’s few places to enjoy downhill skiing during winter. Yad Moss is in Cumbria, near Alston village, one of England’s highest market towns. The slope is relatively short compared to those in major alpine resorts. Still, it provides a convenient opportunity for people to enjoy winter sports.
The ski season at Yad Moss is weather-dependent, as it relies on natural snowfall. Typically, it opens during winter when there is enough snow cover, which may vary from year to year. As such, the centre does not have fixed opening and closing dates. Yad Moss is accessible by road, and parking is available near the ski slope. It’s relatively remote compared to well-known ski areas, so visitors should plan their trip accordingly.
The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead also makes for an excellent birthday party. Sandown Ski Centre, also called Sandown Sports in Esher, Surrey, offers skiing experiences on artificial slopes, and lessons are conducted by qualified instructors who can provide guidance and help participants. Brentwood Park Ski & Snowboard Centre lessons are also taught by experienced and certified instructors for those looking to enhance their skiing or snowboarding skills.
Hillend Ski Centre sits in Pentland Hills Regional Park, approximately 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) south of Edinburgh’s city centre. The centre boasts several artificial dry ski slopes and terrain parks. The main slope is the UK’s longest, measuring around 400 meters. It offers skiing opportunities for all experience levels, from beginners to advanced riders. Hillend Ski Centre also offers skiing lessons for both children and adults.
Snozone Milton Keynes is within the Xscape building in Milton Keynes. The facility features natural snow slopes, regardless of weather conditions outside. The indoor snow is created using snowmaking equipment, ensuring a consistent snow surface. Snozone Milton Keynes offers several slope options for different levels, including a main slope and a separate beginner slope. The main slope suits experienced skiers, while the beginner slope is ideal for those new to the sport.
Qualified instructors offer group and private lessons, making it an excellent place to learn and for more experienced riders to refine their techniques. There is an on-site snow sports shop to purchase or rent equipment and apparel. Snozone Milton Keynes also offers tobogganing experiences for individuals, families, and groups. The centre has a café and bar where visitors can relax, enjoy refreshments, and socialize with fellow snow enthusiasts from all around the UK.
Also about Skiing
Where to go Glacier Skiing: Feeling adventurous? So, that is where people go skiing from London, but if you really want to step it up a notch, go glacier skiing. Glacier skiing refers to skiing on glaciers. Glaciers are large, slow-moving masses of ice and snow that form in areas where more snow accumulates in winter than melts in summer. They are typically found at high altitudes throughout Europe.
Best Family Ski Resorts: When looking at France’s best family ski resorts, many destinations become ideal contenders for the podium. The French Alps offer breathtaking backdrops for your adventure. Whether your family comprises advanced skiers or first-timers, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Alongside the days of sunshine, ski touring and snowball fights, family skiing in France is a guaranteed win for lifelong memories.
Popular Alpine Ski Foods: Popular ski foods in the French Alps combine rich, hearty, and comforting flavours, deeply influenced by the Savoie region’s natural abundance and cultural heritage. Dining on alpine food highlights the captivating mountain regions. From traditional Alpine dishes to delicious regional eats, the French Alps region is home to mouth-watering cuisine that keeps you coming back for extras.