Tired of the usual travel to and from the mountains and bored of waiting in airport coffee shops I decided to try something a little different. So last season, instead of flying and transfers or getting to grips with the long haul drive to the mountains, I thought I would try out the snow train.
Not my first choice of transport to take me to the land of all things snowy, the train seemed like a bit of an odd ball. But what I actually found was a rather splendid, fairly stress free journey that didn’t take as long as I thought.
I’m a Somerset boy, born and raised (that’s in the Southwest UK if you didn’t know). This means that getting the snow train was not the first choice of travel, as it only goes from London, a good two and a half hours drive away. But after 14 years of either flying from a multitude of different UK airports or driving (.. being driven..) to the mountains, it was definitely time to try something new.
I started my journey in Bristol, hopping on an awfully early cheap-travel-company coach. Now, when I say early, I mean early. The coach departed at a chilly 04:30am while the night was still in full swing. Gross!
After a short sleep, I arrived in London Victoria. With no time to stop it was on to the tube towards St Pancras International train station. Thankfully being a Saturday there wasn’t too many people, as I can tell you now that hauling all your ski baggage around the tube is not great fun!
Onwards and upwards! A couple of quick stops and I had arrived in St Pancras International train station. What a great place. Just as you imagine an old station should look, but with a shopping centre inside of it! If you’re passing through, don’t forget to look upwards at the glorious glass and metal roof.
Once inside, you find your way to the snow train platform, which is downstairs and through near airport–grade security. Baggage scans and pat downs, the works. But, it’s and international train, so I suppose it needs it.
The train itself is pretty spacious, with squishy seats and large windows to take in the cross country views. The one thing the train doesn’t actually do too well with is luggage space. People take a lot of bags with them skiing, this was somewhat under-estimated when the train was thought out. So much so that they needed to fill the specially reserved baggage seats with bags piled to the ceiling.
But apart from that, the train seemed pretty comfortable, and I was looking forward to the journey ahead.
On the way and the train seemed to be gunning it, I didn’t think the journey was going to take close to 8 hours to reach my destination of Moûtiers at the bottom of the French Alps.
I’m a pretty good journey sleeper when it comes to long haul travel. I sit back, drop on the chilled tunes and nap it out. This journey was to be the same as usual, though I made sure to take in some of the [rather flat] scenic views over France, and there was of course the obligatory get yourself pumped ski video to be watched too, as well as the enormous packed lunch to be consumed along the way.
It seemed to me that everyone on the train had the same idea as me. Look out the window for a bit, listen to music, watch a movie on your tablet of choice and eat masses of food. There were those who thought it would be fun to consume their weight in alcohol on the train, which I didn’t agree with, especially when there are kids and families around. Save it for the Aprés!
Things were kept very civilised though, so all was well and the travellers seemed happy.
The train flew it’s way across France and only made a few stops, meaning it felt quite quick when it came to disembark our carriage at Moûtiers. With the sun still in the sky outside, we grabbed up our bags from the piles near the doorway and stepped off the train onto the open platform, it felt like I’d landed in the mountains with hardly making a journey.
Gathering ourselves and checking the luggage over we headed out the station to find our taxi. A lovely local French lady greeted us and lead us to the taxi a few metres away from the station exit.
Half an hour later we were up the mountain and arriving at the chalet to meet the rest of my family who had already arrived.
I was amazed at the speed we had got the mountains, which would have been even faster and easier if we had actually lived in London, like most of the passengers on the train probably did.
If you’re thinking of a different route to the mountains this season or next, consider the snow train. It’s something different, and much less stressful than an airport or attempting to navigate yourself across France in a car.
Have you taken the snow train before? What was your experience? Let me know on Twitter @mountainandco or in the comments below!
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Until next time.