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2023 Drive or Train to Les Arcs

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Our last couple of trips have been by car to the Alps: Petrol, Eurotunnel, overnight Airbnbs, peage all in £720 in 2022. Great value with four in the car but the long slow drive into the resort on Saturday is a killer; we drove 70% of the way on Friday this year but Saturday's journey, predicted to be four hours by Google, turned into a 10 hour crawl.

Two questions:

What car solutions have worked for you to avoid the Saturday slog. (Our chalet for 2023 is booked and has a Saturday 4pm changeover so we can't change this.)

The alternative we're considering is the train from London St Pancras to Bourg St Maurice; much more expensive but surely a joy in comparison to the Saturday traffic!

[Flying is out for us as it's already clear that the snow is melting.]

Thanks all for any top-tips or DIY travel experience.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
The obvious solution is to use chalets with Sunday changeover, or avoid chalets in the Tarentaise / Annecy region - like you we had a horrendous Saturday journey as the major intersections (e.g, for the Chamonix valley) were backed up for miles. Saving the exit queues at Autoroute intersections (e.g. Chamonix) and exits (geting off at Amberieu-en-Bugey took a while until we managed to get across 4 lanes of traffic queuing for non-tag telepeage booths and then cruised straight through the emtpy booth on the outside), our Saturday journey from Reims was going will until we stopped for a picnic at the pictured spot here in Yenne. In retrospect was not a great idea, given how lovely it was and how long we spent. From there to Bourg St Maurice took us about 5 and a bit hours on the outbound, while the return journey was under 2.5 hours. We queued for ages to get past Alvertville, then again to get into Moutiers. At several points there are traffic lights which simply stop traffice on the autoroute, presumably aimed to keep things flowing further down, but in reality it just seemd to klead to people queueing then racing to joing the next queue. All the local exits after Ambertville were closed to stop people using the local roads in the valley too.

Anyway, as you are fixed on Saturday in the Tarentaise, it's a question of getting past the bottlenecks (Albertville / Moutiers) as early as possible, which would give you the added advantage of a possible extra day on the slopes. I'd like to try the train myself too so will keep an eye on this.

Ooh another though just occurred - why not have a cheeky day skiing at a smaller resort then roll in to the Tarentaise after the crowds
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
You don't say when your holiday is booked for.

If you go at Christmas you can usually find apartments with 8 days for the price of 7 arriving on Friday and leaving on Saturday if it is the first week of the season in the residence in question. On the final Saturday we ski till 4pm and drive a few hours to an en route hotel doing most of the journey back on Sunday which is quieter.

If arriving on Saturday we would drive to Dijon or further on Friday, ideally fill up with petrol on Friday evening and get up early on the Saturday stopping for breakfast after two hours. We would then reach the valley supermarket within the next two hours, do a shop and drive up to the resort around lunchtime. Often apartments are available a bit earlier than the official time. If not we would park in the residence carpark and go for a coffee or walk.

We never ski at half term.

If you are going to Les Arcs and the normal ski train service resumes that would definitely be a good way to travel. We have done the train many times and enjoyed it.
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@Pieandrun, I'm getting the train to the EoSB next weekend. I've been pleasantly surprised at the price. I'd have thought the costs wouldn't be that much more than driving if booked well in advance, and it works certainly be more pleasant.

Return Eurostar to Paris can be purchased for £89. Paris to Bourg return ~£100. I'm overnighting at a cheap hotel in Paris on the Friday, but during the main season there was an overnight TGV from Paris to Bourg.

I found it was worth purchasing an SCNF Advantage Card, which can be used to get discount for your plus someone accompanying you.

Like you, I'm trying to reduce my carbon footprint.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
We've done the snow train 3 times (4 / 5 years ago and not to Les Arcs but to other Tarentaise resorts) and the day train is a piece of cake.

We're south London and reckoned it was as quick, if not quicker, than the plane so better timing not just better environmentally. We've done both St Pancras and also driving out to Ashford as parking there was a doddle at the time. The only snag is the fact the snowtrain this year was solely chartered by Travelski and you couldn't buy a stand alone ticket. Not sure what the deal will be for 22/23 - there's a lot of info here https://www.seat61.com/trains-and-routes/eurostar-ski-train.htm and worth signing up to https://www.snowcarbon.co.uk/ as they seem to get slightly in advance of general public info.
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I took the overnight train to Les Arcs (and elsewhere around Bourg) a bunch of times, but sadly it is no more. I went down by train in a day in December, but ended up with a delay and a very late arrival.

The plan for next year is to get a late Eurostar to Paris on the Friday night, stay near Gare de Lyon, then take the first TGV on the Saturday morning - should arrive Bourg about 11.45, so can ski in the afternoon. I don't know if the direct snow train service will be back for next year, but changing in Paris isn't a major issue.

It's almost certainly pricier than driving if you get 4 in a car - if you can book train tickets close to when they become available I reckon you're talking £250 return each.
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Quote:

I reckon you're talking £250 return each

I stand corrected by @sugarmoma666, £189 is pretty good Very Happy
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Pieandrun, i can't help with journey specifics (only done the overnight train, which is no more, and the route is no longer relevant for me). However, if you are willing to break the journey in Paris (and pay for a hotel overnight) you can add extra days of skiing (at least the second Saturday, possibly also most of the first one) very economically. Also it feels great cruising past all those massive queues in a comfortable seat with the freedom to move around.
Cost wise, the train will probably be a little more than a car with 4 passengers, but also much more relaxing. To get the best prices, you have to book early, really early - so you'll likely book the outward journey a week before the return. It can bea little nerve wracking not knowing whether you'll get the super cheap return fares, when you pay for the outward journey. But if you're organised, it's pretty straightforward.
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@Pieandrun, From similar experiences, I think the only option is to leave early on the Saturday morning. We drive to Macon and leave there at 5am - this seems to miss the worst of the traffic and be in resort mid-morning.

With all 5 of us having our own kit, and self-catering, car is always going to be the option for us.
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Ski the Net with snowHeads
@Pieandrun Most apartment owners like us get occasional booking enquiries from our rental agents for weekdays-to-weekdays, even over the school holidays. Personally, outside the absolute guaranteed back-to-back weeks (like Christmas<>New Year) we'll consider it and if we get a pro-rata rate of 7+ days then we'll often take the booking. Basically, owners are often more flexible than you'd think - it's the website platforms that don't handle anything other then Sat<>Sat. So it's always worth asking. Of course, this is more involved than just using a bookings website, but it may be worth a try next time, just to see: you'll need to choose a couple of destinations you like and then email 'round the rental agencies. And of course, this applies principally to self-catering apartments.

My experience with our weekday bookings is that most people extend the trip a couple of days i.e. to 8/9 nights and then see if we'll do a discount on what would otherwise have to be two weeks. They seem to hope for a pro rata day rate (i.e. ((weekly rate/7) x number of days) but are realistic that there has to be some premium for flexibility. The emergence of day-rate platforms like airbnb has made this more common in recent years. For quiet periods like the 2nd-4th weeks of January an owner may feel that booking out 2 calendar weeks at 9 days pro rata rate is worth it against uncertainty that they may only see one calendar week booked over the three weeks.

We've also found that if we take a weekday booking early on, then we become the go-to apartment for other weekday bookings and the majority of the clients over the season aren't sat<>sat. So again, this is why it's worth asking the rental agency.


Last edited by Ski the Net with snowHeads on Tue 5-04-22 11:39; edited 1 time in total
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the way we've done the drive down for years to to get within about 3 hours of resort friday eve. (south of Bourg en bresse for us), then early start Sat am.
on peak weeks this has meant early enough to get past Moutiers well before 9am - straight through up to resort and find somewhere nice for breakfast, sort ski hire , passes etc at leisure and for anyone keen enough make a change and hit the slopes. (speak to the chalet see if they'll let you have a corner to change in, even if rooms aren't ready.)
outside of peak weeks traffic in is not so much of a problem, so now often taking an early breakfast at stopover (usually the excitment and draw of the hills gets us up anyway).
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
LaForet wrote:
@Pieandrun Most apartment owners like us get occasional booking enquiries from our rental agents for weekdays-to-weekdays, even over the school holidays. Personally, outside the absolute guaranteed back-to-back weeks (like Christmas<>New Year) we'll consider it and if we get a pro-rata rate of 7+ days then we'll often take the booking. Basically, owners are often more flexible than you'd think - it's the website platforms that don't handle anything other then Sat<>Sat. So it's always worth asking. Of course, this is more involved than just using a bookings website, but it may be worth a try next time, just to see: you'll need to choose a couple of destinations you like and then email 'round the rental agencies. And of course, this applies principally to self-catering apartments.
I offer bookings which start on days other than Saturday, where I can. Transfer traffic always much quieter on any day other than Saturday, and travel arrangements often cheaper. The only drawback if you book a non Saturday-Saturday booking is that resort transfer options if you fly to one of the nearby airports are more limited than Saturdays. But it always pays to ask a private rental if they'll consider a booking starting on a non-Saturday.
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@Pieandrun, if it's too late to move away from Sat/Sat, and you're looking at half term, you might find the best approach is to give up on the idea of "getting in early to avoid the rush". Instead, aim to arrive in resort after 6 pm. Then on your departure day, ski all day, then leave resort around 5 pm, get a few hours up the road, then stop for the night and continue your journey on Sunday. It takes a bit of organisation to ski from your car, effectively, but those Saturday change-over days are often pretty quiet on the slopes.
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You know it makes sense.
Although the focus has moved to booking dates, I found the info about train travel interesting. We've thought about it but haven't actually done it for years, before having a place of our own. £189 return we would be happy with, assuming there are reasonable priced hotels in Paris.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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My better half is catching the train to Bourg tomorrow. Cost around £150 from our local station in Stourbridge. 1st train @ 8AM - Scheduled to arrive in BSM @ 10.30PM.

Only a one-way trip on the train for her, as I'm driving over with the kids at the weekend.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Pieandrun wrote:
Our last couple of trips have been by car to the Alps: Petrol, Eurotunnel, overnight Airbnbs, peage all in £720 in 2022. Great value with four in the car but the long slow drive into the resort on Saturday is a killer; we drove 70% of the way on Friday this year but Saturday's journey, predicted to be four hours by Google, turned into a 10 hour crawl.

Two questions:

What car solutions have worked for you to avoid the Saturday slog. (Our chalet for 2023 is booked and has a Saturday 4pm changeover so we can't change this.)

The alternative we're considering is the train from London St Pancras to Bourg St Maurice; much more expensive but surely a joy in comparison to the Saturday traffic!

[Flying is out for us as it's already clear that the snow is melting.]

Thanks all for any top-tips or DIY travel experience.


Just wondering. Would you mind sharing a rough breakdown of those costs please? Would be suefuk for a similar trip I am planning. Merci
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j b wrote:
Although the focus has moved to booking dates, I found the info about train travel interesting. We've thought about it but haven't actually done it for years, before having a place of our own. £189 return we would be happy with, assuming there are reasonable priced hotels in Paris.

I'm paying 95euros for a hotel within easy reach of Gare de Lyon. I was a bit picky with my hotel as I wanted one with a lift etc. so didn't choose the cheapest.
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@sugarmoma666, thanks. Seems happily within range. Encouraging.
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[quote="Ryunis"]

Quote:
Just wondering. Would you mind sharing a rough breakdown of those costs please? Would be suefuk for a similar trip I am planning. Merci


Eurotunnel £207 return
Petrol £250 - full car, skis on roof, not hanging about
Tolls £140
Overnight Airbnb x 2 £123
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
We’re also taking the train to EOSB. For two adults, return from Inverness to Moutiers, and overnights in each direction (and sleeper on the way home), it’s £350 approx each. We bought these about two weeks ago once we decided we couldn’t be bothered driving, so definitely not the cheapest tickets. We did save a lot and give ourselves extra flexibility by using Interrail tickets, which means some trains are totally free and others require supplements.

Based on several previous train trips to F/ CH/ D/ A/ N/ S, I completely agree with @sugarmoma666’s cost outlines.
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As train aficionados over many years, we've tried all combinations of getting to from Bourg, as well as hotels in Paris (the Mercure on top of the Gare de Lyon station is most recent favourite - especially for catching the early Saturday TGVs. See booking.com for prices).



Boys trip this year (sadly last minute cancellation) should have had us skiing Saturday til 1pm. then staying in Paris on the way back near Gare du Nord - €75 ea. and the 9am Eurostar Sunday morning. Would have been interested to see how that panned out.

Confess, we love the idea of a holiday including an evening meal (or two!) in Paris.

An an alternative, friends this year actually got a mid-afternoon Friday TGV to Bourg and stayed for one night in the Base Camp Lodge prior to heading up to the slopes in the morning - which is an interesting option and certainly guarantees the Saturday skiing.

When doing it in just the one day - as was this month's option for the Roll family - It's a shame you need to catch the 08:01 out of St Pancras to assure getting the 13:30 from Gare de Lyon... if only there was a Eurostar 45 mins later, it would make the early start that more pleasant!

Overall, I prefer the Friday evening Eurostar, and an early(ish) TGV. (and PS the upgrade to 1st class on the TGV was just €7 each way this year, well worth it for the reclining seats and extra space)

Since Euroski the TO operating the direct ski-train this year are now owned by Compagnie des Alpes - the Tarantaise lift operator - I can't see the direct E-star being other than package-related for at least a year.
But they may well look to extend their reach: CdA have also bought out the Evo2 ski schools across the region, hoping to have more influence on the whole post-pandemic recovery, so you never know there may be more direct options coming up.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
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I guess it really depends on when you are travelling.
I have just returned from Three Valleys and have never had such a quiet drive!
Travelling on Eurotunnel (paid for by Tesco vouchers) drove down to Moutiers on Saturday 26th, stayed overnight in a hotel - on piste by 9.30 Sunday morning.
Return journey on Sunday 3rd - straight to Eurotunnel (which was very quiet)
No traffic at all on either journey.
All done in an EV so a lot cheaper than traditional fuel.

Have also done train (daytime) several times direct from Ashford - yes expensive but very easy, comfortable and efficient - especially for Les Arcs / La Plagne.
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We drive overnight which is not for everybody but regardless we are still at Chambery at 7/8 which you could be if staying overnight. Going at Christmas and this time of year which we normally do is never really an issue. Because of the pandemic we went Feb HT and fearing the worst. But it wasn't too bad. As per the TR an hour for the last 25 Miles mid-morning. We ski in the afternoon on arrival and all day second Saturday.

I would like to go by train but with 4 people all with their own skiing gear a roofboxed/winterised car going door to door is hard to beat.
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Regarding access to the apartment. Quite often we have been able to access on arrival Saturday lunchtime but if not we just get changed into the ski gear next to the car or in a public toilet and go skiing. Same on exit. Changeover days are great ski days.
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I’ve done it by train with a bike bag (which complicates things a bit). Without a bike bag, and there and back is quite possible from the midlands in a day.

As others have said, it’s quite nice to stay over on the way down.

The journey is pleasant, but can involve a lot of changes. Google maps helps massively as you get into a station knowing which platform you need for the next train straight away.

Once you get to Bourg the funicular is right next to the station so easy as pie.

One tip I’d give is to pack light. It makes going by train much more pleasant, and is strangely satisfying.
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I like the idea of going by train but when it comes to the details it starts to get impractical: change trains at Birmingham, cross London,cross Paris and change trains in chambery. All of this is ok if you are travelling light, but get progressively more difficult as the luggage increases. We managed from Hakuba to the airport in Tokyo.
Then you look at the cost. Though driving is now approaching £5-600 the last time I looked at the train it was over £300 per person. Flying is the cheapest. It shouldn't be
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Arctic Roll wrote:
Since Euroski the TO operating the direct ski-train this year are now owned by Compagnie des Alpes - the Tarantaise lift operator - I can't see the direct E-star being other than package-related for at least a year.
But they may well look to extend their reach: CdA have also bought out the Evo2 ski schools across the region, hoping to have more influence on the whole post-pandemic recovery, so you never know there may be more direct options coming up.
I was hoping that Eurostar might return to their normal scheduled service next winter, based on nothing more than wishful thinking in my part. Do you know if they have made any public statements about the 'skitrain' service next winter? I missed their service a huge amount this season.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
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I've just looked into the costs again and I was wrong. The cost of us getting to Les Arcs and back this week by driving is £700. £250 for the tunnel, £280 for fuel and £150 for tolls. I've added in £20 for food on the way, but this could be saved by making non meat or cheese sandwiches at home and taking them with you. That was split between 3 people.

The train, however came to £430 per person from London plus £70 to London. It got to Bourg at midnight so a taxi upto the resort would be required (50€) On the return we would have to spend either a night at the station waiting for a train or find a hotel for the night on route. I imgine parking at Folkstone could reduce the cost.
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johnE wrote:
I like the idea of going by train but when it comes to the details it starts to get impractical: change trains at Birmingham, cross London,cross Paris and change trains in chambery. All of this is ok if you are travelling light, but get progressively more difficult as the luggage increases. We managed from Hakuba to the airport in Tokyo.
Then you look at the cost. Though driving is now approaching £5-600 the last time I looked at the train it was over £300 per person. Flying is the cheapest. It shouldn't be

If you get the right train it's direct. I'm going straight from Paris to Moutiers next weekend.
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johnE wrote:
I've just looked into the costs again and I was wrong. The cost of us getting to Les Arcs and back this week by driving is £700. £250 for the tunnel, £280 for fuel and £150 for tolls. I've added in £20 for food on the way, but this could be saved by making non meat or cheese sandwiches at home and taking them with you. That was split between 3 people.

The train, however came to £430 per person from London plus £70 to London. It got to Bourg at midnight so a taxi upto the resort would be required (50€) On the return we would have to spend either a night at the station waiting for a train or find a hotel for the night on route. I imgine parking at Folkstone could reduce the cost.

How did you manage to make the train so expensive? I'm guessing that was booking very late.
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@sugarmoma666, Whenever I look that is what it comes out to. Perhaps I should not be using thetrainline or SNCF. I know people post that they have found very cheap fares but I can never find them. They were return fares I was posting in both instances.

I had a look at booking for a visit in July, 3 months away https://www.thetrainline.com/book/results?origin=aaa204eb20619a8f68a60ac75a752c11&destination=d49d579176780a5e1580da5cbdef1b16&outwardDate=2022-07-08T09%3A00%3A00&outwardDateType=departAfter&journeySearchType=return&passengers%5B%5D=1995-04-05%7Cda78deb6-f9d0-48ef-8c15-1d63bf85565c&directSearch=false&inwardDate=2022-07-15T08%3A00%3A00&inwardDateType=departAfter&selectedOutward=lwKXt0Q%2BR5U%3D%3AbrvG2rvuOUo%3D%3AStandard and the price was essentially the same.
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@johnE, I found that you need to look up the London to Paris and Paris to Moutier (or Bourg in your case) legs separately. Oddly, the date you've chosen in your search above appears quite expensive due to the standard fares being unavailable.

It also seems to be worth purchasing an SCNF Advantage Card (49 euros) as that gives a discount on fare for the holder and someone accompanying them. With the Advantage Card you can do Paris to Bourg on Friday 15th July, returning Saturday 23rd for £151 for 2 people. Return Eurostar is ~£119 per person. Both would probably be cheaper if booked earlier.

Obviously, prices will depend a bit on the times you want to travel. For e.g. the early and late Eurostars are the cheapest.
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@johnE, just been to the travel drawer to check:

Our return fare, with 1st class on SNCF, booked late (by our standards), in Jan for this March was £375 pax. ( St Pancras to Bourg, and included the funi for free - albeit that price has halved this year)

However, our January fare, booked in early Nov. was £239

Both included an element of 'flexi' - ie cancellation options.

Conclusion: it pays to plan ahead!

Note: Both of these were with Rail Canterbury, and included the metro tickets, but also their 10% booking fee. Therefore the conclusion might be a little judicious internet time could get them even cheaper.
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Quote:

I imgine parking at Folkstone could reduce the cost.


Given that you can't get Eurostar at Folkestone any more (one of the changes since lockdown is that you can only get on in London, along with other stuff like they don't take bikes any more), I very much doubt that would help


Our sums for a trip from Manchester to Tarentaise - 3 in the car
Petrol £313
Tolls £120
Eurotunnel: £227
Hotels (2 stops each way, 2 rooms per hotel) - £370
Total - £1030, or £343 pp. I'm DEFINITELY looking at the train next time
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
When I get a few minutes, I'll post up my travel arrangements for the EoSB, including costs, and then some feedback along the way of how it goes.

This thread has been a real revelation to me, as I'd always assumed driving must be a cheap option, but I've now been disillusioned.
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@sugarmoma666, My ranking of costs of the various methods

Cheapest - flying followed by train from Geneva. We did it for under £150 return per person BHX to Les Arcs 2 years ago.
Middle - driving - but I never see the point of staying in a hotel en route. It also allows you to take the kitchen sink with you. with 3 in the car this trip £230 per person return.
Most expensive - train from home.
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rob@rar wrote:
Arctic Roll wrote:
Since Euroski the TO operating the direct ski-train this year are now owned by Compagnie des Alpes - the Tarantaise lift operator - I can't see the direct E-star being other than package-related for at least a year.
But they may well look to extend their reach: CdA have also bought out the Evo2 ski schools across the region, hoping to have more influence on the whole post-pandemic recovery, so you never know there may be more direct options coming up.
I was hoping that Eurostar might return to their normal scheduled service next winter, based on nothing more than wishful thinking in my part. Do you know if they have made any public statements about the 'skitrain' service next winter? I missed their service a huge amount this season.


Not seen any public pronouncements yet, but there's an owners meeting with the Bourg Tourist Office and mayor next week in 1800 (in French) - see lesarcs.com for details - that may shed some light.

Sunday 17 April at 6.00 pm in the Bernard Taillefer Centre in Arc 1800
Session introduced by:
• Guillaume DESRUES, Mayor of Bourg Saint Maurice - Les Arcs
• Frédéric CHARLOT, General Manager of ADS
• Eric CHEVALIER, Manager of the Tourist Office.
Presentation (in French) of this winter’s results, up-coming investments, and news and an update on the relationship with secondary residents.


As an aside, and off-topic, slightly,
certainly a PITA this summer for all in the domain is the bus replacement service of the funicular while it undergoes further maintenance and checks.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
sugarmoma666 wrote:
I'd always assumed driving must be a cheap option

Many variables on cost. For flying and train you pay per person. If you drive it's the same cost - so if you split it 2/3/4 ways it will vary. If you are transporting skis the flight may cost extra but not on the train or in a car. Etc.

BUT... for me the main reasons for car travel are a combination of convenience (family of 4) and 7.5/8 day skiing. And not cost - although for us it probably is cheaper.

Just thought of another positive for driving is that it can be done fairly last minute without impacting price. The only thing that goes in price is the crossing but it doesn't vary anywhere near as much flights and trains. But fuel/tolls are unaffected.

There are also other factors such as: would it help to have a car while there; are you self catering (can do supermarket shop on way); flight/train options available to you.

There is no right/wrong way - you just have to weigh everything up.
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@Layne, that short notice benefit has been a relevant factor with us, particularly because Covid has made it difficult to plan.

In a world more oriented to minimising emissions, train ought always to be cost-effective. But it really gets only competitive if you get the cheapest advance booking, and if you are prepared to do that then flight costs are ridiculously low.


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Wed 6-04-22 13:09; edited 1 time in total
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
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@j b, agreed, if we're serious about reducing emissions, the costs of transport options really need to be rebalanced. Flying really shouldn't be the cheapest option.
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