Why we drive rather than take the train to ski in the French Alps

A reader from the UK who has been travelling for 40 years to ski defends his choice

Reader Stephen Baseby who always drives to go skiing, pictured in Zermatt, Switzerland
Published Last updated

The Connexion recently posted an article questioning why more British people do not use the train to reach French ski resorts. Retired reader Stephen Baseby, 69, who lives in Edinburgh, shares his view on the subject below.

This time of the year is usually the time when our ski travel plans are turning to action but the 2022/23 season has been a late starter.

When we go this year, we will drive - our preferred means of transport from the UK to the Alps for 40 years. We will load the car with our luggage, and the daughter’s family’s luggage. They will fly, and we will collect them from the airport and deliver them back before driving home.

Read also: Tourism in France: The 2022 trends and outlook for 2023

I am not anti-train

In response to the article: I do use trains. I have travelled all over Europe via the train, and I have even day-tripped from Bath to Paris using the train. I am not anti-train. However, I live in Edinburgh and, like me, most of Britain does not live in London or close to the Eurostar terminals.

The last time I met a French person in a ski resort using the train was around 1982. He used the TGV to attend a meeting in Paris, which he could do as a day trip from the Haute-Savoie.

I expect it is for the same reasons as me that 90% of French people drive to the ski slopes.

Environmental concerns can be a factor but if you are that concerned about the environment, skiing is probably not your first choice of pastime.

The case for cars

The car is a blessing with children. You can stop and manage nappies, let them get out and run around and enjoy meals in autoroute services.

You can shop, stopping in the cheap hypermarché in the valley and not being forced to pay high-altitude prices. You can even extend the break by stopping over at places previously unknown.

At all times the car enables multi-resort skiing. I haven’t bought a seven-day lift ticket for decades. If the chosen resort is poor or crowded, drive around the mountain to ski at the resort on the other side, even if it is in another country. Or, if the resort is small, drive over to another for a change of piste.

Read also: French ski workers call ‘unlimited’ strike just before half-term break

Problems with the rails

Taking the train has none of these benefits and involves other downsides.

Disruptions are common due to strikes or failures on the line. On the other hand, the worst disruption we had had with a car was an eight hour wait at Calais for one of the few shuttles running. That happened once.

The final conclusion

Our choice has nothing to do with the prices, either; they are not excessive compared to driving, and the potential to arrive after a decent doze instead of a long drive is appealing.

But this isn’t the 1930s anymore. We have more than just trains at our disposal. We now have the shuttle, the ferries are still competitive, and we have excellent roads available. We prefer to fly and drive because it is more convenient, more flexible in time and destination, and has a built in ‘Plan B’ if the snow is awful when we get there.

Tell us if you agree or disagree with this view via news@connexionfrance.com

Read also

Planes, trains, cost, carbon - how do you travel to and from France?