All Aboard: Travelling to Ski by Train

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Pivoting from planes to trains to reach the mountains in Europe, is a positive step towards reducing your carbon footprint and lessening the potential for global warming that would wipe out ski resorts at lower levels. And with the price of flights going sky high with expensive add-ons for suitcases and ski/snowboard equipment, taking the train is a more cost-effective as well as relaxing way to travel.

A week in the mountains is the ultimate break from the daily grind, but the looming threat of climate change is casting a shadow over the winter wonderlands we love so much.

Recent findings in Nature Climate Change reveal a grim forecast with a 2°C rise in global temperature. Nearly a third of ski resorts would struggle with low snow levels biennially. At 4°C, the snow scarcity would afflict over 70 percent of them. The research by Samuel Morin and his team at Météo-France and CNRS is a clarion call for action, emphasising that every skiing hotspot, regardless of altitude or location, will feel the impact.

Exploring ways to minimise your winter holiday’s environmental impact is more important than ever, especially as we strive to preserve those awe-inspiring snowy landscapes for future generations. We've scoped out top-notch ski resorts easily reachable by train that are also champions of eco-friendly initiatives.

THE TIME IS NOW

Dom Winter from Protect Our Winters UK, underscores that the time for substantial, transformative action within the ski industry is now. Maintaining the status quo is no longer tenable.

Ground-level actions are sprouting up in resorts across Europe. Take Morzine in France, where the not-for-profit Montagne Verte rallies over 35 local enterprises towards sustainability, even running a thrift store and turning food waste into energy. They also reward train-arriving vacationers with enticing discounts, including on ski passes.

Compagnie des Alpes, a major player in French ski areas, is shifting gears too, swapping out diesel for HVO100 in snow groomers – a 100 percent renewable energy source that slashes CO2 emissions by 90 percent. The Flocon Vert label in France lauds ski destinations for their eco-strides.

Switzerland's Tenna boasts a solar-powered ski lift surplus in energy, while Engelberg runs purely on hydroelectric power. Austria isn't far behind, with solar lifts and all-renewable lift operations in the Silvretta Arena Ishgl-Samnaun region, which also promotes ski buses and reforestation to lighten its environmental load.

FUELLING THE CHANGE

Your choice and voice carry immense power. By supporting progressive resorts and openly choosing sustainability over convenience, you fuel the change. Share with others why you're making these choices – it's a catalyst for transformation.

The push for sustainability doesn't stop at resort operations. Clothing reuse initiatives are gaining momentum, with EcoSki and WhoSki offering rental and resale of gear, and the Re-Action collective preventing tens of thousands of clothing items from filling landfills.

When it comes to carbon emissions, how you get to the slopes matters immensely. POW UK's data shows a stark contrast: a UK skier flying to the French Alps generates about 395kg of CO2e, while the same journey by train plummets to 156kg CO2e.

RAIL-INCLUSIVE PACKAGES

The demand for sustainable travel options is robust, so expansion and simplification of these routes, alongside competitive pricing, are essential.

The catch is that train access for skiers has been reduced by Eurostar, whose move from a direct London-Bourg-Saint-Maurice train to a less frequent, indirect ‘Snow Train’ service via Lille is a step backwards. But it has inadvertently created a big increase in the variety of destinations now being offered by train from the UK.

Ski operator SNO has rail-inclusive packages to multiple European resorts in countries now beyond the usual ski train resorts in France.

“To truly slash the carbon footprint of our cherished trips to the alps, the pivot from planes to trains is not just desirable, it's essential,” said CEO Richard Sinclair. And the train is not the only low-carbon route to your favourite ski resort. All electricity in France is very low-carbon because they have they highest percentage of nuclear power in the world. “We have guides on driving your electric car to the Alps, because it’s so easy now and we want to get the message out there,” says Sinclair.

The call for a seamless transition from air to rail is echoing throughout the industry. Let’s hope Eurostar does the right thing and expands the Ski Train again.

We can all do our bit by making sure that ski train holidays are sold-out. Ditch the plane - go and book your next trip by rail.

ski train travel