When it comes to sustainable travel, going by train is much greener than flying. Not only is fuel used more efficiently, but electric trains can run on green electricity, reducing CO2 emissions even more. Celebrating low carbon travel is at the heart of what we do, and even our name Loco2 is a nod to the fact that trains are "low CO2" compared with planes.
If you are a skier, snowboarder, snowshoer or winter hiker looking to enjoy your winter sport with minimum environmental impact, then taking the ski train can cut your carbon emissions by up to 90%. According to research, a return journey by plane from London to Paris produces 244kg CO2 per passenger. The equivalent journey by train produces only 22Kg CO2 per passenger. You will also make your journey so much easier, with no luggage restrictions for all that mountain gear. And let’s not even go there on airport madness during peak season.
Over the last year, many European ski resorts have been claiming to do their bit for the environment. For example, Swiss ski resort Laax aims to be the first self-sufficient ski resort within the next couple of years. Chamonix says it will slash its carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 and Villars, also in Switzerland, has introduced sustainable practices including hybrid shuttle buses, low carbon snow making machines and solar energy usage.
While many ski resorts are following in the green leaders’ footsteps endeavouring to make winter sports more sustainable, there are several sensible travel choices that skiers can also make.
1) Discover the Ski Train. Take advantage of Eurostar’s seasonal ski trains that go direct to Moûtiers, Bourg-St-Maurice and Aime le Plagne. This year, they're scheduled from 21 December 2018 to 06 April 2019. Departing from London’s St Pancras International and Ashford International every Friday night and Saturday morning, return fares start at £150 in Standard Class. Book now via www.Loco2.com for this winter.
2) Choose a ski resort that is accessible via train. This easy-to-use Loco2 tool enables skiers to select their chosen ski resort, and Loco2 tells you the nearest train station you need to get there. We’ve all watched aeroplanes fill the blue skies overhead as we ski – but you have to be one of them this season. Stay grounded, green and take the train.
3) Give up going down. If you have been a committed downhill die hard until now, consider taking the train and giving cross-country skiing a go. Also known as Nordic skiing, ‘langlauf’ in German and ‘ski de fond’ in French, it’s the most sustainable way to travel around the area as it means no ski lifts, no artificial snow, and no bulldozed pistes, all of which are having a negative impact on the local environment. It’s also a wonderful way to escape the piste posse by getting, literally, off the beaten trail.
4) From rail to runs. There are some ski resorts that have a train station right on their doorstep. They include Les Arcs in France, where one of its four villages is accessible by a 10 mins funicular ride from the train station at Bourg St Maurice. Or head into the heart of Switzerland’s Bernese Alps at Wengen, the last leg from Lauterbrunnen a sublimely scenic one. In Austria’s Gastein Valley, Bad Gastein train station is right next to the Stubnerkogel valley ski station. Like clockwork, really.
5) Spread the word. Save the environment and Euros by booking rail travel as a group. Group bookings of ten people can often get you some great discounts and so if your friends aren’t getting the carbon message yet they might get the commercial one. And the camaraderie one too of course.
6) Know how you’re helping (or hindering….if you still choose to fly). Find out precisely how great you are for taking the train instead of flying using Loco2's booking tool which estimates how much carbon you'll save by travelling by train versus an equivalent flight.
7) Dare to ask. If you are daring enough to take on the drama of the slopes, then you can also dare to ask your ski resort, chalet or tour operator how environmentally responsible they are. Seek out policies on their websites: Are they involved in protecting the mountains or turning a blind eye? Unless the customers demand change, many won’t bother. One movement trying to make a difference is Le Flocon Vert, an eco label for Alpine ski resorts.
8) Do the maths. When you travel by train there are no additional luggage costs of course or weight limits. So you can bring all your winter sports gear economically and easily. European rail companies also often make it easy to transfer you and your luggage from stations to ski stations. We are particularly impressed by Swiss Railways for their Snow’n’Rail ticket which combines discounted transport to the slopes with a reduced rate ski pass. Also Thalys, more noted for its city-to-city services in France and Belgium, but which adapts to the winter sports market by having dedicated space for kit on its seasonal services to the Alps.
9) Don’t fake it. Environmentally-conscious skiers are becoming aware of the destructive impacts of the creation of artificial snow. Vast amounts of water are needed to manufacture artificial snow and, in some Alpine regions, over half of available drinking water is converted into snow. Not forgetting that the snow cannons used to produce it emit CO2.
10) Choose the country wisely. As revealed by Loco2’s Great Train Comparison report, in Switzerland, they’ll even – for a modest fee – pick up sledges, snowboards and other gear from your front door and transport it to the ski resort for you. Austrian train company ÖBB have a similarly slick offering. Thalys, more noted for its city-to-city services, adapts to the winter sports market by having dedicated space for kit on its seasonal services to the Alps.
5 tips for finding cheap ski train tickets
1. Avoid the tourist trap. The busiest and most expensive times for the ski season are over New Year, during February half term and over Easter. This is compounded by many chalets offering Saturday-Saturday accommodation, which pushes the price up further for Friday and weekend travel. If possible, avoiding these busy periods is a good way to save money on ski train tickets. Try early-season skiing (now) or late January.
2. Grab your tickets now. Note that tickets are now on sale for winter trains in France, so you can book for Christmas, New Year and the ski season. Bookings are available now for travel from 9 December 2018 to 7 January 2019. Book ASAP to get the cheapest fares. See more information on Loco2’s blog post.
3. It pays to travel at a less popular time of day. For example, the first Eurostar of the day from London to Paris is likely to be busy with skiers meeting onward connections to the Alps. But if you opt for a later train, you’ll find it less busy and tickets less expensive.
4. Consider a late departure from London and stay overnight in Paris, continuing your journey the next day - the first departure from Paris to Switzerland is often cheaper than mid-morning trains. Or perhaps take the last train from Paris to Geneva and stay overnight, completing your onward journey the following morning.
5. With all this in mind, it makes sense to plan ahead and choose your destination and preferred travel date well in advance. Even if booking isn’t open due to the winter timetable change, we recommend running a search on your intended dates and setting a booking alert. We’ll email you a link to complete your booking as soon as the tickets go on sale so you have the best chance of securing the cheapest fare.
If travellin g by train is your favoured option, do get in touch
- Request a quote
- Call us on 0203 137 7678
See you on the slopes