Eurostar has launched a new weekly ski service to the Swiss Alps with tickets on sale from Thursday 11 October.
The new ski service will carry skiers and snowboarders from St Pancras International and Ashford International to the Valais region, giving access to resorts such as Verbier, Zermatt and Saas Fee from Saturday 22 December until Saturday 13 April 2013.
Passengers transfer in Lille from a Eurostar train to to a high-speed TGV, and can alight at Aigle, Martigny, Visp and Brig stations for onward transfers to their ski resorts. Eurostar and TGV Lyria will allow ski passengers to carry on-board an extra item of luggage in addition to the normal luggage allowance, such as a pair of skis or a snowboard, at no extra cost.
Nick Mercer, Commercial Director for Eurostar said “With the highest runs in Europe, spectacular scenery and reliable snow, Swiss skiing offers something for everyone. With the resorts located just a short distance from the train stations, passengers have a much more seamless journey than travelling by air.”
The trains leave London at 6.57am and Ashford at 7.28am on Saturdays, and arrive at Aigle at 3.47pm, Martigny at 4.13pm, Visp at 4.57pm and Brig at 5.08pm. This realistically makes all the resorts of Valais and Vaud accessible via this service, using the excellent Swiss transport network completing the journey. From Martigny, Verbier is less than an hour away by train whilst from Aigle, Champery in the Portes du Soleil, Villars, Leysin and Les Diablerets all less than an hour away. Saas-Fee is less than an hour and Zermatt is almost exactly an hour from Visp. Brig gives access to the outstanding Aletsch Arena, with the resorts at Riederalp and Bettmeralp only 45 minutes away. There are also a clutch of smaller, lesser known resorts in Valais easily accessible from the ski train.
The news of this service has not been so well received by the Tourist Agencies in the Bernese Oberland and Graubünden. Britain has more tourists visit Switzerland than any other overseas country apart from Germany, but the strong Swiss Franc has led to a decline in visitors. I suspect that some visitors who would otherwise go to other parts of Switzerland may be tempted to sample Valais or Vaud, and let the train take the strain, at the expense of the Bernese Oberland and Grabünden. However, despite the undoubted convenience of the Eurostar service, all of Switzerland is accessible by train (see here for details).
The return train also departs on Saturdays. Return fares start from £189. For more details visit www.eurostar.com or call 08432 186 186.