Eurostar Rejects Calls to Reinstate the Ski Train
22nd September 2020 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Last modified on September 25th, 2020
The only direct rail service to the French Alps is “simply not feasible” for this winter, the company says in response to an open letter sent by 160 ski businesses campaigning for its return.
Tourist offices, ski tour operators, hotels, chalet companies and ski schools wrote to Eurostar asking the company to work with the industry to restore its popular winter service.
A Save The Ski Train petition has attracted more than 10,500 signatures.
In its response to the letter, Eurostar says its decision to cancel the ski train applies to this winter only and promises to review it.
But it is refusing to budge for the 2020-21 ski season, blaming coronavirus.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is having a severe impact on the travel industry, and we are having to make some difficult decisions to protect the future of our business,” the letter, signed by Lisa in the Chief Executive’s office, states.
“With government restrictions in place for international travel across the markets we serve, we have seen an unprecedented fall in demand, and from mid-March have been operating a minimal timetable to facilitate essential travel only.”
Eurostar says it is now having to focus on its core destinations with the highest demand such as London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam.
“However, this is a rapidly evolving situation on a very large scale and it is impossible to predict what restrictions will be in place in the future and the impact this will have on demand for the ski train service.
“The recent quarantines imposed on travellers from Belgium and France, for example, came at short notice along with a number of local lockdowns in the markets we operate in.
“In this unpredictable environment, it is simply not feasible to put tickets on sale for the ski train service.”
It adds that the measures in place, such as compulsory mask-wearing, restrictions on food service and additional cleaning are more challenging to maintain on long distance routes such as the ski train.
“At this stage we have only confirmed the cancellation of the ski train for the ski season of 2020/2021 and I can assure you we will review this again next year.”
The response is a big blow to many skiers and snowboarders who consider travelling by direct train from London to the popular resorts in the Tarentaise to be the simplest and least environmentally damaging way to get to the slopes.
Campaigners say it saves and estimated 2.9 million kg of CO2 per season, compared to the equivalent journeys by air.
“The cancellation of the Ski Train is a huge blow for everyone who cares about making ski holidays sustainable,” says Chemmy Alcott, Britain’s four-time Winter Olympic ski racer and BBC Ski Sunday presenter.
“We need to get the strongest voice together to persuade Eurostar to get the Ski Train back on track.”
The environmental charity Protect Our Winters UK is one of many organisations calling on Eurostar to reconsider.
“More winter tourists than ever are keen to change the way they travel to protect the mountains and the planet,” says Dominic Winter, Programme Manager at POW UK.
“Eurostar plays a vital role in enabling people to travel long distances without flying or driving. This is hugely important in fighting the climate emergency.”
In conjunction with the association for the mountain tourism industry of France, France Montagnes, a new film Save The Ski Train is today released for the campaign.
“The Ski Train is a massively popular, useful service – one of the best ways to reach the Alps from the UK by train,” says Daniel Elkan, founder of independent rail-ski guide Snowcarbon, who created the film.
“Eurostar needs to meet with the ski industry as soon as possible to discuss ways to get the ski train back on track for winter 2021-22.”
Running for the last 23 years, the ski train takes passengers from London and Ashford in Kent to the popular Tarentaise region of the French Alps, giving access to 16 major ski resorts, including Méribel, Courchevel, Les Menuires, Val Thorens, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Tignes and Val d’Isère.
You will still be able to get there by rail this winter, but not without changing trains.