In a blow to the ski industry, and to the environment, Eurostar appears to have cancelled the direct Ski Train service between England and the French Alps.
“Skiers and snowboarders are gutted by the loss of this hugely popular train. This cancellation is a damaging step backwards by Eurostar. While there are indirect train routes to the French Alps, these can’t compensate for the loss of the direct Ski Train,” said Daniel Elkan, founder of independent rail-ski guide Snowcarbon.
Since 1997, the train has run twice weekly in the ski season from London and Ashford to the popular Tarentaise region of the French Alps, dropping skiers at Moutiers, Aime la Plagne and Bourg St Maurice stations, a short hop by bus or taxi from 16 major ski resorts, including Méribel, Courchevel, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Tignes and Val d’Isère.
Eurostar has not yet issued a public statement on the cancellation of the service but has contacted its customers directly saying: “This is a decision we’ve made with a great deal of sadness. It’s been an absolute pleasure to take thousands of travellers direct from St Pancras to the Alps over the years. But in the wake of the coronavirus and a challenging travel market, we’ve had to make some changes to our services, focusing on our main routes with the highest demand.”
With 750 skiers on each train, the Friday overnight and Saturday daytime services carry a total of 24,000 holidaymakers every winter. The daytime train makes the 830km trip from London to Bourg St Maurice in just over eight hours and is frequently faster than flying when compared door to door — with an estimated 80% reduction in CO2 emissions. For the past two seasons, for February half term, the Ski Train sold out within five hours of tickets going on sale.
The service’s cancellation seems to be the exact opposite of the widely stated hope that coming out of lockdown would see society rethink operations to try to maintain the reductions of CO2 emissions that were seen in the spring.
A campaign, Save The Ski Train, has already been launched to persuade Eurostar to reinstate the service. Launched by Snowcarbon along with campaign groups Protect Our Winters and Ski Flight Free as well as information service SaveOurSnow, Save The Ski Train aims to create a voice for skiers, snowboarders and the ski industry together to try to persuade Eurostar to put the Ski Train back on.
“Eurostar’s decision is premature and seemingly made without any consultation of skiers or the ski industry”, says Elkan. “There’s still time to think again.”
Transport is by far the biggest environmental factor of a ski holiday. A 2010 study by the French-sustainability charity Mountain Riders found that 57% of the entire carbon footprint of a typical French ski resort was solely the result of transport of holidaymakers to the resort. Studies by UK-based groups have found that percentage is generally even higher for British skiers and boarders, depending on the method of transport used.
Dominic Winter, Manager of environmental charity Protect Our Winters UK, says: “The future of snow sports and the wider planet depend on us switching rapidly to more sustainable modes of transport. The loss of the Ski Train would be a huge blow to progress on climate change in outdoor sports.”