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More skiers are set to let train take the strain as they hit the slopes.

THOUSANDS of skiers from the UK will catch the train to get to the slopes in France, Switzerland and Italy this winter.

Snowcarbon.co.uk, devised by travel journalists Daniel Elkan and Mark Hodson, is a joint venture between 16 operators, Rail Europe and Eurostar, which has also been funded partly by ski resorts which can be reached by train.

Last winter, says the Ski Club of Great Britain, around 78,400 skiers from Britain went by train. Roughly half of them caught the Eurostar Direct Ski Train which runs from St Pancras International to Bourg St Maurice in the Tarentaise region of France.

Daniel Elkan said: "For skiers living within easy reach of London, the time taken to get there by train is not much different to the time taken by those who fly.

"The journey tends to be more pleasant, because you avoid early morning departures at airports and you obviously cause a fraction of the carbon emissions.

"The price of rail travel is lower, fares are fixed, travel is bonded and transfers from station to resort are included. By contrast, some transfer charges from airports have risen steeply this winter."

Packages listed on the new website use Eurostar services to Paris or Lille, with onward travel by TGV (in daytime) and Corail Lunea sleeper trains (overnight).

Resorts included in the programme include Chamonix, St Gervais, Montgenevre and Serre Chevalier in France; Crans-Montana, Grimentz and Leukerbad in Switzerland; and Sauze D'Oulx, Claviere, Bardonecchia and Sestriere in Italy.

Meanwhile, Les Arcs, Tignes, Meribel and Courchevel will continue to be covered by Eurostar's Direct Ski Train.

Packages listed on the website include transfers from station to resort and the option of taxi transfers when changing terminals in Paris.

The cost of the rail component of the travel, from St Pancras to the Alps, will be pounds 120 to pounds 250 return (daytime) and pounds 160 to pounds 250 (overnight sleeper).

Daniel adds: "The new ability to book a wider range of rail journeys within packages from leading operators makes things easier for those wanting to travel this way. By booking through one of these operators, consumers have the reassurance of financial protection for their holiday."

And it's come at a good time too - as French unions step up their fight against pension reforms, blockades around airports and interruptions to oil supplies, which closed a third of petrol stations, have caused problems for air travellers and drivers.

Eurostar cross-Channel services from the UK into Paris and Brussels have avoided trouble so far, but passengers intending to transfer to TGV services to centres like Avignon, Lyon and Bordeaux might find it difficult to get cash refunds if they cancel as strike action is stepped up.

Eurostar won't usually refund cash if passengers decide against travel, even if they don't want to go at a later date.

One rail specialist says: "In most instances, if travellers decide to cancel travel because of the threat of strike action, they can expect a full refund.

"But Eurostar standard policy is to offer travel on a subsequent date; that's fine for many passengers, but not always popular with those who planned to travel on a specific date."

"Eurostar also has a policy of not refunding tour operators if their clients decide to change plans."

However, the EU guide to 'passenger rights' appears to suggest that reimbursement of the full cost of the train ticket is one option if "the journey is no longer serving any purpose in relation to your original travel plan."

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* HIT THE SLOPES: The quickest, and calmest, way to your ski destination could be by train
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Oct 30, 2010
Words:605
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