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Range Rover: Reduce carbon and anxiety, ski by train

Trains lower your carbon footprint, and are much less stressful than flying, which makes taking a train to go skiing the Zen of outdoor travel experiences
Ski Trains
The end-of-day train that returns skiers from Sedrun to Andermatt in the Andermatt Ski Arena, Switzerland.

As borders open and travel is contemplated again, I’m looking forward to a more typical winter. One thing that has permanently changed for me as a working travel journalist, however, is trying to minimize my own carbon footprint as well as selling the idea to fellow travellers. This involves not flying somewhere if I can reach it another way, or, if I have to fly to a different part of the planet, getting around via lower-carbon ground transport.

This has worked well for me in many parts of the world—particularly Europe and Southeast Asia/Japan. Which brings me to this: I love skiing by train. Not only do trains lower your carbon footprint, they’re also much less stressful than flying. Which makes taking a train to go skiing the Zen of outdoor travel experiences. Here are ten options from around the world.

 

The Glacier Express—An über-rail that unpacks both Switzerland’s breathtaking mountain scenery and fascinating alpine cultures, this storied train features luxurious viewing and dining cars—replete with specially designed wine glasses that compensate the train’s tilt on curves. The 7.5-hour route from Zermatt to St. Moritz includes 291 bridges, 91 tunnels, and the 2,033-metre Oberalp Pass, but doing it in one shot is a great shame when you can stop at storied resorts like Bettmeralp, Zermatt, Andermatt and St. Moritz.

 

Eurostar Ski Train—Since 1997 the iconic Eurostar has run twice weekly from London’s Waterloo Station to the Tarentaise region of the French Alps, dropping skiers at Moutiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-Saint-Maurice for quick access by bus, taxi and even directly by aerial tram to 16 major ski resorts, including Méribel, Courchevel, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Tignes and Val d’Isère. With 750 per train, Friday overnight and Saturday daytime services carry 24,000 skiers each winter.

 

Vatnahalsen Train—Located at the top of the Flåm Valley near Bergen on Norway’s west coast, Vatnahalsen Mountain Lodge dates to 1896. Famously referred to as the “St. Moritz of the North” in the 1930s, the lodge is only accessible by train. Combined with world-class freeriding and ski-touring this makes a trip to Vatnahalsen a unique experience. When conditions allow, ski to the bottom of the valley and ride the world-famous Flåm Railway back to the lodge.

 

Swedish Night Train—There’s no better way to comfortably travel Sweden’s vast distances than by night, and Sweden’s state rail company SJ offers one of the most modern night train services in Europe direct to major cities like Gothenburg, Östersund, Luleå, Stockholm and Malmö. But you can also reach the popular ski resort of Åre on a night train from Stockholm, or do the long haul into the Arctic Circle through the iron-mining town of Kiruna to ski Abisko, Björkliden, Riksgränsen and even Narvik, Norway.

 

Colorado Ski Train—In California, a skier can ride from Oakland to Truckee via Amtrak’s California Zephyr, and catch a cab up to Northstar, Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows. And there’s a ski train out of Boston to Wachusett, though the last few kilometres are by van. These slim pickings make the ol’ D&RG Ski Train from Denver to Winter Park, now well into its 70s, unique in the U.S. as the only dedicated train that delivers skiers directly to a ski hill.

 

Alaska Ski Train—As a fundraiser for the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage, this train is a unique, once-a-year chance to get out and explore Alaska’s backcountry by ski or snowshoe. From Anchorage, the train journeys north to Curry, a remote area north of Talkeetna that was once home to a ski resort long since lost to a fire.

 

Tokyo Ski Trains—Japan runs regular trains from Tokyo north to ski country, as well as from Sapporo to resorts on Hokkaido. Popular day trips from Tokyo include: the bullet train ride to Karuizawa Prince Hotel Ski Area or “KaruSki”; the express train Azusa from Tokyo’s Shinjuku station to Fujimi Panorama Resort in Nagano; and the short trip from Tokyo Station on the Max Tanigawa bullet-train to GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort, where the ski-area ticket counter is actually in the train station.

 

Via Rail Snow Train Express—From Edmonton, Alberta, hop on the Via Rail Snow Train to Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the world. At Jasper Station, head to your hotel and can catch a free shuttle to nearby Marmot Basin ski resort.

 

Le Massif Train—An off-the-radar world-class destination, one of many features that set Le Massif, Quebec, apart is that it can be reached by train. There was no accommodation at the hill until Club Med opened this year, so if you were here more than a day you’d traditionally bunk in the riverside town of Baie St. Paul. From there, a scenic 40-minute train ride delivers you to Le Massif station where you board a gondola to the main base area.

 

Trans-Siberian Railroad—The most exotic entry on this list, it may not be a ski train per se, but the Trans-Siberian Railroad traverses almost 10,000 km of Mother Russia, delivering you to little-known places and mountain ranges that showcase a fringe backcountry ski community, deep Siberian powder, and skiing’s ancient origins.

 

Leslie Anthony is a Whistler-based author, editor, biologist and bon vivant who has never met a mountain he didn’t like.