Travelling overnight by train to go skiing used to be a common thing and even a rite of passage and the good news is it's making a comeback. Before the advent of low cost airlines the train was, for many, the most affordable way of reaching the Alps from around Europe and although the train is now more expensive than flying society's increased awareness of our environment has led to a resurgance of the ski-trains.
Travelling by train instead of plane reduces your carbon footprint by 80 per cent and it can be a lot of fun ,as well as adding two full ski days to your trip. Research by Best Foot Forward/Anthesis calculates that a one-way journey by plane from London to Zell am See-Kaprun generates 111kg of CO2 per passenger and a one-way road journey 256kg per car. Rail journeys meanwhile generate just 23kg of CO2 per person.
The Alpen Express departs on Friday evenings from Holland (the Hague) reaching Austrian resorts on Saturday mornings via Amsterdam and Cologne.
One half of the train goes to Bludenz and serves resorts in western Austria; the other half goes to Bischofshofen via Kitzbühel, Saalfelden, Zell am See and other stations conveniently located for resorts in SalzburgerLand.
Rail travellers leaving the UK on Eurostar can connect with the train at Amsterdam or Cologne; the latter is a shorter journey, leaving London 4 hours later on Friday and arriving back 3 hours earlier on Sunday.
I met the others coming in on the Eurostar from London in Amsterdam and after dinner in the 1eKlas restaurant, which used to be a first class waiting room, we boarded the Alpen Express and began our journey to SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser Brixental, an expansive, modern resort with exemplary environmentally friendly initiatives. In the middle of the Alpen Express train is a bar. that's open from the start of your journey until 00:30 at night (last orders at 00:15). The feel is very much like a classic apres-ski, getting you in the mood before you even reach the slopes.
With the bar closed it's time for a sleep and you get a range of options from a 3 berth cabin to a 5 berth and the standard 6 berth. Prices for the journey from London start from €328 return plus a service charge of E19 per booking (discounts for children aged 4-14 subject to terms & conditions) for a couchette in a 6-berth compartment
There is an on-board bar, and breakfast at €6.50 per person is served (complimentary to passengers in a 3-berth compartment). Book via: www.railtravelshop.com/winter-trains/austria/alpen-express-austria