"Here's a ramble about our journey, with friends and family, by train to the Alps.
With a train departing at 8.00am there isn't the same panic as for a flight. Staying with family in Canterbury, the Eurostar from Ashford is 25mins by car and the check-in process took less than 15 minutes, and there was easily time for a coffee in the spacious departure lounge. We were called for our train and we loaded our bags onboard and departed on time. There were three adults and two six-year-olds in our group and standard class was perfectly adequate. After a second breakfast and an early lunch we were in Lyon in four hours.
"Considering that the snow train direct to Bourg St Maurice takes two hours, we felt ahead of the curve at this point. A slight snag was our decision to hire a car for the onward journey to Tignes. A snag because the car hire centre in Lyon is clearly not set up for this relatively new London to Lyon service. Such were the queues we drove away two hours after arriving in Lyon. Picking up another two at the airport, making our group seven, we motored on towards the snow. As it was Easter, we were far from the only ones on the road so the Liber-t péage pass proved very handy (search Sanef tolling for details). However whilst it was handy for our self-catering accommodation to be able to stock up at the hypermarket en route, if doing the same journey again, I would probably elect to take the (local) train from Lyon to Bourg St Maurice rather than driving. What should have been three hours to resort from Lyon took about 4.5hrs due to traffic.
We stayed at L'Ecrin des Neiges in Val Claret which was lovely. Perhaps not totally deserving of the "luxury" label it gives itself but none the less our apartment had enough room for all seven of us and was a 10 minute walk to the lifts / ski lessons. A note about the ski lockers provided: they are not boot warmers, despite having the nozzle on a stick that many would recognise as providing a drying function overnight. It is just the room in which the locker are which is heated. To avoid wet boots the next day, we took to drying boots on the radiators in the room (which may be frowned on).
As Val Claret is at 2100m the snow was good all week. We were lucky enough to get 2 great powder days and just one day of winds being a little too strong to necessitate an early finish the rest was great piste skiing . The ESF lessons were great and whilst expensive, the kids had a great time and came on well.
"The return journey:
We drove out hire car (van) back to Lyon which was rather traffic clogged as expected (another reason to consider the train). We took the train (premier class this time) from Lyon back to Ashford which was comfortable and uneventful.
"As Lyon has no immigration services, the train stopped for an hour at Lille and everyone with their bags got off and went through passport control and had their luggage X-rayed. We were off the train and through this process in under 20 minutes but had to wait another half hour in an increasingly full departure lounge before boarding for the last hour to Ashford. It wasn't a huge inconvenience; there were a few video games and colouring activities for the kids.
"We arrived at Ashford on time and collected the car to go home. Altogether, the train via Lyon is a great option, despite the traffic delays. It is a price and time competitive option compared to the direct Ski Train and one I would use again. If repeating this route, especially in the school holidays, I would certainly consider getting the train from Lyon to Bourg and either hiring a car there or getting a transfer up the mountain. The only distinct advantage of having a vehicle was to be able to shop at the hypermarket as we were self catering. If I could help it, I would not fly to go skiing again."