Couchette sleeper trains, also called 'Intercites de nuit', and formerly called 'Corail Lunea' travel overnight between Paris and destinations in France and Andorra. You can also reach some Italian resorts with them.
During most weeks of the the ski season Corail Lunea trains run every night. Typically you get on at around 10pm or 11pm in Paris and arrive in the Alps or Pyrenees between 7am and 8.30am, depending on your destination.
There's no disco carriage on the Corail Lunea trains like there was on the Rail Europe Snow Train, but you've got a nice ambience as everyone is excited that they are going to wake up in the mountains the next morning.
French skiers often bring a bottle of wine a little picnic too for a little feast before bedtime.
Eurostar + Corail Lunea - journey film
We made a two-minute film of our journey by Eurostar and Corail Lunea to the Portes du Soleil.
As you'll see, travelling this way gave us extra time on the slopes, and we got a decent night's sleep on the Corail Lunea.
It was certainly fun travelling in a group on the train - and we also saw that there were plenty of families on the train too that were enjoying this way of travelling.
Each couchette bed has freshly laundered sheets, a pillow and duvet. A bottle of water and an eye mask are supplied. The door can be locked from the inside and the main light can be switched off and individual reading lights turned on. The upper and middle bunks have straps that ensure that if you are "roller" when you sleep, you can't end up rolling off onto the floor!
Although not spacious, there's sufficient room in each compartment to store luggage, under the beds (the best place for skis and boards) and in racks at the foot end and head end of the couchette. In a full couchette of six people some luggage might have to be stored in the middle too. Sometimes groups of five with loads of luggage book the entire couchette and then use the sixth bed just to put extra luggage on.
Six berth vs four berth
Is it worth getting a "First Class" ticket on the Corail? Well, the difference is basically that in a First Class couchette you there are four beds (or 'berths' as they are also known as) and in Standard Class there are six berths.
The difference is stretching the definition of First Class somewhat, but it does mean you have more space per person, if only because with four people instead of six, in an area the same size, you'll have less luggage to store.
The Corail Lunea also has some carriages with reclining seats (a bit like you get on the overnight Eurostar Ski Train).
This might be the cheapest option but it is unlikely to give you a great night's sleep, even though the angle of the recline is quite generous we would recommend these only as a last resort. As you can see from the photo, you'll be in an ordinary carriage where the lights dim but never go off completely, and you won't be able to lie flat.
There is no buffet car on the Corail Lunea, so have dinner at Paris Austerlitz station before you get on board, or bring a picnic like the French do. You'll find them unwrapping baguettes, cheeses, uncorking wine - it's great to see the French make a proper culinary event of train travel and you'll probably be offered some too.
There are vending machines that serve hot and cold drinks, crisps and chocolates, but in terms of food you can bring what you like on board, so you can stock up before hand. Obviously there's not a load of space to eat it (not tables in the couchettes) so it's more of a meal on your lap.
There are restaurants near Gare d'Austerlitz and cafes in the station too.
As with all overnight trains, members of staff stay awake all night and are available at any time, and are friendly and helpful.
In the morning there are announcements in French and English when the train stops at a station.
There are also staff members on the platform to point you to the right couchette compartment when you board the train.