The joke goes that a guy walks into a pub and asks how he gets to some place, and the barman replies that it depends on where he is starting from.
And so it is regarding skiing and snowboarding the Alps (and winter walking, cross-country skiing, tobogganing and all the other fun things you can do in the snow).
If you already in the Alps, it is pretty straightforward. In Austria and Switzerland pop along to a station (or go online) to pick up copies of, respectively, the Kombitickets Wintersport or Snow'n'Rail brochures. Online they are in English, and both schemes give you discounts on the combined rail and lift pass. See the links to the left to navigate through to online versions. In France you can pick up tickets for the rail portions online or at the local SNCF offices and there are numerous options including taxis, scheduled bus services and specialist transfer companies such as Altibus for the onward portion from the station.
There are day and night direct services across Europe that take you to the main hubs for hitting the Alps. In broad terms, you need to aim for Zurich (for Eastern Switzerland and the Voralberg), Innsbruck (for the Tyrol), Salzburg (for resorts in Austria that are East of the Tyrol), Geneva (for Western Switzerland and transfers to France), Berne or Basel (for Central Switzerland) and Chambery or Grenoble for most French resorts.
If you are in London you might choose to take Eurostar's Snow Train to France or Switzerland. The French train stops off at Moutiers, Aime-la-Plagne and Bourg-St-Maurice from where you can transfer to about twenty resorts with a shuttle service organised by Altibus. The Swiss service stops off at Vallorbe, Aigle, Martigny and Visp and it is a doddle to pick up tickets from the stations for any onward portion of the transfer or you can do it in advance or even on board the train. You can also pick up day or night services from Paris for resorts in France and Switzerland, including Lyria's ski train, TGV Lyria des Neiges. From Amsterdam and Utrecht there is the excellent City Night Line for Basel and Zurich, from where you can easily hit the slopes by breakfast time. German cities have good rail links to Swiss and Austrian resorts via direct ICE services to Basel, Interlaken, Zurich, Innsbruck and Salzburg (and Intercity services direct to St Anton), and there is a seasonal overnight service from Hamburg and other cities of Northern Germany called Schnee Express. If you take the Eurostar to Brussels, you can connect to the seasonal Saturday night Treski service, which connects cities in Belgium and the Netherlands with a whole bunch of resorts in Austria.
If you want to have somebody else organise your train travel to your ski destination from the UK, Snow Carbon seem to do a good job of it, and their web site has a wealth of information on the subject of travelling around Europe in search of snow.
If you are planning on staying in just one resort in Switzerland the Swiss Transfer ticket takes you from the airport or border railway station directly to your destination (and back) for CHF 135, but you must book it in advance of arriving in Switzerland. Our sister site, Swiss Winter Sports, provides full details on where to go, how to get around and where to stay in the country.
And last but not least, my favourite site for travelling by train around Europe: The Man in Seat 61.