Whether you are looking to travel to the Alps from outside the area or are already in the region, the train represents a viable and attractive option for getting to the slopes. So much so that both Swiss and Austrian railways provide schemes whereby you can buy a combined rail and lift pass, and get a discount on both. The schemes are respectively called "Snow'n'Rail" and "Kombitickets Wintersport" and can be accessed, in English, from the web sites of the national carriers on the left of this page.
Not all the resorts under the Swiss and Austrian schemes actually deliver you into the resort of your choice by rail. For many the last leg is by bus, but the bus services in both countries are as reliable and regular as the rail services, and totally geared up for people with holiday luggage and winter sports gear. On this site, at this time, we have limited what is shown to the resorts we know you can literally get off the train and ski... OK, some you may have to take the ski bus from the station, but these are free and generally efficient.
It is not prejudice that favours Switzerland as the country with the most destinations we have listed. Quite simply the Swiss public transport system is a delight and so comprehensive that there is not a single resort in the country you can't get to with public transport! For a comprehensive list of all Swiss resorts you can get to by public transport visit our companion web site, Swiss Winter Sports. Austria and Germany also fare pretty well in terms of resorts that can be reached with a train and a scheduled bus service, although the regional railways and bus services tend to be slower and less frequent.
On the whole Germany is an exceedingly pleasant country to visit, but is not one of the great Alpine destinations. However from Germany it is very easy to get to Switzerland or Austria. Indeed there is a direct rail link from Munich to Kitzbühel. Nonetheless, there is skiing you can access by rail - Feldberg in the Black Forest and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Alps.
Unfortunately the Italian trains are often unreliable - it is no surprise that their landing page at Trenitalia lists links for how to get compensation for delays and what to do in the event of a strike! However, there is a lot I like about Italy and ski there often. It is relatively cheap, the food is fabulous and there are some wonderful resorts. Sadly few of them can be reached with a train journey alone, although I often sneak across from Zermatt in Switzerland to Cervinia in Italy for lunch. If it is Italian-speaking you want, Airolo in the Swiss canton of Ticino has a railway station. There are also some small resorts along the Brenner to Bolzano train route in Italy's South Tyrol. Magnificent Cortina d'Ampezzo once had a railway station, but that has long gone and the nearest station is now Dobbiaco, 35 minutes away by bus.
I have also experienced significant delays in France using public transport, and if you do choose to take the train, there is usually a transfer using some form of taxi service to get to the resorts - rarely are there scheduled buses. Eurostar do run an excellent service from London that takes you to many resorts in both France and Switzerland (see here for details). From Geneva, however, it is relatively easy to get to Chamonix and St-Gervais (Megève) by train. The best connected of the French resorts for public transport, however, is Les Arcs, with a railway station very close to the lifts from Bourg.
Austria has an efficient rail network and good connections to Germany and even Paris (with the City Night Line). Both Innsbruck and Salzburg provide great hubs for winter sports in Austria, with international airports and major rail stations connecting to regional services throughout the Tyrol and Salzburgerland. There is skiing within sight of Innsbruck itself, and efficient rail links to two of the most famous names in downhill - St Anton and Kitzbühel, both of which have rail stations adjacent to the lifts. The number of resorts with railway stations in Austria is quite small, however, and many of these have quite modest pistes and slow connections.
Switzerland remains my favourite destination of choice for pursuing winter sports by public transport. There are also many options for getting to Switzerland: the snow train from London with Eurostar, the through trains from Paris, the night trains from many north European cities and the airports at Geneva and Zurich (which both have train stations within the airports). Basel's Euroairport is also a convenient gateway, with a bus service running every seven minutes the short distance to Basel's main railway station. Incidentally, the buses in Switzerland are every bit as reliable as the trains, and the services integrate with the train network to ensure a bus is invariably waiting at the station where you require onward bus connections. International trains generally run to the stations in Geneva, Basel and Zürich (with one service from Germany running all the way to Interlaken Ost), from where it is easy to reach the slopes - indeed if you are ever in these stations early in the morning during winter every other passenger seems to be a Swiss resident off to the slopes for the day!
At the bottom of the page I have listed all the resorts I know of, with a decent amount of piste and efficient lifts, that you can get to by train. I have divided Switzerland into three sections: the francophone area in the West, generally best accessed from Lausanne and Geneva; the central areas best accessed from Lucerne, Berne and Basel; and the eastern areas best accessed from Zurich. All of these resorts also operate the Swiss Snow'n'Rail scheme that means that for 1,2 and 6 day passes you get a combined 20% discount on public transport and lift passes.
To see our full list of resorts with train stations visit the Snow and Rail Resort Finder.
We think there are other resorts around the world you may be able to get to by train without booking a taxi, hiring a car or having a bus transfer. For example, Winter Park Resort in Colorado, High 1 Ski Resort in Korea, Yabuli in China and Gala Yuzawa in Japan - we just haven't got round to visiting them yet (and there may be others)! Whistler is doable by train, although there is a transfer required from the station. However for now this web site limits itself to the Alps, and resorts we have actually visited. There are also some very small resorts in Switzerland and Austria you can get to by train, but they have limited facilities and have been excluded for now.