Scotland’s downhill skiing on the up

The glamour of Chamonix, Val d’Isere or St Moritz may be lacking on top of Scotland’s snow capped mountains this year the country’s five ski resorts are certainly holding their own this year where it matters – on the slopes.

  • Full feature in Issue No. 11

Excellent weather conditions and plenty of snow have kept almost all lifts spinning as visitors flock to spend around £30million a year, prompting an investment of more than £5.5million to upgraded Scotland’s ski centres.

 Skiing and snowboarding at Cairngorm Mountain.

Photograph by: Gerry McCannSkiing and snowboarding at Cairngorm Mountain.

Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Enterprise are providing 75 per cent of the funding, with the remainder coming from the ski centres, to replace and improve chair lifts and upgrade tow lifts.

Glenshee, which opened in December 1962, is to spend around £2.474 million replacing existing chair lifts. Similar work is to be carried out at Glencoe, the country’s oldest ski centre, at a cost of £1.89 million to upgrade and replace lift infrastructure and safeguard jobs.

Graham McCabe, managing director at Glenshee Ltd, said: “The new lifts will further develop Glenshee’s snowsports experience by improving access to higher altitude snowfields and will undoubtedly help retain domestic skiers on Scotland’s slopes whilst hopefully encouraging more international snowsport enthusiasts to sample what Scottish skiing has to offer.

Cairngorm Mountain Ltd has already upgraded its infrastructure with support from HIE while the Lecht and Nevis Range have announced plans to upgrade their current tow lifts at a cost of £456,000 and £707,000 respectively.

6.2.2015. Skiing and snowboarding at Cairngorm Mountain. © Gerry McCann.

Photograph by: Gerry McCann

Nevis Range Development Company has owned and operated the ski centre on Aonach Mor since it was built 25 years ago. Over that time the company has grown the skiing infrastructure and developed mountain biking facilities to a world class standard. It provides the only mountain gondola system in the UK which is one of the Highlands busiest visitor attractions.

Managing Director Marian Austin said: In addition to upgrading the gondola controls and improving the building which houses the top station, the project will assist with the installation of lightning protection to those ski lifts which are regularly being damaged by lightning strikes.

“The snowsports sector is very important for Scotland’s rural economy and is worth an estimated £30 million per year, supporting over 600 jobs,” said Fergus Ewing, Enterprise and Tourism Minister.

“Our ski centres bring many tourists to Scotland and this considerable investment from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise, who have worked together with the centres to identify their needs, will provide the necessary support to ensure the sector’s long term viability.

6.2.2015. Skiing and snowboarding at Cairngorm Mountain. © Gerry McCann.

Photograph by: Gerry McCann

“The outdoors is the number one reason why people visit Scotland and for every £1 spent on the hills an additional £4 is spent in the surrounding areas which provide vital income in many rural areas. The most recent full ski season in Scotland saw over 235,000 skier days recorded and with this funding we can look forward to many more successful years.”

Malcolm Roughhead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland said: “Our ski centres area huge draw to local residents, snowsport enthusiasts from around Scotland and also from further afield.

“It’s not just about the money spent on ski passes, ski hire and tuition. People come for the snow but stay for the restaurants and accommodation, which all provides a boost to Scotland’s visitor economy.

“This investment will go a long way to reducing seasonality in rural areas and ensuring the economic benefits of snowsports are felt in Scotland for many years to come.”