- 1 Climate
- 2 Getting There
- 3 Cultural Info
- 4 Health and Safety
- 5 Resources
Scotland's mountains are hardly massive by world standards, but when it comes to mountain sports they should not be underestimated. Scotland's climate is a maritime one, dominated by the country's exposure to the Atlantic Ocean, that said there is still some great skiing to be had when the weather plays ball and when it all comes together? Well that's why most Scottish Skiers no matter where they've skied will tell you, the best days of their lives have been in the Scottish Mountains.
In recent years, a media driven perception of the UK as being a snow free country due to climate change has had a more severe impact on the Scottish Snowsport Area's than any climate reality. Contrary to what some believe and what you may read elsewhere online, it does still snow in Scotland, but our weather is and always has been very fickle. That said stories of no-snow seasons are simply not true, none of the five Scottish Snowsports Areas have ever failed to open during a season, and at time of this edit Scotland's 2009 season has just entered it's 7th consecutive calendar month in which lift served snowsports has been on offer in the Highlands.
There are five Snowsport Areas in Scotland: Glencoe, Nevis Range, CairnGorm Mountain, Glenshee and the Lecht. All areas are fairly accessible from the main Scottish cities, and it's when snowfalls hit the low lying lowland cities that the crowds hit the slopes.
The mostly widely known area, CairnGorm is 9 miles from the small town of Aviemore, just off the A9 trunk road, 40 miles south of the city of Inverness. Skiing takes place in 2 bowls (Coire Cas & Coire na Ciste) on Cairngorm, Scotland's 4th highest mountain. There have been lifts here since 1961. A controversial Funicular railway, opened in 2001, runs up Coire Cas. Its planning lead to the demise of some useful lifts, so access to the steeper parts of the ski area in Coire na Ciste has been slightly compromised. At the top of the funicular is the UK's highest restaurant & shop (1097m) and a large gently sloping area with tows for beginners. Intermediate skiers are well catered for with a mix of blue and red runs at the top of the Ciste & all down the Cas. Further down the Ciste, the West Wall and East Wall are lift-served steep black runs. This area often has the longest & most reliable season (December-April approximately).
This area is set just off the A82 Glasgow-Fort William road on the mountain of Meall a'Bhuiridh. The setting is spectacular, just south of Glencoe itself, one of the most scenic areas in Scotland. This is the oldest ski area in the country. The first lifts were built in 1956. The ski runs follow natural hollows and the area is north-facing so it holds snow well. The steepest marked run in Scotland, the Flypaper, can be found here and there are numerous easier routes but terrain for beginners is limited. There are few lifts but they access many runs & the country's largest vertical drop (760m, not usually fully skiable). The lift & mountain infrastructure is generally old & as of April 2009 the owners are seeking new investment.
This area lies on both sides of the A93 Perth-Braemar road, at the point where it is the highest public road in Scotland (652m). It spreads over 3 valleys & 4 mountains & boasts the countries largest lift infrastructure (>20 tows). Some of these are doubled button tows to cut queues on busy days. There are also 2 chairlifts. The ski area is the most extensive in the UK. Beginner areas are easily accessible from the roadside & there are some reasonably steep runs at each extremity of the area. These easterly mountains are less rocky than those of the west so good skiing is possible with a thin layer of snow. However snow-holding is less secure, so extensive fencing is used. There is very limited snow-making.
Also situated on a high mountain pass on the east of the Grampian mountains, the Lecht is slightly closer to the city of Aberdeen than Glenshee. It sits on the A939, between Cock Bridge & Tomintoul (the highest village in the Highlands). The road is very steep & exposed, so probably gets blocked by snow more frequently than any other in the UK. The pass is high (635m) & the surrounding hills are not so the vertical drop here is only 210m. Snow-making is more extensive & the beginner areas are right beside the car parks so it is good for beginners. There is even a 'magic carpet' style lift. The restaurant is recently refurbished and the tows are uniformly stacking button lifts. There is also a chairlift. The heathery slopes allow skiing on thin snow but mean fencing is used to hold the snow. It is usually the first ski resort to open for the season (opened 29th October in 2008/9 season).
Scotland's newest resort opened in 1989 on the slopes of Aonach Mor. The car park is only 7 miles from the (coastal) town of Fort William & at low level. A Gondola runs to the base of the ski area & a variety of tows fan out across the westerly face of the mountain. The beginner areas are nearby and an unusual 2-way flat chairlift accesses another blue run around the mountain, with better snowholding. There are blue runs at the top of the mountain but the middle section is steeper with red & black runs. There is a chairlift on the other side of the mountain which can provide uplift from excellent steep patrolled & unpatrolled off-piste skiing towards the end of the season. This only opens in excellent conditions as the fuel has to be flown in by helicopter. The mountain is Scotland's 7th highest & the tows go nearly to the top so it has the highest lift (1215m) of any area. The views from here over Carn Mor Dearg to the northern corries of Ben Nevis are fantastic.
Access from Northern England and Southern Scotland tends to involve use of the A9 road, which is usually well maintained after snowfall, although early morning blockages can occur.
Fort William and Aviemore are both accessable by train
Visas and Documentation
Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness or Prestwick
Customs and Quarantine
Haggis, bagpipes and blokes in skirts. It's no wonder they are tough.
Like the rest of the UK but the roads are getting quieter & narrower by the time you get this far north. All areas are on or just off 2 lane tarmac roads. Some routes are quite steep (especially the Lecht from the East & Glenshee from the south). CairnGorm & Nevis Range are accessible without a car.
Food and Drink
Haggis and whisky are famous. Irn Bru is a ubiquitous violent orange-coloured fizzy soft drink that outsells Coca-cola. 'Heavy' covers a multitude of dark beers but lager is generally more popular. Cuisine is everything from fantastic curries to Deep Fried Mars bars. Fish & shellfish should be good by the coast.
Technology and Networks
credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in Scotland. there is usually a sign on the door to tell you if credit cards are accepted. however if you are unsure ask !!
Maybe round things up in a Taxi, 10-15% in restaurants. Not expected elsewhere.
Health and Safety
Mountain rescue is free, organised by the RAF. Roads are fairly safe. Worry about your liver and arteries if following the local diet.
999 for any emergency service.
GP with a special interest in ski injuries at Aviemore HC. Relevant hospitals are the Belford, Fort William; Raigmore, Inverness; Aberdeen & Perth Royal Infirmaries. All healthcare is 'free at point of access' no matter how you access it, courtesy of the NHS.
Some of the worlds oldest rocks and no human predators make Scotland pretty safe. Avalanches are an underestimated possibility on steep slopes. Icy roads, heavy drinking and unhealthy food are probably the biggest risks.
Something called Hogmanay (or at least the morning after it)
It has been known for skis to disappear at some busy base stations. Anyone taking the most basic precautions with their gear should be fine.
- Information source: Wikipedia
- Information source: Template:Source skicomau
- Travel Warnings : Smart Traveller
Pages in category "Scotland"
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