Glenshee Ski Centre
Nestling in the Southern Cairngorms, Glenshee Ski Centre is Scotland's largest snowsports area and one of three Scottish Snowsport Areas situated within the Cairngorms National Park, the United Kingdom's largest and newest National Park and one of the largest in the EU.
Glenshee Ski Centre stretches across four Munros (Scottish mountains over 3000ft/914m) and three distinct mountain glens.
Skiers first came to Glenshee in the period leading up to WWII mostly having learnt to ski on the continent, some simple rope tows followed in the post war period, but the story of Glenshee as we know it today really begun in 1957 with the opening of the Meall Odhar T-Bar, built by the Dundee Ski Club. Over the next 30years development and expansion which culminated with the Glas Maol Poma gives us the Glenshee of today.
- 1 Location
- 2 Pros
- 3 Cons
- 4 Contacts
- 5 Planning
- 6 Resort Facilities
- 7 Ride Guide
- 8 Other
- 9 Resources
Glenshee Ski Centre located in the Southern Cairngorms, straddling the A93 Cairnwell Pass (Scotland's highest public road) between Braemar nine miles to the North and the Spittal of Glenshee to the South.
The snowsport area actually sits between Glen Beag and Glen Clunie, but takes it's name from the better known Glen to the South, Glenshee or Gleann Shith (Gaelic for Glen of the Fairies).
Glenshee is the largest of Scotland's five mountain snowsports areas both in terms of area and uplift capacity. The closest to large population centres in the Eastern half of Central Scotland. When fully open it offers extensive terrain with plenty of cruisers for intermediates, but also lift served unpisted and steep terrain for advanced riders on Glas Maol, in Fionn Coire and on the Cairnwell's infamous Black, the Tiger.
Large free car parking situated at the base of the lifts which rise either side of the A93 Cairnwell Pass and uplift capacity to match (except for the sporadic days when half of Scotland tries to go skiing at the same time).
Pomas: The majority of the lifts are high speed auto stacking Pomas, including several double Pomas. (Also listed as a Con because some snowboarders hate them, but Glenshee have modified the load areas and loading procedure to make it much easier for boarders to ride the Pomas at Glenshee.)
Snow Making on some lower level road side slopes.
No public transport runs along this section of the A93 road, thus a car is essential to visit Glenshee.
Weather (and therefore snow conditions) are very changeable in Scotland. Arrival of snow can vary between mid November to Mid January. Also some days snowsports is not possible due to severe storms. In some cases arrival of heavy snow can cause closure of the access roads & snow clearing by the council wont begin until 11am. If planning a trip always be flexible with your plans.
A major drawback of Glenshee's infrastructure is the reliance on low level surface uplift to reach the more reliable higher and further out terrain, something that can be a major frustration later in lean times.
Pomas: If you don't like them you will either have to start liking them or be limited to less than half of Glenshee's terrain that can be accessed of the 4 T-bars and 3 chairlifts.
Phone: +44(0)13397 41320
Fax: +44(0)13397) 41665
Postal: Glenshee Ski Centre Cairnwell, Braemar Aberdeenshire, AB35 5XU
Glenshee is relatively close to Scotland's main cities, but is not served by Public Transport, though a number of University and other Ski Clubs organise club buses.
From Edinburgh, take the A90 north over the Forth Road Bridge and the M90 to Perth, leave the M90 on the A93 towards Blairgowrie. Follow the A93 through Blairgowrie towards Braemar, Glenshee Ski Centre is located near the Summit of the Cairnwell Pass, with large carparks either side of the main road.
From Glasgow, take the M80 to Stirling. From here take the A9 to Perth and follow the A93 on to Glenshee as above. Drive time is approximately one and half hours from Edinburgh, and two hours from Glasgow.
From the NE and Aberdeen Glenshee is an easy drive on the A93, the Northern approach to the Ski Area having the advantage of being less steep and less exposed than the Southern Route, meaning it usually opens first after a big snow fall.
From Inverness or the Inner Moray Firth head towards Strathspey on the A9 South, exit at the signs to Carrbridge. In the village of Carrbridge the road forks at a triangular junction, follow signs for Dulnain Bridge and Grantown on Spey (A938 / A95). Once on the A95 bypass Grantown and cross the River Spey, here you will pick up signs for the A939 to Tomintoul. Follow the A939 over the Lecht Pass beyond Cockbridge to Gairnsheil Bridge, turn right taking the B976 towards Braemar, this joins the A93 at Crathie and from there follow the A93 South till you arrive at Glenshee.
While there is no on mountain accommodation right at the Snowsports Area, the Spital of Glenshee Hotel is the closest and is located about five minutes drive from the car park.
A range of accommodation can be found in the towns and villages around Glenshee, principally Blairgowrie to the South, Kirkmichael to the South West and Braemar to the North. The village of Braemar is nine miles from the Glenshee Ski Centre and while it is further than the Spital of Glenshee it is worth bearing in mind that the Northern approach road to Glenshee is neither as steep or as exposed as the Southern approach, thus is less likely to close and first to open in adverse winter weather.
Glenshee Ski Centre have on site equipment hire, however this can get very busy during holiday periods and weekends during the peak season, when it is advisable to arrive early if needing hire or to hire off-site. There is also equipment hire at Cairdsports at the Spital of Glenshee and in a number of the villages/towns either side of Glenshee.
The Lift Network at Glenshee spreads out from the main carpark on either side of the A93 Road. All the road side lifts are either adjacent to the Base Buildings or a short walk.
Parking is free and there is a vast road side car park. Please follow instructions from car park attendants and park in an orderly line without obstructing other cars or blocking the aisles, it is essential that easy egress is maintained for all vehicles in case of emergency evacuation in winter storm conditions.
Overnight parking is tolerated, but during the winter you maybe required to move your vehicle to facilitate snow clearing operations. Remember though it can get very cold and very windy even at Car Park level!
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Eating on the Mountain
There are three on mountain eateries serving a variety of food and drink and three are licensed to sell alcoholic drinks.
The base cafe is adjacent to the Ticket Office and was refurbished for the 2009 Season. This serves hot and cold drinks, hot filled breakfast rolls and a variety of burgers, pies and other snacks.
Located at the main hub of lifts on the Cairnwell side at the foot of the Cairnwell T-bar, Butchart's Access Poma and Carn Aosda T-bar and top of the Plastic Slope Poma, the Cairnwell Mountain Restaurant serves more substantial offerings for lunch, fish and chips, Chilli, Baked Potatoes and Pasta Dishes amongst the regular offerings.
In the middle valley on the other side of the road is the Meall Odhar Cafe, this is the closest catering and toilets to Coire Fionn and Glas Maol, it serves a range of hot and cold drinks, hot and cold snacks and Burgers and baked potatoes.
Bars & Entertainment
On the mountain a gift and mountain sports shop is located in the Bottom Station of the Cairnwell Chairlift, this sells all the items you might have forgotten, gloves, hats, face masks, goggles, shades, sun cream, lip balms etc. plus a range of mountain sports clothing.
For those interested in Backcountry or Telemarking visit Braemar Mountain Sports which specialises in telemark and alpine touring kit.
Glenshee has a number of beginner lifts to suit varying ability levels. The lower slopes of the Cairnwell side offer a wide & gentle beginners area perfect for first timers served by a trainer tow & rope tow. A short chairlift ride away are some progressingly longer greens perfect for those wanting to advance onto more challenging terrain. A discounted beginner lift ticket is available.
Glenshee has a fleet of 6 Pisten Bullys of varying ages, making it the largest fleet in the UK. 2 Being brand new Pisten bully 600's. One being equipped with a park blade and is also equipped with a snow blower attachment so snow can be moved to where its needed. Glenshee has invested over £1/2m ($790,000) in grooming equipment alone over since 2009 following two bumper seasons. As a result the pistes are kept in good shape as long as prevailing conditions allow.
Grooming usually takes place in preperation running up to and over weekends and intermittently during the week. Around 30-35km of pistes are groomed regularly from easy peasy greens to more challenging reds. The Black marked runs are rarely groomed.
There is extensive off piste terrain at Glenshee. The 4 Munros in which Glenshee is built on offer a wide variety of off-piste terrain in varying lengts and steepness. Some of the most extensive lift served off-piste in the UK.
Unfortuneatly off-piste terrain is hit & miss. There are usually lots of lines to choose from throughout the season but wind direction plays a big role in determining where the snow lies. So usually not all off-piste terrain will be accessable at any one time. Hit it on a good day though and it can compete with European resorts. Always consult ski patrol and/or SAIS before heading to off-piste routes as avalanches can occur and can be life threatening.
Out of Bounds
Parks & Pipes
With a brand new set of rails new to 2010 costing over £15k the park at Glenshee is usually of good quality. One of their Pisten Bully 600's are equipped with a park blade and a snow blower attachment so they are capable of making some brilliant features. Due to natural circumstances (ie availability of snow & strong winds every now & again) the park is not to the same scale as most Euro parks, pipes are rare. But the park will offer plenty to amuse you for a day. Always keep in with Code of Conduct for use of park & stay safe.
All though dependant on conditions Glenshee's best powder can often be found on the Glas moal piste, the cairnwell pistes, the coire fionn and the meahl odhar piste. All these pistes offer fantastic snow on a fantastic decents. On a good year powder can be found on most pistse and un touched powder off piste is not hard to find.
(Taken from http://www.ski-glenshee.co.uk/Environment-)
The ski area is unusual for Scottish hill land because of its complex bedrock and the high fertility of most of its soils. Reflecting this fertility, the stone ruins of old shielings from past centuries occur at a higher altitude than recorded elsewhere in the north-east Highlands, as do moles and breeding frogs.
Many uncommon lime-loving plants grow on the ski area and nearby, the long established Caenlochan National Nature Reserve is Britain's second richest site for rare arctic-alpine flora.
A higher population density of ptarmigan has been found on the ski area than recorded anywhere else in the world, and red grouse and mountain hares are unusually abundant. Dotterel, golden plover, ring ouzels, twites and occasionally snow buntings can be found breeding, whilst peregrine falcons, golden eagles and ravens hunt the area.
As well as the nature reserve at Caenlochan, there have long been Sites of Special Scientific Interest on the ski area at Glas Choire and nearby on Cairnwell. More recently, under European legislation, a Special Protection Area for birds and a Special Area of Conservation for vegetation have been designated, both of which include part of the ski area.
Construction and operation of the ski facilities have caused no adverse effects on the bird populations or rare plants. The Company has welcomed independent monitoring of environmental impacts and reinstatement since 1986, when it also commissioned the first environmental baseline study of any Scottish ski area.
The top of the Cairnwell Chairlift offers the best panorama of the Cairngorms to be seen from any Scottish ski area.
(Taken from http://www.ski-glenshee.co.uk/History)
Glenshee's History of Winter Sports
Glenshee or Gleann Shith, (Gaelic for Glen of the Fairies), flanks the highest public road in Scotland which runs through the Cairnwell pass, formerly one of the main historic drove routes from the Highlands to the Lowlands.
Skiing began here in the late thirties when a few enthusiasts who had learned to ski in Europe, came here to practice their new-found sport. Following the war, some of them returned to build simple rope tows, driven off the rear wheel of tractors and in 1957, Dundee Ski Club built the first T-Bar tow on Meall Odhar.
As skiing grew in popularity, five of these pioneers reached an agreement to lease the land from Invercauld Estate and went on to form Glenshee Chairlift Company Limited, which operated the ski area until May 2004.
In December 1962, with the completion of Cairnwell Chairlift and a small café, the area opened to the public and enjoyed fantastic snow conditions. So, emboldened by success, Sunnyslope T-Bar was built in the summer of 1963.
Unfortunately, through a cruel twist of fate, that winter was a wash out and the new tow operated for just seven days.However, despite this disappointing start, the commitment to development over the years has made Glenshee the largest Ski Centre in the UK, with 21 lifts and tows running over 4 mountains and 3 valleys. The Glenshee Chairlift Co Ltd was forced into receivership in May 2004 but a management buyout by Glenshee Ltd ensures that skiing and snowboarding continues at the Glenshee Ski Centre.
- Glenshee website
- Winterhighland - Independent Snow Reports, Pix from the Slopes and Webcams
- Scottish Snowsports