Skiing in Scotland – Ski Areas Prepare To Open

The Scottish snowsports season is here – just. But, for the time being at least, only skiers and snowboarders in Scotland will be allowed on the slopes, and the weather this weekend has postponed things. UPDATED

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UPDATED, Saturday 19th

It is not quite the opening skiers and snowboarders wanted in Scotland, but there is something on offer at Cairngorm.

“Morning folks! We are back open with the lower snow zone,” said Cairngorm on Saturday.

“The car park t-bar and mighty snow badger rope tow are up and running and we even have some freestyle features set up.

“It’s about 4 degrees at the moment with passing showers and gusting winds.

“Limited tickets are on sale from the ticket office if you didn’t manage to book online – low pressure fronts look to be continuing through the week so please check forecasts before booking to avoid disappointment.”

Cairngorm, Scotland

Cairngorm, Scotland

Cairngorm, Scotland

Cairngorm, Scotland

Sadly things were not so good at Glencoe.

“Unfortunately not enough man made or natural snow yet for us to open for skiing,” said the resort.

“But the sledging slope is in good condition with a large snow pile ready to push out and from Saturday we expect snow to start falling on the mountain again.

“Looking breezy over the weekend with a mixture or rain, sleet and snow depending on what elevation you are at on the mountain.

“For most of the weekend it should be snowing at the height of the sledging slope but likely to be raining at car park level.”

At Glenshee they were unable to open.

“Unfortunately we have taken the hard decision not to open this weekend, this includes the [email protected] cafe,” said the resort.

“The forecast for driving rain and mild temperatures has forced our hand.

“The situation will be reviewed on a daily basis from Sunday night onwards. We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this decision.”

Glenshee, Scotland

Glenshee, Scotland

The Lecht took the decision not to open on Thursday.

“Due to the continued mild weather and heavy rain in the forecast, we have taken the decision not to open this weekend,” said the resort.

“We apologise for any for any upset this may cause but we don’t want to spread out the snow we have managed to produce and watch it wash away.

“Thank you for your continued support and understanding. Keep checking back for updates on opening.”

The resort has been making snow and has posted these pictures, taken by Dr. J L Thorogood on its web site.

The Lecht, Scotland

The Lecht, Scotland

The Lecht, Scotland

The Lecht, Scotland

See below for our full preview article on skiing in Scotland from earlier in the week:

Four of the five ski areas in Scotland plan to open as normal on Saturday 19th December.

They are:

  • Cairngorm
  • The Lecht
  • Glencoe
  • Glenshee

The exception is Nevis Range, which has decided to delay its season until travel restrictions across the UK are eased.

The main difference this winter is that numbers allowed on the mountain will be limited and lift tickets will be sold online.

A series of measures to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 will be in place.

They include track and trace, sanitising stations, takeaway service at cafes, mandatory facemasks indoors and social distancing.

All the ski areas in Scotland are currently in Scotland’s Local Areas Covid Level 1 or 2.

People living in Level 1 or 2 areas are able to travel freely within their own area and between any other Level 1 and 2 areas.

It means that both local skiers and snowboarders and some from further afield in Scotland will be able to enjoy snowsports.

Unfortunately, those living in the higher risk areas (Level 3 and 4) of the country as well as everyone in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Ireland are currently banned from travelling to Scotland except for essential reasons.

“We have had days in the past where we have had far too many skiers come,” Andy Meldrum, chair of Ski-Scotland told PlanetSKI.

“Selling online passes, that will not happen this year.  We can control numbers.  Local people can come and ski.  We are quite hopeful that the limitation in numbers will in some ways balance the demand.”

Most of Scotland’s ski centres were open for summer activities this year so have been able to test their Covid-19 procedures in restaurants and other indoor facilities.

“Once on the mountain with one exception – the Nevis Range gondola – all our lifts are open-air and are one or two person lifts.

“We say: ‘arrive together, ride together’, everyone in their own bubble.  Scottish skiing is in wide open spaces.  It will be a very safe place to come.”

Chairlift at Glencoe

Andy Meldrum is also Managing Director of the Glencoe Mountain Resort.

It already has its sledging slope open, thanks to artificial snow, with daily numbers limited to 200 people.

He says it’s worked well so far with the past two weekends attracting an average 190 people each day.

Sledging at Glencoe this weekend

“We are all in pretty good shape.  All we need is the snow to follow in decent amounts,” he said.

The resorts are keeping their fingers crossed that they are not subjected to the tougher restrictions of Level 3 or 4.

This would mean that only people from the immediate area would be able to visit.

If it’s just locals, the centres would struggle to remain commercially viable.

The Levels will next be reviewed on Tuesday (15th December) and come into force on Friday 18th.

Each area will remain at that level until the next review on Tuesday 5th January.

The hope is that, if the situation allows restrictions to be eased in the spring, Scotland may be able to open up to more skiers and snowboarders from further afield.

Last season there were some of the best late snow conditions in years, but nothing was open thanks to the pandemic.

Lots of snow at Glencoe, March 2020

All ski areas were forced to close in March.

“At Glencoe we still had almost complete cover on the mountain on 15th May,” Andy Meldrum told us.

Cairngorm Mountain says it’s expecting a busy 2020-21 snowsports season.

It currently has the best of the conditions, although a rise in temperature at the weekend combined with blustery winds has affected snow cover on the lower slopes.

Cairngorm, Monday 14th December

“Colder weather looks like it could make a return later in the week with potential snow showers forecast,” the resort said on Facebook on Monday (14th December).

The Lecht  says it will be opening its beginners area with factory-made snow on the 19th December.

Factory-made snow at the Lecht at the end of November

“Should mother nature provide us with some natural we will look at getting other lifts going,” it says.

The Lecht is crowdfunding to raise £80,000 to purchase new snowmaking equipment.

It would increase its existing snow production capacity by another 80%.

Here’s David Farquharson at Glenshee giving some advice on the situation there (recorded the first weekend in December):

Pre Season prep at The Shee

David Farquharson showing what is happening at Glenshee before the 19th Dec opening day

Posted by Glenshee Ski Centre on Thursday, 10 December 2020

And if you’ve not been skiing in Scotland – yet – it’s worth pointing out that the weather can sometimes be a little, er, challenging.

Our good friend Rod Frazer was up in the hills on Sunday 😉….

Hard core up the hill today!

Posted by Where Stags Roar on Sunday, 13 December 2020

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