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Scottish Ski Areas Stay Shut But Get £3m Government Aid

The extra funding is welcome news for the snowsports industry just as the Scottish Government announces the nation will stay in lockdown until at least the end of February.

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The lifts at the five mountain resorts have been closed by Scottish Government order since 5th January when the whole of mainland Scotland and the Isle of Skye went into lockdown.

Everyone was told to stay at home except for essential reasons.

It looks as if this latest announcement has put the prospect of them opening back until March at the earliest.

It’s a huge blow to the ski areas, particularly as conditions for skiing and snowboarding have been exceptional since the start of 2021.

The snow began falling at the end of December and it’s kept coming.

Glencoe is said to have a couple of metres of snow at the top with enough cover to ski all the way down to the car park.

Glencoe, 31st January – photo ‘Mark Back Corries’

In normal years, such conditions would draw the crowds from across Scotland – and even further afield – giving a welcome boost to the industry.

On a good day, around 7,000 skiers and snowboarders would visit the five ski areas.

Now, only locals out ski touring are able to take advantage of the slopes as part of their regular exercise.

The Scottish Government has stepped in to help struggling businesses with a cash injection of £3m.

The money will go to the five mountain resorts: Glencoe, Glenshee, Cairngorm, The Lecht and Nevis Range as well as the indoor slope, Snow Factor at Braehead, and the privately-run dry slopes.

“It is key that we inject financial support to make sure these centres are kept from financial ruin and ready to welcome back visitors when the time is right,” said Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing.

Money for Scottish snowsports

The Chair of Ski-Scotland and MD of Glencoe, Andy Meldrum, told PlanetSKI the money was ‘hugely welcome’.

He thanked the Scottish Government and Snowsport Scotland which he said had done an amazing job.

“It will go some way towards making sure we are still here in a year’s time,” he said.

“We lost half our ski season last year and now we have lost the first part of this season.  This funding will help cover our operating costs and some – though not all – of our losses. The running costs of a ski area don’t disappear when we can’t open.”

The news of the extra money came ahead of Tuesday’s announcement by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, that lockdown restrictions will be in place until at least the end of February.

She said she was “cautiously optimistic” that a careful and gradual easing could begin at the start of March and would give an update in two weeks’ time.

“If we were to ease restrictions too quickly, there is a real risk that infections would rise again very quickly,” the First Minister told the Scottish Parliament.

Scotland has reported five cases of the new South African variant of Covid-19, all linked to travel rather than community transmission.

Glencoe, 31st January – photo ‘Mark Back Corries’

There’s disappointment that the extended lockdown will keep ski lifts closed, especially as golf courses, tennis courts and other outdoor sports have been allowed to stay open.

“We successfully operated sledging and skiing at Glencoe for almost a month in December with online ticketing and limited numbers,” Andy Meldrum told us.

“Hopefully we will get the nod before the season is over.  We can normally ski until late April or early May.  With the build-up of snow we’ve got and the cold weather that’s forecast to continue, we could have six or seven weeks of a season even if we open in mid-March.”

Glencoe, 31st January – photo ‘Mark Back Corries’

MAIN PHOTO of Glencoe ‘Mark Back Corries’

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