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Wednesday October 31, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

The landowners of the Scottish ski area agree to spend the money in a last-ditch attempt to rescue Cairngorm's winter.



The decision to buy a snowmaking machine and snow cannons for the mountain's lower slopes was made on Tuesday at a board meeting of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Board members are said to be hugely concerned about the situation at Cairngorm and have approved the £1 million investment to ensure the mountain can open for skiing this winter.

They say they are "determined to have something in place for skiers when the season kicks off".

At the start of October it was announced that the funicular would close indefinitely for urgent safety repairs.

The Board has now admitted that in a "worst case scenario" it could be out of action all winter.

It's the only way up to the top of the hill.

Cairngorm FunicularCairngorm Funicular is out of action















Then, on 26th October,  50 instructors and admin staff were told there was no work for them this winter as Snow School would not open.

Both developments led to a furious response from locals and calls for the Scottish Government to step in, as we reported in our earlier articles:

It's understood that Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) was not consulted about the closure of the Snow School and does not support it.

The decision was made by Natural Retreats, which leases the ski area from HIE.

The company told PlanetSKI earlier this week that it was taken because of uncertainty surrounding the funicular and "limited snow cover for lessons".

The intervention by HIE will raise further questions about that decision.

"Board members are deeply concerned about the closure of the funicular and the impact this will be having locally," the Chair of HIE, Professor Lorne Crerar said.

"Investigation into the concerns is well underway and we eagerly anticipate a report on that in early December, along with plans for any remedial work needed to restore the service.

"In addition to getting the funicular back into use, our prime concern now is the impact the closure will be having on operational staff at Cairngorm and on the many local businesses that have strong links to activities on the mountain.

"HIE staff are working with Business Gateway to provide local business support, and that is crucial."

Cairngorm MountainCairngorm Mountain













HIE says the snowmaking equipment will make the mountain more accessible for beginners and families and reduce congestion in high traffic areas.

It means the drag lifts will be able to run when there is snow on the higher slopes but not lower down.

"This investment means that, even if the worst case scenario comes to pass and the funicular is out of action for the season, we can still look forward to a season of winter sports at Cairngorm, just as in any other year," Professor Crerar said.

Alan Brattey of the Aviemore Business Association said they welcomed the decision to buy additional snowmaking equipment to ensure snow cover on the lower pistes.

But he said - unlike the area outside the Ptarmigan building up on the hill - the artificial snow area would not be able to accommodate dozens of beginners.

"The decision to close the snow school was taken by the operator when they already knew that additional snowmaking equipment would very likely be purchased by HIE," he told us.

"While beginners are clearly the largest market segment that use the snow school, there are other categories that take lessons too. Early intermediates for example.

"The decision to close the snow school was taken prematurely but it comes as no real surprise because the operator simply does not have the competence to effectively manage the business."

SnowfactorySnowfactory on the move
















No details have been given about the snowmaking facilities but it's likely to involve an easily transportable snow factory that comes in a shipping container.

The Technoalpin snowfactories allow snowmaking to take place even when it is warm.

One was hired on trial in Cairngorm last winter and they have been used in other Scottish ski areas.


Let it snowSnowfactory trial at Cairngorm last winter








HIE has commissioned a major a review of the lift infrastructure at Cairngorm and says the findings will be published in the new two weeks.

"While the uplift review isn't intended to resolve the current issues, it will be instrumental in steering future investment at Cairngorm and creating a world-class year-round attraction," Professor Lorne Crerar said.

"We look forward to sharing the findings of this comprehensive study, carried out by independent global experts."

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

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CAIRNGORM FUNICULAR: £13.3M TO REMOVE (Thursday October 10, 2019)
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