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CAIRNGORM - £27M VISION TO RESCUE RESORT - Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Wednesday November 7, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

An ambitious plan has been unveiled to boost winter & summer activities at the Scottish ski area. It involves new high-speed chairlifts.

An independent study recommends a series of measures to release what it calls the "immense unlocked potential" of Cairngorm.

It was carried out for the landowners, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and comes at a time of crisis for the resort.

The funicular mountain railway is out of action while safety checks on the structure are carried out.

The ski school is not opening this winter with the loss of 50 jobs.

And a major festival planned for next February has been cancelled.

Last week HIE approved £1 million for a snowfactory to guarantee snow on its lower slopes this winter.

The vision laid out in the report by consultants will not solve any of the immediate problems facing Cairngorm.

It relies on a £27 million investment over a five to ten year period - a figure HIE describes as "challenging", so there's no guarantee it will happen.

CairngormA new vision for Cairngorm - photo Aviemore & Glenmore Community Trust

One of the most eye-catching recommendations is for two new chairlifts to be built from the Coire Cas base area.

The high-speed six-seater lifts would together carry 6,200 people an hour.

The first would be built in the first five years, the second in the next five.

The new lifts, along with additional snowmaking technology, could create another 30 hectares of slopes.

Skiers, snowboarders and local businesses had mounted an unsuccessful campaign for old chairlifts to be kept and repaired to improve access to the mountain.

The lifts were dismantled and removed, despite the protests, leaving the funicular as the only non-surface lift to the top.

Cairngorm funicularCairngorm funicular















The proposals have been drawn up by the US consultancy, SE group, which was commissioned to carry out an independent review of uplift infrastructure at the resort between February and September this year.

They are intended to increase visits during the ski season to 150,000 on a consistent basis - higher in peak years - increasing Cairngorm's market share over time.

Visitor numbers at Cairngorm have been on the decline in recent years.

The report give this stark assessment: "The existing mountain infrastructure at Cairngorm does not provide a skiing experience that can compete in today's marketplace, reflected in the downward trend of annual ski visits".

Its recommendations include:

  • 2 new chairlifts
  • Funicular use restricted to non-skiers and ski school customers once the new lifts are built
  • A second base station at Coire na Ciste should not be reopened
  • Improve facilties at the Coire Cas base station
  • Expand the Ptarmigan restaurant at the top and re-open the Sheiling at the mid-station
  • Provide transport links between Cairngorm and the wider Aviemore area to ease car parking pressure
  • A mountain coaster, zipline and lift-served mountain biking to boost summer visits

Cairngorm base stationCairngorm base station

The Chief Executive of HIE, Charlotte Wright, said the study would be used to prioritise future investment.

"Clearly £27 million, even over 10 years, is a large investment for a single resort, and funding is often the most challenging of all obstacles," she said.

"However, the report certainly gives us all something to work towards."

She said HIE would talk to local businesses, community groups, politicians, public bodies and other stakeholders to ensure the vision was carried out jointly.

"The uplift review provides a fantastic, positive view of the potential future for Cairngorm," Councillor Bill Lobban, chair of the funicular response group.

"Funding will not be easy but with the backing of the community this is something that together we can deliver."

Watch the video which shows where the new infrastructure would go:


The Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust, which wants Cairngorm to be taken over and run by the local community, has welcomed the report.

"AGCT is delighted that the consultants share our view that Cairngorm Mountain has the potential to be a fantastic asset to the area once again, and to see the clear alignment with our own vision," it said.

"This is a great starting point to inform the debate on Cairngorm's Future.

"We're looking forward to engaging with HIE and all other stakeholders to produce a positive plan that customers, staff, and the community can unite behind."

While some question whether the vision will ever become reality, there's been some position reaction over on the PlanetSKI Facebook page:

PlanetSKI Facebook commentsPlanetSKI readers react to the news

















The local business organisation has also welcomed the report.

"The Aviemore Business Association is delighted that HIE have finally realised that inadequate antique uplift has been leading to a drift away from CairnGorm and capital investment in new Chairlifts is to be welcomed,." Alan Brattey told PlanetSKI.

"We're aware that the SE Group completed their report before the present Funicular failure and it is therefore unsurprising that they have not recommended 'Funicular Proofing' the business in their proposals.

"We expect that discussions with stakeholder groups will be taking place and we'll emphasis the need to provide non surface uplift so that all customers, summer and winter, can access the Ptarmigan without the use of the Funicular, as a priority."

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

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