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Thursday April 20, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

A £4m proposal to revamp CairnGorm and construct an artificial ski slope is moving ahead and if all goes ahead it aims to be up and running by the start of next season.

Plans have been in the pipeline for several years to revamp the UK's biggest ski resort, CairnGorm.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has agreed that a previously approved loan of £4 million to operator Natural Retreats can be put towards making the vision for CairnGorm Mountain a reality.

If the proposals are approved, an artificial ski slope will be built to provide year-round skiing facilities.

After a poor season for snow this winter, the developments will enable the resort to function during winter periods of little snowfall as well as offering other year-round activities.

"It's fantastic. We're really, really pleased. It has been the culmination of about 18 months of hard work by the team. I'm absolutely thrilled that we can now move this forward," chief operating officer at Natural Retreats, Ewan Kearney, told the Herald Scotland.

"I think if we had the artificial slope in place this year we would have been able to fulfill significantly more skier trips and visitor experiences than we were able to this year."

"We had to cancel 2,000 lessons in the last year which we wouldn't have had to. We want people to leave CairnGorm with a ten-out-of-ten experience."

Adventure tourism plays a key part of the wider area's tourism offering.

And it's been a hard winter for Scotland's ski industry.

CairnGorm MountainCairnGorm Mountain













Planned renovations include a wrap-around viewing platform to the Ptarmigan building, the mountain's top station.

The restaurant facilities are to be upgraded with the capacity increased from 100 to 200.

The exhibition area and retail shop will also be relocated and improved.

The reception of the plan to install an artificial slope has been varied.

"We know there has been some frustration in the local area but we hope the community will see that we have listened to their views on future activity on the Mountain," Kearney said on the matter.

"This level of infrastructure investment will go a long way to ensuring that the Mountain competes as a world class facility, making Aviemore the year round tourist destination we all want to see," local MP, Drew Hendry, said to Herald Scotland.

"It is the kind of development local residents and businesses have been calling for and I know they will be delighted that their voices have been heard," Hendry added.

"We very much welcome these proposals from Natural Retreats. They will improve the sustainable tourism offering available in and around Aviemore and the Cairngorms."

"They will expand the season and drive further growth from this key visitor attraction. This in turn will increase visitor numbers, generate year-round income and provide security for employees. Importantly, it will support an industry that attracts young people, both as employees and as customers," interim chief executive at HIE Charlotte Wright, said.

The investment is proposing to turn the snowsports area into a "world class facility" that aims to bring more tourists to the Highlands.

PlanetSKI reported on potential job losses after a poor season for Scotland on 11th March in News in Brief.

However, Mr Kearney has said that it is on the contrary:

"With this new project, it will create an additional 35 to 45 jobs, and will allow us to retain a number of employees all year round."

"Importantly, it will support an industry that attracts young people, both as employees and as customers," Charlotte Wright comments.

In 2016 Natural Retreats and HIE spent more than £700,000 on improving the facilities.

Natural Retreats hopes to lodge the planning application during the summer 2017. Subject to approval and conditions, work would start as soon as possible thereafter.

Read more of when PlanetSKI reported on the potential changes back in 2015.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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