When I set myself the challenge of getting back on the slopes (post broken arm) before the end of the season, the last place I thought I’d achieve it was in Scotland, in April!
I’d been drooling over photos of amazing conditions in all the Scottish ski areas, which had been appearing persistently on my Facebook page over the past couple of months. But having been told that my arm still wasn’t properly mended, I was resigned to the fact that this was probably the closest I was going to get to the Scottish slopes during what has been an incredible season.
However, as photos of fresh powder, blue skies, and competition-sized parks kept coming, and spring showed no sign of making an appearance, I started to feel optimistic that I might indeed manage to get a piece of the action.
So, when I got the go ahead from the surgeon that my wrist had mended, I got planning a trip straight away. We headed up to Glenshee on 8th April, hoping to experience some of the great conditions that have been so prevalent, but also equally prepared for type of hostile conditions which have greeted us on arrival all too many times.
Fortunately we were in luck, and as we climbed the final stretch from Bridge of Cally to the base area, there were more patches of blue sky to be seen than grey, and the sun was even gracing us with its presence. The appearance of the sun at this time of year usually heralds a deterioration in snow conditions, but with the exception of a couple of icy patches on the Cairnwell side, the snow was excellent throughout the area, with loads of soft stuff and even some powder.
I had never experienced conditions like it in Scotland before, and even my parents who’ve been skiing in Scotland for over 40 years said the same. My boyfriend, Dan, who’d spent a week in Tignes a few weeks earlier, declared it to be better than anything they’d had there during the entire week. Admittedly they did seem to have a particularly bad week in Tignes, but it was a pretty good accolade nonetheless!
It did actually feel like we could be in the Alps. There was so much snow that the wooden snow fences, so characteristic of Scottish ski areas, were practically buried, leaving us with only the odd patch of exposed heather to remind us that we were indeed in Scotland. Even the banners at the end of the runs urging overzealous skiers and boarders to slow down read ‘Ralentir’, which we decided must be due to them having got some cheap cast offs from France rather than a need to cater to the sudden influx of visitors from the continent.
Just as we were getting carried away with our comparisons to skiing in the Alps, we received a rude reminder that we were most definitely in Scotland. Out of the blue, the weather changed dramatically, and in the time it took to take the Glas Maol Poma from bottom to top, it went from being clear and still, to a full on storm with practically zero visibility. The flat ridge at the top of Glas Maol, with its warning signs to one side and fencing to the other, is not the best place to find yourself in those kind of conditions, especially with hardly anyone else on the slopes. Fortunately though, the storm passed as quickly as it had set in and, after a treacherous traverse, we ended up having another great run down.
Later on, sitting in the Bridge of Cally Hotel bar sipping an après beer, sun streaming in the big bay windows, we once again started to make associations with being in the Alps. Until, that is, Dan interjected with a valid point: “It’s nothing like French après. The beer is way better!”