Tag Archives: skiing in Scotland

Summer shredding in Scotland

Cairngorm last week… Or is it Tahoe?! Photo: Fiona Reid

With many ski resorts across North America and Europe having long since closed their lifts for the winter season, incredibly, winter sports in Scotland were still in full flow right up to the end of May!

This is incredible for several reasons…

Firstly, it’s nearly June! It’s actually not unusual for Scotland’s resorts to have a good end to the season, but by the end of May it’s normally heather rather than snow that dominates the landscape. After all, the peak of CairnGorm is only 1245m which is considerably lower than the base of most resorts in Europe and North America, and the snow has long since disappeared from the lower slopes there.

Fresh tracks at Cairngorm on 20th May!

It could normally be argued that Scotland’s summer temperatures aren’t a patch on those on the continent and across the pond, but with the heat wave that we’re experiencing at the moment, temperatures have been higher than the likes of Mallorca, let alone the Alps!

What’s even more remarkable is that the Scottish ski areas had had a particularly bad season until the end, and by early April the snow had all but disappeared from most of the slopes. However, thanks to a ‘spring’ which saw temperatures swing from the mid 20s to zero in a couple of days and stay that way for longer than was bearable for most of the country’s inhabitants, the slopes were replenished with more snow than they’d had all season.

View of CairnGorm from Loch Morlich

The resulting conditions for May in Cairngorm were reminiscent of spring in Tahoe, California. Sadly, the exceptionally high temperatures have finally taken their toll on the slopes and Cairngorm finally closed for the season on Saturday (26th May!) but before the temperatures soared, pow was plentiful.

Cairngorm on 28th May, just two days after closing day!

In just a matter of days, it’s become a very different scene on the slopes of Cairngorm and the snow has practically disappeared. Conditions are fantastic for hiking and mountain biking though and you won’t find too many Scots begrudging the warm weather. After all, it’s not often Scotland gets to bask in this kind of heat for a prolonged period!

This article was also published by The Sabotage Times on 3 June 2012

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Glenshee revisited

Although I’m Scottish, have lived most of my life in Scotland and made my first tentative turns on the slopes of Glenshee as a child, I’m ashamed to say that, until this week, I hadn’t ridden in Scotland for many years.

Throughout my teenage years we chose to drive for approximately 24 hours from Edinburgh to the French Alps rather than 2 ½ hours to the closest Scottish ski area of Glenshee. But that was a time when snow in the Scottish Highlands was in short supply and it was rarely worth the trip up. A far cry from the stories my parents tell of skiing there every weekend of the season when they were students.

Glenshee last weekend

However, the past few years have seen a very timely turnaround in fortunes for the Scottish ski industry, which until then, had been on the brink of collapse. Winter 2009/10 was an epic season where they received record levels of snowfall, and last year wasn’t far behind. Only time will tell what this season has in store, but it certainly got off to a good start.

Typically enough, it was as soon as I decided I’d had enough of dreary British winters and headed overseas in pursuit of perennial powder, that the snow gods decided to revisit my homeland. And while I was experiencing  periods of abnormally low snowfall in Colorado and the Alps, Scotland was being hammered with the white stuff. Oh the irony.

So, having recently moved back up to Scotland, I was determined to hit the hills at the earliest opportunity. And I didn’t have long to wait as, once again, the Scottish ski season has got off to a great start. Despite Hurricane Bawbag’s best efforts, all five of the Scottish ski areas were open for business by mid December and last weekend conditions were fantastic, with fresh snow and blue skies.

Glenshee on Monday, 19 December

Obviously I chose to make my pilgrimage on Monday once the weather had started to close in again. Black ice had caused chaos on the motorways resulting in the journey taking twice as long as usual, but these were to be my first turns of the season and the first in my homeland for years, so there was no way I was turning back!

It was snowing heavily by the time we arrived at Glenshee but (unusually for Scotland) there was no wind. Visibility wasn’t great but with all the fresh snow on the slopes, it really didn’t matter.

Glenshee piste map

Most of the area was open and we had a great afternoon ripping it up. I’d forgotten just how extensive it is. It may not be Les Trois Vallées, but with 40km of pistes spanning 2000 acres and 4 mountains, it certainly beats the snow dome!

Had it not been for the distinctive snow fences and ubiquitous Scottish accents, we could easily have been in an alpine resort, although I am prepared to concede that a combination bad visibility, patriotic blinkering and rose tinted goggle lenses may well have helped me reach this conclusion.

However, nationalistic biases aside, there’s no questioning the fact that when conditions are right, Scotland’s mountains offer fantastic and hugely underrated terrain for British skiers and boarders. Unfortunately, when it takes the same amount of time to travel to the Alps, where conditions are much more reliable and everything is on a much greater scale, it’s a no-brainer for the majority of Brits.

But those North of the border have five excellent ski areas at their disposal and thanks to the run of good seasons, the areas have been able to invest more in making improvements to their infrastructure and facilities.

Unfortunately conditions have started to deteriorate since the beginning of the week due to the increase in temperatures, but the Scottish Highlands will still be the only part of the UK experiencing a white Christmas this year. And with any luck Father Christmas will have brought more snow and colder temperatures with him from Lapland!

Happy Christmas everyone!