Close to home, but a world apart, one destination that British skiers have always had a great interest in skiing in is Scotland, but criminally, few of us have actually skied there ourselves.
However, with the ongoing uncertainty around overseas travel, confusing and ever-changing red, amber and green lists and the need to quarantine when returning from some destinations, we’ve been seeing a huge surge in demand for information on Scottish snow sports.
It seems that all of a sudden, British skiers are realising that there is a whole world of snow sports right on their doorstep.
While you definitely shouldn’t be expecting the 2000 metre peaks and dramatic mountainscapes of the Alps, skiing in Scotland has its own unique draw.
Scotland’s mountain centres boast a great range of skiing and snowboarding options, as well as great places to eat and stay locally, and a variety of off-slope activities, from mountain biking and hiking to sight-seeing and whisky tasting. All of this, amidst some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery, makes a winter trip in Scotland one to remember.
The coming 2021/22 season could provide us with the perfect opportunity to explore what Scottish snow sports are all about, though don’t make this stunning country a 2021 standby or a one-off! Scotland is a snow sports destination we’d recommend every snow sports fan try. Be warned though – once you fall in love with winter in Scotland, you’ll certainly be back!
Forget expensive flight tickets and transfer costs, travel insurance and the hassle of foreign currency – skiing in Scotland is not only easy, but also provides great value for money for British skiers.
In all major Scottish mountain centres you will find excellent snow sports instruction, with friendly tutors and no language barriers! As a result, Scotland is a fantastic place to learn to ski, no matter your age. If you’re in a group, the smaller ski areas of Scotland mean that you will always be close to your friends or family, so it’s incredibly easy to meet up at lunchtime or at the end of the day.
Depending on where you live, it is possible to do a day trip to a Scottish mountain centre. However, we’d definitely recommend making your Scottish winter getaway a little longer, whether it’s a short break or an extended holiday. Each mountain centre has a wide variety of friendly local accommodation in the vicinity, sure to provide a great base to explore all Scotland has to offer.
One of the main obstacles for international ski holidays is the uncertainty surrounding overseas travel, so Scotland looks to be a much more reliable option for short notice skiing and boarding.
In Scotland, a winter holiday does not have to be solely focused on snow sports. Of course, you can spend every moment of every day on snow if you so desire, but a winter holiday here gives you the opportunity to explore beyond the ski slopes. From active adventures such as mountain biking, hiking and ice-climbing, to fantastic food and drink options (did someone say whisky distillery?!) and cultural sights aplenty, read on to find out more…
As you can see, Scottish mountain centres are not going anywhere and their commitment to cementing Scotland’s position as a great winter destination goes way beyond this winter.
Not only do they have robust Covid safety measures in place, Scottish mountain centres are constantly investing in improving the snow sports experiences they offer, whether that’s this year, next year, or in ten years time.
From new snow-making facilities – each mountain centre has a TechnoAlpin Snow Factory and snow cannons – to lift infrastructure and facility improvements, there’s loads of development going on, making a trip to Scotland’s centres all the more compelling.
With unbeatable views across the Highlands, Cairngorm Mountain is one of Scotland’s most popular snow sports centres. The area offers over 32 runs, with options for all abilities, so it’s an ideal centre for families. There’s also on-site ski hire and superb ski schools available, providing a great opportunity for those looking to get started or improve their skills this winter.
The mountain is just a 20-minute bus ride from the bustling Highland town of Aviemore, where you’ll find loads of restaurants as well as a huge range of accommodation options.
Its proximity to Aviemore makes Cairngorm Mountain a great destination for those looking for a longer winter getaway, as there’s so much to see and do in the area. Take on the exhilarating nearby mountain biking trails, taste some whisky at Glenlivet Distillery or get up close and personal with the local wildlife at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre or the Highland Wildlife Park.
Aviemore is easily accessed by rail, bus and road, making it a popular destination for those wanting the utmost convenience this winter. A regular bus service runs from Aviemore to the mountain centre if you’re looking to go car free. There’s also a large car park at the mountain itself, if you prefer to stay local and drive up each day – ideal for those wanting to stay in their ‘bubble’ as much as possible.
Established over 60 years ago, Glencoe Mountain is Scotland’s oldest snow sports centre, with a great snow record and 20 lovely runs.
Experienced skiers will enjoy some of Scotland’s most challenging terrain, including the UK’s steepest black run, the ‘Flypaper’, as well as some excellent off-piste options. Meanwhile beginner and intermediate skiers can take on numerous blue and red runs to test their skills.
Centre facilities include on-site micro-lodges sleeping up to 6, a small caravan park, equipment hire and a ski school. They’ve also just installed the new 3-person Rannoch Chairlift and a new café and reception area will open in 2022. A fantastic selection of accommodation options and restaurants can be found in the surrounding area.
Glencoe Mountain also offers a free sledging area (sledges provided!) but If you fancy a little more adrenaline, you can head a little further afield to Kinlochleven’s Ice Factor – the world’s largest indoor ice climbing wall! In Kinlochleven, you’ll also find the Bothy Bar, a local foodie favourite that’s not to be missed!
Glenshee is sure to be a very popular choice for British skiers this winter. It is highly accessible by road, as the closest mountain centre to Edinburgh and is the UK’s largest snow sports centre. Thirty-six runs are set across four mountains and three valleys, served by 22 lifts that whisk skiers up as high as 3,500ft. A constantly improving ski centre, Glenshee offers a great selection of graded runs for all abilities, so it’s an ideal destination for mixed ability groups.
On the mountain, there are three cafés where you can pick up a mid-ski snack, as well as a fantastic ski school for those wanting a helping hand. There’s also talk of the UK’s longest ziplines being installed in Glenshee in coming months, providing even more entertainment!
Off the slopes, visitors here can enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the nearby towns of Braemar and Blairgowrie. Or visit the vibrant city of Dundee, the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design, where you’ll find the V&A and many other visitor attractions.
Over on the west coast of Scotland, in Lochaber – the Outdoor Capital of the UK, Nevis Range is one of the most reliable destinations for Scottish snow. It’s located high up on the slopes of the UK’s eighth highest mountain, Aonach Mor, so it’s unsurprising that the views from the slopes are utterly unparalleled.
Nevis Range features the UK’s only gondola, taking you from the car park to the ski area, where you’ll find 11 lifts and 32 runs at your disposal. There’s plenty of space for younger skiers to develop their skills, while experienced skiers will be sure to enjoy the multiple off-piste itineraries available at Nevis Range.
A new 70-metre travellator (a.k.a magic carpet lift) has just been installed in the beginners’ area, alongside a newly commissioned snow plant to ensure that beginners can enjoy a reliable, high quality, gentle slope to improve their skills. In addition, a fleet of new state-of-the-art hill vehicles for this season will keep the slopes in tip-top condition and demonstrate the area’s environmental commitment.
Stay in the nearby town of Fort William, where you’ll find a lot of great restaurants and bars, as well as great value, cosy accommodation.
Lochaber is a spot sure to delight anyone who wants to spend their winter holiday exploring all that the Scottish mountains have to offer! Whether you prefer challenging hikes or gentle walks, marvelling at the local sights or learning about the area’s geology, there’s something for everyone!
One of our favourite Scottish spots for families or beginner skiers, (though there’s plenty to keep more experienced skiers and boarders entertained), The Lecht is a great ski area that offers plenty of wide, easy, well-groomed ski runs. It’s the perfect spot for skiers starting out on their snow sports journeys, with a convenient day lodge at the bottom of the runs, which has everything you need for a day on the slopes, all under one roof. Facilities include equipment hire, a ski school with highly experienced tutors, a shop for those forgotten essentials, a self-service restaurant and a café bar for those mid ski hot chocolates.
It’s slightly more remote than some of the other mountain centres we’ve mentioned, but there are some great accommodation and eating out options in nearby Tomintoul (20 minutes drive), Kildrummy (20 minutes drive), Ballater (30 minutes drive) and Braemar (40 minutes drive).
The Lecht is actually set on one of the highest roads in the UK, so it’s pretty snowsure, but even so, they’ve been investing in impressive snowmaking facilities over the last few seasons to provide more consistent snow conditions.
One of the closer ski fields for those travelling from England, Lowther Hills Ski Club is a community owned members-only club, with an incredibly friendly feel. It’s smaller than the others listed, with more of a local feel, but with the same incredible views all Scottish resorts enjoy.
While you do have to be a member to ski here, membership fees are very modest – certainly nowhere near the price you’ll pay to ski in the Alps! You do also need to bring your own equipment if skiing here, as there’s no equipment hire available.
Of course, Scotland also has a number of artificial slopes as well as Scotland’s only real snow slope at the Snow Factor near Glasgow, so if the conditions aren’t quite playing ball, you can still get skiing or boarding!
Scotland’s mountain centres have taken great steps and have been investing in measures to ensure the safety of all visitors this winter, so do make sure you’ve read up on the latest safety measures and restrictions at your chosen mountain centre before visiting.
It’s up to each of us to do our part too, so visitors must ensure they are acting within the restrictions of the Scottish Government, as well as the Covid guidance in their chosen resorts’ local authority.
Before visiting, remember to check centre operating hours, weather and travel reports and Ski-Scotland snow conditions reports before travelling. And always plan ahead and book lift passes and equipment hire in advance.
The easiest way to keep up to date with all that’s going on at Scotland’s mountain centres is to register for Ski-Scotland snow alert emails and to follow Ski-Scotland on Facebook. Further information about Scottish snowsports can be found at www.ski-scotland.com.